Judicial Watch is asking a federal judge for permission to depose Hillary Clinton as part of its ongoing Freedom of Information Act lawsuit into the former secretary of state’s private email system.
The conservative watchdog group is also asking District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan to allow it to depose a State Department official in charge of records management and a former official who led the State Department’s information resources management division during Clinton’s tenure.
Judicial Watch says that information gleaned from a first round of depositions it conducted in discovery for its FOIA lawsuit — as well as recent statements from FBI director James Comey about Clinton’s setup — necessitates the need to depose the Democratic presidential candidate.
“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,” the watchdog stated in court papers.
“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.”
In a press conference held earlier this week, Comey called Clinton’s decision to operate a private email server was “extremely careless.” He said, however, that he would not recommend that charges be filed against Clinton for mishandling classified information. That decision came days after FBI investigators interrogated Clinton for nearly four hours last weekend.
Sullivan, a Bill Clinton appointee, has shown a willingness to force Clinton and the State Department to explain the creation and use of her private email system.
In May he approved depositions for several current and former Clinton aides as well as several State Department officials. He also left open the door to a Clinton deposition.
“Based on information learned during discovery, the deposition of Mrs. Clinton may be necessary. If Plaintiff believes Mrs. Clinton’s testimony is required, it will request permission from the Court at the appropriate time,” he ruled at the time.
Judicial Watch says that “significant questions” remain pertaining to what records management officials knew or did not know about Clinton’s email system. In a deposition conducted last month, a State Department records management official said that neither she nor anyone in her division were aware of Clinton’s email setup.
One official named in those depositions is Clarence Finney, the Director of Office of Correspondence and Records of the Executive Secretariat.
Finney “had day-to-day responsibility for records management and research, including conducting and coordinating searches in response to FOIA requests, during Secretary Clinton’s and [former Clinton deputy chief of staff Huma] Abedin’s tenure,” Judicial Watch stated.
During Clinton’s tenure, the State Department rejected several FOIA requests for her records even though she sent and received thousands of work-related documents through her email server.
The group is also asking to depose John Bentel, the former director of State’s Executive Secretariat Information Resource Management division.
Bentel has emerged as a key figure in the brewing scandal after it has emerged that he appeared to lie to Congress last year about his knowledge of Clinton’s email system.
An inspector general’s report released in May noted — without publishing his name — that Bentel told two subordinates that the State Department’s legal office had okayed Clinton’s email setup. The staffers also said that Bentel told them not to ask any other questions about the server. (RELATED: Ex-State Dept. Official May Have Lied To Congress About Hillary’s Email Setup)
After an initial interview with the House Select Committee on Benghazi last summer, Bentel has refused interview requests with other governmental bodies. He refused to talk to State’s inspector general. He is also refusing to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee or the State Department.
“Hillary Clinton can answer questions about her email practices that no other witness can,” Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said in a statement. “Her testimony will help the court determine if, how, and why FOIA was thwarted by the Clinton email system.”