Just a day before the Democratic South Carolina primary on Friday, Feb. 26, 2016, the State Department released 881 emails and 1,589 pages from frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State (2009-13). The release was the second to last batch of emails that will be made to the public until the State Department completes a court order to release the majority of Clinton’s emails from her private server on Monday, Feb. 29.
The new release adds 88 emails to the classified column and bringing the new total to 1,840 emails. Although they are classified at differing levels, the majority are at the lowest level confidential. Last month the State Department retroactively classified 22 of Clinton’s emails as “top-secret,” the “highest level” of classified. The Department insisted they had not initially classified as such when the emails were originally sent and received.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner spoke to the press describing how they are pressed for time to complete the release. Toner explained, “We’re still reviewing them – a lot of them, frankly. Going to be working hard through the weekend.” Toner also said, “We take our obligations to the court seriously and are making every effort to comply with this order. We do intend, in that spirit, to make a final production on Monday, February 29th.”
The Department still has to review 4,000 emails, and they all have to be ready and posted online by Monday evening, Feb. 29. So far, The State Department has released 48,000 pages representing 92.5 percent or the 55,000 pages of work related emails; Clinton handed over to the Department in December 2014.
Clinton’s emails and the use of a personal email server have caused some legal woes for Clinton and the State Department. The FBI is currently investigating whether Clinton risked and endangered national security by using it. There are also 50 Freedom of Information Act lawsuits going through the federal court system.
Federal Judge Rudolph Contreras of the U.S. District for the District of Columbia ordered the State Department on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, to release Clinton’s emails in fourth batches until the end of the month. According to the order, they are supposed to release email batches of the remaining 3,700 emails or 7,000 pages on Feb. 13, Feb. 19, Feb. 26 and Feb. 29. Judge Contreras wrote in his decision, “The Court expects that Defendant will endeavor to avoid any additional delay.”
Each of the release dates, Feb. 19, 26, and 29 comes before a nominating contest for the presidential election. On Feb. 20, there are the Nevada caucuses. On Feb. 27, there is the South Carolina primary. The last email batch to be released comes a day before Super Tuesday when a dozen primaries are being held.
Since the end of May 2015, the State Department has been required because of a court order to release each month a batch of Clinton’s 30,000 emails with the original end date of Jan. 29. The order was a result of Vice News reporter Jason Leopold Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the State Department aimed at compelling them to release all of Clinton’s emails. Now all the emails have to be released on Feb. 29.