By Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON, May 19 (Reuters) - A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the U.S. State Department to produce a schedule for the release of Hillary Clinton's emails from her time as secretary of state, a legal move that could complicate her presidential campaign.
A lawyer in the case, Jeffrey Light, told Reuters that U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras ordered the State Department to come up with a timetable by next week for the rolling release of the 55,000 pages of emails.
The judge also told the State Department to present a schedule by next week for releasing 300 Clinton emails related to U.S. operations in Benghazi, Libya where four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, were killed in a 2012 attack, Light said.
Clinton, the front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, has come under criticism for storing and sending emails related to her official duties via a private server based in her house in New York state. She has turned over the emails to the State Department.
Republican foes in Congress have accused Clinton of excessive secrecy by using a personal email server for messages she sent and received as America's top diplomat.
Republicans want the emails to be released soon to cast more light on Clinton's term as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013, a time when the United States struggled to reset relations with Russia and develop a strategy for Syria's civil war.
While her foes are particularly interested in emails about Benghazi, several congressional probes have found no "smoking gun" linking her to any failure to protect the Americans who were killed.
Releasing the State Department emails in batches over time, as requested by the judge, could give Clinton's opponents on the campaign trail multiple chances to attack her.
"I would call it a rolling headache because she's going to have to respond to these each time they come out," said Democratic strategist Bud Jackson.
The State Department had said on Monday it might need until January to finish a review and release the emails.
Clinton has said she used a private email account because it was more convenient for her. She has also said that while she should have used a separate government email account, she violated no rules.
The former U.S. senator and first lady campaigned on Tuesday in the early campaign state of Iowa. At a bicycle shop in the town of Cedar Falls, she spoke about her support for small businesses and community banks. (Additional reporting by Steve Holland; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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