The State Department has agreed to review 29,000 pages of emails from Huma Abedin, a close aide to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, from their days at the State Department for possible public release under a new legal agreement with a conservative legal group. But even as Clinton presses her campaign, many of the emails would not be publicly released until six months after the election.
Under a schedule adopted Monday by U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, lawyers for the State Department and the conservative group Judicial Watch agreed that the agency will start in March a lengthy review and release of thousands of emails that Abedin sent or received on Clinton's private computer server between 2009 and 2013. Abedin was deputy chief of staff for Clinton during Clinton's four-year stint as secretary of state and is now vice chair of Clinton's 2016 campaign organization, traveling constantly with Clinton to Democratic Party caucus and primary states.
Abedin's emails are at issue because Clinton's own emails, released publicly by the State Department in recent months, showed that Abedin served as an influential sounding board for Clinton. She acted as a key gatekeeper and was often emailed by others inside and outside by the department when they wanted to reach Clinton. The Clinton emails also showed that Abedin frequently communicated with her from her own account on the Clinton server.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said his group sought the Abedin documents "given the intersection of Mrs. Clinton's private and public interests and the constant fundraising of the Clinton Foundation." Following her resignation from the State Department in 2013, Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, ran the foundation until she stepped down from that role when she announced her run for the presidency.
The court agreement calls for the State Department to review for release 400 Abedin emails each month starting March 1, but the public production of documents will not be completed until April 30, 2017, six months after the November presidential election. Justice Department lawyers had initially tried to extend the process for three years, Fitton said.
Fitton acknowledged frustration that as many as half of the Abedin emails might not be released until after the election, but he said he was "pleased we were able to get this group of records within a year. These records are not being produced voluntarily."
In the Judicial Watch case and other legal actions filed in recent months against the State Department for Clinton-released records, government lawyers have pushed back repeatedly against media and political groups trying to gain broad access to Abedin's emails. The Associated Press has also sought a broad review of Abedin's emails, but lawyers for the State Department have sought to restrict the news organization's access to a limited period of time and to a sampling of the aide's communications.
Fitton said his group would also push in coming months for similar email releases from other former key Clinton aides in the State Department.
State Department officials declined to comment on the agreement, deferring to the court filing.