State Department Won’t Commit to Finishing Review of Clinton’s Top-Secret Emails Before General Election

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State Department spokesman John Kirby would not commit Tuesday to the agency finishing, in time for the general election in November, its review of Hillary Clinton’s 22 top-secret emails and whether they were classified at the time they were sent or received on her private server.

Associated Press reporter Matt Lee pointed out this might be information voters would be interested in about Clinton, the potential Democratic nominee for president, before November.

“Can you commit to getting the results of this review into the top secret, into the classified … before there is a general election in this country?” Lee asked.

Kirby bristled at the idea of elections driving when the review would be completed.

“I’m not going to commit to a specific timeline,” Kirby said. “The secretary [John Kerry] wants this review to be done thoroughly and accurately and efficiently, and he’s not going to allow himself, or the process, or the department to be driven by the political calendar on this.”

Lee responded a judge had set deadlines of his own for review of Clinton’s emails, not all of which had been met by the State Department.

“The fact of the matter is that today in fact is one of those deadlines in the electoral and political process, and the judge in the FOIA case set deadlines, some of which you made, some of which you didn’t,” Lee said.

“Look, it’s one thing to meet a deadline for the distribution of these documents, which as you pointed out, sometimes we made it. Sometimes we didn’t, and the judge was–the judge–” Kirby said.

“Was not happy,” Lee finished.

“Mandated a subsequent deadline process here for us,” Kirby said. “But in the case of investigations and reviews, it is not always the case that reviews and investigations are given deadlines to be complete. Specifically, because you want investigators to have the leeway to look at things as deeply and as thoroughly as they need to.”

Full exchange:

MATT LEE: So, he does have a point. Maybe it shouldn’t be driven by political deadlines so that the results of the review that the State Department is responsible for come out after the election, but maybe it should be driven by wanting to get it out before the election. In fact, as soon as possible. Can you commit, is the department in a position to commit, to getting the results of this review, into the top secret, into the classified, the one he keeps talking about, before there is a general election in this country?

JOHN KIRBY: I’m not going to commit to a specific timeline. The secretary wants this review to be done thoroughly, and accurately and efficiently and he’s not going to allow himself, or the process or the department to be driven by the political calendar on this. The argument that we should be ever mindful of that, and while I don’t agree with the logic, I understand where you are coming from.

The counter logic to that would be that we are politicizing what needs to remain a completely apolitical process here. What the American people have a right to know is how these things were handled, and how the State Department has met our obligations in terms of properly preparing these documents for release. There are other agencies involved.

LEE: Exactly, no one is questioning that. No one is saying that you should or the FBI or DOJ or whoever else is doing all these reviews or investigations that they need to set a deadline, but the point–the fact of the matter is that today in fact is one of those deadlines in the electoral and political process, and the judge in the FOIA case set deadlines, some of which you made, some of which you didn’t. You made the last one, which was yesterday, and they’re all out. So deadlines whether they’re random, they exist. And they exist in the political calendar as well.

KIRBY: Sure, they do. I’m sure you’ve never missed a deadline either or should I call Wendy? Look, it’s one thing to meet a deadline for the distribution of these documents, which as you pointed out, sometimes we made it. Sometimes we didn’t, and the judge was–the judge–

LEE: Was not happy.

KIRBY: –mandated a subsequent deadline process here for us. But in the case of investigations and reviews, it is not always the case that reviews and investigations are given deadlines to be complete. Specifically, because you want investigators to have the leeway to look at things as deeply and as thoroughly as they need to.

LEE: Which is understandable, but at the same time you have to deal with the reality of the year that we’re in. Don’t you? I mean presumably, the building, the people in this building who are voters, want to know all of the information that they can before they go, they go into the voting booth, right?

REPORTER: And if you were worried about being accused of politicizing this issue, you run a greater risk of doing that should you release the report after the election than you would if you did it before. That is an opinion. That’s not a question.

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