Our efforts to get at the truth of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email practices is entering a new and critical phase.
Earlier last week, we submitted questions to her concerning her email practices. Clinton’s answers, under oath, are due on September 29. U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan granted Judicial Watch further discovery on the Clinton email matter and ordered Clinton to answer the questions “by no later than thirty days thereafter.” Under federal court rules, Judicial Watch is limited to twenty-five questions.
It will make this a lengthy update, but I think it important to share each of the questions:
- Describe the creation of the clintonemail.com system, including who decided to create the system, the date it was decided to create the system, why it was created, who set it up, and when it became operational.
- Describe the creation of your clintonemail.com email account, including who decided to create it, when it was created, why it was created, and, if you did not set up the account yourself, who set it up for you.
- When did you decide to use a clintonemail.com email account to conduct official State Department business and whom did you consult in making this decision?
- Identify all communications in which you participated concerning or relating to your decision to use a clintonemail.com email account to conduct official State Department business and, for each communication, identify the time, date, place, manner (e.g., in person, in writing, by telephone, or by electronic or other means), persons present or participating, and content of the communication.
- In a 60 Minutes interview aired on July 24, 2016, you stated that it was “recommended” you use a personal email account to conduct official State Department business. What recommendations were you given about using or not using a personal email account to conduct official State Department business, who made any such recommendations, and when were any such recommendations made?
- Were you ever advised, cautioned, or warned, was it ever suggested, or did you ever participate in any communication, conversation, or meeting in which it was discussed that your use of a clintonemail.com email account to conduct official State Department business conflicted with or violated federal recordkeeping laws. For each instance in which you were so advised, cautioned or warned, in which such a suggestion was made, or in which such a discussion took place, identify the time, date, place, manner (e.g., in person, in writing, by telephone, or by electronic or other means), persons present or participating, and content of the advice, caution, warning, suggestion, or discussion.
- Your campaign website states, “When Clinton got to the Department, she opted to use her personal email account as a matter of convenience.” What factors other than convenience did you consider in deciding to use a personal email account to conduct official State Department business? Include in your answer whether you considered federal records management and preservation requirements and how email you used to conduct official State Department business would be searched in response to FOIA requests.
- After President Obama nominated you to be Secretary of State and during your tenure as secretary, did you expect the State Department to receive FOIA requests for or concerning your email?
- During your tenure as Secretary of State, did you understand that email you sent or received in the course of conducting official State Department business was subject to FOIA?
- During your tenure as Secretary of State, how did you manage and preserve emails in your clintonemail.com email account sent or received in the course of conducting official State Department business, and what, if anything, did you do to make those emails available to the Department for conducting searches in response to FOIA requests?
- During your tenure as Secretary of State, what, if any, effort did you make to inform the State Department’s records management personnel (e.g., Clarence Finney or the Executive Secretariat’s Office of Correspondence and Records) about your use of a clintonemail.com email account to conduct official State Department business?
- During your tenure as Secretary of State, did State Department personnel ever request access to your clintonemail.com email account to search for email responsive to a FOIA request? If so, identify the date access to your account was requested, the person or persons requesting access, and whether access was granted or denied.
- At the time you decided to use your clintonemail.com email account to conduct official State Department business, or at any time thereafter during your tenure as Secretary of State, did you consider how emails you sent to or received from persons who did not have State Department email accounts (i.e., “state.gov” accounts) would be maintained and preserved by the Department or searched by the Department in response to FOIA requests? If so, what was your understanding about how such emails would be maintained, preserved, or searched by the Department in response to FOIA requests?
- On March 6, 2009, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Eric J. Boswell wrote in an Information Memo to your Chief of Staff, Cheryl Mills, that he “cannot stress too strongly, however, that any unclassified BlackBerry is highly vulnerable in any setting to remotely and covertly monitoring conversations, retrieving email, and exploiting calendars.” A March 11, 2009 email states that, in a management meeting with the assistant secretaries, you approached Assistant Secretary Boswell and mentioned that you had read the “IM” and that you “get it.” Did you review the March 6, 2009 Information Memo, and, if so, why did you continue using an unclassified BlackBerry to access your clintonemail.com email account to conduct official State Department business? Copies of the March 6, 2009 Information Memo and March 11, 2009 email are attached as Exhibit A for your review.
- In a November 13, 2010 email exchange with Huma Abedin about problems with your clintonemail.com email account, you wrote to Ms. Abedin, in response to her suggestion that you use a State Department email account or release your email address to the Department, “Let’s get a separate address or device.” Why did you continue using your clintonemail.com email account to conduct official State Department business after agreeing on November 13, 2010 to “get a separate address or device?” Include in your answer whether by “address” you meant an official State Department email account (i.e., a “state.gov” account) and by “device” you meant a State Department-issued BlackBerry. A copy of the November 13, 2010 email exchange with Ms. Abedin is attached as Exhibit B for your review.
- Email exchanges among your top aides and assistants in August 30, 2011 discuss providing you with a State Department-issued BlackBerry or State Department email address. In the course of these discussions, State Department Executive Secretary Stephen Mull wrote, “[W]e are working to provide the Secretary per her request a Department issued BlackBerry to replace her personal unit which is malfunctioning (possibly because of her personal email server is down). We will prepare two versions for her to use – one with an operating State Department email account (which would mask her identity, but which would also be subject to FOIA requests).” Similarly, John Bentel, the Director of Information and Records Management in the Executive Secretariat, wrote, “You should be aware that any email would go through the Department’s infrastructure and [be] subject to FOIA searches.” Did you request a State Department issued Blackberry or a State Department email account in or around August 2011, and, if so, why did you continue using your personal device and clintonemail.com email account to conduct official State Department business instead of replacing your device and account with a State Department-issued BlackBerry or a State Department email account? Include in your answer whether the fact that a State Department-issued BlackBerry or a State Department email address would be subject to FOIA affected your decision. Copies of the email exchanges are attached as Exhibit C for your review.
- In February 2011, Assistant Secretary Boswell sent you an Information Memo noting “a dramatic increase since January 2011 in attempts . . . to compromise the private home email accounts of senior Department officials.” Assistant Secretary Boswell “urge[d] Department users to minimize the use of personal web-email for business.” Did you review Assistant Secretary Boswell’s Information Memo in or after February 2011, and, if so, why did you continue using your clintonemail.com email account to conduct official State Department business? Include in your answer any steps you took to minimize use of your clintonemail.com email account after reviewing the memo. A copy of Assistant Secretary Boswell’s February 2011 Information Memo is attached as Exhibit D for your review.
- On June 28, 2011, you sent a message to all State Department personnel about securing personal email accounts. In the message, you noted “recent targeting of personal email accounts by online adversaries” and directed all personnel to “[a]void conducting official Department business from your personal email accounts.” Why did you continue using your clintonemail.com email account to conduct official State Department business after June 28, 2011, when you were advising all State Department Personnel to avoid doing so? A copy of the June 28, 2011 message is attached as Exhibit E for your review.
- Were you ever advised, cautioned, or warned about hacking or attempted hacking of your clintonemail.com email account or the server that hosted your clintonemail.com account and, if so, what did you do in response to the advice, caution, or warning?
- When you were preparing to leave office, did you consider allowing the State Department access to your clintonemail.com email account to manage and preserve the official emails in your account and to search those emails in response to FOIA requests? If you considered allowing access to your email account, why did you decide against it? If you did not consider allowing access to your email account, why not?
- After you left office, did you believe you could alter, destroy, disclose, or use email you sent or received concerning official State Department business as you saw fit? If not, why not?
- In late 2014, the State Department asked that you make available to the Department copies of any federal records of which you were aware, “such as an email sent or received on a personal email account while serving as Secretary of State.” After you left office but before your attorneys reviewed the email in your clintonemail.com email account in response to the State Department’s request, did you alter, destroy, disclose, or use any of the email in the account or authorize or instruct that any email in the account be altered, destroyed, disclosed, or used? If so, describe any email that was altered, destroyed, disclosed, or used, when the alteration, destruction, disclosure, or use took place, and the circumstances under which the email was altered, destroyed, disclosed, or used? A copy of a November 12, 2014 letter from Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick F. Kennedy regarding the State Department’s request is attached as Exhibit F for your review.
- After your lawyers completed their review of the emails in your clintonemail.com email account in late 2014, were the electronic versions of your emails preserved, deleted, or destroyed? If they were deleted or destroyed, what tool or software was used to delete or destroy them, who deleted or destroyed them, and was the deletion or destruction done at your direction?
- During your October 22, 2015 appearance before the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Benghazi, you testified that 90 to 95 percent of your emails “were in the State’s system” and “if they wanted to see them, they would certainly have been able to do so.” Identify the basis for this statement, including all facts on which you relied in support of the statement, how and when you became aware of these facts, and, if you were made aware of these facts by or through another person, identify the person who made you aware of these facts.
- Identify all communications between you and Brian Pagliano concerning or relating to the management, preservation, deletion, or destruction of any emails in your clintonemail.com email account, including any instruction or direction to Mr. Pagliano about the management, preservation, deletion, or destruction of emails in your account when transferring the clintonemail.com email system to any alternate or replacement server. For each communication, identify the time, date, place, manner (e.g., in person, in writing, by telephone, or by electronic or other means), persons present or participating, and content of the communication.
These are simple questions about her email system that we hope will finally result in straightforward answers, under oath, from Hillary Clinton.
In Judge Sullivan’s opinion ordering Clinton to answer written questions under oath, he wrote, “The Court is persuaded that Secretary Clinton’s testimony is necessary to enable her to explain on the record the purpose for the creation and operation of the clintonemail.com system for State Department business.”
In our July 2016 request to depose Hillary Clinton, we argued:
Secretary Clinton’s deposition is necessary to complete the record. Although certain information has become available through investigations by the Benghazi Select Committee, the FBI, and the State Department Inspector General, as well as through Plaintiff’s narrowly tailored discovery to date, significant gaps in the evidence remain. Only Secretary Clinton can fill these gaps, and she does not argue otherwise.
To [Judicial Watch’s] knowledge, Secretary Clinton has never testified under oath why she created and used the clintonemail.com system to conduct official government business. Her only public statements on the issue are unsworn.
Judge Sullivan also ordered that we may depose the former Director of Information Resource Management of the Executive Secretariat (“S/ES-IRM”) John Bentel by October 31.
Even as we are on the verge of obtaining more information directly from Hillary Clinton, almost daily, new revelations about Clinton’s email practices remind us that, despite efforts by the Congress and the FBI, we have not gotten to the bottom of it.
For example, the State Department admitted last week that 30 of 14,900 deleted emails the FBI recovered from Hillary Clinton’s private email server may involve the 2012 attack on Benghazi, Libya. The Hill reports:
An undetermined number of those 30 emails were not included in the cache of 30,000 the former secretary of State voluntarily turned over to the State Department in 2014, government lawyers told U.S. District Court Judge Amit P. Mehta, according to multiple reports.
The agency has committed to releasing the newly uncovered documents under a series of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, but first it must weigh whether the emails are personal or work-related.
It was astonishing to me that it took a federal court hearing to force the State Department to disclose the details of the Benghazi material on Clinton’s “deleted” and “personal” emails. The federal court was skeptical of the Obama administration lawyers’ argument that the federal government needed 30 days to review and release 30 emails. In fact, the court encouraged them to move sooner and demanded a report on the progress of the review by Tuesday, September 6.
As I wrote this, there is breaking news of FBI records of the criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails being released. (The dishonest FBI is following the cynical D.C. game of releasing bad news on a Friday before a holiday, obviously to help Hillary Clinton.) I appeared on Fox News’ O’Reilly Factor to discuss these late-breaking developments and will be on Fox & Friends Wednesday morning and the Wall Street Journal Editorial Report, also on Fox.