Judge Orders Unsealing Of Search Warrant In Clinton Email Probe, 11 Days To Election

Scott ApplewhiteAP Images

A U.S. judge has instructed the unsealing of the application used to get a search warrant that allowed the FBI access the emails on Hillary Clinton’s private server before the presidential elections.

According to Reuters, U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel ordered that it be released on Tuesday barring any appeal from a higher court. The redacted materials were used by the Federal Bureau of Investigations Director James Comey to tell Congress of newly-discovered emails on October 28. Watchers say this development damaged the Clinton campaign, as it was brought to the fore 11 days before the election that Mr. Trump eventually won.

The release of the materials was pushed by Randol Schoenberg, a Los Angeles lawyer who said it was crucial to establish transparency given the controversial effect the probe had on the November 8 elections. Schoenberg had argued that it was the First Amendment right of the public to have access to it, now that the investigation into the former secretary of state had been closed.

The district judge had agreed, ordering that they be released because they had little significance to the secretary of state.

“Secretary Clinton or her recent presidential campaigns have responded to comments made about her by Director James Comey. She has little privacy interest in the release of documents identifying her as the subject of this investigation. The strong presumption of access attached to the search warrant and related materials are not overcome by any remaining privacy interest of Secretary Clinton.”

The emails were accidentally discovered during an investigation into disgraced Democratic US Representative Anthony Weiner, husband of top Clinton staffer, Huma Abedin. According to the Politico, a warrant was issued by a federal magistrate in the latter days of October with the FBI asking for permission to search emails on a laptop belonging to Weiner after unearthing explicit sexual exchanges he had with a minor. It was in the process that Clinton-related emails were found.

The unsealing of the records will now show the FBI’s rationale for accessing the emails. The affidavit submitted by the agency will now confirm what was actually said that prompted the magistrate to reopen the case when it had been concluded.

It was the veto of the magistrate that lead to Comey sending a letter to Congress, telling them that new evidence regarding the Clinton probe had come to the fore after he had announced its closure. Two days before the election, Comey had sent another letter saying that the evidence had not affected the FBI’s initial conclusion that exonerated Hillary Clinton from prosecution.

Justice Department prosecutors at first had resisted the unsealing but agreed in a sealed proposal later on that it be open to public scrutiny but with redactions about an unnamed person, sources say that unnamed person would be Weiner.

US District Judge Kevin Castel also asked information referencing a second person be removed, because of the person’s “strong privacy interest in keeping his or her identity secret.” That second person might be Abedin. The names of the FBI agents involved in the email probe have also being removed as a matter of national security and based on counterintelligence investigations.

In July, Democrats had lauded the FBI director for not recommending charges against the Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton, in the race to the White House over the use of a private server when she was secretary of state. When he backtracked and said he was reopening the case based on new emails that had come to light, it set off a political firestorm.

At a rally, when Comey did not recommend any charges against Hillary Clinton, President-elect Donald Trump had criticized the verdict, telling his supporters that the system was rigged. When Comey had sent a letter to Congress asking for a reassessment of the case, the Manhattan billionaire had said “it might not be as rigged as I thought.”

[Featured Image by Scott Applewhite/AP Image]