Top Obama aides ordered to testify under oath

by WorldTribune Staff, January 16, 2019

A federal judge has ordered several Obama administration officials, including top aides to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to answer under oath Judicial Watch’s questions regarding the Clinton email and Benghazi scandals.

In rejecting the State Department’s and Department of Justice’s objections to Judicial Watch’s court-ordered discovery plan filed last month, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth on Jan. 14 ruled that senior officials, including Susan Rice, Ben Rhodes, Jacob Sullivan, and FBI official E.W. Priestap will now have to provide written answers, under oath, to Judicial Watch’s queries.

Ben Rhodes and Susan Rice are among the Obama-era officials ordered to provide written answers on the Clinton email and Benghazi scandals.

Lamberth had previously called the Clinton email system “one of the gravest modern offenses to government transparency.”

“In a major victory for accountability, Judge Lamberth authorized Judicial Watch to take discovery on whether the Clinton email system evaded FOIA and whether the Benghazi scandal was one reason for keeping Mrs. Clinton’s email secret,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Judicial Watch has issued document requests and other discovery to the State Department about the Clinton email scandal. Next up, we will begin questioning key witnesses under oath.”

Judicial Watch said its discovery will seek answers to:

  • Whether Clinton intentionally attempted to evade the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by using a non-government email system.
  • Whether the State Department’s efforts to settle this case beginning in late 2014 amounted to bad faith.
  • Whether the State Department adequately searched for records responsive to Judicial Watch’s FOIA request.

Discovery is scheduled to be completed within 120 days. The court will hold a post-discovery hearing to determine if Judicial Watch may also depose additional witnesses, including Clinton and her former chief of staff Cheryl Mills.

In rejecting the State and DOJ objections to discovery on the infamous Benghazi talking points, Judge Lamberth reiterated:

“Yet Rice’s talking points and State’s understanding of the attack play an unavoidably central role in this case: information about the points’ development and content, as well as their discussion and dissemination before and after Rice’s appearances could reveal unsearched, relevant records; State’s role in the points’ content and development could shed light on Clinton’s motives for shielding her emails from FOIA requesters or on State’s reluctance to search her emails.”

Judicial Watch said it also may serve interrogatories on Monica Hanley, a former staff member in the State Department’s Office of the Secretary, and on Lauren Jiloty, Clinton’s former special assistant.

Judicial Watch said that, according to Lamberth’s order, regarding whether Clinton’s private email use while secretary of state was an intentional attempt to evade FOIA, the government watchdog group may also depose:

  • Eric Boswell, the former Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security.… Boswell’s March 2009 memo to Mills … discusses security risks Clinton’s Blackberry use posed more generally. And Boswell personally discussed the memo with Clinton. So, he plainly has relevant information about that conversation and about his general knowledge of Clinton’s email use. Judicial Watch may depose Boswell.
  • Justin Cooper. the Clinton Foundation employee who created the clintonemail.com server. In its proposal, Judicial Watch noted Cooper’s prior congressional testimony “appears to contradict portions of the testimony provided by Huma Abedin in the case before Judge Sullivan.” … Cooper repeatedly told Congress that Abedin helped set-up the Clintons’ private server, e.g., Examining Preservation of State Department Federal Records: [before a Congressional hearing] Abedin testified under oath she did not know about the server until six years later.… Judicial Watch may depose Cooper.
  • Clarence Finney, the former deputy director of State’s Executive Secretariat staff…. [T]his case’s questions hinge on what specific State employees knew and when they knew it. As the principal adviser and records management expert responsible for controlling Clinton’s official correspondence and records, Finney’s knowledge is particularly relevant. And especially given the concerns about government misconduct that prompted this discovery, Judicial Watch’s ability to take his direct testimony and ask follow-up questions is critical.
  • Heather Samuelson. the former State Department senior advisor who helped facilitate State’s receipt of Hillary Clinton’s emails.… [T]his case turns on what specific government employees knew and when they knew it. Judicial Watch must be able to take their direct testimony and ask them follow-up questions. Judicial Watch may depose Samuelson.
  • Jacob Sullivan. Secretary Clinton’s former senior advisor and deputy Chief of Staff. The government does not oppose Sullivan’s deposition.

Regarding whether the State Department’s settlement attempts that began in late 2014 amounted to “bad faith,” Judicial Watch was granted depositions from the State Department under Rule 30(b)(6); Finney; John Hackett, the former deputy director of State’s Office of Information Programs & Services; Gene Smilansky, an attorney-advisor within State’s Office of the Legal Advisor; Samuelson; and others.

Judicial Watch was also granted interrogatories on whether the State Department adequately searched for responsive records, as well as several document requests.

The court-ordered discovery is the latest development in Judicial Watch’s July 2014 FOIA lawsuit filed after the State Department failed to respond to a May 13, 2014 FOIA request seeking copies of talking points given to Rice by the White House or any federal agency concerning, regarding, or related to the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

This Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit led directly to the disclosure of the Clinton email system in 2015.


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