Our effort to uncover the secrets of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s illicit email system took a major step forward last week.
U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan granted us “discovery” into Clinton’s email system. The order allows us to take testimony from former top Clinton State Department aides Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin and Bryan Pagliano. The court also notes that “based on information learned during discovery, the deposition of Mrs. Clinton may be necessary.” The discovery will take place over the next eight weeks.
This arises out of our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeking records of the controversial employment status of Huma Abedin, former deputy chief of staff to Clinton. The lawsuit was reopened because of revelations about the clintonemail.com system. (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:13-cv-01363)).
In his Memorandum and Order, Judge Sullivan found that:
Judicial Watch raises significant questions in its Motion for Discovery about whether the State Department processed documents in good faith in response to Judicial Watch’s FOIA request. Judicial Watch is therefore entitled to limited discovery.
Judge Sullivan also questions, citing Supreme Court precedent, whether the State Department and Mrs. Clinton “purposefully routed … document[s] out of agency possession in order to circumvent a FOIA request.”
Sullivan ruled that the scope of discovery includes:
The creation and operation of clintonemail.com for State Department business, as well as the State Department’s approach and practice for processing FOIA requests that potentially implicated former Secretary Clinton’s and Ms. Abedin’s emails and State’s processing of the FOIA request that is the subject of this action.
The judge also ruled that Clinton may have to testify:
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. [Emphasis in original]
The court authorized Judicial Watch to seek the testimony of the following witnesses:
- Stephen D. Mull (Executive Secretary of the State Department from June 2009 to October 2012 and suggested that Mrs. Clinton be issued a State Department BlackBerry, which would protect her identity and would also be subject to FOIA requests);
- Lewis A. Lukens (Executive Director of the Executive Secretariat from 2008 to 2011 and emailed with Patrick Kennedy and Cheryl Mills about setting up a computer for Mrs. Clinton to check herclintonemail.com email account);
- Patrick F. Kennedy (Under Secretary for Management since 2007 and the Secretary of State’s principal advisor on management issues, including technology and information services);
- Cheryl D. Mills (Mrs. Clinton’s Chief of Staff throughout her four years as Secretary of State);
- Huma Abedin (Mrs. Clinton’s Deputy Chief of Staff and a senior advisor to Mrs. Clinton throughout her four years as Secretary of State and also had an email account on clintonemail.com);
- Bryan Pagliano (State Department Schedule C employee who has been reported to have serviced and maintained the server that hosted the “clintonemail.com” system during Mrs. Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State).
During a court hearing on February 23, Judge Sullivan granted Judicial Watch’s motion for discovery into whether the State Department and Clinton deliberately thwarted FOIA for six years. Judicial Watch then filed a proposed discovery plan on March 15 and filed a joint, proposed discovery plan with the State Department on April 15.
In a separate FOIA lawsuit concerning Hillary Clinton and the Benghazi terrorist attack, U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that Judicial Watch can conduct discovery into the email practices of Clinton and her top aides. Judge Lamberth ordered Judicial Watch to follow up with his court once Judge Sullivan issued his discovery order:
When Judge Sullivan issues a discovery order, the plaintiff shall – within ten days thereafter – file its specific proposed order detailing what additional proposed discovery, tailored to this case, it seeks to have this Court order. Defendant shall respond ten days after plaintiff’s submission.
Both of these decisions are victories for transparency and accountability. We will use this discovery to get all of the facts behind Hillary Clinton’s and the Obama State Department’s thwarting of FOIA. The public can then be sure that all of the emails from her illicit email system are reviewed and released as the law requires.
We expect that testimony will begin over the next few weeks, so watch this space for updates.