April 2012: A photo leads to confirmation Clinton is not using a government email account, but no action is taken.

Clinton checks her Blackberry in a military C-17 plane bound for Tripoli, Libya October 18, 2011. (Credit: Kevin Lamarque / The Associated Press)

Clinton checks her Blackberry in a military C-17 plane bound for Tripoli, Libya October 18, 2011. (Credit: Kevin Lamarque / The Associated Press)

A photo of Clinton using her BlackBerry while wearing sunglasses on a military plane in 2011 becomes popular on the Internet, prompting a “Texts from Hillary” meme.

In court testimony in 2016, State Director of Executive Secretariat Staff Karin Lang will recall that Clarence Finney, who oversees the State Department’s responses to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) searches, sees the photo in the media and wants to know if Clinton still does not have a government email account. Finney checks with the department’s information management staff and confirms she still doesn’t have one. According to Lang, Finney will not recall who told him this, or when it happened exactly. (Politico, 6/9/2016

However, the photo’s popularity starts and peaks in April 2012. The Washington Post comments about the photo at the time, “When Hillary Rodham Clinton checks her phone, she’s probably reading top secret e-mails…” But this does not lead to any attempt by Finney or others to find if she might have a private email account that could be responsive to FOIA requests. (The Washington Post, 4/5/2012)

July 8, 2016: Judicial Watch asks to depose Clinton and two others in a civil suit.

Clarence Finney (Credit: CSpan)

Clarence Finney (Credit: CSpan)

Judicial Watch files a motion to depose Clinton as part a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit relating to Clinton’s emails. US District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan ordered six of Clinton’s former aides to be deposed, and left open the possibility that Clinton could be deposed later, depending on the answers given by the aides.  All six finished their depositions by the end of June 2016.

Judicial Watch argues it has “attempted to obtain as much evidence as possible from other State Department officials, but Secretary Clinton is an indispensable witness and significant questions remain, including why records management officials apparently had no knowledge of [her email] system when so many other officials used the system to communicate with her. Consequently, Secretary Clinton’s deposition is necessary.”

Additionally, Judicial Watch is asking to depose two other former Clinton aides who had knowledge of Clinton’s private server, John Bentel and Clarence Finney. They also want to depose Clinton in a similar lawsuit presided by Judge Royce Lamberth.

Sullivan announces that the motion will be argued on July 18, 2016. (LawNewz, 7/8/2016)

July 18, 2016: Clinton’s lawyer insists Clinton’s use of a private server was allowed by policy, despite clear evidence it wasn’t.

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Judge Emmet Sullivan (Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi / National Law Journal

Clinton’s longtime personal lawyer David Kendall appears in court regarding Clinton’s email controversy for the first time since the issue became public in March 2015. He is opposing a request to have Clinton deposed in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit initiated by Judicial Watch.

The judge in the case, Emmet Sullivan, has said publicly that Clinton violated government policy by doing official business on the private server. The State Department’s inspector general, Steve Linick, also concluded the same in a May 2016 report. Kendall nonetheless maintains that Clinton’s behavior “was clearly permitted and allowed” by policy. However, he admits that her server was never specifically approved by anyone at the State Department. He also argues that the reason Clinton set up and used a private email server for all her emails was “a matter of convenience.”

Sullivan doesn’t immediately decide whether Clinton should be deposed or not. However, Judicial Watch has also asked for the depositions of former State Department officials Clarence Finney and John Bentel, and Sullivan does definitively state that at least Bentel “should be deposed.” (Politico, 07/18/2016)

August 19, 2016: A judge rules that Clinton can respond to a deposition with written answers instead of being questioned in person.

Judge Emmet Sullivan, District Court for the District of Columbia, (Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi / The National Law Journal)

Judge Emmet Sullivan, District Court for the District of Columbia, (Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi / The National Law Journal)

Judicial Watch has been seeking to have Clinton deposed as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit involving her emails. However, US District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan rules: “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.”

Sullivan notes that due to legal precedents applicable to current and former Cabinet officials, he should only require Clinton to appear at a deposition if “exceptional circumstances” justify it.

Sullivan says he is still intent on finding out why Clinton’s private server was set up and whether there were other reasons beyond Clinton’s public claim of “convenience.” He also says it is important that she at least answer questions in writing about this because depositions of Clinton’s staff had shown that “her closest aides at the State Department do not have personal knowledge of her purpose in using the [server].”

Politico notes, “Technically, it is still possible one of several other judges considering similar cases could issue such an order [for Clinton to be deposed in person], but the clock may run out soon on efforts to force such an appearance in advance of the November [presidential] election.”

Judicial Watch also asked for the depositions of former State Department officials Clarence Finney and John Bentel.

Sullivan rejects the deposition of Finney, despite the fact that Finney’s job was to organize responses to FOIA requests. However, he does order the future deposition of Bentel. It has been reported that Bentel blocked other department employees from raising questions about Clinton’s use of her server. (Politico, 8/19/2016)