A federal judge on Thursday ordered additional fact-finding in the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server to probe whether or not Clinton's private email system, which she used during her four-year tenure as secretary of state, was a deliberate attempt to bypass the Freedom of Information Act.
What are the details?
U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth ruled in a scathing opinion that conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch should be permitted access to documents it requested as part of a 2014 FOIA request relating to the State Department's response to the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack.
The judge characterized Clinton's use of a private email server as "one of the gravest modern offenses to government transparency."
Additionally, Lamberth said Judicial Watch should be given testimony about the State Department's failure to be transparent regarding what officials knew concerning Clinton's private emails at the time the FOIA request was initially processed.
"State played this card close to its chest," Lamberth wrote in an 11-page opinion, Politico reported. "At best, State's attempts to pass-off its deficient search as legally adequate during settlement negotiations was negligence born out of incompetence. At worst, career employees in the State and Justice Departments colluded to scuttle public scrutiny of Clinton, skirt FOIA and hoodwink this court."
More from Politico:
The judge suggested that some State Department and Justice Department employees friendly to Clinton might have been trying to keep the emails from the public. He noted that messages eventually released by the State Department showed Clinton telling her daughter, Chelsea, that the assault in Benghazi, Libya, was a terrorist attack, even though the Obama administration long maintained that it was not.
Justice Department lawyers have argued that they had no legal duty to search records not in the State Department's possession at the time a FOIA request was made, and that lawyers actually working on the suit before Lamberth didn't have as much information about what Clinton turned over as did more senior officials.
Lamberth succinctly responded to the State Department's "narrow view" of its legal duties, Politico reported. "Legally, it is wrong," the judge said.
How did Judicial Watch respond?
Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton praised the ruling.
"The historic court ruling raises concerns about the Hillary Clinton email scandal and government corruption that millions of Americans share," he said in a statement. "Judicial Watch looks forward to conducting careful discovery into the Clinton email issue and we hope the Justice Department and State Department recognize Judge Lamberth's criticism and help, rather than obstruct, this court-ordered discovery."