Judge rules on the release of Clinton’s Benghazi emails

The U.S. Department of State has been ordered to give Judicial Watch previously redacted information from Hillary Clinton’s emails regarding Libya.

According to Judicial Watch’s website, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson has ordered  the release of “eight identical paragraphs” from two September 13, 2012, Clinton emails.  The emails contain information about phone calls former President Barack Obama made to to Egyptian and Libyan leaders.  The phone calls took place right after the terrorist attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi.

The subject line of the emails was “Quick Summary of POTUS Calls to Presidents of Libya and Egypt.” They were stored on Clinton’s private, unofficial server.

The government previously withheld the emails under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) B(5) “deliberative process” exemption. However,  Judge Jackson rejected that exemption.

She said the two records in question may be slightly predecisional, or prepared to assist a decision-maker, including recommendations, and may reflect personal opinions rather than the policy. However, she stated the emails “are not deliberative. [The State Department] has pointed to very little to support its characterization of these two records as deliberative, and the Court’s in camera review of the documents reveals that they do not fall within that category.”

According to Judicial Watch:

The full emails may reveal what former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama knew about the September 11, 2012, terror attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi.

Although the State Department said an internal “mistake” failed to protect the emails as “classified,” Judicial Watch argued that the State Department had made a deliberate effort to protect Clinton and the agency.  They say the State Department avoided, “identifying emails on Clinton’s unofficial, non-secure email server as classified.”

Citing an interview with an FBI employee, Judicial Watch says top State Department official Patrick Kennedy put pressure on the FBI to keep Clinton’s emails unclassified.  That employee “believes STATE ha[d] an agenda which involves minimizing the classified nature of the Clinton emails in order to protect State interests and those of Clinton.”

A State Department employee is also cited by Judicial Watch as saying, “the State Department’s Office of Legal Counsel interfered with the FOIA processing of email from Secretary Clinton’s server, instructing reviewers to use Exemption B(5) (deliberative process exemption) instead of Exemption B(1) (classified information exemption).”

According to Judicial Watch:

An agency’s deliberate withholding of a FOIA claim, either to gain a tactical advantage or, as appears to be the case here, to protect the agency’s interests and those of its former head, is “a motive undoubtedly inconsistent with FOIA’s broad remedial purpose …” It “counsels denying the Government’s request.”

The emails Judge Jackson ordered released were sent to top administration officials including Clinton, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, Clinton Deputy Chief of Staff Jacob Sullivan, Special Assistant Robert Russo, and Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton wonders if President Trump is aware that his State and Justice Departments is still attempting to “cover for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama?”

Fitton says information that “could result in key answers about the Benghazi outrage is being opposed by the Trump administration.  This may well be an example of the ‘deep state’ trying to get away with a cover up – if so then the Trump administration must put a stop to it.”

Judicial Watch received the original emails with the redacted information after a FOIA lawsuit filed on September 4, 2014.  They were seeking information “related to notes, updates, or reports created in response to the September 11, 2012 attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.” Their FOIA request included notes taken by then Secretary Clinton and employees of the Office of the Secretary of State, both during and after the attack.

FOIA lawsuits have forced the release hundreds of Benghazi-related documents.

There was speculation in the aftermath of the Benghazi attacks that Clinton and Obama mislead the media about the cause of the attacks. Clinton famously said, “what difference at this point does it make?” when pressed about what she knew.

H/T: Judicial Watch

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