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Oversight Panel Hammers State Department’s Clinton Email Release Delay

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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Republicans learned little Thursday as they continued to blast Department of State officials over their failure to respond to public and congressional demands for copies of all of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails.

And they may not learn much more until after November’s presidential election.

It’s “physically impossible” for State Department officials to release Clinton emails that have already been made public before November’s election, Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary for Management at the State Department, told members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (HOGR) in a Thursday hearing on compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The hearing comes on the heels of the FBI’s Friday release of a summary of its investigation into Clinton’s use of a private server and email account during her term as America’s chief international diplomat.

FBI officials recovered 14,900 new emails from Clinton’s lawyers, and said there may be “tens of thousands” more. Clinton previously claimed to have turned over to government officials all of her business-related emails.

[dcquiz] State Department officials are in the process of reviewing those 14,900 emails for redaction and release. (RELATED: Email: Addicted To BlackBerry, Clinton Asked Colin Powell For Advice On How To Get Her Fix)

But State Department officials’ progress didn’t satisfy Republicans, who couldn’t get answers on why Clinton was allowed to use a private email account, what happened to two BlackBerry devices her aide supposedly smashed with a hammer, and why officials still haven’t divulged Clinton’s calendar requested in 2010 by the Associated Press.

“How do I get Hillary Clinton’s calendars?”HOGR Chairman and Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz asked. “Why does that take so long?”

Other Republicans expressed similar frustration.

“Secretary Clinton said she did not send or receive classified materials, but she did,” South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy said. “She said she turned over all work-related emails, but she did not. She said her personal attorneys reviewed all work related emails but they did not,” comparing the “gaps” in Clinton’s emails to the “Grand Canyon.”

Democrats claimed partisan political motives are behind the Republicans’ complaints.

“This was a sham,” said Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch.

The timing of Thursday’s hearing coincided with an announcement from Judicial Watch — a key player in unearthing thousands of Clinton emails — of a new Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the State Department for yet another Clinton email exchange mentioned in a State Department Office of Inspector General (IG) report.

The State Department’s FOIA resistance is well documented.

A January 2016 State Department IG report found State Department staff routinely violate statutory and regulatory requirements for complying with public records requests related to the Office of the Secretary. The State Department lost an untold number of federal records to poor record keeping practices by Clinton and her senior staff from 2009 to 2013.

A Department of Justice (DOJ) report released in May also found the State Department is the slowest major agency in responding to FOIA requests, taking 111 days on average — months longer than the statutory deadline of 20 working days.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon scolded State officials in summer 2015 when they didn’t hand over 60 emails demanded in a FOIA request, saying, “even the least ambitious bureaucrat could do this.”

Chaffetz earlier this week requested the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to independently review FBI evidence from its investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email and private server, after FBI Director James Comey declined to recommend prosecution in July.

Chaffetz’ committee will hold additional hearings on State’s management of Clinton’s records next week.

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