Judge Blasts State Dept for Clinton Email Delays: ‘Even the Least Ambitious Bureaucrat Could Do This’

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Hillary Rodham Clinton / AP

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A federal judge blasted the State Department during a court hearing Wednesday about the government agency’s lack of response to Freedom of Information Act requests having to do with documents from Hillary Clinton and her staff.

Politico reported that U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon balked at State’s inability to produce about 60 emails demanded in one particular FOIA request, saying, "Now, any person should be able to review that in one day–one day. Even the least ambitious bureaucrat could do this."

The judge, like Clinton critics, suggested that the government agency is protecting its former secretary of state by failing to produce documents related to her staff.

Wednesday’s court hearing was part of an Associated Press lawsuit against the State Department in which the news organization accuses the government agency of failing to respond to FOIA requests for thousands of documents related to longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s employment status in addition to Hillary’s schedules, appointments, and call history while at the State Department.

During the hearing, Leon grilled John Hackett, who handles FOIA requests sent to State, on the questionable ability of its systems to retain necessary government documents.

"I can’t say that I–State Department doesn’t have a master record-keeping system. I can’t say that," Hackett told the judge.

The State Department employee explained that several officials–including former Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines, who turned more than 20 boxes of work-related emails to the agency Tuesday–have been asked to produce records of communications and documents. State, Hackett said, does not have a record of all communications from Clinton’s staff and therefore could not produce all documents requested by AP.

Some of the communications produced by Reines came from a personal email account, suggesting that members of Clinton’s staff, like the former secretary of state, also operated at least in part on private email systems.

Hackett informed the judge Wednesday that only 40 part-time workers are tasked with reviewing the documents produced in response to FOIA requests to ensure that they are ready for public release, which allows the department to review only about 700 pages of documents each month.

"Is Congress aware that people who do all [State] FOIA requests are part-timers?" Leon said.

The judge threatened to issue a court order for the State Department to produce the documents requested by AP more quickly.

On Friday, the State Department is set to release another batch of Clinton’s emails per a court-ordered process developed after it was discovered that the Democratic presidential candidate exclusively used a private email system during her career as secretary of state.

Last week, two inspectors general demanded the Justice Department open an investigation into the suspected mishandling of sensitive government information on Clinton’s personal email account.

Unfortunately for Clinton, the controversy has accompanied her to low favorable and trustworthy ratings. According to a Quinnipiac University poll out Thursday, significant majorities of American voters rate Clinton as not honest and unconcerned about their needs.

Morgan Chalfant   Email Morgan | Full Bio | RSS
Morgan Chalfant is a staff writer at the Washington Free Beacon. Prior to joining the Free Beacon, Morgan worked as a staff writer at Red Alert Politics. She also served as the year-long Collegiate Network fellow on the editorial page at USA TODAY from 2013-14. Morgan graduated from Boston College in 2013 with a B.A. in English and Mathematics. Her Twitter handle is @mchalfant16.

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