Court Criticizes State Department for Providing False Statements on Clinton Emails
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that in his opening remarks at a Friday, October 12 hearing, U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth strongly criticized the U.S. Department of State, stating, “The information that I was provided was clearly false regarding the adequacy of the [Clinton email] search and… what we now know turned out to be the Secretary’s email system.”
Turning his attention to the Department of Justice, Judge Lamberth said that he was “dumbfounded” by the agency’s Inspector General report revealing that Cheryl Mills had been given immunity and was allowed to accompany former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to her FBI interview:
I had myself found that Cheryl Mills had committed perjury and lied under oath in a published opinion I had issued in a Judicial Watch case where I found her unworthy of belief, and I was quite shocked to find out she had been given immunity in — by the Justice Department in the Hillary Clinton email case. So I did not know that until I read the IG report and learned that and that she had accompanied the Secretary to her interview.
(In an April 28, 2008, ruling relating to Mills’ conduct as a White House official in responding to concerns about lost White House email records, Judge Lamberth called Mills’ participation in the matter “loathsome.” He further stated Mills was responsible for “the most critical error made in this entire fiasco … Mills’ actions were totally inadequate to address the problem.”)
Lamberth also complained that the Justice Department attorney representing the State Department was using “doublespeak,” and playing “word games.”
The hearing had been ordered by Judge Lamberth regarding a request from Judicial Watch for testimony under oath from Clinton, Mills and several other State Department officials regarding the State Department’s processing of Judicial Watch’s FOIA request and Clinton’s emails. The State Department still opposes all of Judicial Watch’s requests for additional discovery into the Clinton email scandal.
Judge Lamberth said he was relieved that he did not allow the case to be shut down prematurely, as the State Department had requested:
The case started with a motion for summary judgment [seeking to close the case] here and which I denied and allowed limited discovery because it was clear to me that at the time that I ruled initially, that false statements were made to me by career State Department officials and it became more clear through discovery that the information that I was provided was clearly false regarding the adequacy of the search and this – what we now know turned out to be the Secretary’s email system.
I don’t know the details of what kind of IG inquiry there was into why these career officials at the State Department would have filed false affidavits with me. I don’t know the details of why the Justice Department lawyers did not know false affidavits were being filed with me, but I was very relieved that I did not accept them and that I allowed limited discovery into what had happened.
Judge Lamberth also said the State Department was using “doublespeak” and word games:
THE COURT: The State Department told me that it had produced all records when it moved for summary judgment and you filed that motion. That was not true when that motion was filed.
MR. PRINCE: At that time, we had produced all –
THE COURT: It was not true.
MR. PRINCE: Yes, it was – well, Your Honor, it might be that our search could be found to be inadequate, but that declaration was absolutely true.
THE COURT: It was not true. It was a lie.
MR. PRINCE: It was not a lie, Your Honor.
THE COURT: What – that’s doublespeak.
PRINCE: There’s strong precedent saying that items not in the State’s possession do not need to be searched….
THE COURT: And that’s because the Secretary was doing this on a private server? So it wasn’t in the State’s possession?… So you’re playing the same word game she played?
In March 2016, Judge Lamberth granted “limited discovery” to Judicial Watch:
Where there is evidence of government wrong-doing and bad faith, as here, limited discovery is appropriate, even though it is exceedingly rare in FOIA cases.
[Judicial Watch] is certainly entitled to dispute the State Department’s position that it has no obligation to produce these documents because it did not “possess” or “control” them at the time the FOIA request was made. The State Department’s willingness to now search documents voluntarily turned over to the Department by Secretary Clinton and other officials hardly transforms such a search into an “adequate” or “reasonable one. [Judicial Watch] is not relying on “speculation” or “surmise” as the State Department claims. [Judicial Watch] is relying on constantly shifting admissions by the Government and the former government officials.
The development comes in Judicial Watch’s July 2014 FOIA lawsuit filed after the U.S. Department of State failed to respond to a May 13, 2014 FOIA request (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:14-cv-01242)). Judicial Watch seeks:
- Copies of any updates and/or talking points given to Ambassador Rice by the White House or any federal agency concerning, regarding, or related to the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
- Any and all records or communications concerning, regarding, or relating to talking points or updates on the Benghazi attack given to Ambassador Rice by the White House or any federal agency.
This Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit led directly to the disclosure of the Clinton email system in 2015.
In May 2016, Judicial Watch filed an initial Proposed Order for Discovery seeking additional information. The State Department opposed Judicial Watch’s proposal, and in December 2016 Judge Lamberth requested both parties to file new proposed orders in light of information discovered in various venues since the previous May.
The full transcript of the hearing is available here.
“President Trump should ask why his State Department is still refusing to answer basic questions about the Clinton email scandal,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Hillary Clinton’s and the State Department’s email cover up abused the FOIA, the courts, and the American people’s right to know.”
Watch additional comments from Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton here.
Tom Fitton’s statement on the hearing: