- The Washington Times - Friday, July 8, 2016

Judicial Watch, the interest group that won the right to force Hillary Clinton’s top aides to testify on her secret email system, petitioned a federal judge Friday to force Mrs. Clinton herself to sit for a deposition, saying there are questions only she can answer about how she handled her messages.

Neither of Mrs. Clinton’s close personal aides, Huma Abedin or Cheryl Mills, were able to shed light on why she created the secret email system in the first place, Judicial Watch said in a court filing, so the former State Department secretary herself must answer those questions.

“It was her system. She was the primary driving force behind it and was its principal user,” Judicial Watch said. “Without Secretary Clinton’s testimony, there can be no fair, rightful and conclusive answer to the court’s questions.”

Judge Emmet G. Sullivan set a hearing for July 18 to consider the request, and ordered Mrs. Clinton’s lawyers to file briefs next week laying out their position.

The request comes just days after the FBI closed out its investigation of Mrs. Clinton, concluding that she may have broken federal laws governing classified information but that it would be impossible to make a criminal case out of her behavior because she didn’t understand what she was doing.

The FBI did not, however, focus on Mrs. Clinton’s cooperation with open-records laws, which is the subject of Judicial Watch’s civil lawsuit trying to get a look at the messages.

Judicial Watch has argued that the State Department should try to recover the 30,000 messages Mrs. Clinton refused to turn over to the government, and according to the FBI, which she then deleted. Judicial Watch says a government employee, rather than Mrs. Clinton’s own lawyers, must review those emails to make sure they don’t contain government records.

Indeed, the FBI concluded that thousands of emails Mrs. Clinton didn’t turn over likely did contain government records.

Judicial Watch said it needs to talk to Mrs. Clinton to get to the bottom of that finding, too.

Mrs. Clinton’s email practices have been the subject of repeated investigations, including one by the State Department, one by the FBI and the one overseen by the federal district court in Washington, D.C.

Mrs. Clinton sat last weekend for more than three hours with a handful of FBI agents conducting a criminal investigation into her behavior — but the agents did not put her under oath, and did not create a transcript of their interview with her.

The former secretary, who later this month will claim Democrats’ presidential nomination, refused to talk to the State Department inspector general for his investigation into her compliance with open-records laws.

FBI Director James Comey said Mrs. Clinton did tell his agents some of the details about her decision-making, and he said he accepts her claim that she used the server — which her husband had already set up for his own purposes — out of convenience.

Mr. Comey said she risked national security, and was trained to know better than to use a non-secure system to send highly classified information. But Mr. Comey concluded Mrs. Clinton lacked the sophistication to understand the technology or the nature of the risk she was taking.

He did conclude she broke the Federal Records Act, the law that requires government employees to store their official documents so they can be maintained and released to the public, Congress and the press.

Judicial Watch said its case against Mrs. Clinton was bolstered by an appeals court decision Tuesday that ruled top administration officials can’t shield themselves from their open-records obligations by shunting emails off onto private accounts.

The State Department argues it never had control of Mrs. Clinton’s email, so it was never in a position to go through her messages. It says Mrs. Clinton was the correct person, and it must accept her judgment about what were government records and what weren’t.

Ms. Mills, in her deposition, said nobody gave thought to whether Mrs. Clinton’s messages were being properly saved to comply with the law. Ms. Abedin told Judicial Watch it would “have to ask Mrs. Clinton” those questions.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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