Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her former chief of staff do not have to appear for a private deposition in a lawsuit about her use of a private email server for government work, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.
The 3-0 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit overturns an earlier ruling by a federal judge that granted conservative watchdog Judicial Watch its request to depose Clinton and her former chief of staff Cheryl Mills. In his March ruling, Judge Royce C. Lamberth said Clinton’s past responses regarding her emails left much to be desired.
However, the appeals court noted that Clinton’s emails had already been subject to investigations by Congress, the State Department inspector general, and the FBI, which did not result in any charges. She also gave written answers in another lawsuit.
“The District Court has impermissibly ballooned the scope of its inquiry into allegations of bad faith to encompass a continued probe of Secretary Clinton’s state of mind surrounding actions taken years before the at-issue searches were conducted by the State Department,” the appeals court wrote in an opinion issued Friday. “Secretary Clinton has already answered interrogatories from Judicial Watch on these very questions … explaining the sole reason she used the private account was for ‘convenience.’”
“But more importantly, even if a deposition of Secretary Clinton were to somehow shake some novel explanation loose after all these years, this new information simply would have no effect on the rights of the parties in this FOIA case, making it ‘an inappropriate avenue for additional discovery,’” the court added.
“We’re disappointed by the decision and considering our options,” Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, said in a statement Friday.
The case had arisen from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from Judicial Watch to the State Department in 2014 and originally focused on the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Fox News reported.
The case later expanded after Clinton’s use of a private email server was discovered in 2015. Judicial Watch sought information regarding whether Clinton used her private email server to intentionally get around the Freedom of Information Act, whether the State Department acted in bad faith when they tried to settle the case years ago, and whether the department had sufficiently searched for records in response to the group’s initial FOIA request.