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State Dept. withholds 22 Clinton emails deemed 'top secret'

By Ann Marie Awad   |   Jan. 29, 2016 at 5:19 PM
| License Photo

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- For the first time since the U.S. State Department began releasing emails from a private server belonging to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 22 of those emails have been withheld as top secret.

The announcement came Friday as the department released roughly 2,000 additional pages of emails.

"These emails will be denied in full, meaning they will not be produced online on our FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] website," State Department spokesman John Kirby told The Hill. "In response to a FOIA request, it is not unusual to deny or withhold a document in full."

The department had classified roughly 1,300 pages of Clinton's emails before now at lower classification levels, meaning they were released to the public in redacted form. Most of those emails were not sent by Clinton herself, but rather they were sent to her by her top aids.

Friday marked the first time the department opted to fully withhold emails. The department has not elaborated on whether or not Clinton sent the top secret emails.

Eighteen emails between Clinton and President Barack Obama are being withheld separately. While they are not classified, The Hill reported in October that the White House wished to keep them secret nonetheless.

"It is a principle that previous White Houses have vigorously defended as it goes to the core of the President's ability to receive unvarnished advice and counsel during his time in office and is central to the independent functioning of the Executive Branch," an administration official told The Hill. "Those communications, however, are ultimately made public after the President leaves offices, as is laid-out in the Presidential Records Act."

Brian Fallon, Clinton's campaign press secretary, reacted swiftly. "This is overclassification run amok," he tweeted. "We [adamantly] oppose the complete blocking of the release of these emails."

Clinton's camp has pushed for the full release of the emails, a position Fallon reiterated Friday in a statement, saying the process of vetting them "has been dominated by bureaucratic infighting."

The process of releasing all 55,000 pages of Clinton's emails has been delayed due to a bureaucratic oversight, as well as staffing shortages due to the blizzard that slammed the east coast last week. The latest filing deadline was pushed back to Feb. 29.

The new deadline comes after the first four primary states will have voted in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. The White House denies the delay was for political reasons.

"I can tell you with full confidence that there has been no political interference in this process," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Friday.

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