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Judge: Clinton didn't heed email policies

by Michael S. Schmidt The New York Times | August 21, 2015 at 3:36 a.m. | Updated August 21, 2015 at 3:36 a.m.

WASHINGTON -- A federal judge on Thursday said that Hillary Rodham Clinton did not follow government policies when she relied exclusively on a personal email account while she was secretary of state.

At Thursday's hearing in Washington for a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed against the U.S. Department of State, the judge, Emmet Sullivan of U.S. District Court, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, said of Hillary Clinton's email use that "we wouldn't be here today if the employee had followed government policy," according to two people who attended the hearing.

Sullivan also opened the door for the FBI to look through Clinton's server for messages that she may have deleted but that should have been handed over to the State Department.

The judge ordered the State Department to ask the FBI to give it any emails recovered from Clinton's private server that were not already in the State Department's possession or that may be related to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit was brought by Judicial Watch, a conservative foundation, which is seeking documents and emails related to the special employment status of Huma Abedin, Clinton's aide at the State Department. That status allowed Abedin to work as a part-time consultant to clients while also serving as a government employee.

The Justice Department, which oversees the FBI, has argued that Freedom of Information Act searches do not typically involve a government employee's personal email account.

Clinton has said she gave the State Department more than 30,000 documents that she believed were related to her work in office. She then deleted roughly the same number of emails that she said were personal. Her lawyer has said that the server was then wiped clean. Clinton has also said that she had no classified information on her email account.

In a statement, a spokesman for Clinton defended her use of the account.

"Hillary Clinton's use of a personal email account was consistent with the practice of other secretaries of state, and permissible under the department's policy at the time," said the spokesman, Brian Fallon.

For about three years while Clinton served as secretary of state, federal regulations said that government agencies that allow employees to use nongovernment email accounts must "ensure that federal records sent or received on such systems are preserved in the appropriate agency record-keeping system."

Clinton repeatedly has said she complied with the regulations by emailing government officials at their work accounts so those emails were caught in the government's servers.

The president of Judicial Watch, Tom Fitton, immediately seized on Sullivan's comments and used them to criticize Clinton.

"Today's court hearing highlights the blatant disregard for federal records laws," Fitton said in a written statement. "The Court observed, 'We wouldn't be here today if the employee had followed government policy,' and I could not agree more."

Sullivan's order came a day after Clinton's presidential campaign held a conference call with reporters to emphasize that intelligence classifications are highly subjective.

The campaign said federal agencies could have different views on what was classified, especially when there were no classification markings, as was the case with emails that Clinton sent and received.

The inspector general for the intelligence agencies has said that at least two of the emails on Clinton's account contained information that was "top secret" -- the highest classification for intelligence materials. Some of that information, according to a memo that the inspector general sent to Congress last week, may have come from a program that contains some of the most closely guarded information in the intelligence agencies' computer systems.

A Section on 08/21/2015

Print Headline: Judge: Clinton didn't heed email policies


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