A conservative watchdog group filed a motion in federal court Wednesday asking the judge to order Hillary Rodham Clinton’s lawyer to turn over a thumb drive containing copies of her email as secretary of state.
Larry Klayman, founder of Freedom Watch, said in the motion that the court has a responsibility to preserve the evidence contained on the thumb drive as part of an ongoing civil lawsuit that accuses Mrs. Clinton and former President Bill Clinton of racketeering.
The motion before U.S. District Court Judge Donald Middlebrooks argues that the recent disclosures that Mrs. Clinton’s attorney, David Kendall, posses a thumb drive containing copies of the email has presented the court with an opportunity to recover evidence vital to the case.
“This Court has a responsibility to preserve evidence and must do so to avoid its destruction,” Mr. Klayman said in the motion. “Importantly, Plaintiff has not requested to see the documents, hard and thumb drives at this time, but simply asked that this Court take them into its custody for safekeeping.”
Mr. Klayman asked the judge to expedite his decision, noting that previous motions have gone unanswered. He also noted that Judge Middlebrook was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida by Mr. Clinton in 1997.
Mr. Klayman said in that he raised the issue “not to criticize this Court, but to underscore the importance of this lawsuit for all Americans, which is being followed carefully by them.”
The FBI also has taken an interest in the thumb drive in Mr. Kendall’s possession as part of the agency’s inquiry into the security of Mrs. Clinton’s email setup, in which she exclusively used a private email account hosted on a server kept in her New York home for official business as secretary of state.
The secretive email setup shielded Mrs. Clinton’s communications from congressional investigators and requests under the Freedom of Information Act, possibly breaking laws for open-records and handling of classified information.
Mrs. Clinton has insisted that she followed the rules, did not transmit classified material — a claim later amended to “classified at the time” — and kept the server secure from hackers with physical guards.
The former first lady, senator and top U.S. diplomat did not turn over her stash of emails until nearly two years after she left office, and even then only after a congressional probe learned about her private email account.
Two years after leaving office, Mrs. Clinotn handed over about 30,000 messages to the State Department and erased another 32,000 messages that she deemed personal. At some point, she wiped clean the email server, preventing any of the messages from being recovered.
But copies of the work-related email also are stored on the thumb drive.
In the civil lawsuit, Mr. Klayman alleges the Clintons committed criminal violations under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), and that Mrs. Clinton covered up the crimes destroying her personal emails sent during her time as secretary of state.
The lawsuit alleges that the Clintons — through mail and wire fraud, and various false statements — misappropriated documents that he requested under the Freedom of Information concerning Mrs. Clinton’s involvement in releasing Israeli war and cyber-warfare plans and practices.
The lawsuit, filed in March, claims that Mrs. Clinton orchestrated the release to thwart Israeli plans to preemptively attack Iranian nuclear sites.
Lawyers for Mrs. Clinton, who is the frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, have asked the judge to throw out the racketeering case, calling Mr. Klayman’s accusations “fatuous.”