WASHINGTON – Two weeks ago the tangled controversy over the handling of emails in the private account of then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton hit a sensitive button in an obscure courtroom in the District of Columbia.
Rudolph Contreras, a federal judge appointed by President Obama, warned the State Department not to deliberately destroy certain Clinton records over which it has custody.
Clinton herself is not directly under attack in this suit so far. But right-wing interests are seeking to link gifts made to the Clinton family foundations to government actions. Their objective, of course, is to slow down her candidacy for president. And it has, judging from polls that show slippage in her overwhelming lead for the Democratic nomination next summer.
Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog organization, is seeking the emails.
“If documents are destroyed,” Contreras said from the bench on July 9, “… the government will have to answer for that.”
At issue, according to multiple conservative publications, including the Washington Examiner, are the emails of Hillary Clinton aides who used Clinton’s private server for their own personal and government business.
The Examiner reported all those aides have said they will cooperate with the probe except Huma Abedin, an important long-time Clinton aide who does not work for the State Department. Abedin, who has advised the Clintons for decades, is married to former Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner.
Contreras’ statements mark the first time a judge or anyone connected with the government has raised the possibility on the record of deliberate wrongdoing by someone in the Clinton camp.
“I am a little bit mystified that the government is not more forthcoming in just answering questions that will help this case proceed on a systematic basis, and on a basis that will allow everyone to get answers that will help resolve these cases, all 35 of them,” Contreras said.
In addition to conservative groups, others, such as the Associated Press, are among the 35 organizations that want to speed up disclosure of the Clinton emails under the Freedom of Information Act.
The Clinton foundations have already agreed to submit all data on foreign gifts, but they are among the tens of thousands of Clinton documents held by the State Department – all of which must be screened for national security issues.
While the government – pleading limited resources – has already begun a schedule of monthly release of documents to the media, skepticism abounds.
As in Contreras’ remarks: “Why is the State Department reluctant to make a search for the foundation conflict documents, which sounds like a relatively straightforward process?”
This is aside from reports in Friday’s New York Times that inspectors general working for intelligence agencies have requested a criminal investigation by the Justice Department into whether Clinton’s emails dealing with sensitive government issues were mishandled. So far, the Times said, she herself is not a target of the requested probe.
The larger issue for the Clinton campaign is whether the controversies over her private email account elevate from the status of a niche issue for us political junkies to something that leads the evening news budgets.
Trustees for the Social Security Administration reported last week that the old age account is solvent for 18 years. It needs only small tweaks in the payroll tax to keep it that way. However, the workers disability account goes broke next year, they said. What that needs is a probe into how bipartisan interference has transformed part of it into a welfare-style gravy train.