Earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan granted Judicial Watch additional discovery on the Hillary Clinton email matter. As a result, Clinton was ordered to answer written questions from Judicial Watch “by no later than thirty days” after their submission. Under federal court rules, Judicial Watch is limited to twenty-five questions.
The answers are due by September 29, before Election Day. However, Team Clinton has the option of objecting to questions (however, frivolously) and/or seeking extra time to answer them.
The opening questions from Judicial Watch pertain to Clinton’s creation of her private email system and her decision to use it for official State Department business:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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?
4. 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.
5. 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?
6. 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.
Question 6 leads to a series of questions about federal record preservation and production requirements:
7. 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.
8. 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?
9. 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?
10. 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?
11. 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?
12. 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.
13. 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?
I like the next batch of questions a lot:
14. 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?. . .
15. 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. . .
16. 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. . .
Picking up on the theme sounded in Question 14, Judicial Watch homes in on the issue of what Clinton knew about the security risks of using her private email system:
17. 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. . .
18. 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.
19. 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?
Next, Judicial Watch turns to the period after Clinton left office. Here’s an example:
22. 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?. . .
Finally, here’s another question that I think puts Hillary and her lawyers in a tight spot:
24. 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.
As noted, Clinton must answer these questions under oath. Assuming Clinton is elected, we may see the U.S. President litigating over whether she committed perjury in response to some of Judicial Watch’s questions.
UPDATE: Apparently, there is a potential dispute as to whether the State Department must answer Judicial Watch’s questions within 30 days from now. That, at least, is what AP says:
It was not immediately clear from the wording of Sullivan’s order whether Clinton must answer the questions before or after the November election. Judicial Watch contends the deadline is Sept. 29.
Judicial Watch relies on this Order, issued earlier in August. It states:
It is hereby. . .FURTHER ORDERED that, consistent with Rule 33 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Judicial Watch may serve interrogatories on Secretary Clinton by not later than October 24, 2016; and it is
FURTHER ORDERED that, consistent with Rule 33 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Secretary Clinton’s responses are due by no later than thirty days thereafter.
The government may argue that “thirty days thereafter” means thirty days after October 24, not after the serving of the interrogatories. However, Rule 33, which Judge Sullivan referred to and incorporated, provides: “The responding party must serve its answers and any objections within 30 days after being served with the interrogatories. (Emphasis added).
So if there is a dispute here, it seems to me that Judicial Watch has the better argument.