- Lawsuit deposition underscores Clinton’s dedication to e-mail
- State Department official says he proposed an office computer
Hillary Clinton was so attached to her BlackBerry as secretary of state that she was sometimes spotted in the hallway outside her highly secure office using the device, according to a State Department official.
“The crux of the issue was that BlackBerrys and iPhones are not allowed in the secretary’s office suite, so the question was: How is the secretary going to be able to check her e-mails if she’s not able to have the BlackBerry at her desk with her?” the official, Lewis Lukens, said in a deposition released Thursday by the conservative government transparency group Judicial Watch.
Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, used her own e-mail address and a server in her home for both personal communications and to conduct government business when she was the top U.S. diplomat from 2009 to 2013. The State Department’s inspector general found in a report made public on Wednesday that the e-mail set-up violated department rules, that she never sought permission for it and that it would have been turned down if she had.
‘It Was Allowed’
“It was allowed, and the rules have been clarified since I left about the practice,” Clinton said Thursday in comments to reporters about her e-mails. “I have said many times it was a mistake and if I could go back I would do it differently.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is examining whether classified information was illegally transmitted in the private e-mails, and Republicans continue to use the issue in the presidential campaign. Donald Trump, the party’s presumptive nominee, told reporters Thursday, “It’s shocking to see what she did. More than anything else, it’s bad judgment.”
Lukens, who was a deputy assistant secretary of state from 2008 to 2011, was questioned in one of a number of lawsuits filed by Judicial Watch. The deposition provides few revelations but underscores the determination by Clinton and her aides to maintain her ability to use her own e-mail, including in the halls of the State Department, when she took office.
“My proposal was to set up a computer on her desk, a standalone computer, for her to be able to access the Internet to check her e-mails,” said Lukens, who helped oversee coordination among sections of the State Department. He said he believed Clinton would be using her e-mail to keep in touch with family and friends.
While she wouldn’t have been allowed to use a wireless device in her office because of security concerns, he said that the computer he proposed instead wouldn’t have required passwords. Lukens said that he didn’t question how Clinton communicated, although he knew she did not have an official state.gov e-mail account.
A computer never was placed in her office. In an e-mail cited in the deposition, Lukens wrote that he heard from Cheryl Mills, who was Clinton’s chief of staff, that she "does not know how to use a computer to do e-mail, only BB."
The May 18 deposition of Lukens came in a Judicial Watch lawsuit seeking records about employment outside the State Department by Huma Abedin while she served as deputy chief of staff. Abedin, one of Clinton’s closest aides, now serves as vice chairman of her presidential campaign.
Lukens said that in his role as executive director of the department’s Executive Secretariat, he didn’t receive guidance on complying with the Freedom of Information Act or federal records laws while serving in the position, although he did get initial training on FOIA upon joining the department in 1989. Judicial Watch contends that Clinton used her private e-mail in part to sidestep the open-records law that would have made many of her communications public.
A spokesman for Clinton, Brian Fallon, said Wednesday that the inspector general’s report showed that Clinton’s predecessors also used private e-mail and that she “ took steps that went much further than others to appropriately preserve and release her records.”
Judicial Watch has proposed dates to depose five other former Clinton aides in the case, including Abedin and former chief of staff Cheryl Mills, with whom Lukens discussed the possibility of the desktop computer in Clinton’s office. The group also has asked to depose Clinton in another case.