In a devastating move, the State Department has joined with Judicial Watch in claiming that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cannot dodge a court-ordered deposition in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeking “talking points or updates on the Benghazi attack.” This FOIA request uncovered Clinton’s insecure private home-brew server in 2015.
On March 2, 2020, U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth granted Judicial Watch’s request to depose Clinton and her former chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, in the search for more Benghazi documents. Specifically, Judicial Watch was given the green light to probe Clinton on whether or not she used a private email server to evade FOIA. On March 13, lawyers for Clinton and Mills filed a writ of mandamus, claiming that the former secretary of State could refuse the deposition due to her previous government office. State, represented by Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyers, filed a brief arguing against the mandamus claim on Monday.
“Pursuant to this Court’s Order of March 20, 2020, the Department of State respectfully submits this response to the petition for a writ of mandamus. The government did not seek and thus does not support the extraordinary relief of mandamus due to the unique circumstances of this case,” the brief states.
The DOJ brief does not defend the deposition orders, but it does insist that mandamus is not applicable in this case.
Judicial Watch also filed a brief against mandamus, arguing that Clinton and Mills failed to “demonstrate that they have no other adequate means of relief” and they also failed to show “that the District Court’s order was a judicial usurpation of power or a clear abuse of discretion or that [Clinton and Mills] have a clear and indisputable right to a writ.”
Rather, “the District Court reasonably concluded that Clinton’s previous explanations for using a personal email server are cursory, incomplete, and seemingly at odds with what discovery has yielded to date.” Furthermore, the Judicial Watch filing argues that Clinton and Mills are trying to dodge deposition testimony by relying on “their status as former high-level government officials.” Yet the two “do not offer a single case from this Court or any other, holding that former high-level government officials should not be required to follow regular appellate channels to challenge a discovery order.”
Judicial Watch compares Clinton’s claim that she has a right to her private email server to a claim that a bank robber has a “right” to the bag in which he stuffed the cash he robbed. “A bank robber who stuffs bills into a duffle bag during a robbery may own the bag, but has no ‘claim of right’ to the stolen cash. Is Clinton claiming a legal right to the agency records stored on the server? If so, Petitioners offer no factual or legal support for such a claim. While the server may have been Clinton’s property, the agency records on the server plainly were not,” the brief states.
“Hillary Clinton’s desperate appeal to avoid testimony is even too much for her defenders at the State and Justice Department,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement on the filings. “A federal court rejected Clinton and the Deep State’s attempts to shut our email inquiry down and agreed with Judicial Watch – that is time to hear from Hillary Clinton. The appellate court should quickly reject Mrs. Clinton’s gambit.”
Last month, Judicial Watch released 80 pages of new emails recently found by the FBI that further reveal how Clinton used her insecure home-brew server to house and transmit classified and sensitive government information. Judicial Watch also released 37 pages of newly unearthed Hillary Clinton emails in January.
“Magically, after years, the FBI finds more Clinton emails that are classified, involve Benghazi, and detail communications with President Obama,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “This drip, drip game that the DOJ, FBI, and State are playing is a key reason a federal court authorized more discovery, including the sworn deposition of Hillary Clinton.”
The fact that even the State Department, which Clinton once led, would oppose her writ of mandamus to get out of providing testimony — just as even more documents are being released — only highlights how remarkable Clinton’s evasion and secrecy truly are.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.