National Security

Key Clinton aides oppose release of deposition videos

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Two of Hillary Clinton’s top aides and the State Department are fighting efforts to unseal videos of court-ordered interviews taken in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit concerning Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of State.

Aide Huma Abedin on Wednesday joined former chief of staff Cheryl Mills and State Department lawyers in urging a federal judge to keep the interviews under seal.

The transcripts have already been released, but the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch earlier this month argued that the videos should be made public now that the presidential election is over.

{mosads}Mills and government lawyers on Monday pushed back, arguing that the court-imposed seal “did not reference the presidential election, but instead held that the availability of the deposition transcripts obviated the need for public disclosure of the audiovisual recordings.”

Lawyers for Mills argued that the release of the transcripts was sufficient to satisfy public interest and that releasing the videos would place an undue burden on Mills, who has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

“Potential political manipulation of Ms. Mills’ recording was but one of the reasons motivating the initial request for relief. On behalf of Ms. Mills, we were just as concerned about protecting the privacy of our client, a private citizen and non-party to this case,” they wrote.

“The release of her recording will serve only to further sensationalize a topic that has already been exhaustively covered for almost two years.”

Abedin, who was Clinton’s former deputy chief of staff, in a brief filing on Wednesday supported arguments to keep the videos under lock. 

The interviews themselves concern “the creation and operation of clintonemail.com for State Department business, as well as the State Department’s approach and practice for processing FOIA requests that potentially implicated former Secretary Clinton’s and Ms. Abedin’s emails and State’s processing of the FOIA request that is the subject of this action,” according to court documents.

The depositions were taken as part of an open records lawsuit seeking documents related to Abedin’s employment status. It was dismissed in 2014 but reopened the following year, after the discovery of Clinton’s use of a private email server while in office.

Several of those interviewed in the case — including Mills, who was Clinton’s chief of staff during her tenure at Foggy Bottom; former State Department Director of Information Resource Management of the Executive Secretariat John Bentel; and Bryan Pagliano, a former State IT specialist who worked on Clinton’s server — opposed the motion to unseal the records when it was first brought prior to the election.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in May granted a motion brought by Mills and sealed the records.

Now, Judicial Watch is seeking to undo that order.

“The sole reason for sealing the recordings in the first place was to avoid their misuse during the 2016 campaign season. Now that the election is over that reason no longer exists,” Judicial Watch lawyers argued in a motion filed in early December.

Judicial Watch, a longtime Clinton foe, has pledged to continue its work, despite Clinton’s loss in the presidential election last month.

It has a swath of ongoing open records cases against the State Department over emails sent on Clinton’s personal server during her time as secretary of State.

In the same case, the group is pushing to force Clinton to provide answers to several questions she declined to answer on the creation of the server.

Clinton objected to the questions on the basis that they were outside the scope of questioning ordered by Sullivan. Elsewhere in her response to the 25 questions, she famously claimed 20 times that she “does not recall” specific details surrounding the server.

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