LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
South Carolina is holding its Democratic primary today, and Hillary Clinton is favored to rack up another victory there in her race for that party's presidential nomination. But continuing to dog her is a controversy over her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. Last night, the State Department released another 1,500 pages of her messages. The last batch will be released on Monday. And in a related case, a judge has paved the way for testimony by some of Clinton's aides. NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson has been following the story. Good morning, Carrie.
CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hi, Lulu.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What have you found in the emails released last night? Are there any surprises?
JOHNSON: No huge surprises. There is some discussion of foreign policy, some Washington backroom intrigue, but more serious are about 22 emails the State Department has deemed top secret and won't release at all. There's also an early message from Clinton directing one of her aides to remove some headings from messages and dump the information onto an unclassified email system. And as you mentioned, there is one more release of messages supposed to happen Monday.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So no big news there, but as of right now there are some 50 - five-zero - lawsuits in federal court over access to the messages.
JOHNSON: Huge - there are lawsuits that have been filed by news organizations and by conservative watchdog groups like Judicial Watch. And there was a big development this week in one of those cases. That's when a federal judge here in D.C. gave a green light for Judicial Watch to seek discovery - documents and depositions - of people at the State Department and some of Hillary Clinton's close aides. The group wants to know whether they deliberately thwarted open records laws by using that private email server.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And what has Hillary Clinton or her camp said?
JOHNSON: Well, Clinton says it's just a fishing expedition by conservative groups that have been menacing her for years and years. And it's not clear how much leeway Judicial Watch is going to get to question Clinton's aides. We may not know until late April after a lot more voters have gone to the polls, Lulu.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK, so the State Department is releasing the last batch of emails. There are lawsuits over access to them and there's also an FBI investigation into whether any secret information was mishandled or compromised in Clinton's emails. Where is that investigation right now?
JOHNSON: The Justice Department's been really tightlipped. This week, the attorney general, Loretta Lynch, told Congress it's being handled by career FBI agents and prosecutors who will follow the evidence and the law. There doesn't seem to have been made any recommendation yet, and FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers he's keeping close track of this investigation. Let's take a listen to what he said on Capitol Hill this week.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
JAMES COMEY: But I can tell you this. I am personally following this investigation, get briefed on it regularly, because I want to ensure that it is done in the ways the FBI does its work - professionally, with integrity, promptly - that we want all investigations to move promptly and without any interference whatsoever. And I can assure you it is all of those things.
JOHNSON: So, Lulu, former prosecutors are telling me it could be a while before we know the outcome of that FBI investigation. They tend to doubt Clinton herself will be charged with any wrongdoing, but she may have to be interviewed, her aides as well. And Republicans running for president will surely keep making all of this a big issue on the campaign trail.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: No doubt about it - NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Thanks so much, Carrie.
JOHNSON: My pleasure.
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