Hillary Clinton Opposes Deposition Request in Federal Lawsuit

Watchdog group wants to ask Clinton about private email server

Hillary Clinton / AP
July 12, 2016

Hillary Clinton and the State Department objected to a request to depose Clinton in a public records lawsuit on Tuesday, arguing that her testimony is not necessary in the case.

Judicial Watch, a government watchdog group that has been suing the State Department for records from Clinton’s tenure, asked a federal judge last week to allow its attorneys to depose Clinton. The group, which was granted discovery earlier this year, has been seeking to determine whether Clinton’s private email server was used to intentionally circumvent public records laws.

In a response filed with the court on Tuesday, Clinton’s attorneys called the request "futile" and argued that the former secretary of state has already publicly addressed questions about her use of a private email system.

"Judicial Watch now has available to it a vast public record on this subject.

Secretary Clinton testified publicly about her email before the Benghazi Select Committee on October 22, 2015," Clinton’s attorneys said. "The testimony on this topic by Secretary Clinton’s aides as well as other State Department employees to the Select Committee also has been publicly released."

The attorneys also argued that Clinton should not be compelled to turn over emails from her server.

"Even if this Court had authority to issue such unprecedented relief, Secretary Clinton has nothing to produce, as the server equipment used to host her account is in the possession of the FBI," Clinton’s lawyers wrote.

The State Department also opposed Judicial Watch’s request in a motion on Tuesday, arguing the group "has not demonstrated a need for additional discovery" and "presents a selective explanation of the evidence."

The watchdog group has already deposed several Clinton aides in the lawsuit, but argued last week that Clinton’s testimony is also necessary. D.C. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan granted Judicial Watch discovery earlier this year, a rare move in a public records case.

The State Department said Judicial Watch has not uncovered evidence that officials set out to violate public records laws.

"Contrary to Plaintiff’s vague contention that ‘important questions remain,’ the discovery that Plaintiff itself designed has not revealed a shred of evidence indicating an intent to thwart FOIA," the State Department said. "Plaintiff has an answer to the question it posed; it just does not like it. Plaintiff’s dissatisfaction with the record that it has been able to create is not a valid reason to extend the limited discovery the Court authorized."

Judicial Watch released a statement on Tuesday pushing back against the responses from Clinton and the State Department.

"It is no surprise that neither Hillary Clinton nor the Obama State Department agrees with our request to depose Mrs. Clinton," Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said.

"What is notable is that the State Department finally admits that Clinton’s practice of supposedly emailing other State officials using her account was not an ‘appropriate method of preserving federal records or making them available for searches under FOIA.,’" Fitton said.

"Second, it is both significant and disturbing that Hillary Clinton now asserts a private ‘claim of right’ over her email account, including any of the 55,000 pages of federal records she returned to the State Department.  She further claims that these and other emails, including emails that may have contained classified information, have ‘never been the property of or in the possession or control of the State Department.’"

A hearing in the case has been set for July 18.