Judicial Watch Seeks to Question Top Obama-Clinton Officials on Clinton Email Issue

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On Thursday, Judicial Watch submitted a court-ordered discovery plan to question top Obama-Clinton officials concerning the Hillary Clinton email issues and the depositions of Susan Rice and Ben Rhodes on the Benghazi talking points documents.

The depositions that Judicial Watch is seeking, consists of several top former government officials involved in the Clinton email scandal, including Obama administration senior officials Susan Rice, Ben Rhodes, Jacob Sullivan, and FBI official, E.W. Priestap.

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Judicial Watch “intends to update the Court regarding the depositions of Hillary Clinton and Cheryl Mills at the conclusion of the 16-week discovery period, unless the Court believes such notice is not necessary.”

The plan for discovery is the latest development in Judicial Watch’s July 2014 FOIA lawsuit filed after the U.S. Department of State failed to respond to a May 13, 2014 FOIA request (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:14-cv-01242)). Judicial Watch seeks:

  • Copies of any updates and/or talking points given to Ambassador 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.
  • Any and all records or communications concerning, regarding, or relating to talking points or updates on the Benghazi attack given to Ambassador Rice by the White House or any federal agency.

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The Judicial Watch discovery plan is response to a December 6, 2018, ruling by Judge Royce C. Lamberth ordering the State Department and Department of Justice to join Judicial Watch in submitting discovery in three distinct areas:

Whether Secretary Clinton’s use of a private email server was intended to stymie FOIA; B. Whether the State Department’s intent to settle the case in late 2014 and early 2015 amounted to bad faith; C. Whether the State Department has adequately searched for records responsive to Judicial Watch’s request.

In his ruling, Lamberth called Clinton’s use of the private email server “one of the gravest modern offenses to government transparency.”

Judicial Watch seeks the depositions of former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and former White House Deputy Strategic Communications Adviser Ben Rhodes about the creation and dissemination of the infamous Benghazi talking points because: “No one other than these individuals know better who they were communicating with and where records might be located.”

Judicial Watch also argues for “direct, unfiltered access to [additional] key witnesses with firsthand knowledge and the opportunity to ask follow-up questions” about the illicit Clinton email system. In its pursuit of answers as to whether former Secretary Clinton’s use of a private email server was intended to stymie FOIA, Judicial Watch seeks to conduct the following depositions:

  • Jacob Sullivan, Senior advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff throughout Secretary Clinton’s tenure.
  • Clarence Finney (Deputy Director, Executive Secretariat Staff)” the principal advisor and records management expert in the Office of the Secretary who was responsible for control of all correspondence and records for Clinton and other State Department officials.” Finney is also among the State Department officials in the emails discussing the processing of the CREW FOIA request and other requests concerning the former Secretary’s email account.
  • Jonathon Wasser, who worked for Finney and who actually conducted searches for records in response to FOIA requests …”
  • FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence E.W. Priestap, “who supervised the Clinton email investigation.” Priestap has not explained “the nature or extent of the FBI’s efforts, such as who the FBI attempted to contact, who the FBI actually talked to, who the FBI requested records from, who actually provided records, and whether the FBI believes those that they requested records from actually returned all of the requested records.”
  • Justin Cooper (employee of President Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation). Cooper created and managed the clintonemail.com server. His testimony to Congress also appears to contradict portions of testimony provided by former Clinton aide Huma Abedin.
  • Eric Boswell (Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security). On March 6, 2009, Boswell wrote in an Information Memo to Cheryl Mills that he “cannot stress too strongly … 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, Secretary Clinton approached Boswell and mentioned she had read the IM and that she “got it.”
  • Heather Samuelson (Senior Advisor & White House Liaison). Until her tenure at the State Department ended in March 2013, Samuelson was tasked with tracking the FOIA request served by CREW. Samuelson subsequently served as one of Secretary Clinton’s personal attorneys and, in 2014, reviewed the clintonemail.com account to identify federal records. The records returned by Clinton in December 2014 were records identified by Samuelson.

Judicial Watch argues that, “as the Court has already recognized, understanding the context of the preparation and dissemination of the [Benghazi] talking points is central” to the Clinton email scandal. For instance, did the State Department know that Clinton “deemed the Benghazi attack terrorism hours after it happened, contradicting the Obama Administration’s subsequent claim of a protest-gone-awry?” Was the State Department aware that “Clinton sent or received top-secret information through her private email?”

Incredibly, Justice Department attorneys admit in a filing opposing Judicial Watch’s limited discovery that “Counsel for State contacted the counsel of some third parties that Plaintiff originally included in its draft discovery proposal to obtain their client’s position on being deposed.” This collusion occurred despite criticism from the Court that the DOJ engaged in “chicanery” to cover up misconduct and that career employees in the State and Justice Departments may have “colluded to scuttle public scrutiny of Clinton, skirt FOIA, and hoodwink this Court.”

Judicial Watch countered that “[t]he government’s proposal, which is really nothing more than an opposition to [Judicial Watch’s] plan, demonstrates that it continues to reject any impropriety on its part and that it seeks to block any meaningful inquiry into its ‘outrageous misconduct.’”

“President Trump, frankly, should demand to know why the State and Justice Department are colluding with Clinton allies and trying to protect Hillary Clinton and themselves from court-ordered questions on the Clinton email scandal,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “But a federal court wants answers – and Judicial Watch discovery plan is a key step to uncovering whether and how Hillary Clinton email misconduct stymied FOIA.”

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

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