Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. district court in Washington D.C. today became the second federal judge to order discovery regarding Clinton emails. Both cases were brought by the invaluable Judicial Watch.
As we have discussed, Judge Emmet Sullivan, a Clinton appointee, has already granted Judicial Watch discovery on the Clinton email matter in separate litigation. Judicial Watch’s discovery plan in that case seeks the testimony of eight current and former State Department officials, including top State Department official Patrick Kennedy, former State IT employee Bryan Pagliano, and Clinton’s two top aides at the State Department: Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin.
The discovery ordered by Judge Lamberth pertains to emails surrounding the infamous Benghazi talking points — the Obama administration’s attempt to hide the fact that the Benghazi attacks were the premeditated effort of a group connected with al Qaeda.
Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeks from Hillary Clinton and her top State Department staff::
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 AND 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.
Discovery is rare in FOIA litigation. A court either finds that the government complied with FOIA or that it did not.
However, Judge Lamberth ordered limited discovery regarding Clinton email issues because “there is evidence of government wrong-doing and bad faith.” He explained:
An understanding of the facts and circumstances surrounding Secretary Clinton’s extraordinary and exclusive use of her “clintonemail.com” account to conduct official government business, as well as other officials’ use of this account and their own personal e-mail accounts to conduct official government business is required before the Court can determine whether the search conducted here reasonably produced all responsive documents. Plaintiff is certainly entitled to dispute the State Department’s position that it has no obligation to produce these documents because it did not “possess” or “control” them at the time the FOIA request was made.
The State Department’s willingness to now search documents voluntarily turned over to the Department by Secretary Clinton and other officials hardly transforms such a search into an “adequate” or “reasonable” one. Plaintiff is not relying on “speculation” or “surmise” as the State Department claims. Plaintiff is relying on constantly shifting admissions by the Government and the former government officials. Whether the State Department’s actions will ultimately be determined by the Court to not be “acting in good faith” remains to be seen at this time, but plaintiff is clearly entitled to discovery and a record before this Court rules on that issue.
Judge Lamberth went on to say that “the factual record must be developed appropriately in order for this Court to make [a] determination” as to whether there was “a lack of good faith” on the government’s part.
Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch said this about Judge Lamberth’s ruling:
This remarkable decision will allow Judicial Watch to explore the shifting stories and misrepresentations made by the Obama State Department and its current and former employees. This Benghazi litigation first uncovered the Clinton email scandal, so it is good to have discovery in this lawsuit which may help the American people find out why our efforts to get Benghazi answers was thwarted by Clinton’s email games.
Indeed, it is.