A second federal judge has granted discovery to a watchdog group seeking records from Hillary Clinton’s State Department, an unusual move that gives new credibility to claims that State officials intentionally evaded public records laws.
U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth issued the ruling on Tuesday in response to a 2014 lawsuit by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, which has been suing the State Department for documents related to the Benghazi attack.
Judge Lamberth cited “evidence of government wrong-doing” while issuing the decision.
“[W]here there is evidence of government wrong-doing and bad faith, as here, limited discovery is appropriate, even though it is exceedingly rare in FOIA cases,” said Lamberth.
“Plaintiff is relying on constantly shifting admissions by the Government and the former government officials,” the judge added. “Whether the State Department's actions will ultimately be determined by the Court to not be ‘acting in good faith’ remains to be seen at this time, but plaintiff is clearly entitled to discovery and a record before this Court rules on that issue.”
Judicial Watch will be allowed to request testimony and documents during the discovery phase to help the court determine whether there was an intentional effort by federal officials to circumvent the Freedom of Information Act.
This is the second time in recent weeks that a federal judge has granted discovery in a Clinton-related public records case. U.S. District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan approved discovery in another Judicial Watch lawsuit.
In the Judge Sullivan case, Judicial Watch has asked to depose top aides to Hillary Clinton, including Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills, about record-keeping efforts and Clinton’s use of a private email server. The court is scheduled to rule on the proposal after April 15.
A spokesperson for Judicial Watch said the group is still determining what to request in its second discovery plan.
“This remarkable decision will allow Judicial Watch to explore the shifting stories and misrepresentations made by the Obama State Department and its current and former employees,” said Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton in a statement on Tuesday. “This Benghazi litigation first uncovered the Clinton email scandal, so it is good to have discovery in this lawsuit which may help the American people find out why our effort to get Benghazi answers was thwarted by Clinton’s email games.”