A federal judge said Tuesday that he may be forced to subpoena former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton and her aide, Huma Abedin, for emails that the pair withheld when they turned their work-related records over to the State Department.
Judge Emmet Sullivan also ruled in favor of Judicial Watch, which is suing the State Department, by granting its motion for discovery into whether the agency 0r Clinton deliberately thwarted the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by approving and utilizing a private email system.
Sullivan slammed the State Department during the hearing, saying that “it just boggles the mind a little that the State Department allowed this practice to occur in the first place.”
Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit in March 2013 for records related to Abedin’s employment status at the State Department. Beginning in 2012 and through the end of the Clinton tenure, Abedin held “special government employee” status. Besides working for the State Department, she also worked for the Clinton Foundation and Teneo Holdings, a consulting group with ties to the Clintons.
But the conservative watchdog group dropped its lawsuit against State in 2014 after the agency claimed that it had searched the office of the Executive Secretary for records pertaining to Abedin’s employment but could find none.
It filed another lawsuit last March after Clinton’s personal email use was revealed.
In Tuesday’s hearing, Sullivan accepted the possibility that Clinton and Abedin may have to be subpoenaed and deposed.
“There has been a constant drip, drip, drip of declarations. When does it stop?” he asked, noting that the incremental release of new information about Clinton’s email system and the State Department’s knowledge of it has created a “reasonable suspicion” that access to federal records covered by FOIA “was undermined.”
Clinton turned over 55,000 pages of her emails to the State Department in Dec. 2014. She claims that it was the entirety of her work-related exchanges.
Sullivan gave Judicial Watch three weeks to come up with a plan for discovery. The State Department will have three weeks after that plan is submitted to respond.
“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,” Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said in a statement after Tuesday’s hearing. “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.”
He said that Judicial Watch’s proposed discovery will seek testimony from current and former State Department officials.
“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,” he said.