Clinton could be prosecuted after discovery of 22 top secret classified emails
By Bonnie K. Goodman
January 30, 2016 2:44 PM MST
Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton is getting bad news just days before the Iowa caucus. The State Department announced on Friday, Jan. 29, 2016 that they would bewithholding 37 pages, 22 emails from Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State because they are classified as “top secret.” The State Department made the announcement as they prepare to release their monthly batch of Clinton’s emails from her private server as part of the court order in the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit compelling them to release all 55,000 pages of Clinton’s emails.
The State Department announced they are censoring 22 emails, part of seven email chains, which they have now classified, and will not release them at all to the public. State Department spokesman John Kirby told the press about emails being withheld, as he spoke about Friday’s batch of emails being released as part of the monthly release of Clinton’s email that started at the end of May and was suppose to be complete by Jan. 29.
Kirby made sure to clarify in his statement that none of the emails now being deemed as top secret were considered as such when Clinton sent or received when she was Secretary of State from 2009-2013. Kirby announced, “The documents are being upgraded at the request of the intelligence community, because they contain a category of top secret information.”
Kirby emphasized that the state department “is focusing on whether they need to be classified today.” Clinton swore under oath in August, that none of the emails she sent or received were classified at the time sent. Kirby, however, said, “Is it possible that something is classified at the time it was sent and not marked so? … That is certainly possible.” Clinton could face prosecution if it is determined that this emails should have been classified as top secret when they were sent or received.
The State Dept spokesman also let it be known that these emails will not be made public, “These emails will be denied in full, meaning they will not be produced online on our FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] website. In response to a FOIA request, it is not unusual to deny or withhold a document in full.”
Kirby also indicated that 18 emails Clinton exchanged with President Barack Obama would also be withheld and will not be made public. The emails are part of eight chains, which the White House requested in October should not be made public, but are not yet classified. Kirby explained, those emails “have not been determined to be classified. They are entirely separate and distinct from the emails that were upgraded.”
On Friday, the State Department released about 2,000 more pages from Clinton’s emails, they were supposed to release the remaining 9,900 pages but are delaying the release until the end of February. The court did not approve the extension, and it remains to be seen if the department will face ramifications for releasing all of the remaining emails. The state department said in court documents, that the last bunch of emails is “the most complex to process as they contain a large amount of material that required interagency review.”
Hillary Clinton is not too pleased about the classification. Hiding these emails looks bad to the public and voters especially before the Iowa caucus on Monday, Feb. 1 where she is in a tight race with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Clinton’s press secretary Brian Fallon issued a statement saying, “We firmly oppose the complete blocking of the release of these emails. Since first providing her emails to the State Department more than one year ago, Hillary Clinton has urged that they be made available to the public. We feel no differently today.”
Clinton’s Republican presidential opponents were quick to respond and attack the Democratic frontrunner. GOP frontrunner Donald Trump took to Twitter, and wrote, “The new e-mail release is a disaster for Hillary Clinton. At a minimum, how can someone with such bad judgement be our next president?” Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush also tweeted his thoughts, saying, “We need a President who can be trusted to keep our secrets secret. Obviously that’s not @HillaryClinton.”
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus also commented on Twitter, “With even more “top-secret” emails on her secret server, Clinton has removed all doubt that she cannot be trusted with the presidency.” Priebus also released a statement, “If this isn’t disqualifying I don’t know what is.” The RNC chairman pointed out that Clinton had signed a nondisclosure agreement “to protect” all “marked or unmarked classified information.”
The FBI is currently conducting two investigations into Clinton’s conduct at the State Department. The first is the investigation of whether she risked national security sending and receiving classified information on her private email server, and if that information was mishandled by her and State Department staffers in the process. The FBI is also investigating the “possible “intersection” of Clinton Foundation work and State Department business” that might have “violated public corruption laws.” The FBI believes donors to the foundation benefitted from Hillary’s being at the State Department gaining political favors from her.
Republicans are pushing the FBI to recommend that the Justice Department press charges against Clinton. Priebus mentioned this again in his statement and the repercussions it could have on the presidential campaign. The RNC chairman said, “Democrats will have to decide whether they really want to nominate a candidate who could face severe legal repercussions in the muddle of the campaign and who has so brazenly violated the public trust with her reckless disregard for our national security.”
Meanwhile, Clinton’s Democratic opponent Sanders refused to attack Clinton on the issue as has been his motto throughout the campaign, instead, Sanders issued a statement, “The voters of Iowa and this nation deserve a serious discussion of the issues facing them.”
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest spoke at the daily press briefing on Friday, defending the State Department’s decision to delay releasing Clinton’s remaining emails for next month. Earnest tried to reassure that delay is not politically motivated as the Republicans have been claiming to help her campaign. Earnest said, “I can tell you with full confidence that there is – has been no political interference in this process. I think the extraordinary request that Secretary Clinton put forward to actually release her emails is something that, I’m not sure has a precedent, at least for federal office holders.”
Earnest implied the Republicans care more about Clinton’s emails than the public, “In the context of a presidential campaign, people are going to have a whole bunch of reasons to criticize any of the candidates. So it’s not surprising to me that there are certain political opponents of Secretary Clinton that are looking for a way to use this situation to criticize her. That is part of the process. And she and her team, I’m confident, will muster a robust defense.”
Up until now, a total of emails considered classified is 1,319. None of the emails labeled by the State Department as classified were at the time they were sent. The majority are labeled “classified,” the lowest level of classification. There are, however, some emails classified at a higher level, “confidential,” while six are marked “secret” one of the higher levels of classification for national security. Additionally, some emails received on the server were “special access programs” (SAP)” the highest level of classified, “derived from sensitive intelligence sources.”
There are only a two of Clinton’s emails that were classified as “top secret” the highest form of classified. The discovery of the emails this past summer has been the focus of one of the FBI’s probes into Clinton’s conduct while head of the State Department. Intelligence officials say both emails had been originally classified as top secret, however, after reviews, one email remained top secret while the second was downgraded to the secret classification. By sending and receiving classified information on her server, Clinton may have violated USC 18 Section 793, “gross negligence” in “the handling of secure information under the Espionage Act.”
A court order requires the State Department to release a batch of emails each month. Each month since last May, the State Department has released thousands of pages of Clinton’s 55,000 pages of work related emails. The court order is part of Jason Leopold ‘s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the State Department forcing them to release Clinton’s emails.
Leopold of Vice News requested to see Clinton’s emails in November 2014 and then filed a lawsuit in January 2015. In December 2014, Clinton handed over 55,000 pages or over 30,000 of emails from the private email server she used to the State Department. The emails started on March 18, 2009, and came from two email account firstname.lastname@example.org and HRod17@clintonemail.com.
The State Department filed a motion in the court of Friday, Jan. 22, 2016, requesting a month delay for the final batch release. According to a judge’s order, all Clinton’s emails have to be released by Jan. 29, 2016. In the documents filed in court Friday, the Obama Administration argued that 7,200 pages of Clinton’s emails need to be reviewed by other agencies so they can make the appropriate redactions.
The State Department requested more time to distribute them to the agencies and have them review them. The department also blamed the snowstorm that put Washington at a standstill this last weekend as part of the reason they need more time. The State Department is requesting to release the final batch of emails on Feb. 29; however, they still released some emails on Jan. 29, but by not releasing all the remaining, the department defied the court order.