A US federal appeals court has revived one of the legal challenges seeking to force the US government to sue Hillary Clinton over a private email server she used as secretary of state.
On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling that the Department of State’s review of the emails was sufficient and that any appeal for the attorney general’s involvement was “moot.”
The court ruled that the law in fact requires such intervention, providing a new opening for President-elect Donald Trump and his attorney general nominee, Senator Jeff Sessions, to get involved in supervising the release of more Clinton emails.
Tuesday’s decision pertains to emails Clinton and her aides sent and received using private email addresses and a server in her New York residence to conduct State Department business.
While the State Department and National Archives made efforts to recover the emails, they did not ask the US attorney general to take enforcement action. Conservative watchdog groups Judicial Watch and Cause of Action filed separate lawsuits in 2015 to force their hand.
A district judge in January ruled the suits moot, saying the plaintiffs made a “sustained effort” to recover Clinton’s records.
However, DC Circuit Judge Stephen Williams said Tuesday that the government agencies should have done more.
“Even though those efforts bore some fruit, the Department has not explained why shaking the tree harder — e.g., by following the statutory mandate to seek action by the attorney general — might not bear more still. It is therefore abundantly clear that, in terms of assuring government recovery of emails, appellants have not ‘been given everything [they] asked for,'” Williams wrote in the court’s opinion.
“Absent a showing that the requested enforcement action could not shake loose a few more emails, the case is not moot,” the judge said.
Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, voluntarily handed over 55,000 emails to US officials investigating the case, but has not released about 30,000 she described as personal correspondence.
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