U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan granted a motion for discovery filed by Judicial Watch, which sued the State Department for Clinton-related documents and is now arguing there is "reasonable suspicion" that Clinton or State staff tried to thwart the Freedom of Information Act. That law requires all work emails to be archived in a government systems for public view.
Discovery in FOIA cases is relatively rare and presents political risk for Clinton: While the group has not yet called for Clinton to answer question personally, it said it may in the future as part of discovery. The process will likely entail attorneys asking questions of her top staff via deposition or written Q&A about why Clinton used a private email server in the first place and how they eventually determined what was an "official" record to be preserved.
The Clinton blasted the ruling as a political stunt from the right.
"This is one of several lawsuits filed by the same right-wing group, which will stop at nothing in pursuing the Clintons, just as they have done since the 1990s," said Nick Merrill, Clinton campaign spokesman.
"The ruling a major victory in terms of moving forward to finding out the full truth about the Clinton email system," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton in a phone interview. "Our goal is to make sure in the end that all the records that should have been looked at, should have been reviewed, are disclosed to the public as the law requires."
The process will take months, at the least, meaning the case could easily extend all the way through Election Day and give Republicans new ammunition to use on the trail.
Judge Sullivan is a bulldog who has contributed to much of the discovery in the IRS targeting scandal. It was in his courtroom that we discovered that Lois Lerner's computer hard drive had "crashed" and thousands of emails were lost. So it's not surprising that he would brush aside the Clinton team's objections and order the discovery to proceed.
But as mentioned above, it's doubtful that we will learn much before the election. But it should give Republicans additional ammunition going into the fall.
Meanwhile, the criminal investigation is proceeding. Very little in the way of leaks have emerged from the Justice Department so we are in the dark about where the investigation is headed and most importantly, will the FBI make Clinton an official taret of the inquiry. There appear to be two threads of the investigation; into Huma Abedin's "double dipping," drawing a salary from both the State Department and the Clinton Foundation; and the handling of clearly classified information. Both tracks spell trouble for Hillary that perhaps won't derail her nomination but could easily affect her in November.