Hillary Clinton violated federal policy by storing her work emails on a private server during her tenure as secretary of state, a federal judge said Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said Clinton's use of a private server had made it more difficult for the State Department to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, Politico
"We wouldn’t be here today if this employee had followed government policy," Sullivan said during the Thursday hearing, in an apparent allusion to Clinton.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a press release that he "couldn't agree more" with the judge's statement, adding that "Today’s court hearing highlights the blatant disregard for federal records laws."
Justice Department lawyer Peter Wechsler argued that FOIA does not typically allow for searches of the private accounts of government officials. At that point, the judge responded that the Clinton case was an unusual situation because "there was a violation of government policy."
Clinton, the Democratic Party's front-runner for president, has repeatedly said her actions were allowed by law whenever she has been questioned about the private server kept under her control.
"We’re not talking about a search of anyone’s random email," Sullivan told the State Department lawyer on Thursday. Clinton used the private server to conduct official State Department business, saying it was too difficult for her to try to use two devices —
one for private communications and one for government purposes.
Sullivan pressed the State Department over whether more copies of Clinton's emails exist during a one-hour-plus hearing, Politico reported.
The State Department says it already is making reasonable efforts to obtain the records, but can't be expected to find information that is not in its possession.
"Nobody buys that," Judicial Watch Director of Research and Investigation Chris Farrell told CNN. "The judge doesn't buy that, and we certainly don't accept it."
The judge became irritated when Justice Department lawyer Wechsler said he was not aware whether the FBI, which is an agency of the department, had possession of thumb drives that contain the emails, according to Politico.
Sullivan ordered the State Department to begin coordinating with the FBI to search for records on Clinton's server, Judicial Watch said in a press release.
"I'm surprised State didn't do that already," he said.
The State Department conceded to the court that it has an obligation to produce records from the devices, Judicial Watch said.
"The State Department today admitted that it had not made any effort to coordinate with the FBI in the obvious task of asking for information responsive to inquiries by the court and Judicial Watch," Fitton said in reaction to the ruling.
"I think we're making further progress on finally getting the State Department to come to grips with its obligations under the law," Farrell told CNN.
According to the judge's written order, the State Department must report its progress by Sept. 20. The State Department must file a status report by noon the next day.
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