Watchdog Asks to Depose Hillary Clinton in Federal Court Case

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton / AP

A government watchdog group asked a federal judge to allow its attorneys to depose Hillary Clinton in a public records lawsuit, according to court documents filed on Friday.

In a 59-page legal document, the watchdog group Judicial Watch petitioned D.C. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan to order testimony from Clinton and two senior State Department officials regarding the department’s public records practices.

According to Judicial Watch, the testimony is necessary for determining whether Clinton set up the private email server in order to evade public records laws:

[Judicial Watch] recognizes the significance of asking a former agency head and presumptive nominee for president to sit for a deposition.  As the primary driving force behind and principal user of the clintonemail.com system, however, Secretary Clinton’s testimony is crucial to understanding how and why the system was created and operated. It also is crucial to understanding why the secretary chose to use the system for all her official email communications, not only initially but also after the system proved to be so problematic for the department, top departmental officials, and the secretary herself. Plaintiff has attempted to obtain as much evidence as possible from other State Department officials, but Secretary Clinton is an indispensable witness and significant questions remain, including why records management officials apparently had no knowledge of the system when so many other officials used the system to communicate with her. Consequently, Secretary Clinton’s deposition is necessary.

Judicial Watch said it informed the State Department of the request last week, and the department said it would oppose the motion.

"Hillary Clinton can answer questions about her email practices that no other witness can," said Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton in a statement.  "Her testimony will help the court determine if, how, and why FOIA was thwarted by the Clinton email system."

Although the request is unusual for such a case, the Judicial Watch lawsuit has been far from typical. The case, which was originally filed three years ago, was reopened in 2015 after it became apparent that Hillary Clinton’s privately stored emails had not been searched in response to Judicial Watch’s records request. Judge Sullivan also issued a rare discovery ruling earlier this year, allowing Judicial Watch to depose close aides to Clinton and other State Department officials in order to determine whether officials intentionally skirted public records rules.

Judicial Watch has already deposed a number of Clinton aides, including Huma Abedin, Cheryl Mills, and IT staffer Bryan Pagliano.