Watchdog group denied depositions in third Clinton email case

Watchdog group denied depositions in third Clinton email case
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A conservative watchdog group was temporarily blocked on Tuesday from interviewing former State Department officials under oath in what would have been the third lawsuit over Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump touts economic agenda in battleground Ohio The Memo: Campaigns gird for rush of early voting Trump's pitch to Maine lobstermen falls flat MORE’s emails to progress to that stage.

A federal judge pressed pause on Judicial Watch’s effort to begin interviewing officials and collecting evidence as part of an open records lawsuit related to Clinton's exclusive use of a personal email account routed through a private server during her time as secretary of State.

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Instead, Judicial Watch should finish the interviews in the two other ongoing cases first, ruled Judge Reggie Walton of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

“To avoid duplicative discovery and unnecessary expenditure of public funds, the court will stay this case pending the completion of discovery in those other cases,” Walton ordered. Discovery is the technical name for the evidence-gathering phase of a court proceeding.

The ruling gives some relief to the State Department and Clinton, which have both been the subject of intense scrutiny over the bespoke email setup that the former secretary of State used throughout her time in the Obama administration.

But it also leaves open the chance that Judicial Watch will get a new crack at interviewing officials, if initial sessions come up naught. 

The email issue has loomed over presumptive Democratic presidential nominee's campaign for more than a year and threatens to rear its head repeatedly as the general election campaign heats up this summer. It has also overwhelmed legal offices at the State Department, which have been forced to deal with dozens of lawsuits and an escalating number of requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

Judicial Watch is currently interviewing a slew of current and former Clinton aides as part of the first lawsuit, which was launched over emails from longtime deputy Huma Abedin. The judge in that case, Emmet Sullivan, has warned that Clinton herself might be forced to testify, depending on whether her aides resolve Judicial Watch’s questions. 

On Wednesday, IT expert Bryan Pagliano, who set up and maintained Clinton's server, is scheduled to sit for an interview session, though his lawyers have warned that he plans to assert his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Interviews with Abedin and State Department Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy are scheduled to be finalized by the end of this month.

In the second case, Judicial Watch specifically asked for Clinton to be deposed, but the Obama administration pushed back forcefully, claiming the organization was trying to expand the lawsuit’s scope.

Arguments over those planned depositions are ongoing.

In his order on Tuesday, Walton allowed for both Judicial Watch and the State Department to make new requests reconsidering the issue after the evidence-gathering processes in those cases is finalized.