A federal court has ordered the Department of Justice to preserve federal records located in the personal email accounts of fired FBI Director James Comey. In a lawsuit filed against DOJ, Judicial Watch and Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF) had filed a motion asking the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia to issue an order to preserve Comey’s emails to several prominent politicians. The preservation of those emails had been opposed by the Justice Department and FBI. DOJ has until the end of September to respond with the requested emails.
U.S. District Court judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote: “[The DOJ] is ORDERED to take all necessary and reasonable steps to ensure that any records that are potentially responsive to either of the Plaintiffs’ FOIA requests located on former Director Comey’s personal e-mail account are preserved.” The August 6 ruling went on to declare, “[T]he Court will allow [the DOJ] until September 28, 2018 to complete its review and release of any responsive, non-exempt records to Plaintiffs.That being said, [the DOJ] is also ORDERED to make rolling productions between today and September 28, 2018, at reasonable intervals, of any records that are reviewed and found to be responsive and non-exempt.”
Judicial Watch had argued that “there is reason to be concerned that the responsive records could be lost or destroyed.” For example, the transparency advocacy organization noted that DOJ’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz stated in June, “We identified numerous instances in which Comey used a personal email account (a Gmail account) to conduct FBI business.” Responding to Judicial Watch’s concerns, DOJ sent a letter to Comey requesting him to preserve the records. However, DOJ refused to make the letter available and opposed a preservation order.
Judge Kollar-Kotelly wrote:
“In order to avoid any possible issues later in this litigation, the Court will GRANT [Judicial Watch’s] Motion. [The DOJ] is ORDERED to take all necessary and reasonable steps to ensure that any records that are potentially responsive to either of the Plaintiffs’ FOIA requests located on former Director Comey’s personal e-mail account are preserved. 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.
“The court also explained that its order did necessarily mean the court believed that Mr. Comey either had government records or that they would be lost or destroyed.”
The lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch and The Daily Caller is seeking:
“All records written or ordered written by Comey summarizing his conversations with any of the following individuals: Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Senator Chuck Schumer, Representative Nancy Pelosi, and Senator John McCain.
“All records that identify and describe all meetings between former FBI Director James Comey and President Barack Obama.
According to a Judicial Watch release, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said that the judge’s 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.”
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