Federal Court Revives Clinton Email Lawsuit


A federal appeals court has ruled unanimously that two government agencies did not take adequate measures to recover the emails Hillary Clinton illegally deleted from her private server.

While the State Department and National Archives worked to recover the deleted emails from 2009 to 2013, when Clinton was secretary of state, they refrained from requesting the U.S. attorney general to take enforcement action in the investigation.

Conservative watchdog groups Judicial Watch and Cause of Action filed lawsuits in 2015 requesting that Secretary of State John Kerry and the head of the National Archives, David Fierro, seek the help of the attorney general in restoring Clinton’s emails.

A District Court judge ruled in January that the State Department and the National Archives had put in a “sustained effort” to recover the missing emails and threw out the lawsuits as moot.

Reviving one of the numerous legal challenges surrounding Clinton’s handling of government emails, a three-judge panel of the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the lower court judge had erred by pre-emptively dismissing the suits.

The State Department’s requests to Clinton and the FBI for copies of her emails were not pursued aggressively enough, D.C. Circuit Judge Stephen Williams stated in the court’s opinion.

“The Department has not explained why shaking the tree harder — e.g., by following the statutory mandate to seek action by the Attorney General — might not bear more still,” Williams wrote in his ruling. “Absent a showing that the requested enforcement action could not shake loose a few more emails, the case is not moot.”

In violation of the Espionage Act, Clinton used a private email server housed in her New York home to handle State Department emails. She later instructed her aides to erase about 30,000 emails her lawyers said contained personal content in December 2014. She turned over an additional 54,000 emails to the State Department. Her lawyers gave thumb drives containing copies of her work-related emails to the Justice Department in August 2014.

In August 2015 it was revealed that Clinton’s email servers were maintained by Platte River Networks, a mom-and-pop outfit run out of a bathroom closet in downtown Denver. The company’s work with Clinton was a secret to many of its employees.

Judge Williams noted in the ruling that Clinton used two nongovernmental email accounts at the State Department, continued using the Blackberry account she had while a U.S. senator during the beginning of her tenure as the nation’s top diplomat, and only switched to the email account hosted on her private server in March 2009.

“Because the complaints sought recovery of emails from all of the former Secretary’s accounts, the FBI’s recovery of a server that hosted only one account does not moot the suits,” Williams wrote.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton issued a statement following the court’s ruling, noting that the appellate court’s decision gives the Trump administration the opportunity to finally hold Clinton accountable.

“The courts seem to be fed up with the Obama administration’s refusal to enforce the rule of law on the Clinton emails. Today’s appeals court ruling rejects the Obama State Department’s excuses justifying its failure to ask the attorney general, as the law requires, to pursue the recovery of the Clinton emails,” Fitton said.“This ruling means that the Trump Justice Department will have to decide if it wants to finally enforce the rule of law and try to retrieve all the emails Clinton and her aides unlawfully took with them when they left the State Department.”

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