Dozens of lawsuits for the first time are allowing voters to learn the volume of potentially damaging emails that Hillary Clinton failed to hand over to the State Department — expect this to continue for at least two more years.
The public is unlikely to ever learn the precise number of emails Clinton did not turn over, but conservative groups are strategically releasing never-seen-before emails to hurt her presidential campaign.
This week, a new batch of emails appears to show that Clinton family foundation officials tried to secure special treatment at the State Department for one donor and one associate.
The periodic releases are expected to continue through Election Day and into 2018, whether Clinton is elected president or not. Courts have given the State Department time to review and release all the records the lawsuits sought.
“She was caught,” said Tom Fitton, the president of the conservative group Judicial Watch, which released the latest emails. “If she had her druthers, none of them would be out. She didn’t want to have people see her emails.”
Judicial Watch – as well as other groups, including Citizens United – and news organizations have filed numerous lawsuits seeking the emails of Clinton and her top aides while she was the nation’s top diplomat after their public records requests went unanswered.
So far, Judicial Watch says it has received from the State Department 171 emails sent to or from Clinton that she didn’t turn over.
David Bossie, Citizens United’s president and chairman, who investigated the Clintons while working on Capitol Hill in the 1990s, said public records requests were the only way to get documents, which is why he began filing his requests more than two years ago. Citizens United now has 40 lawsuits relating to Clinton’s and her aides’ records. The group has thousands of documents it has yet to release.
“We may not get everything, and the American people know why,” Bossie said. “The Clintons don’t want us to get everything.”
In early October, the State Department again asked that Clinton turn over the emails from the first two months of her tenure. Clinton attorney David Kendall said that Clinton could not access the missing documents.
Fitton and Bossie said they had staffers closely examine the emails to determine what their implications were before they were released.
Even still, Americans are unlikely to see all of Clinton’s emails because of her unprecedented decision to use a private email server exclusively for government business while serving as the secretary of state.
Darren Hayes, an expert in computer forensics who’s a cybersecurity professor at Pace University’s Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems, said that to see all of Clinton’s emails would require access to her personal server and all other devices that were used to store her emails.
Marcus Rogers, an expert in cyber forensics at Purdue University, said public records laws were created in the era of pen and paper — not electronics — so they did not account for certain documents, such as deleted emails. “We’re only going to see bits and pieces,” he said.
Clinton has been criticized for months for exclusively using personal email routed through a private server for government business. The FBI launched an inquiry into the handling of sensitive data after classified information was found in some emails, but the Department of Justice declined to prosecute.
“As she has previously stated, Secretary Clinton provided all work-related emails she had in her possession when she received the State Department’s request in 2014,” Clinton campaign spokesman Josh Schwerin said.
There are multiple email issues that Clinton has battled:
▪ At the State Department’s request, Clinton turned over 30,490 work emails in December 2014. She said she was unable to turn over all the emails she’d sent or received in her first weeks as secretary of state because she’d used the account she’d had when she was a senator, and no emails were captured on her private server.
▪ The Defense Department last year gave the State Department a chain of emails between Clinton and former Army Gen. David Petraeus, who at the time headed the military’s U.S. Central Command, responsible for running the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They were released last September. The Defense Department won’t say why it found them or released them.
Clinton turned over 30,490 work emails and deleted another 31,830 personal emails
▪ Last September, State Department officials asked the FBI whether it had recovered Clinton emails that the department did not have. FBI Director James Comey revealed in July that the agency had recovered several thousand work-related emails that were not in the 30,490 Clinton had turned over. The FBI gave at least some of those emails to the State Department, but officials will not say how many or when they will be released.
“We will appropriately and with due diligence process any additional material we receive from the FBI to identify work-related agency records and make them available to the public consistent with our legal obligations,” said Elizabeth Trudeau, director of press relations at the State Department. “As we have just received this material from the FBI we are still assessing what our process will look like.”
Several of Clinton’s State Department aides, including Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills, Deputy Chiefs of Staff Huma Abedin and Jacob Sullivan and Deputy Assistant Secretary Philippe Reines, turned over their emails last year at the department’s request.
Trudeau said those emails would be released if they pertained to certain public-records requests. Lawsuits have been filed seeking access to them.
The State Department has not asked federal agencies to search their archives for Clinton emails.
Some of the emails Clinton didn’t turn over suggested she may have rewarded foundation donors and helped the foundation collect millions of dollars from controversial countries and organizations.
The FBI wanted to launch an inquiry into the foundation but the Obama Department of Justice declined because it did not have enough evidence, CNN reported Thursday. The FBI and the Justice Department declined to comment Thursday.
Republican Donald Trump’s campaign said the news “shows a troubling pattern of Obama and Clinton politicizing any government institution for their own personal political interests.”
One email showed that foundation official Doug Band had pushed Clinton aides to hire a foundation associate. Another email showed Band had tried to connect major donor Gilbert Chagoury with the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon.
In response, Trudeau said the department did not know of any actions influenced by the Clinton Foundation and that it did not think Band’s actions were inappropriate.
The Clinton Foundation referred questions to the campaign.
“The right-wing organization behind this lawsuit has been attacking the Clintons since the 1990s, and no matter how this group tries to mischaracterize these documents, the fact remains that Hillary Clinton never took action as secretary of state because of donations to the Clinton Foundation,” Schwerin said.