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Protest lodged over secrecy in Clinton email case

The protests were filed in a motion from attorneys for Vice News reporter Jason Leopold, who is seeking emails related to Hillary Clinton. | Getty

04/20/16 12:43 PM EDT

Updated 04/20/16 01:24 PM EDT

Lawyers for a reporter demanding access to email messages and files the FBI has reportedly retrieved from Hillary Clinton’s private server are objecting to a secret filing the Justice Department submitted to a federal court last month as part of a bid to keep those messages under wraps.

In a motion filed Tuesday, attorneys for Vice News reporter Jason Leopold formally protested the classified declaration the FBI filed offering U.S. District Court Judge Randy Moss additional details about the ongoing FBI investigation into how classified information wound up on Clinton’s private server, which hosted the personal email account she used in lieu of a government one during her four years as secretary of state.

Leopold’s attorneys argue that the Justice Department violated normal legal protocol by failing to seek advance permission from the court or notice to the other side before filing the unusual “ex parte” pleading.

“Because Defendant submitted the declaration ex parte for in camera review without prior permission from the Court, or opportunity for Plaintiff to be heard, there is no public record justifying the need for such secrecy of the portions that are not classified, or for the court to rule on the lawfulness of the Defendant’s nondisclosure,” lawyers Jeffrey Light and Ryan James wrote.

The protest gained some traction late Wednesday afternoon when Moss ordered the Justice Department to file publicly a redacted copy of the secret filing or “show cause why” that isn’t possible. He gave the government until April 26 to do that.

The motion and order came in a Freedom of Information Act case Leopold filed seeking access to deleted messages the FBI is said to have obtained from Clinton’s server, as well as other specified types of records about the probe such as records authorizing media statements or exchanged with the State Department about the matter.

The suit also sought correspondence between the FBI and Clinton representatives about the issue. The FBI said last month there is none. An FBI records official said disclosing other data and correspondence could “adversely” affect the pending investigation.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

Josh Gerstein is a senior reporter for POLITICO.

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