|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
March 02, 2020
Judicial Watch Victory: Federal Court Orders Deposition of Hillary Clinton on Emails and Benghazi Attack Records
Court: ‘It is Time to Hear Directly from Secretary Clinton’
(Washington, DC) Judicial Watch today announced that U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth granted Judicial Watch’s request to depose former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about her emails and Benghazi attack documents. The court also ordered the deposition of Clinton’s former Chief of Staff, Cheryl Mills and two other State Department officials
Additionally, the court granted Judicial Watch’s request to subpoena Google for relevant documents and records associated with Clinton’s emails during her tenure at the State Department.
The ruling comes in Judicial Watch’s lawsuit that seeks records concerning “talking points or updates on the Benghazi attack” (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:14-cv-01242)). Judicial Watch famously uncovered in 2014 that the “talking points” that provided the basis for Susan Rice’s false statements were created by the Obama White House. This Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit led directly to the disclosure of the Clinton email system in 2015.
In December 2018, Judge Lamberth first ordered discovery into whether Secretary Clinton’s use of a private email server was intended to stymie FOIA; whether the State Department’s intent to settle this case in late 2014 and early 2015 amounted to bad faith; and whether the State Department has adequately searched for records responsive to Judicial Watch’s request. The court also authorized discovery into whether the Benghazi controversy motivated the cover-up of Clinton’s email. The court ruled that the Clinton email system was “one of the gravest modern offenses to government transparency.” The State and Justice Departments continued to defend Clinton’s and the agency’s email conduct.
|Judge Lamberth today overruled Clinton’s and the State and Justice Department’s objections to limited additional discovery by first noting:|
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.
Additionally, Judge Lamberth said that he is troubled by the fact that both the State Department and Department of Justice want to close discovery in this case:
[T]here is still more to learn. Even though many important questions remain unanswered, the Justice Department inexplicably still takes the position that the court should close discovery and rule on dispositive motions. The Court is especially troubled by this. To argue that the Court now has enough information to determine whether State conducted an adequate search is preposterous, especially when considering State’s deficient representations regarding the existence of additional Clinton emails. Instead, the Court will authorize a new round of discovery …With respect to Clinton, the court found that her prior testimony, mostly through written sworn answers, was not sufficient: The Court has considered the numerous times in which Secretary Clinton said she could not recall or remember certain details in her prior interrogatory answers. In a deposition, it is more likely that plaintiff’s counsel could use documents and other testimony to attempt to refresh her recollection. And so, to avoid the unsatisfying and inefficient outcome of multiple rounds of fruitless interrogatories and move this almost six-year-old case closer to its conclusion, Judicial Watch will be permitted to clarify and further explore Secretary Clinton’s answers in person and immediately after she gives them. The Court agrees with Judicial Watch – it is time to hear directly from Secretary Clinton.“Judicial Watch uncovered the Clinton email scandal and we’re pleased that the court authorized us to depose Mrs. Clinton directly on her email conduct and how it impacted the people’s ‘right to know’ under FOIA,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
DECEMBER 06, 2018| JUDICIAL WATCHFederal Judge Opens Discovery Into Clinton Email UsageCourt Excoriates Obama State Department/Justice Department for Possibly Acting in ‘Bad Faith’ and Colluding ‘to Scuttle Public Scrutiny’ of Clinton Private Email ServerCourt Criticizes Current Justice Department for ‘Chicanery’District Court Judge Lamberth Orders ‘Proposed Plan and Schedule for Discovery Within Ten Days’Discovery Must Also Explore Whether Clinton Intentionally Used Private Email Server to ‘skirt FOIA’ (Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that, in a ruling excoriating both the U.S. Departments of State and Justice, U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth has ordered both agencies to join Judicial Watch in submitting a proposed schedule for discovery into whether Hillary Clinton sought to evade the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by using a private email system and whether the State Department acted in “bad faith” by failing to disclose knowledge of the email system. The decision comes in a FOIA lawsuit related to the Benghazi terrorist attack.Specially, Lamberth ruled:[T]he Court ORDERS the parties to meet and confer to plan discovery into (a) whether Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email while Secretary of State was an intentional attempt to evade FOIA; (b) whether the State Department’s attempts to settle this case in late 2014 and early 2015 amounted to bad faith; and (c) whether State has adequately searched for records responsive to Judicial Watch’s requests.Terming Clinton’s use of her private email system, “one of the gravest modern offenses to government transparency,” Lamberth wrote in his MEMORANDUM OPINION:[H]is [President Barack Obama’s] State and Justice Departments fell far short. So far short that the court questions, even now, whether they are acting in good faith. Did Hillary Clinton use her private email as Secretary of State to thwart this lofty goal [Obama announced standard for transparency]? Was the State Department’s attempt to settle this FOIA case in 2014 an effort to avoid searching – and disclosing the existence of – Clinton’s missing emails? And has State ever adequately searched for records in this case?***At best, State’s attempt to pass-off its deficient search as legally adequate during settlement negotiations was negligence born out of incompetence. At worst, career employees in the State and Justice Departments colluded to scuttle public scrutiny of Clinton, skirt FOIA, and hoodwink this Court.Turning his attention to the Department of Justice, Lamberth wrote:The current Justice Department made things worse. When the government last appeared before the Court, counsel claimed, ‘it is not true to say we misled either Judicial Watch or the Court.’ When accused of ‘doublespeak,’ counsel denied vehemently, feigned offense, and averred complete candor. When asked why State masked the inadequacy of its initial search, counsel claimed that the officials who initially responded to Judicial Watch’s request didn’t realize Clinton’s emails were missing, and that it took them two months to ‘figure out what was going on’… Counsel’s responses strain credulity. [citations omitted]The Court granted discovery because the government’s response to the Judicial Watch Benghazi FOIA request for Clinton emails “smacks of outrageous conduct.”Citing an email (uncovered as a result of Judicial Watch’s lawsuit) that Hillary Clinton acknowledged that Benghazi was a terrorist attack immediately after it happened, Judge Lamberth asked:Did State know Clinton deemed the Benghazi attack terrorism hours after it happened, contradicting the Obama Administration’s subsequent claim of a protest-gone-awry?****Did the Department merely fear what might be found? Or was State’s bungling just the unfortunate result of bureaucratic redtape and a failure to communicate? To preserve the Department’s integrity, and to reassure the American people their government remains committed to transparency and the rule of law, this suspicion cannot be allowed to fester.“The historic court ruling raises concerns about the Hillary Clinton email scandal and government corruption that millions of Americans share,” stated Judicial Watch Tom Fitton. “Judicial Watch looks forward to conducting careful discovery into the Clinton email issue and we hope the Justice Department and State Department recognize Judge Lamberth’s criticism and help, rather than obstruct, this court-ordered discovery.” SEPTEMBER 10, 2014 JUDICIAL WATCH
JW v State Hillary Deposition Order 01242
Judicial Watch Announces Three New Lawsuits against Obama Administration for Records Relating to Benghazi Attack
Records sought from State and Defense Departments for communications surrounding the deadly attack
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it has filed three Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits against the Departments of State and Defense in its continuing effort to force the Obama administration to provide access to records concerning what occurred in the days immediately before, during, and after the deadly terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Defense (No. 1:14-cv-01508)) (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:14-cv-01511)) (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:14-cv-01242)).
Earlier this year, as a result of a separate FOIA lawsuit, Judicial Watch forced the release of an emailfrom then-White House Deputy Strategic Communications Adviser Ben Rhodes showing that the Obama White House was behind the false talking points that blamed an Internet video and spontaneous demonstrations for the Benghazi attack. This belated disclosure, which was kept from Congress, spurred House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to request and obtain House approval for a special Select Committee, led by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), to investigate the Benghazi scandal.
On September 3, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit against U.S. Department of State for the following records subsequent to a June 13, 2014, FOIA request:
Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to notes, updates, or reports created in response to the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S, Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. This request includes but is not limited to, notes, taken by then Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton or employees of the Office of the Secretary of State during the attack and its immediate aftermath.
In a recent NBC News interview to promote her latest memoir, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has conceded that she took extensive notes during the attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi. “I kept a lot of notes,” Clinton said. Asked if she would turn them over to the House Select Committee investigators, she responded, “They can read the book.” The Judicial Watch lawsuit could force Clinton to turn over all notes taken during and following the attack.
Also on September 3, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Defense for the following records pursuant to a June 12, 2014, FOIA request:
Any and all activity logs, reports, or other records produced by the U.S. Africa Command operations center between September 10, 2012 and September 13, 2012 regarding, concerning, or related to the attack at the U.S. Special Mission Compound and Classified Annex in Benghazi, Libya.
On July 21, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit against the U.S. Department of State for the following records subsequent to a May 13, 2014, FOIA request:
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.
Judicial Watch has now filed 40 FOIA requests, a Mandatory Declassification Review, and seven lawsuits against the Obama administration relating to the Benghazi terrorist attack.
Judicial Watch filed a FOIA request on October 12, 2012, to gain access to documents about the controversial talking points used by then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice for a series of appearances on television Sunday news programs on September 16, 2012. The Rhodes “smoking gun” email was produced in response to a court order in Judicial Watch v. State, No. 1:13-cv-00951, filed on June 21, 2013.
In June 2013, Judicial Watch released the first seven photos depicting the devastating aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks on U.S. diplomatic and CIA facilities in Benghazi. The following November, it obtained 32 new documents from the Department of State, including 13 previously withheld photos depicting the carnage at the U.S. Consulate. The documents were obtained in response to a Freedom of Information (FOIA) lawsuit filed against the State Department on February 25, 2013 (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1-13-cv-00242)).
“Once again, we are going to court to force the Obama administration to come clean about the events surrounding the deadly terrorist attack on the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi, Libya,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Hillary Clinton’s flippant refusal to make available the notes she took during the attack fits right in with the Obama administration’s pattern of obstruction. This administration, which promised to be the ‘most transparent in history’ has turned out to be one the most secretive. Thanks to Judicial Watch, Congress has a renewed focus on Benghazi, but Judicial Watch will continue its independent lawsuits and investigations – which not only get documents, but force the Obama administration to account to federal courts for its lawless cover-up and its Benghazi lies.”
APRIL 29, 2014 JUDICIAL WATCH
Judicial Watch: Benghazi Documents Point to White House on Misleading Talking Points
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that on April 18, 2014, it obtained 41 new Benghazi-related State Department documents. They include a newly declassified email showing then-White House Deputy Strategic Communications Adviser Ben Rhodes and other Obama administration public relations officials attempting to orchestrate a campaign to “reinforce” President Obama and to portray the Benghazi consulate terrorist attack as being “rooted in an Internet video, and not a failure of policy.” Other documents show that State Department officials initially described the incident as an “attack” and a possible kidnap attempt.
The documents were released Friday as result of a June 21, 2013, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed against the Department of State (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:13-cv-00951)) to gain access to documents about the controversial talking points used by then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice for a series of appearances on television Sunday news programs on September 16, 2012. Judicial Watch had been seeking these documents since October 18, 2012.
The Rhodes email was sent on sent on Friday, September 14, 2012, at 8:09 p.m. with the subject line: “RE: PREP CALL with Susan, Saturday at 4:00 pm ET.” The documents show that the “prep” was for Amb. Rice’s Sunday news show appearances to discuss the Benghazi attack.
The document lists as a “Goal”: “To underscore that these protests are rooted in and Internet video, and not a broader failure or policy.”
Rhodes returns to the “Internet video” scenario later in the email, the first point in a section labeled “Top-lines”:
[W]e’ve made our views on this video crystal clear. The United States government had nothing to do with it. We reject its message and its contents. We find it disgusting and reprehensible. But there is absolutely no justification at all for responding to this movie with violence. And we are working to make sure that people around the globe hear that message.
Among the top administration PR personnel who received the Rhodes memo were White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, Deputy Press Secretary Joshua Earnest, then-White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, then-White House Deputy Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri, then-National Security Council Director of Communications Erin Pelton, Special Assistant to the Press Secretary Howli Ledbetter, and then-White House Senior Advisor and political strategist David Plouffe.
The Rhodes communications strategy email also instructs recipients to portray Obama as “steady and statesmanlike” throughout the crisis. Another of the “Goals” of the PR offensive, Rhodes says, is “[T]o reinforce the President and Administration’s strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges.” He later includes as a PR “Top-line” talking point:
I think that people have come to trust that President Obama provides leadership that is steady and statesmanlike. There are always going to be challenges that emerge around the world, and time and again, he has shown that we can meet them.
The documents Judicial Watch obtained also include a September 12, 2012, email from former Deputy Spokesman at U.S. Mission to the United Nations Payton Knopf to Susan Rice, noting that at a press briefing earlier that day, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland explicitly stated that the attack on the consulate had been well planned. The email sent by Knopf to Rice at 5:42 pm said:
Responding to a question about whether it was an organized terror attack, Toria said that she couldn’t speak to the identity of the perpetrators but that it was clearly a complex attack.
In the days following the Knopf email, Rice appeared on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News and CNN still claiming the assaults occurred “spontaneously” in response to the “hateful video.” On Sunday, September 16 Rice told CBS’s “Face the Nation:”
But based on the best information we have to date, what our assessment is as of the present is in fact what began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy–sparked by this hateful video.
The Judicial Watch documents confirm that CIA talking points, that were prepared for Congress and may have been used by Rice on “Face the Nation” and four additional Sunday talk shows on September 16, had been heavily edited by then-CIA deputy director Mike Morell. According to one email:
The first draft apparently seemed unsuitable….because they seemed to encourage the reader to infer incorrectly that the CIA had warned about a specific attack on our embassy. On the SVTS, Morell noted that these points were not good and he had taken a heavy hand to editing them. He noted that he would be happy to work with [then deputy chief of staff to Hillary Clinton]] Jake Sullivan and Rhodes to develop appropriate talking points.
The documents obtained by Judicial Watch also contain numerous emails sent during the assault on the Benghazi diplomatic facility. The contemporaneous and dramatic emails describe the assault as an “attack”:
As reported, the Benghazi compound came under attack and it took a bit of time for the ‘Annex’ colleagues and Libyan February 17 brigade to secure it. One of our colleagues was killed – IMO Sean Smith. Amb Chris Stevens, who was visiting Benghazi this week is missing. U.S. and Libyan colleagues are looking for him…
At 8:51 pm, Pelofsky tells Rice and others that “Post received a call from a person using an [sic] RSO phone that Chris was given saying the caller was with a person matching Chris’s description at a hospital and that he was alive and well. Of course, if the he were alive and well, one could ask why he didn’t make the call himself.”
Later that evening, Pelofsky emailed Rice that he was “very, very worried. In particular that he [Stevens] is either dead or this was a concerted effort to kidnap him.” Rice replied, “God forbid.”
- September 11, 2012, 4:49 PM – State Department press officer John Fogarty reporting on “Libya update from Beth Jones”:
Beth Jones [Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs] just spoke with DCM Tripoli Greg Hicks, who advised a Libyan militia (we now know this is the 17th Feb brigade, as requested by Emb office) is responding to the attackon the diplomatic mission in Benghazi.”
Material is blacked out (or redacted) in many emails.
“Now we know the Obama White House’s chief concern about the Benghazi attack was making sure that President Obama looked good,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “And these documents undermine the Obama administration’s narrative that it thought the Benghazi attack had something to do with protests or an Internet video. Given the explosive material in these documents, it is no surprise that we had to go to federal court to pry them loose from the Obama State Department.”
MARCH 26, 2015 JUDICIAL WATCH
Judicial Watch Accuses Obama Administration of Misleading Court on Hillary Clinton Email Scandal
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch accused the Obama administration of stalling and withholding information from a federal court in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:14-cv-01242)), seeking former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and top aide’s emails. Last week, Judicial Watch attorneys sought a status conference over the issue of the Hillary Clinton’s and other secret email accounts in order to “avoid further undue delays, prejudice and potential spoliation.” In response, the Justice Department, on behalf of the State Department, told the federal court handling the matter (U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth) that there was no need for a hearing until at least late April and that, contrary to statements by Mrs. Clinton and various administration spokesmen, it was not aware of the secret email issue until recently. In its response (Reply in Support of a Motion for a Status Conference), Judicial Watch cited Mrs. Clinton’s press statement:
Secretary Clinton was the head of the agency and the State Department cannot claim it was unaware of the State Department’s failure to records-manage agency emails from the Office of the Secretary. In fact, the “Statement from the Office of Former Secretary Clinton” states that “[h]er usage [of non-“state.gov” email for State Department business] was widely known to the over 100 Department and U.S. government colleagues she emailed.”
Judicial Watch also accused the Obama administration of continuing to thwart the FOIA:
The State Department has yet to demonstrate how it is satisfying its obligations under FOIA in light of recent revelations that Secretary Clinton’s emails were not being properly managed, retained and produced. This also applies to emails received or sent by other officials or employees within the Secretary’s office to conduct government business who used non-“state.gov” email addresses. To determine the adequacy of the State Department’s search, both Judicial Watch and the Court should be informed by the Department directly of the details surrounding the retention of agency emails within the Office of the Secretary and the extent of the Department’s ability to search, request and retrieve those records …
Had Judicial Watch not challenged the State Department’s search, this case would most likely have been dismissed before any public revelations were made about the unlawful arrangement relating to the State Department’s handling of agency emails during Secretary Clinton’s tenure at the State Department …
[T]he State Department has still not responded to Judicial Watch’s request to confirm whether its supplemental search includes all non-“state.gov” email addresses used by other officials or employees within the Secretary’s office for government business …
To the extent that Secretary Clinton used her non-“state.gov” email address to communicate with State Department employees outside her office who used “state.gov” email addresses, the State Department would also have to conduct agency wide searches to respond properly to Judicial Watch’s FOIA request.
Judicial Watch also is concerned that documents might be lost because of the State Department’s misconduct:
Time is of the essence in this case. The statement by former Secretary Clinton during a press conference that she did not preserve approximately 30,000 emails she sent or received through her non-“state.gov” email address she used exclusively to conduct government business is a matter of public record – not [as the State Department alleged] “conjecture.” Only last week, the State Department publically disclosed that it was unable to automatically archive the emails of most of its senior officials until last month. This is also a matter of public record – not conjecture. The State Department has still not informed the Court or Judicial Watch whether it has undertaken any efforts to retrieve agency emails from non-“state.gov” email addresses used by other officials or employees within the Office of the Secretary during the relevant time period or from other employees within the agency. The State Department needs to request these agency records immediately in light of the Department’s history of poor records-management and preservation of agency records.
Judicial Watch also shoots down the contention that Hillary Clinton’s alleged removal of the records would prevent them from being subject to FOIA. There is no precedent for the head of an agency “purposefully rout[ing] a document out of agency possession in order to circumvent a FOIA request.” In fact, there is precedent for a court allowing discovery into the circumventing of FOIA, as happened in Judicial Watch’s historic FOIA lawsuit against the Clinton Commerce Department. In that case, Judge Lamberth “already found that discovery was appropriate where it was ‘designed to explore the extent to which [the Department of Commerce (“DOC”)]…illegally destroyed and discarded responsive information, and possible methods for recovering whatever responsive information still exists outside of the DOC’s possession.’”
“The Obama administration’s fraud, misconduct and misrepresentation on the Hillary Clinton email scandal continues in federal court,” stated Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton. “Our independent litigation exposed the email scandal and just forced, for the first time, the Obama administration to admit accountability for at least some of the records Hillary Clinton concealed from the American people.”
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