The State Department on Friday sought to delay its final release of emails from Hillary Clinton’s personal server, blaming a massive snowstorm hitting Washington as well as an internal “oversight.”
In a court filing, the department asked a federal court to delay by a month the Jan. 29 deadline for it to release the last batch of roughly 55,000 pages of Clinton’s emails believed to be work-related.
The emails, thousands of which have been released on a monthly basis since last year, have become a constant headache for Clinton’s front-runner Democratic presidential campaign. More than 1,300 of the emails from the former secretary of State’s private email account and server have been classified — some at a level higher than top secret.
Roughly 82 percent of Clinton’s emails have been released, the State Department says.
However, last week the State Department realized that more than 7,200 pages of Clinton’s emails had not yet been sent to other agencies, which are required to review them for potential redactions before they can be made public.
“State overlooked some necessary consultations at a time when the Clinton email team’s efforts were focused on processing records that had already gone through interagency consultation in order to meet the monthly interim goals,” the department said in Friday’s court filing. “Thus, this oversight was not detected until the push to meet the final deadline.”
The effort to send those pages to other agencies was “interrupted” by the massive snowstorm expected to blanket Washington this weekend, it added.
“[T]his storm will disrupt the Clinton email team’s current plans to work a significant number of hours throughout the upcoming weekend and could affect the number of documents that can be produced on January 29, 2016,” the Obama administration said.
Ahead of the storm, the federal government closed its doors early on Friday, and much of official Washington has shut down. The storm’s closures could extend into next week, potentially delaying the department’s work even further.
The State Department will still release some emails on Jan. 29, spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement — but not the entire remaining tranche of emails.
“We will strive to produce as many documents as possible on that day,” Toner said.
The department spokesman added that remaining undisclosed emails are “the most complex to process” because they contain “a large amount of material” that needs to be approved by other agencies.
However, he insisted that the delay was not due to ongoing debates about classification of Clinton’s messages. The State Department and Clinton’s presidential campaign have maintained that none of the messages that passed through the former diplomat’s personal server were classified at the time they were sent, a position that the federal intelligence agency watchdog disputes.
The department asked the court to push the deadline for the full collection of documents back to Feb. 29.
A delay in the release of the emails would push the final batch even later into the presidential primary season, after the first four state nominating contests.
Republicans have repeatedly accused the Obama administration of coming to Clinton’s political aid, and said on Friday that the State Department’s move was just the latest example.
The delay “is all about ensuring any further damaging developments in Hillary Clinton’s email scandal are revealed only after the votes are counted in the early nominating states,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement.
“The American people should be outraged at the Obama administration’s gamesmanship to protect someone who recklessly exposed classified information on more than 1,300 occasions, including highly sensitive top secret intelligence,” he added.
The State Department has complained for months that a focus on Clinton’s email setup while secretary has caused a spike in the number of Freedom of Information Act requests and lawsuits, which have drained its resources.
In addition to the 55,000 pages of work-related emails, Clinton deleted a similar number of allegedly personal emails from her personal server. That server is now in the hands of the FBI, which is investigating it for potential mishandling of classified information.