A federal judge has ruled that the US government can keep a secret trove of emails from the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign’s private server for now, despite the FBI’s assertion that the emails contained classified information.
Federal Judge Loretta Preska ruled Friday that the government has a compelling interest in preserving the emails, a decision that could pave the way for a future presidential election in 2020.
“The government has no alternative but to preserve the emails,” Preska wrote in a scathing ruling.
“The Government has an obligation to preserve them for all future presidential elections.”
The ruling comes after a federal judge in California blocked the FBI from accessing the emails in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and others earlier this year.
In a separate court order, Preska also ordered the Justice Department to turn over a copy of the emails to the public, saying that the State Department was not required to turn them over.
Preska’s ruling could open the door to the government releasing emails from former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s private email server after he resigned amid a series of revelations about his use of the server during his time as the nation’s top diplomat.
Powell resigned from the State Dept. in January amid revelations that he used a private email account to conduct government business while Secretary of Defense and that he sent classified information to an unsecured email account.
Preska found that Powell’s email activity constituted a violation of the Espionage Act and ordered the FBI to produce the emails for public review.
The FBI has not produced any emails from Powell, but it has said that its review is ongoing.
Pressed on the timing of the release of the Clinton emails, Preskas letter said, “The government must comply with this court order and the court order’s requirements for the release.”
Preska ruled that it’s not unreasonable to expect that the FBI will be able to release emails from any future presidential campaigns, even after the election is over.
She also ruled that there’s no need to worry that any future election could be affected by the email controversy.