Watchdog Group Says Clinton May Have Been `Rogue Employee'by
Judicial Watch lawyer made remark during e-mail suit hearing
Answers sought from State Department official in records case
A conservative government watchdog group is asking to question a high-level U.S. State Department official about whether Hillary Clinton had permission to conduct official government business on a private e-mail account.
Either the former secretary of state, now seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, had permission to do so, making her message traffic government property, “or she was a rogue employee,” Judicial Watch lawyer Michael Bekesha told a federal judge Tuesday at a hearing in Washington.
The group is seeking documents from Clinton’s term as the nation’s top diplomat and wants to question Patrick Kennedy, under secretary of state for management. An attorney for the U.S. countered that the government has substantially met its document-production obligations in the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit and that it was preparing to say so in a court filing.
The Judicial Watch case was filed two years ago, dropped and then revived this year when it became known that Clinton and aide Huma Abedin used a private e-mail server in her Chappaqua, New York, home for official business. Clinton didn’t turn over those messages to the State Department when she left office in 2013.
The case is one of more than 30 interrelated FOIA suits in federal trial courts in Washington. The collective litigation, which Clinton has characterized as a steady “drip, drip, drip,” has contributed to depressed poll numbers for the Democratic front-runner.
She has struggled to offer voters a satisfactory explanation for her decision to opt out of using the federal e-mail system while serving under President Barack Obama during his first term in office.
Bekesha raised the issue of questioning Kennedy at a scheduled conference before U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan. The government on Monday filed a status report in the case telling the judge it had turned over almost all the documents responsive to Judicial Watch’s requests and that its almost ready to file papers asking Sullivan to agree with that assessment.
Lawyers have “done everything your honor has directed us to do,” government attorney Marcia Berman said.
Bekesha called the U.S. records production “incomplete and insufficient” and said that if Clinton was using a personal e-mail system for government business, that made the contents government property.
The judge told both sides to file court papers spelling out their requests. Oral arguments are scheduled for February.
The case is Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State, 13-cv-1363, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).