Gov’t turns over fewer Clinton-related emails than ordered
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The State Department has failed to deliver nearly 70 pages of documents to The Associated Press, as instructed by a federal judge, about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton's hiring of longtime aide Huma Abedin as a special government contract staffer. The department provided only seven pages of emails.
Meanwhile, government lawyers asked another federal judge to delay releasing thousands of pages of documents from Clinton's tenure as secretary of state until January 2016.
The State Department's request to delay until next year its release emails and other Clinton-related documents sought by news media and legal and political organizations raised the prospect that significant information about Clinton's tenure as secretary of state might not surface until after crucial early Democratic Party presidential nomination contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Impatient with years of previous delays from the State Department over requests by the AP for emails and documents from Clinton and several of her top aides, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon set a strict schedule for release of the material last month that included an order to deliver to the AP an estimated 68 pages of documents related to Abedin by Tuesday. The AP sued the State Department last March because of delays stretching back to 2013 in the news agency's efforts to obtain documents about Clinton's diplomatic stint under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.
The department instead provided only five documents, two of them partially censored. A State Department official writing for John Hackett, the department's director of information programs and services, said further searches were still ongoing in agency offices. The government did not say whether it was also searching the files of former Clinton aides, as the AP had requested.
A State Department spokesman said the agency doesn't comment on cases in ongoing litigation, even though it had directed questions from the AP to a Justice Department lawyer, who did not respond to phone calls or emails from an AP reporter and an AP lawyer.
Leon in August gave the State Department 30 days to produce records regarding Abedin, which he noted "have been estimated to be approximately 68 pages in total." Leon ordered the agency to deliver thousands of pages more between this month and March 2016 that include Clinton's schedules, the department's oversight of military contractor BAE Systems and emailed references to surveillance and counterterrorism programs.
In a filing in a separate court case against the State Department, government lawyers cautioned that the agency's resources for processing requests for Clinton-related files "are strained to the limit." Government lawyers said more than 16,500 new requests for Clinton-related files have been filed since September 2014 and there are now 87 court challenges pending in federal courts.
The department urged U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras to give it until January 2016 to schedule the release of the records. The judge had ordered it to begin producing those emails by Sept. 1, but the deadline passed with none released. Contreras rejected a previous State Department plan to release the documents in January.
Both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary are scheduled in early February. Under the proposed State Department schedule, it is not clear whether any documents would be released before then, and it could take months more to process and release them.
The State Department's latest push to delay release of the Clinton-related emails came as agency's spokesman said Wednesday there was no conflict of interest in the decision to appoint a retired diplomat, Janice Jacobs, to oversee the State Department's handling of information requests even though she had made a $2,700 donation to Clinton's presidential campaign in June.
"We understand how some people might have that perception," State Department spokesman John Kirby said, referring to Secretary of State John Kerry's decision to appoint Jacobs to lead the agency's overwhelmed information-processing staff. He added: "Ambassador Jacobs was chosen for her exemplary service, particularly in this kind of area, and the secretary is 100 percent convinced that she's the right person for the job."
Kirby acknowledged that the department was unaware of Jacobs' donation to Clinton before Kerry selected her.
Kirby said U.S. law does not prohibit current or former federal employees from contributing to political candidates, although he acknowledged that part of her new job will be to make judgments about releasing records that could portray Clinton in a negative light. Jacobs was chosen, he added, based on her past performance in overseeing hidebound bureaucracies. He said she was instrumental in revamping the U.S. visa application system in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks. Besides hiring Jacobs, Kirby said, Kerry has also ordered the transfer of 50 State Department officials to join the beleaguered information staff in processing records requests.
The State Department is in the process of analyzing and releasing at least 30,000 work-related emails that Clinton turned over after she acknowledged earlier this year that as secretary of state between 2009 and 2013, she exclusively used a private computer server and private email addresses to communicate with other federal officials and intimates.
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