A federal judge issued a stern warning to the State Department in a recent hearing on Hillary Clinton’s emails for a lawsuit brought by the government watchdog group Judicial Watch.
“If documents are destroyed between now and August 17, the government will have to answer for that, and, you know, if they don’t want to do anything out of the ordinary to preserve between now and then, they can make that choice,” U.S. District Court judge Rudolph Contreras said in a July 9 hearing.
Contreras was getting up to speed on Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the State Department for records showing how it vetted projects involving Clinton’s family charity, the Clinton Foundation.
Judicial Watch has demanded emails sent between Clinton’s top State Department aides. Those aides used Clinton’s private email server, hosted on the domain clintonemail.com. They were also heavily involved in Clinton’s non-government projects. While two of the aides have reportedly turned over their emails, one has not.
Judicial Watch’s attorney, Chris Fedeli, expressed concern that some of the records that have not been turned over could be deleted or lost.
Contreras seemed to share a similar concern when he warned the government’s attorneys not to delete any records. He urged the State Department to take extra steps to ensure that the records were not deleted or lost, but said, “I will allow them to make that choice.”
“But they will answer for it, if something happens,” he added.
Contreras also criticized the State Department for stonewalling its release of Clinton and her aides’ emails.
“But I am a little bit mystified that the government is not more forthcoming in just answering questions that will help this case proceed on a systematic basis, and on a basis that will allow everyone to get the answers that will eventually help resolve these cases, all 35 of them,” Contreras said.
“This one court hearing shows that Hillary Clinton and her co-conspirators in the State Department will have to account for each and every email on Hillary Clinton’s notorious email system,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton in a statement.
Contreras is the same judge handling Vice News’ FOIA lawsuit against the State Department. Contreras issued the ruling that forced the agency to release Clinton’s 55,000 pages of emails in batches at the end of each month through Jan. 29, 2016.
While Contreras did not expand on the reasons for his concern about email deletions, it is not unwarranted. While Clinton has said in public that she turned over all of her work-related emails, the State Department has admitted that at least 15 emails that Clinton’s longtime friend, Sidney Blumenthal, turned over to the House Select Committee on Benghazi were not included in the trove that she turned over in December.
Despite that red flag, Clinton has refused to allow outsiders to check her private email server for any inconsistencies. Clinton’s attorney, David Kendall, has said that the server has been wiped clean.