Hillary Clinton Must Sit for Private-Server Deposition, Judge Rules

Erik Larson

(Bloomberg) -- Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton must submit to a deposition by Judicial Watch, a conservative group that sued over her use of a private email server, a federal judge ruled.

Though Clinton has submitted extensive evidence about her use of the server while in office, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth said Monday in Washington that questions remain about her precise reasons for do so.

“The court believes those responses were either incomplete, unhelpful, or cursory, at best,” said Lamberth, an appointee of former President Ronald Reagan. “Simply put, her responses left many more questions than answers.”

The judge also ruled that Clinton can be questioned about her knowledge of the existence of any emails, documents or text messages related to the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack in Libya. Conservatives have long claimed that Clinton and other Obama administration officials covered up her mismanagement of the incident, which cost four American lives.

David Kendall, Clinton’s lawyer with Williams & Connolly LLP in Washington, declined to comment on the order.

Read more: Q&A on Clinton’s Use of a Private E-Mail System

Clinton, who lost to Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, has repeatedly denied breaking any laws by using a private server, while Democrats have accused Republicans of manufacturing the controversy to damage the Obama administration and derail Clinton’s White House run.

Judicial Watch on Monday also won permission to subpoena Google for documents associated with Clinton’s email while she was Secretary of State, even though the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have already carried out searches for missing emails.

“The Court is not confident that State currently possesses every Clinton email recovered by the FBI; even years after the FBI investigation,” Lamberth said. “For this reason, the Court believes the subpoena would be worthwhile and may even uncover additional previously undisclosed emails.”

Trump famously asked Russia on live television to help find Clinton’s emails before he won the 2016 election.

Judicial Watch said in a statement on Monday that the lawsuit -- triggered by a Freedom of Information Act request to the State Department -- had “famously” exposed allegedly false talking points about the Benghazi attack.

‘Right to Know’

“Judicial Watch uncovered the Clinton email scandal and we’re pleased that the court authorized us to depose Mrs. Clinton directly on her email conduct and how it impacted the people’s ‘right to know’ under FOIA,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in the statement.

Despite all the evidence handed over by the State Department since Judicial Watch sued in 2014, Lamberth said he still wants to know when Clinton first learned that department employees were unaware of the existence of her private server, according to the ruling.

“And why did she think that using a private server to conduct State Department business was permissible under the law in the first place?” the judge said.

In her effort to avoid the deposition, Clinton argued that the congressional Benghazi Select Committee, the State Department inspector general and the FBI all examined her use of a private email server and issued findings that are publicly available, according to the ruling.

In 2018, Lamberth ordered discovery in the case to determine if Clinton had used the private email server to avoid possible FOIA requests, and whether the State Department’s effort to settle the suit in 2014 and 2015 amounted to bad faith, Judicial Watch said.

(Updates with planned subpoena of Google records)

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Larson in New York at elarson4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Glovin at dglovin@bloomberg.net, Anthony Lin

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

Subscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.