The court-ordered discovery to uncover details about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email system has produced the first testimony from her top aides.
Last week, we released the deposition transcript of Ambassador Lewis Lukens, former deputy assistant secretary of state and executive director of the State Department’s executive secretariat. The transcript is available here. We deposed Amb. Lukens as part of the discovery granted to Judicial Watch by U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in response to our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit involving Clinton’s unsecured, non-government email system (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:13-cv-01363)).
Lukens testified that he thought it was not unusual that Mrs. Clinton did not ask him to create a State Department email account for her. He testified that he understood that her BlackBerry use was only to “stay in touch with friends and family.”
Lukens, according to his testimony, saw Clinton “maybe a half a dozen times,” positioned “in the hallway outside the SCIF [Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility] standing there looking at her BlackBerry.” Lukens testified that he saw Mrs. Clinton with her BlackBerry on foreign trips and that her aide Huma Abedin carried around two BlackBerrys.
Lukens also testified about his 2009 email exchanges with Cheryl Mills in which he offered to set up a separate computer on a non-State Department network to allow Mrs. Clinton to check her email:
Q: After your conversation with Ms. Mills, Ms. Mills e-mailed you, and it talks about – I’m sorry, the quality of the e-mail is a little difficult to read, but it says: “Let’s set up the office across the hall for her to use. It needs a phone, et cetera, so she can go across the hall to check her BB,” her BlackBerry.
You mentioned that you talked about setting up a computer in her office. Do you know why Ms. Mills seemed to prefer having the computer set up in the office across the hall?
A: This wasn’t for a computer setup; this was to create a space for her to go check her BlackBerry.
Q: Okay. In the Secretary’s office, is that what’s considered a SCIF?
A: The Secretary’s office is in a SCIF, which encompasses a lot more of the seventh floor.
Q: Okay. And the office that’s across the hall is outside that area?
Lukens also testified about his idea to set up a separate computer and network for Mrs. Clinton. Cheryl Mills and Lukens discussed the email issue in early 2009:
A: So the crux of the issue was that BlackBerrys and iPhones are not allowed in the Secretary’s office suite, so the question was, how is the Secretary going to be able to check her e-mails if she’s not able to have the BlackBerry at her desk with her.
Q: And so what did you — did you propose a solution at that point?
A: So my proposal was to set up a computer on her desk, a standalone computer, for her to be able to access the Internet to check her e-mails.
Q: Do you know if this setup would have been any different from the setup of other employees?
A: Yes, this would have been different.
Q: How would it have been different?
A: My understanding is that most of the employees’ computers in the State Department are connected through the State Department’s OpenNet e-mail system, Internet system.
Q: So this one would have been separate from the OpenNet system?
Ultimately, according to his testimony, the computer was not set up for Mrs. Clinton.
Lukens is the first of seven depositions of former Clinton top aides and State Department officials that we have scheduled over the next four weeks. Also to be deposed are Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin, as well as top State Department official Patrick Kennedy, and former State IT employee Bryan Pagliano. In granting the discovery, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan noted that “based on information learned during discovery, the deposition of Mrs. Clinton may be necessary.”
That this key State Department witness was insistent that he did not know Clinton was using non-State.gov emails and computer equipment for government business is noteworthy. It suggests the agency is seeking to distance itself from Mrs. Clinton’s conduct.