A federal judge on Monday declined to order the deposition of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump defends indicted GOP congressman GOP lawmaker says he expects to be indicted over FBI investigation Why it's time for conservatives to accept the 2020 election results and move on MORE over whether she deliberately thwarted federal record-keeping laws — but did not rule out the possibility that the former secretary of State may yet be forced to testify.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said he would issue a ruling “as soon as I can,” prolonging the uncertainty in a protracted legal battle over Clinton’s use of a private email server while in office.
The conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, which has brought a bevy of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits against the State Department, argued before Sullivan that Clinton needs to be deposed to answer its questions about how and why the unauthorized system was created and maintained.
The group has requested three hours of testimony.
Lawyers representing both the former secretary of State and the State Department pushed back on the request, insisting that there is no legal basis to force Clinton to testify in the case — and that further, there is no new information to be gained that is not already a matter of public record.
Over two and a half hours of oral arguments, Sullivan repeatedly cautioned counsel for both sides not to “read into” the tenor of his questions. At one point, he probed both on a scenario in which he might not order Clinton to testify under oath, but instead allow Judicial Watch to provide a list of written questions for Clinton to answer.
But how he will ultimately rule remains a matter of speculation.
Lawyers for the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee have begun working to set the stage to delay a forced testimony in the event Sullivan rules against them. A pair of court filings lodged last week were the first time Clinton’s team of personal lawyers have intervened in the matter, which has been going on for nearly three years.
The specter of deposition hangs over Clinton just days before she is expected to be formally named the Democratic Party’s nominee for president. Although the Department of Justice recently announced that it would not press charges against Clinton or any of her aides for using the bespoke email system, the furor surrounding her email habits has continued apace.
At issue is whether Clinton deliberately tried to circumvent public records laws through her use of the server. Longtime Clinton lawyer David Kendall said Monday there is “not a scintilla of evidence” supporting such claims.
FBI Director James Comey has testified before Congress that he believes Clinton set up the server as a matter of convenience.
But Judicial Watch is not satisfied, arguing that the FBI’s investigation was focused on whether Clinton unlawfully transmitted classified information through the server — not whether she flouted record-keeping laws.
Clinton has answered “very general” questions about her motivation, Judicial Watch attorney Michael Bekesha said. But those questions have only addressed her motivation for setting up the server in the first place and did not cover her thought process for continuing to use it when she became subject to FOIA requests as secretary of State.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch confirmed last week that federal records laws were not within the scope of the FBI’s investigation.