Hillary Clinton’s attempt to dodge a court order that she testify about her handling of the 2012 Benghazi attack and work-related emails as secretary of state took a blow on Monday.
The State Department, which Clinton led under President Barack Obama, filed a brief against her appeal of the order issued last month by U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth.
“Pursuant to this Court’s Order of March 20, 2020, the Department of State respectfully submits this response to the petition for a writ of mandamus,” the department said in the brief. “The government did not seek and thus does not support the extraordinary relief of mandamus due to the unique circumstances of this case.”
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton cheered the development as a loss for Clinton and the “Deep State, saying: “Hillary Clinton’s desperate appeal to avoid testimony is even too much for her defenders at the State and Justice Department.”
On March 2, Lamberth granted a request by Judicial Watch that Clinton, along with her Cheryl Mills chief of staff at the State Department, Cheryl Mills, appear for sworn deposition. The order came as part of a 2014 Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought against the State Department by the conservative government watchdog.
“Discovery up until this point has brought to light a noteworthy amount of relevant information, but Judicial Watch requests an additional round of discovery, and understandably so. With each passing round of discovery, the court is left with more questions than answers,” Lamberth said in his decision. “The Court agrees with Judicial Watch — it is time to hear directly from Secretary Clinton.”
Hillary says she was too high up at the State Department to face deposition
Clinton’s legal team responded to Lamberth’s order by on March 20 filing an 83-page petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. They asked the court to undo the order, calling it “inappropriate, unnecessary, and a clear abuse of discretion.”
Among other arguments, the lawyer’s claimed Clintons’ Cabinet-level position at the time of the alleged abuses should exempt her from being deposed in the case.
“[T]he district court’s order violates the well-established principle that high-ranking government officials should not be subjected to depositions absent extraordinary circumstances,” they said.
In a brief of its own, Judicial Watch rejected Clinton’s argument that she is too important to be made to testify. The group said Clinton had cited no precedent protecting ex-officials, let alone their deputies, from such an order.
The lawyers “do not offer a single case from this Court or any other, holding that former high-level government officials should not be required to follow regular appellate channels to challenge a discovery order,” Judicial Watch said.
And not “even a sitting cabinet member’s chief of staff” was shown to be exempt, the group added.
Judicial Watch also disputed Clinton’s claim that her use of an unauthorized private email server for official communications, including to send and receive classified messages, somehow shielded her from scrutiny. That’s like a bank robber claiming a right to stolen cash because he placed it in a duffle bag he owns, the group said.
“One of the gravest modern offenses to government transparency”
Clinton’s private email server was the subject of a highly publicized FBI investigation into whether she violated federal law by transmitting classified documents via an unsecured computer network. Then-FBI Director James Comey publicly cleared her of any criminal wrongdoing during the 2016 election campaign.
Numerous federal investigations of the attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi on Sept. 11-12, 2012, failed to establish high-level wrongdoing. But Clinton eventually acknowledged that her State Department had failed to adequately protect the facilities before and during the assault by Islamic militants which killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.
The Obama administration was slow to publicly recognize the attack as a coordinated act of terrorism. Critics have alleged that Clinton and other officials lied to conceal that fact.
In a previous ruling, Lamberth called Clinton’s email scandal “one of the gravest modern offenses to government transparency.”
That’s so “Hillary”
Speaking in “Hillary,” a Hulu documentary about her released on March 6, Clinton expressed regret for ever having apologized for her use of a private email server as secretary of state.
Clinton said her 2016 Democratic presidential campaign staffers convinced her to issue the apology. But Clinton admitted she never meant what she said and, in retrospect, she regretted making the concession.
“We’ll just say what you did was a mistake. It was dumb. It’s over. And that will end it,” Clinton recalled her advisers saying. “I wasn’t convinced of that. But I understood the frustration of my campaign.”
“So against my better judgment, I said, ‘OK, fine,’” she continued. “It turned out to be a mistake because look at all the oxygen it was sucking out of my campaign. But it didn’t end it. It didn’t end it at all. And it never ended, it never ended.”