Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton shed little new light on her use of a private email system as secretary of state Thursday in a carefully worded, court-ordered response to 25 detailed questions by a conservative legal group in a civil public records lawsuit in Washington.
Clinton, submitting written answers under oath through her attorney, David E. Kendall, cited objections in declining to address several questions in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by Judicial Watch.
Kendall said inquiries pertaining to cybersecurity warnings about the system’s vulnerability to hacking, as well as its creation before and management after Clinton’s time in office, were beyond the scope of questions allowed by U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of Washington.
Kendall similarly objected to queries about the preservation of federal records and stated that Clinton “will construe” questions posed as concerning only work-related emails during her tenure as secretary from 2009 to 2013.
In the 20-page filing, Kendall wrote that Clinton did “not recall” the answers to specific questions at least 20 times.
Kendall wrote, “Secretary Clinton states that she does not recall considering factors other than convenience in deciding to use a personal e-mail account to conduct official State Department business.”
He continued, “She believed that her e-mails with persons with state.gov e-mail accounts were already captured in the State Department’s recordkeeping systems. Secretary Clinton does not recall anyone from the State Department asking her for access to her clintonemail.com e-mail account or asking her to print her work-related e-mails when she was preparing to leave office.”
In a statement, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said, “Our lawyers will be reviewing the responses closely. Mrs. Clinton’s refusal to answer many of the questions in a clear and straightforward manner further reflects disdain for the rule of law.”
He added in an interview, “Her absolute refusal to answer questions about why she used the system despite warnings about security is notable.”
Government lawyers for the State Department, in a separate court filing, echoed Kendall’s objections to 12 of the 25 questions.
Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said, “Secretary Clinton has answered these same questions in multiple settings for over a year, and her answers here are entirely consistent with what she has said many times before. Judicial Watch is a right-wing organization that has been attacking the Clintons since the 1990s, and this frivolous lawsuit is just its latest failed attempt to hurt her campaign for the Presidency.”
Clinton’s filing addressed some details of the controversy identified by Judicial Watch.
For example, Clinton invoked attorney-client privilege in declining to answer why in an October 2015 appearance before a House Benghazi committee she testified that 90 percent to 95 percent of her emails “were in the State’s system.”
In the filing, Kendall also wrote that Clinton did not “recall being advised, cautioned, or warned, she does not recall that it was ever suggested to her, and she does not recall participating in any communication, conversation, or meeting in which it was discussed that her use of a clintonemail.com e-mail account to conduct official State Department business conflicted with or violated federal recordkeeping laws.”
A computer specialist who maintained her server told the FBI that State Department officials expressed concerns to him about whether the system was properly keeping records, and he passed those concerns on to top Clinton aide Cheryl Mills. She responded that Clinton’s predecessor, Colin Powell, had used a similar setup.
Asked why Clinton continued using her account despite sending a June 28, 2011, message directing all State Department personnel to avoid using personal email accounts to conduct official business, citing targeting by “online adversaries,” Kendall objected that the question concerned cybersecurity issues, that Clinton’s name at the end of the cable was a formality that did not mean she wrote or reviewed the cable, and that she did not recall seeing it.