(CNSNews.com) – A federal judge has ordered the State Department to expand the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi-related emails by searching the email servers of three former Clinton aides.
According to Judicial Watch, D.C. District Court Judge Amit P. Mehta ordered the State Department to look into the email accounts of former chief of staff Cheryl Mills, former deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin and former director of policy planning Jacob Sullivan.
“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,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton, referring to the Sept. 11, 2012 terror attack on the U.S. Consulate in the Libyan city.
“It is remarkable that we had to battle both the Obama and Trump administrations to break through the State Department’s Benghazi stonewall,” he said. “Why are Secretary [of State Rex] Tillerson and Attorney General [Jeff] Sessions wasting taxpayer dollars protecting Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration?”
On March 4, 2015, Judicial Watch requested that the State Department release all Clinton emails involving the attack. When it did not respond, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit on May 6, 2015.
On February 12, 2017, Judicial Watch asked the D.C. District Court to compel the Trump State Department to release all of emails of Clinton and her aides relating to the Benghazi attack.
The court last week ruled in favor of Judicial Watch, saying that the State Department’s search was “inadequate” because it did not search “one record system over which it has always had control and that is almost certain to contain some responsive records: the state.gov e-mail server.”
The ruling said the department did not release all of Clinton’s emails because the former secretary of state used a private server “to transmit and receive work-related communications.”
Although Clinton’s private emails were “beyond the immediate reach of the State,” it said emails regarding Benghazi may have been sent to her aides’ state.gov email addresses.
“If Secretary Clinton sent an email about Benghazi to Abedin, Mills, or Sullivan at his or her state.gov email address, or if one of them sent an email to Secretary Clinton using his or her state.gov account, then State’s server presumably would have captured and stored such an email,” stated the memorandum.
“Therefore, State has an obligation to search its own server for responsive records,” it said.
Elsewhere in the memorandum, the court said, “State has offered no assurance that the three record compilations it received [from Clinton and her aides], taken together, constitute the entirety of Secretary Clinton’s e-mails during the time period relevant to plaintiff’s FOIA request.”
“Absent such assurance, the court is unconvinced ‘beyond material doubt’ that a search of the state.gov accounts of Abedin, Mills and Sullivan is ‘unlikely to produce any marginal return.’”
In order to adequately complete the FOIA suit, the court therefore ordered the department to look further than the Clinton state.gov emails:
“Accordingly, the court finds that the State has not met its burden of establishing it performed an adequate search in response to [Judicial Watch]’s FOIA request and orders State to conduct a supplemental search of the state.gov e-mail accounts of Abedin, Mills, and Sullivan.”
The State Department must update the court on it progress by September 22.