A federal judge said on Wednesday he could order presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to testify under oath about her use of a private email server while serving as Secretary of State.
The Democratic front-runner has faced scandal over storing her work-related emails on a private, improperly secured server while Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013, and is currently under investigation by the FBI to determine if she used the server to evade public records disclosures. Now, she could be called upon to testify in a civil case.
Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted a request from conservative legal advocacy group Judicial Watch to question six current and former State Department employees close to Clinton, with the end goal of finishing the depositions in the upcoming eight weeks before the party conventions. Those to be questioned about the setting up of the email system and its purpose include some of Clinton's top aides, according to the New York Times.
"Those on the list were some of Clinton's closest aides during her tenure as the nation's top diplomat, including former chief of staff Cheryl D. Mills, deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin and undersecretary Patrick F. Kennedy. Also set to testify is Bryan Pagliano, the agency employee who was tasked with setting up the clintonemail.com server located in the basement of the New York home Clinton shares with her husband, former president Bill Clinton. Pagliano has previously refused to testify before Congress, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination."Judge Sullivan's order was very specific about who could be questioned, namely: Stephen Mull, Lewis Lukens, Patrick F Kennedy, Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin, and Bryan Pagliano. But based on the information gathered from these despositions over the next eight weeks, Clinton herself may be called upon to testify in the civil lawsuit.
"Based on information learned during discovery, the deposition of Mrs. Clinton may be necessary," Judge Sullivan wrote in the order, according to The Hill.
The order opens the possibility of Hillary Clinton being ordered to testify and answer detailed questions in the midst of a presidential race where she is expected to be selected as the Democratic presidential nominee. Any desposition on the part of Clinton will no doubt create upheaval in the presidential race and necessitate further comment on the issue from her campaign. The judge says the case is set to be rather limited in scope, though it will still raise very important questions about the Freedom of Information Act, according to Fortune.
"Questions asked during the depositions are to be limited to the circumstances surrounding the 2009 creation of Clinton's private email system, including why she chose not to use a government account. Sullivan said ordering depositions is appropriate in legal cases where a federal agency 'may have purposefully attempted to skirt disclosure under FOIA.'"The case focuses a great deal on the career of Huma Abedin, who also worked in the private sector as consultant to Teneo Holdings and the Clinton Foundation, while working in the State Department under Clinton. Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit to gain access to her State Department employment records. It could also involve new evidence, according to Fox News.
"At issue is whether the State Department conducted an adequate search of public records in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Judicial Watch in 2013 seeking records related to Abedin's outside work as a paid consultant for the Clintons' charitable foundation and a financial advisory firm with ties to the former first couple. The department's initial search did not include the thousands of emails Clinton exchanged with her aides, including Abedin, using private email addresses. The department said it didn't have access to those emails at the time."A Clinton campaign spokesman did not respond to messages sent by Fox News about whether Clinton would oppose an order to testify.
[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]