As of today, Hillary Clinton hasn’t given a press conference in 258 days, something even the deeply pro-Clinton Washington Post finds troubling. And while Hillary may have spoken to the FBI in an unsworn testimony, there is no transcript of it, and only the FBI’s own subjective notes serve as proof it ever happened. Which is why on July 8, conservative watchdog organization Judicial Watch, the source of so much headache for the Democratic presidential nominee, had requested permission to depose Hillary in sworn testimony, and in public, as relates to the use of her private email server.
That however, will not happen as U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan rejected the request to force Hillary Clinton to submit to a sworn deposition, ruling instead that she must respond in writing to questions about the issue:
The Court is persuaded that Secretary Clinton’s testimony is necessary to enable her to explain on the record the purpose for the creation and operation of the clintonemail.com system for State Department business.
Sullivan said Judicial Watch had not demonstrated that an in-person deposition of Clinton was necessary to attempt to clarify whether the former secretary of state set up the system in order to avoid complying with the Freedom of Information Act.
Judicial Watch’s argument that a deposition is preferable in this case because of the ability to ask follow-up questions is not persuasive. Given the extensive public record related to the clintonemail.com system, a record which Judicial Watch has acknowledged, Judicial Watch will be able to anticipate many follow-up questions. For those follow-up questions that Judicial Watch is unable to anticipate, it can move this Court for permission to serve additional interrogatories.
Furthermore, to spend Hillary the indignity of appearing in public and answering questions in real-time – instead giving her a 30 day window in which to answer the questions – the judge decided to goalseek his conclusion, saying it appeared Judicial Watch “likely has a very limited number of questions for Secretary Clinton,” making it more plausible that the issue could be resolved in writing, thus justifying his decision to give Hillary a way out
It was unclear how the judge had any idea about the scope ot content of Judicial Watch’s questions.
Finally, Sullivan noted that under legal precedents applicable to current and former Cabinet officials, the court should only require Clinton to appear at a deposition if “exceptional circumstances” justified such an approach.
As Politico adds, the ruling makes it far less likely that Clinton will face the potentially politically damaging step of having to leave the presidential campaign trail in the coming months to testify under oath about her controversial email set-up. However, it is still possible one of several other judges considering similar cases could issue such an order.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton made the following statement regarding Judge Sullivan’s decision granting Judicial Watch permission to submit interrogatories to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and to depose the former Director of Information Resource Management of the Executive Secretariat (“S/ES-IRM”) John Bentel:
“We are pleased that this federal court ordered Hillary Clinton to provide written answers under oath to some key questions about her email scandal,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “We will move quickly to get these answers. The decision is a reminder that Hillary Clinton is not above the law.”
Alas, we have to disagree with Fitton’s conclusion.
Judge Sullivan’s ruling below (pdf link)
* * *