A federal judge told the State Department to speed up the final release of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails, saying the voting public has an interest in seeing them as the primaries are underway.
Judge Rudolph Contreras said the government is taking an “unreasonably long” time processing the messages and is already more than a week overdue on making them all public — and said he didn’t like being told speeding up could hurt national security.
“Government has me between a rock and a hard place,” he said.
The State Department says there are still some 3,700 messages to be released, and it has asked for a month-long extension beyond the Jan. 29 deadline Judge Contreras initially set.
The department said it broke the deadline because it forgot about some 4,000 messages that needed to be reviewed for classified or private information by other agencies. Those agencies are processing the messages and some have been finished, but Judge Contreras said the department needs to explain by the end of this week how it bungled the operation so badly.
The judge said he will order at least some emails to be released by Feb. 18, and showed little patience with the department’s delays.
“To state the obvious, these documents have a lot of interest and the timing is important,” Judge Contreras said.
The Obama administration has repeatedly struggled to meet court-imposed deadlines for releasing the emails, and is far behind on the final installment.
All told, Mrs. Clinton turned back over to the government about 32,000 messages she sent or received on the email server she kept at her home in New York. Of those, more than 30,000 have been deemed work-related, and most have been released.
In the last batch, which came late last month, more than a quarter of the messages were deemed to have some classified information — including 12 messages that contained very sensitive “secret” information that had to be redacted.
The State Department also announced it has classified at least 22 messages as “top secret,” and won’t release those messages at all, even in redacted form.
Judge Contreras was taken aback by the government’s bungling, and pressed Robert J. Prince, the Justice Department lawyer representing the State Department, to get more documents out quickly.
The judge ordered Mr. Prince to detail the hiccups last month that spawned the delay, and demanded the State Department explain the reason the review process is so convoluted.
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