A federal judge rejected the Obama administration’s latest effort to delay release of some of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s emails, issuing an order Wednesday demanding that the State Department start rolling out the emails on a firm schedule every month.
Judge Rudolph Contreras gave the department until the end of January to complete the production of all 30,000 emails, which means the final messages will be released about the same time Mrs. Clinton, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, prepares to face voters.
The State Department had asked that it have 60 days between releases, and didn’t give any targets for how much would be released each time, but Judge Contreras rejected that proposal and set out a firm timeline.
By June 30, the department must release 7 percent of the emails, totaling 2,100 messages; then release 2,400 more by the end of July; 3,000 more in August; 3,600 in September; 4,200 in October; 4,500 in November; 4,800 in December; and the final 5,400 or so in January.
The judge did give the administration an extra two weeks — until Jan. 29 — to finish up. The State Department had said it would need until the middle of the month.
“Defendant shall provide a status report informing the court of the number of pages of emails produced. If, in any given month, the defendant fails to meet the above-referenced production goal, it shall explain in detail in its status report how it intends to catch up with the schedule by adding resources or otherwise,” the judge wrote in the order.
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On Wednesday, a department spokesman said they will respect the court’s ruling.
Last week the department released about 300 messages related to the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack. Those messages constitute just 1 percent of the total Mrs. Clinton had withheld until she was notified last year that she was in violation of open-records laws.
“The department is keenly aware of the intense public interest in the documents and wants to get releasable materials out as soon as possible,” the Obama administration said in a court filing Tuesday.
The administration said it would try to find ways to shift resources to process more emails, as long as that didn’t hinder the department’s other priorities.
But in a previous filing, the department had shown little urgency, saying that while it got the messages from Mrs. Clinton in December, it hadn’t begun scanning them in for processing and release until about two months ago, and completed that process earlier in May.
Now staffers are running the messages by other government agencies to see whether parts of the emails should be kept secret.
Part of one message released last week was deemed classified by the FBI and was redacted from the release, sparking questions over whether the administration was trying to shield embarrassing details or whether Mrs. Clinton had shared sensitive information from her private account.
Mrs. Clinton set up her own server at her home in New York and exclusively used that for email during her four years as secretary, despite federal guidelines saying that official business was to be conducted on government accounts so messages could be stored.
Mrs. Clinton didn’t turn over any of her messages until nearly two years after she left office, and only then when prompted by the State Department.
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at email@example.com.
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