A federal judge has ordered the State Department to search its email systems for any messages sent to and from Hillary Clinton’s top aides during her stint as secretary for any correspondence concerning the September 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.
U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta compelled the agency to search the state.gov accounts of Huma Abedin, Cheryl Mills and Jake Sullivan on Tuesday while weighing in on a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed in 2015 by a conservative watchdog group seeking records related to the attack that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens.
The State Department responded to Judicial Watch’s lawsuit by scouring tens of thousands of emails for messages relevant to the group’s request but failed to turn over every stone in its search, the ruling indicated.
“To date, State has searched only data compilations originating from outside sources — Secretary Clinton, her former aides and the FBI. … It has not, however, searched the one records system over which it has always had control and that is almost certain to contain some responsive records: the state.gov e-mail server,” the judge wrote.
“The court finds that State’s search was inadequate insofar as it did not search the official state.gov email accounts of Secretary Clinton’s three aides, and orders State to conduct a supplemental search of those accounts,” he ruled.
The State Department should update the court on the status of its search by Sept. 22, the ruling said.
A State Department spokesperson declined to comment, and a Justice Department representative said the government is reviewing the judge’s order, according to Politico article that first reported the ruling Wednesday.
“This major court ruling may finally result in more answers about the Benghazi scandal— and Hillary Clinton’s involvement in it — as we approach the attack’s fifth anniversary,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton told Fox News. “It is remarkable that we had to battle both Obama and Trump administrations to break through the State Department’s Benghazi stonewall.”
The State Department previously responded to Judicial Watch’s lawsuit by searching about 30,000 messages recovered from a private email server Mrs. Clinton used while secretary of state, correspondence provided by Ms. Abedin, Ms. Mills and Mr. Sullivan and emails stemming from the FBI’s investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s private server.
Mrs. Clinton and her now infamous email server were the subject of an FBI inquiry after federal authorities determined she used the homebrew system to send and receive sensitive message while secretary of state. The FBI considered charging Mrs. Clinton with mishandling classified information but ultimately decided otherwise.