Clinton aides’ video testimony ordered sealed in private email server case – court

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign event in San Jose, California, U.S. May 26, 2016. © Stephen Lam
Video-recorded depositions by former aides of Hillary Clinton in relation to her private email server in use during her tenure as secretary of state will not be made publicly available, a federal judge ruled.

US District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan for the District of Columbia made his order in advance of Friday's scheduled deposition by Clinton's ex-chief of staff, Cheryl Mills.

"The depositions permitted by the Court are limited in scope, but relate to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's email practices during her tenure at the State Department," Judge Sullivan wrote on Thursday, according to Politico. 

"The public has a right to know details related to the creation, purpose and use of the clintonemail.com system. Thus, the transcripts of all depositions taken in this case will be publicly available. It is therefore unnecessary to also make the audiovisual recording of Ms. Mills' deposition public," he added.

Lawyers for Mills petitioned the court, concerned the contents of the video could be used “as part of a partisan attack” against the Democratic presidential front-runner. Mills, however, did support the release of a transcript.

Raising the possibility that the recordings could eventually be released, Judge Sullivan, who was an appointee under President Bill Clinton, ordered that the videos be filed with the court.

Sullivan had approved the depositions as part of a lawsuit filed by the conservative legal advocacy group Judicial Watch. Those to be deposed include Mills, deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin and Undersecretary Patrick Kennedy. Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act request in 2013, seeking records related to Abedin’s outside work as a paid consultant for the Clinton Foundation and a financial firm with ties to the Clintons.

The question at hand is whether a State Department search, which failed to find thousands of emails Clinton exchanged with her aides, including Abedin, was thorough enough. The State Department said those emails were unavailable at the time of the request.

Judge Sullivan has said, depending on what might be learned from those early depositions over the coming weeks, a sworn deposition from Hillary Clinton “may be necessary.”

This latest development coincides with the release of a long-awaited report from the State Department’s inspector general, which concluded that Clinton violated the department’s rules by conducting official business via her private-email account for what she claimed was the sake of convenience.

The report refers to an e-mail exchange from November, 2010, between Clinton and Huma Abedin.

“We should talk about putting you on state email or releasing your email address to the department so you are not going to get spam,” Abedin told her boss.

Clinton replied, “Let’s get separate address or device but I don’t want any risk of the personal being accessible.”

John Cassidy wrote in The New Yorker that “Those seventeen words seem to confirm what many observers have suspected from the outset: Clinton’s main motive in setting up the e-mail system wasn’t to make it easier for her to receive all her messages in one place…it was to protect some of her correspondence – particularly correspondence she considered private – from freedom-of-information-requests.”

The report also identified a moment in January 2011 when her machine was targeted by a hacker at least twice.

More than three dozen civil lawsuits have been filed over public records requests related to Clinton’s time as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013, including one filed by the AP.