White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest praised Hillary Clinton on Friday for what he said was her unprecedented transparency in calling for the release of her emails.
At a press briefing on Friday, Wall Street Journal reporter Byron Tau mentioned to Earnest that the State Department was releasing only 1,000 of the 9,000 emails that it has been ordered to release to the public.
Tau asked if voters, especially Democratic voters, have a right to see Hillary Clinton’s emails before casting their votes in primary elections.
“Lawyers for your administration have asked to delay the release until the last day of February, which would be the day before the Super Tuesday primaries. Does the public, especially the Democratic voting public, have a right to see Secretary Clinton's emails before they cast ballots?” Tau asked.
Earnest responded by praising Clinton’s “extraordinary” request that her emails be released—even though Clinton’s emails are being released because of a court order, not Clinton’s request.
“Well, I think no! I think the extraordinary request that Secretary Clinton put forward to actually release her emails is something that I'm not sure has a precedent, at least for federal officeholders,” Earnest said.
“So the fact is, the Democratic primary voters, to the extent that they’re interested in reading those emails—and I’m not sure very many of them are—but to the extent that they are, they have already had the opportunity to review tens of thousands of them,” Earnest said.
“There is more work that needs to be done,” Earnest said, “and the State Department has been engaged in a rigorous process to ensure that the release of those emails is consistent with the standards that are laid out in the Freedom of Information Act. And given the volume of material that they had to review, they weren't able to complete that work in the timeframe that was laid out by the judge. But they have a plan in place to complete that work as soon as possible, and I know that they're pursuing that even as we speak.”
Tau asked if the emails that have already been released raised red flags about how Clinton and her close aides treated classified information.
“In the—in this correspondence, we have seen some emails dealing with the way Secretary Clinton and her aides talk about dealing with sensitive requests about information, including an email where she asked an aide to transmit something nonsecure,” Tau said. “Another video surfaced that Fox found of Wendy Sherman, a top State Department official, saying that top diplomats were emailing things that you shouldn't—you would never see on an unclassified system. Does the White House have any concerns about the attitude of Secretary Clinton or among the secretary's staff about classified information and sensitive information?”
“I haven't seen any of that reporting,” Earnest said. “I can tell you that the—that certainly, the president has made clear that the handling of sensitive information should be something that people are conscientious about. And that's certainly the case here. I know that Secretary Clinton and her team have said, on a number of occasions, that she neither sent nor received information on her private server that was stamped ‘classified.’ That is consistent with the proper handing of sensitive materials. So, look, in the context of a presidential campaign, people are going to have a whole bunch of reasons to criticize any of the candidates. So it's not surprising to me that there are certain political opponents of Secretary Clinton that are looking for a way to use this situation to criticize her. That is part of the process. And she and her team, I'm confident, will muster a robust defense.”
On Friday it was revealed that another 22 of Clinton’s emails, totaling 37 pages of documents, would not be released because they contained highly-classified information. Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon tweeted that all Clinton’s emails should be released to the public, writing that the State Department’s decision to withhold Clinton’s emails was “overclassification run amok.”