The watchdog group Judicial Watch announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State John Kerry in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to compel Secretary Kerry’s compliance with the Federal Records Act and challenge “the failure of Defendant Kerry to take any action to recover emails of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton” and other U.S. Department of State employees unlawfully removed from the agency (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. John F. Kerry (No. 1:15-cv-00785)).
Clinton, Kerry’s predecessor at State, conducted official government business using a secret, unsecured email server and email accounts. Her top aides and advisors also used non-“state.gov” email accounts to conduct official business.
In 2014, Clinton “unilaterally determined which of her emails were official government records and, in December 2014, returned at least a portion of these public records – as many as 55,000 pages of records – to the State Department.”
In the lawsuit, Judicial Watch argues the following:
The Clinton emails are agency records subject to the [Federal Records Act (FRA)] and the State Department’s failure to retain, manage, and search these agency records has compromised the Department’s retention of records that concern or relate to Secretary Clinton and other high level State Department officials who used non-“state.gov” email addresses.
As noted by Judicial Watch, the Federal Records Act stipulates:
Agencies may only dispose of records on terms approved by the Archivist of the United States, who is head of the National Archives and Records Administration (“NARA”).… This process is the exclusive procedure by which all federal records may be disposed of or destroyed.
The FRA imposes a direct responsibility on an agency head to take steps to recover any records unlawfully removed.
On April 30, 2015, Judicial Watch sent a letter to Kerry “notifying him of the unlawful removal of the Clinton emails and requesting that he initiate enforcement action pursuant to the FRA,” including working through the Attorney General to recover the emails.
Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management, responded on Secretary Kerry’s behalf on May 14. The letter ignored Judicial Watch’s demands that the Secretary comply with the FRA.
Judicial Watch alleges Kerry’s actions represent “an abuse of discretion” that has led to the continued withholding of official government records from the American people.
Said Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch President:
Secretary Kerry is in cover-up mode for Hillary Clinton. While John Kerry may have replaced Hillary Clinton at the State Department, he has proven that when it comes to complying with federal records and disclosure laws, he and Clinton are cut from the same corrupted cloth. Secretary Kerry is in a position to provide the transparency and accountability his predecessor so casually dismissed. However, those in the Obama administration will do whatever they can, including ignoring the law, to protect Clinton, her ‘legacy’ and her 2016 presidential prospects. What a sad state of affairs it is when we must petition the courts to remind our leaders what the law is and that they are obligated to follow it.