Judge orders Clinton to answer email server questions from Judicial Watch – The Guardian

A federal judge has ordered Hillary Clinton to answer written questions about her use of a private email server while at the state department in response to a lawsuit by a conservative watchdog group, though he declined to make her submit to a sworn deposition.

District court judge Emmet Sullivan said Clinton must reply in writing to questions posed by the group, Judicial Watch, about why she set up a system to conduct state department business, a decision that led to an FBI investigation and has haunted the Democratic nominee’s campaign for over a year.

The judge said the group failed to demonstrate that an hours-long deposition was necessary to clarify why Clinton set up the private server, as opposed to seeking the information “through other, less burdensome or intrusive means such as interrogatories”.

“Judicial Watch’s argument that a deposition is preferable in this case because of the ability to ask follow-up questions is not persuasive,” Sullivan wrote. “Given the extensive public record related to the clintonemail.com system, a record which Judicial Watch has acknowledged, Judicial Watch will be able to anticipate many follow-up questions.”

Judicial Watch made a name for itself by dogging former president Bill Clinton, and has now filed a number of lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act (Foia) seeking records from the state department about Hillary Clinton’s time spent as the nation’s top diplomat.

Judicial Watch’s president, Tom Fitton, praised the judge’s decision in a statement. “We are pleased that this federal court ordered Hillary Clinton to provide written answers under oath to some key questions about her email scandal,” he said. “We will move quickly to get these answers. The decision is a reminder that Hillary Clinton is not above the law.”

The decision means Clinton will probably not have to step away from the campaign trail to sit for an interview with some of her fiercest critics, but ensures that the controversy will continue to follower her throughout the final weeks of the presidential campaign.

Judicial Watch has until 14 October to submit questions to Clinton, who must respond within 30 days, according to the decision.

Separately, Sullivan approved Judicial Watch’s request to depose John Bentel, a senior state department aide who has since retired, due to “contradictory evidence” about the extent of his knowledge of Clinton’s server and email practices. However, he declined the group’s request to depose Clarence Finney, a state department official handling Foia requests.

In July, the FBI closed its investigation into Clinton’s email server after she sat for a three-hour interview. Director James Comey said that while she and her staff had been “extremely careless” in their handling of emails, a handful of which contained classified information at the time, the FBI would not recommend prosecutors seek charges in the case.

The judge also ordered the federal government to begin releasing the “thousands of work-related emails” that the FBI said it had recovered in its investigation.

Clinton has apologized for setting up the server, maintaining that the decision was a “mistake” and not an attempt to obfuscate her actions or skirt reporting laws. She also noted that this was the practice of her predecessors, though the law was tightened by the Obama administration.

Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that former secretary of state Colin Powell was said to have advised Clinton to use a personal email account. The report was based on notes from the FBI handed over to Congress.

In a statement, Powell’s office said he wrote Clinton an “email memo describing his use of his personal AOL email account for unclassified messages and how it vastly improved communications within the State Department” while also noting that “at the time there was no equivalent system with the department”.

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