Judge Rules Hillary Must Answer Judicial Watch’s Email Questions

(Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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A federal judge ruled Friday that Hillary Clinton and one other former State Department official must answer questions posed by Judicial Watch in its ongoing email lawsuit against the federal government.

U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled that Clinton must answer questions submitted in writing and not in a deposition interview.

But John Bentel, the former director of information resource management at the State Department’s office of the executive secretariat, can be deposed, ruled Sullivan, a Bill Clinton appointee. (RELATED: Ex-State Dept. Employee May Have Lied To Congress About Hillary’s Emails)

On the Clinton decision, Sullivan determined that Judicial Watch has the right to ask Clinton more questions because she “has not answered questions relevant to the limited scope of discovery authorized in this case.”

Sullivan granted Judicial Watch discovery for the purpose of finding out the reason for “the creation and operation of the clintonemail.com system for State Department business.”

But Sullivan said that Judicial Watch was not entitled to depose Clinton, a request which Clinton and the State Department opposed, because he believes that the watchdog can obtain the answers to its questions in less burdensome ways.

But if Clinton fails to answer all of Judicial Watch’s questions, it can submit more, Sullivan added.

Regarding Bentel, who retired from the State Department in 2012, Sullivan said that Judicial Watch can depose him because “the record includes contradictory evidence about Mr. Bentel’s knowledge of Secretary Clinton’s private server and email practices.”

As The Daily Caller has reported, Bentel told the House Select Committee on Benghazi last year that he had no knowledge of Clinton’s email arrangement, which involved the use of a private server.

But emails have surfaced showing that Bentel engaged in several exchanges discussing Clinton’s server.

One March 17, 2009 email discussed a “Secretary Residential Installation Hotwash” which mentioned an “unclassified partner system” and “server” which was housed in Clinton’s “basement telephone closet.”

Bentel was involved in another email exchange discussing Clinton’s server in 2011. Sullivan noted in his ruling that Bentel has refused to cooperate with the State Department or the inspector general throughout its investigations of Clinton’s email use.

Bentel has also rebuffed several interview requests from the Senate. He has also refused to answer questions from Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley regarding his legal arrangements.

Bentel hired Randy Turk, an attorney with a firm called Baker Botts. Turk represented a Bill Clinton White House official implicated in the 1990’s “Filegate” scandal. The Clintons raised money from friends and allies to help fund part of that official’s legal expenses. (RELATED: ‘Filegate’ Attorney Represents Official Implicated In Clinton Email Scandal)

An inspector general investigation also revealed that two of Bentel’s underlings said that Bentel told them to stop asking questions about Clinton’s server and that the device had been approved by the State Department’s legal office.

Clinton’s campaign responded to Sullivan’s ruling with an attack on Judicial Watch.

“Judicial Watch is a right-wing organization that has been attacking the Clintons since the 1990s,” Brian Fallon said, according to Fox News. “This is just another lawsuit intended to try to hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and so we are glad that the judge has accepted our offer to answer these questions in writing rather than grant Judicial Watch’s request.”

Judicial Watch must submit its questions for Clinton by Oct. 14. She will have 30 days to respond. Should Judicial Watch wait until the last minute to submit its queries — an unlikely scenario — Clinton will have the opportunity to respond after the election.

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