The election might be over, but former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton still isn’t off the hook for her Benghazi emails.
U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, ruled Tuesday that the State Department still hasn’t done enough to absolve Clinton of wrongdoing over the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound, according to Politico.
There’s one place the federal government has seemingly overlooked — its own server database — and the right-leaning watchdog Judicial Watch is, at least in part, responsible for the revived search:
“This major court ruling may finally result in more answers about the Benghazi scandal — and Hillary Clinton’s involvement in it — as we approach the attack’s fifth anniversary,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement, adding that it is “remarkable” President Donald Trump’s administration hasn’t been more proactive.
During the initial probe into the matter, the State Department combed through about 30,000 emails Clinton turned over to the federal agency in December 2014, after officials searching for Benghazi-related messages discovered the former secretary of state used a private email server during her four years on the job.
The department also searched through thousands of emails handed over by three of Clinton’s top aides — Huma Abedin, Cheryl Mills and Jake Sullivan — and messages collected during the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s controversial email practices.
The State Department found 348 Benghazi-related documents that were sent to or by Clinton in the five months following the 2012 attack.
But for Judicial Watch — and apparently Mehta — that wasn’t enough, because only external sources were investigated the first go-around.
From the judge’s 10-page ruling:
To date, State has searched only data compilations originating from outside sources — Secretary Clinton, her former aides, and the FBI. ... It has not, however, searched the one records system over which it has always had control and that is almost certain to contain some responsive records: the state.gov e-mail server.
If Secretary Clinton sent an e-mail about Benghazi to Abedin, Mills, or Sullivan at his or her state.gov e-mail address, or if one of them sent an e-mail to Secretary Clinton using his or her state.gov account, then State’s server presumably would have captured and stored such an e-mail. Therefore, State has an obligation to search its own server for responsive records.
The Justice Department is not pleased with Mehta’s ruling, arguing it sets an invasive precedent for FOIA requests. But he stood his ground, writing in his ruling that the case involving Clinton is “a far cry from a typical FOIA case.”
While the State Department has said a search of its database “is likely to be unfruitful,” the judge is ordering the search to determine “the adequacy of State’s search for responsive records.”
A Justice Department spokesman told Politico the agency is “reviewing” the order.
Mehta is giving the State Department until Sept. 22 to update the court on its additional search.