WASHINGTON, April 1 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of State, deferring to an ongoing FBI investigation, is halting its own investigation into former secretary Hillary Clinton or her staff mishandled classified information by using a private email server.
A State Department spokeswoman said the decision was made to avoid interfering with the ongoing federal probe into whether 22 emails now marked as top secret that were found on Clinton's private email server were or should have been marked classified at the time.
Clinton has maintained none of the emails now considered top secret were marked as such at the time, and only have been since the State Department began its screening of all Clinton's emails after the private server scandal became public.
Clinton has called on the State Department to release all her emails, which she says would back up her claim she never mishandled government secrets.
Many of the emails released to the public so far are redacted in some places. The 22 emails deemed top secret have not been released at all.
A State Department spokeswoman declined to say how their internal review might impede the FBI's investigation, or when the internal review would be completed.
The FBI investigation is reportedly in its final stages and nearing a conclusion about whether any federal laws were broken. Interviews involving top Clinton aides, and possibly the presidential candidate herself, are expected soon. Clinton has said she will cooperate with the Justice Department's interview request if they make one.
In an unusual legal defense strategy, four top Clinton advisers from her time as secretary of state have hired the same lawyer to represent them should they be interviewed by FBI investigators. Poltico reports a former assistant U.S. attorney is representing the Clinton aides, who plan to tell the same story to investigators if they're asked, in order to present a united front from the Clinton camp.