The Supreme Court of the United States on Monday declined a conservative legal group’s request to revisit whether Hillary Clinton should be required to answer questions about her use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.
In an unsigned order issued without comment, the justices declined to take up Judicial Watch’s petition stemming from the organization’s lawsuit over the government’s response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The group had sought to depose Clinton and one of her top aides, Cheryl Mills, over electronic communications in connection with the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Emphasizing the State Department’s “mishandling of the case,” a Ronald Reagan-appointed U.S. District Court judge in March 2020 initially took the eye-popping step of ordering discovery in the lawsuit, including a stipulation requiring that Clinton had to sit for a deposition.
A three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously overturned that ruling in August, granting a writ of mandamus to prevent the ordered deposition.
Writing for the appellate court, Circuit Judge Robert L. Wilkins, a Barack Obama appointee, said the facts of the case “underscore both the impropriety of the District Court’s Order and the appropriateness of turning the page on the issue.” Wilkins further reasoned that Judicial Watch was likely to use the opportunity question Clinton about matters unrelated to her emails.
“Especially in light of Judicial Watch’s present access to extensive information responsive to its proposed deposition topics, the deposition of Secretary Clinton, if allowed to proceed, at best seems likely to stray into topics utterly unconnected with the instant FOIA suit, and at worst could be used as a vehicle for harassment or embarrassment,” the judge wrote.
In October, Judicial Watch’s request to have the full panel of judges on the circuit court rehear the case was rejected, with none of the 10 judges — including some Donald Trump appointees — requesting a vote on the petition.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton, who was one of the more outspoken supporters of false claim that Trump defeated Joe Biden in the 2020 election and could be president for a second term if Republicans pressed the issue, was not happy with the court’s decision. He said the justices “drop[ped] the ball… again” by not requiring Clinton to sit for a deposition.
“Hillary Clinton ignored the law but received special protection from both the courts and law enforcement. For countless Americans, this double standard of justice has destroyed confidence in the fair administration of justice,” Fitton said. “Americans would never have known about Hillary Clinton’s email and related pay for play scandals but for Judicial Watch’s diligence. We expect that the Biden State and Justice Departments will continue to protect her and cover up their own misconduct as we press for additional accountability through the courts.”
[image via Rune Hellestad/Getty Images]
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