- The Washington Times - Monday, March 30, 2015

The Obama administration told a federal court Monday that it needs “several months” more to go through former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s government emails, saying it’s proving time-consuming to sort out exactly what information they can release to the public,

Justice Department lawyers also bristled at accusations that the government perpetrated a fraud by hiding the existence of the emails, as Mr. Obama’s team begins to fully grapple with the legal complications Mrs. Clinton has left them.

In a new filing in federal district court in Washington, the lawyers said Mr. Obama can’t be blamed for Mrs. Clinton’s email practices, which saw her set up her own server and reject use of a government-issued account, preferring to do all of her official business and personal emailing from the same address.

She belatedly provided some emails nearly two years after she left the State Department, leaving them to decide how to handle the matter.

“The department’s processing of the former secretary’s emails is underway,” John F. Hackett, acting director of the department’s Office of Information Programs and Services, said in a declaration filed in court saying they have to run the documents by other government agencies. “The department anticipates that processing this large volume of records will take several months.”

Mr. Obama’s lawyers are trying to head off a court inquiry into the emails after Judicial Watch, a conservative public interest law firm, asked a federal judge to reopen a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeking to pry loose communications by Huma Abedin, one of Mrs. Clinton’s top aides, who reportedly also used Mrs. Clinton’s server.

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, said if it does take months to produce the documents, as the State Department says, that would be a strikingly long time, given that the administration has had the emails since late last year.

Mr. Fitton said the fact that the State Department is running the documents by other agencies suggests to him that they are checking to make sure Mrs. Clinton didn’t email classified information on that account. He also said the money the department is now spending to collect and go through Mrs. Clinton’s emails underscores the harm she’s caused to taxpayers.

“They should have had the records at all times and to pretend that they didn’t know where they were back when we first asked for these records is ridiculous,” he said.

The House investigative committee looking into the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack said last week that Mrs. Clinton informed the probe she has wiped the email server clean, meaning no messages can be recovered other than the approximately 30,000 she turned over to the State Department late last year — nearly two years after she left the department.

The 30,000 emails run to 55,000 printed pages.

“These records are comprised of communications to or from the former secretary of state, who was responsible for the overall direction and supervision of the full range of activities of the Department of State,” Mr. Hackett said. “Thus, the review of these materials will likely require consultation with a broad range of subject matter experts within the department and other agencies.”

Mr. Hackett said the department is “re-allocating additional resources” to handle the matter, but said they are also dealing with thousands of open-records requests as well, and more than 70 of those have gone to court, meaning there are other demands on the department’s time.

The State Department’s filing didn’t answer a number of key questions including whether Mr. Hackett and others at the information office knew about Mrs. Clinton’s server and her account, and who paid for the server.

A federal judge is deciding whether to grant Judicial Watch’s request to reopen the case into Ms. Abedin’s communications. Judicial Watch says the administration’s fraud justifies reopening the case, while administration lawyers say the emails should be treated as “newly discovered evidence,” rather than as proof of fraud — though they don’t oppose reopening the case.

“Getting the case reopened any way would be a success because it’s an admission there’s something there,” Mr. Fitton said.

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