A federal judge has ordered the Justice Department to file court briefs by Wednesday explaining why some portion of the remaining Hillary Clinton emails, subject to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by Vice News, cannot be produced by Feb. 18.

U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras said after a 30-minute hearing in federal court in Washington, D.C., that the government "has put me between a rock and a hard place" with respect to 7,000 pages of yet-to-be-released Clinton emails from her tenure at the State Department.

"To state the obvious, these documents have a lot of public interest and the timing is important for the reasons stated by the plaintiff," the judge said.

Vice has argued the emails should come out soon given the primary election voting calendar. The State Department has said it will release all the remaining documents by Feb. 29, shortly before the Super Tuesday votes. That's the day when most states vote on any single day in this 2016 election, but is after the key contests in South Carolina and Nevada.

State said it was forced to delay recently, in part, because the big snowstorm in Washington made consulting with intelligence agencies too difficult.

Contreras asked Tuesday for authorities to prepare "a detailed explanation of why this problem arose, what caused it and why it wasn't noticed until recently."

Clinton has landed in controversy over the past year and had difficulty explaining her use of a private email server instead of a State Department email address. Several emails have been retroactively classified.

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