Federal Judge: Yes, Hillary's Staffers Should Be Questioned Under Oath About Evading Freedom of Information Laws

Katie Pavlich
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Posted: Feb 24, 2016 1:15 PM
Federal Judge: Yes, Hillary's Staffers Should Be Questioned Under Oath About Evading Freedom of Information Laws

As former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's email scandal and ongoing pressure from the FBI continue, her closest aides are also coming under heavy scrutiny. 

Two weeks ago a series of reports and email documentation were released, showing as many as 30 of Clinton's aides at the State Department also used private email accounts on Clinton's private server to send and receive top secret, classified information.

Now, a federal judge has ruled Clinton aides Huma Abedine, who worked for the State Department while also working for the Clinton Foundation, Cheryl Mills and other aides should be questioned under oath about their practices. Specifically, they should be questioned about whether they purposely evaded Freedom of Information Act laws through the use of private email. More from POLITICO

U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan granted a motion for discovery filed by Judicial Watch, which sued the State Department for Clinton-related documents and is now arguing there is “reasonable suspicion” that Clinton or State staff tried to thwart the Freedom of Information Act. That law requires all work emails to be archived in a government systems for public view.

Discovery in FOIA cases is relatively rare and presents political risk for Clinton: While the group has not yet called for Clinton to answer question personally, it said it may in the future as part of discovery. The process will likely entail attorneys asking questions of her top staff via deposition or written Q&A about why Clinton used a private email server in the first place and how they eventually determined what was an “official” record to be preserved.

The Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] is relevant here for a number of reasons. Government employees are supposed to use government email in order to comply with FOIA requests, which can only be fulfilled through obtaining public information on government accounts. Because Clinton used private email to conduct all of her government business, the question of whether the practice was used to evade transparency and public scrutiny arises. This creates another legal headache for the Clinton campaign moving forward as the general public continues to associate the Democrat frontrunner with the terms "dishonest" and "liar."

"Judge Sullivan’s ruling granting Judicial Watch’s request for discovery is a major victory for the public’s right to know the truth about Hillary Clinton’s email system.  The court-ordered discovery will help determine why the State Department and Mrs. Clinton, even despite receiving numerous FOIA requests, kept the record system secret for years," Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton released in a statement. "Our proposed discovery, which will require court approval, will include testimony of current and former officials of the State Department.  While Mrs. Clinton’s testimony may not be required initially, it may happen that her testimony is necessary for the Court to resolve the legal issues about her unprecedented email practices."

Hillary Clinton and her campaign have argued this new discovery is part of a right-wing-conspiracy, while ignoring the fact Judge Sullivan was appointed by President Bill Clinton during his time in White House nearly two decades ago.