Federal judge chastises State Department for slow-walking Clinton emails
A federal judge angrily denounced the Justice Department for not leaning on the Department of State to release some Hillary Clinton emails in a more timely manner.
U.S. district judge Richard Leon, who is overseeing the release of the emails under the Freedom of Information Act, warned DoJ that the government appears to be withholding information from voters in advance of the election.
Judge Leon, who has earned a reputation as a funny but caustic jurist, particularly when he finds government bungling, said the Justice Department, by not forcing the State Department to cooperate better, is risking its own storied reputation.
He specifically called out the federal programs branch that acts as the lawyer for the rest of the government, and the head of that division, Marcia Berman. Ms. Berman wasn’t in the courtroom Monday, but has been a frequent figure at the courthouse over the last year as the administration has had to defend its handling of Mrs. Clinton’s emails.
Mondays’s case, filed by the Daily Caller News Foundation, concerned documents detailing Mrs. Clinton’s access to top secret programs. The State Department said it has found more than 1,000 documents dealing with the subject, but said it would take nearly a month to process 450 unclassified documents, and couldn’t say how long it would take to process the classified ones.
The case is one of dozens pending where the department has been accused of slow-walking, keeping information out of public view for far longer than is allowed under the Freedom of Information Act.
The State Department says it is overwhelmed by the requests and its own limited budget and manpower. Officials also say the Clinton emails are complicated because they involved classified information that requires a stricter, more time consuming process to clear for the public.
But the government has also been reluctant to divulge important details. At one point on Monday the government lawyer on the case, Jason Lee, said he didn’t know how many pages were in the documents, sparking the judge’s ire.
Judge Leon ordered a faster production of the 450, and when Mr. Lee said they would do their best, Judge Leon pounced.
“Do better than your best. Do it,” he ordered, then proceeded to scold the government for its bungling, and said it was something other judges at the courthouse had noticed.
“You have a client that, to say the least, is not impressing the judges on is court … at being all that cooperative,” he said. “This way of doing business needs to stop.”
There has never been a State Department so politicized as this one. Political appointees are bound not by their oaths, but by their loyalty to the Obama administration.
Over the past few years, several judges hearing FOIA cases have excoriated the State Department for dragging its heels in releasing pertinent documents. These are not isolated incidents. They point to a pattern of foot-dragging designed to run out the clock on the Obama administration's and Hillary Clinton's wrongdoing.
It appears that, despite the remonstrances from judges, the State Department is succeeding.