Judge Orders DOJ to Preserve Comey’s Emails

Judicial Watch worries that former FBI chief's personal messages containing government business might be lost or destroyed

A federal judge has ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) not to delete the personal emails of James Comey from when he was FBI director.

Judicial Watch and the Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF) had asked for the ruling out of concern that personal emails used for FBI business might be lost or destroyed.

“The FBI has been playing shell games with Comey’s records and other records, so we’re pleased the court issued this preservation order,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement.

“This preservation order helps to ensure no Comey records are going to be lost or destroyed. We expect the DOJ to take immediate steps to make sure the records are preserved, as the court ordered,” Fitton said.

In a video posted on Judicial Watch’s YouTube page, Fitton added, “It’s been well over a year that we’ve been asking for these records, and we’ve been getting the runaround and shell games from the FBI.”

Judicial Watch had argued that there was reason to believe Comey (pictured above) used personal email to conduct official business. The watchdog group pointed to a June inspector general’s report.

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“We identified numerous instances in which Comey used a personal email account (a Gmail account) to conduct FBI business,” the report states.

In response, DOJ asked Comey to preserve those records. But the agency refused to share the letter to the former FBI chief with the plaintiffs and opposed the document preservation order from the court.

The judge gave the department until September 28 to “complete its review and release of any responsive, nonexempt records to plaintiffs.”

The judge added, “Although it contends that such an order is unnecessary, [the DOJ] has not explained why this preservation order would prejudice defendant or cause any undue burden.”

Judicial Watch and DCNF filed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit in April seeking:

All records written or ordered written by Comey summarizing his conversations with any of the following individuals: former President Barack Obama; former Vice President Joe Biden; 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton; Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Plus, all records that identify and describe meetings between Comey and Obama.

The plaintiffs said they were searching for information about whether the Obama administration misused the FBI and the Department of State to improperly target Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Fitton at the time argued that it was “all hands on deck for the Obama administration, particularly for the leadership of the FBI and State Department” when it came to “trying to destroy Donald Trump.”

Related: Past CIA Operative Says Brennan, Clapper Should Keep Their ‘Yap Shut’

Trump fired Comey in May 2017, which led Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint former FBI Director Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign — including possible coordination with the Trump campaign.

Media reports have suggested that the Mueller team also is looking into whether Trump’s dismissal of Comey and other actions constitute obstruction of justice.

Meanwhile, congressional Republicans have waged a campaign for documents that might shed light on how the Russia counterintelligence probe began. Trump’s allies suspect political motivations played a role.

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