February 23, 2016: Top Clinton aides will be questioned under oath in a civil suit.

Huma Abedin uses her smart phone in Charleston, South Carolina, on February 26, 2016. (Credit: Getty Images)

Huma Abedin uses her smart phone in Charleston, South Carolina, on February 26, 2016. (Credit: Getty Images)

US District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan rules that Clinton aides Huma Abedin, Bryan Pagliano, Cheryl Mills, Patrick Kennedy, and others would likely be questioned about Clinton’s use of her private email server. There is no immediate plan to question Clinton herself, but that could change. Sullivan’s ruling is in response to Judicial Watch, which has been seeking to determine if Clinton’s server thwarted federal open records laws. Sullivan comments that months of news about the email scandal has created “at least a reasonable suspicion” that public access to government records has been undermined.

Sullivan was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994. The judge gives Judicial Watch and government lawyers until April 12, 2016 to create a plan to proceed. The Washington Post notes this creates “the prospect that key Clinton aides would face questions just as she tries to secure the Democratic nomination and pivot to a hotly contested November general election.” (The Washington Post, 2/23/2016)

February 23, 2016: A federal judge asks about failure to turn over Clinton records: “How in the world could this happen?”

Judge Emmet Sullivan (Credit: public domain)

Judge Emmet Sullivan (Credit: public domain)

US District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan, presiding over a lawsuit relating to Clinton’s emails, expresses puzzlement over the scandal. He notes that Clinton put the State Department in the position of having to ask her to return thousands of government records. He asks in a hearing, “Am I missing something? How in the world could this happen?” (The Washington Post, 3/27/2016) He adds, “It just boggles the mind a little that the State Department allowed this practice to occur in the first place. It is very, very troubling.” (CNN, 2/23/2016) He also comments, “There has been a constant drip, drip, drip of declarations. When does it stop? This case is about the public’s right to know.” (The Washington Post, 2/23/2016)

April 5, 2016: The State Department wants to limit questions about Clinton’s email scandal.

The department argues in a court filing that top aides to Clinton should not be questioned about the on-going FBI investigation of Clinton’s private email and server, nor should they be questioned about the contents of their emails. Because of a lawsuit by Judicial Watch, US District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled in February 2016 that he would permit “narrowly tailored” discovery. Judicial Watch wants to question Clinton’s aides chief of staff Cheryl Mills, deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin, and computer specialist Bryan Pagliano, and they want access to four others.

Although the State Department doesn’t object to the aides being questioned, they want to limit the questions to the issue of how and why Clinton’s private server was created. Judicial Watch hasn’t asked for Clinton’s testimony yet, but said they may do so in the future. (Politico, 4/5/2016)

May 4, 2016: A judge says Clinton may have to testify under oath in a court case.

US District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan has ordered some of Clinton’s former top aides to testify under oath about Clinton’s private email server and how the State Department handled Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests regarding Clinton’s emails. Based on what is revealed in those interviews, due to take place in the next two months, Sullivan says that a sworn deposition from Clinton herself “may be necessary.” Judicial Watch, who made the original FOIA requests, would have to file a separate request “at the appropriate time.”

The Associated Press notes, “That raises the possibility that Clinton could be ordered to testify in the midst of the presidential race.” (The Associated Press, 5/4/2016) (LawNewz, 5/4/2016)

May 4, 2016: Six former State Department officials are to be deposed under oath in the next two months.

Lewis Lukens (Credit: public domain)

Lewis Lukens (Credit: public domain)

US District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan says the depositions are necessary in order to determine if the department conducted an adequate search regarding Judicial Watch’s 2013 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request regarding the employment of Clinton aide Huma Abedin, since she had three outside jobs at one point.

Deposition questions are to be limited to the set-up and management of Clinton’s private server, since the department failed to reveal Clinton’s emails on the server in response to the FOIA request. The former aides due to be deposed in the next two months are:

  • Huma Abedin
  • Cheryl Mills
  • Bryan Pagliano
  • Patrick Kennedy
  • Stephen Mull
  • Lewis Lukens
  • plus, someone to be decided by the State Department.

Judicial Watch could make a video of their interviews public. (LawNewz, 5/4/2016) (The Associated Press, 5/4/2016)

May 17, 2016: Depositions in a civil lawsuit related to Clinton’s emails will begin within days and continue until the end of June.

US District Judge Emmet Sullivan is allowing Judicial Watch to depose six US officials under oath, mostly Clinton’s former aides, as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, on the following dates:

  • May 18: Former deputy assistant secretary of state Lewis Lukens will be interviewed on May 18.
  • May 27: Clinton’s former chief of staff Cheryl Mills.
  • June 3: Stephen Mull, former State Department executive secretary.
  • June 6: Bryan Pagliano, Clinton’s former computer technician who managed her private server.
  • June 28: Huma Abedin, Clinton’s former deputy chief of staff.
  • June 29: Patrick Kennedy, the State Department’s under secretary for management since 2007 until current.

Judicial Watch can interview each witness for up to seven hours, and the video of the interviews can be made public several days later. The questioning will be limited, but includes the issue of how Clinton’s private server was set up and managed, and why the State Department didn’t properly fulfill FOIA requests for Clinton’s emails. (The Wall Street Journal, 5/17/2016) (Judicial Watch, 5/17/2015)

May 18, 2016: Former Clinton aide Lewis Lukens testifies under oath for two hours about his knowledge of Clinton’s emails and private server.

Lewis Lukens (Credit: Harry Hamburg / The Associated Press)

Lewis Lukens (Credit: Harry Hamburg / The Associated Press)

Lukens has been deposed as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit by Judicial Watch. He is the first of six to be deposed as part of that lawsuit, which is presided over by federal judge Emmet Sullivan. (The New York Times, 5/18/2016) (Judicial Watch v. State Lukens Testimony 01363 5/26/2016)

May 26, 2016: A judge blocks the release of audio and video of six Clinton aide depositions, but not the transcripts.

US District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan grants a recent request from Clinton’s former chief of staff Cheryl Mills to keep audio and video recordings of her upcoming deposition from being made public, at least for now. Mills, who is due to be deposed one day later, argued that such recordings could be used for political purposes against Clinton in the presidential election.

Sullivan writes, “The public has a right to know details related to the creation, purpose and use of the clintonemail.com system. Thus, the transcripts of all depositions taken in this case will be publicly available. It is therefore unnecessary to also make the audiovisual recording of Ms. Mills’ deposition public.” On his own initiative, Sullivan blocks the release of all audio and video recordings of the five other former Clinton aides due to be deposed in the suit he is presiding over.

Politico reports, “Sullivan did not signal what his concern was about improper use of the videos, nor did he explain whether he agreed with Mills’ attorneys that the videos were more susceptible to misuse or distortion than the written transcripts that will be released.” Sullivan orders that the audio and video should be filed with the court, raising the possibility they could be released later. (Politico, 5/26/2016)

May 26, 2016: Justice Department lawyers are “wholly opposed” to Clinton being deposed in a civil suit related to her emails.

Justice Department lawyers oppose Judicial Watch’s request that Clinton give a sworn deposition. There are two closely related civil suits in which Judicial Watch has been granted the right of discovery, allowing them to depose witnesses. Six of Clinton’s former aides are already being deposed in the suit presided over by federal judge Emmet Sullivan.

Judicial Watch recently requested that Clinton be deposed in the other suit, presided over by federal judge Royce Lamberth. However, department lawyers argue that Lamberth should let the depositions in the other case play out before allowing Clinton to be deposed in his case. They call the request “wholly inappropriate,” adding, “Judicial Watch makes no attempt here to justify why the witnesses it names would provide any relevant information that is not redundant and cumulative of the discovery that has already been ordered and initiated.”

However, while they oppose Clinton being deposed, they do not oppose Judicial Watch’s request to depose former Clinton aide Jake Sullivan. So far, Judicial Watch has not asked for Clinton or Sullivan to be deposed in the other suit. (Politico, 5/27/2016)

May 27, 2016: Cheryl Mills is deposed under oath, but frequently fails to answer questions.

Cheryl Mills speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting 2012. (Credit: Clinton Global Initiative)

Cheryl Mills speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting 2012. (Credit: Clinton Global Initiative)

Clinton’s former chief of staff Cheryl Mills is deposed by Judicial Watch as part of civil lawsuit presided over by US District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan. She is questioned for seven hours, with eleven other lawyers present, including four Justice Department lawyers assisting Mills.

The deposition is contentious, with Judicial Watch lawyers frequently arguing with Mills’ lawyer Beth Wilkinson and State Department lawyers. Mills has also worked as one of Clinton’s lawyers at times (though not while Clinton was secretary of state), and Wilkinson often objects to questions on the grounds of attorney-client privilege between Mills and Clinton. For instance, Mills fails to answer any questions about the sorting and deleting of Clinton’s emails in late 2014, when Mills was one of Clinton’s lawyers who performed that task. Mills also doesn’t answer many questions about Clinton’s former computer technician Bryan Pagliano. (LawNewz, 5/31/2016) (Politico, 5/31/2016) (Judicial Watch, 5/31/2016)

Mills is frequently forgetful or uncertain with her answers. The New York Post calculates she says “I can’t recall” 40 times and “I don’t know” 182 times. (The New York Post, 6/11/2016)

June 1, 2016: Pagliano will refuse to answer questions in his upcoming deposition.

Lawyers for Clinton’s former computer technician Bryan Pagliano say he “will assert the Fifth Amendment and will decline to answer each and every question” when deposed by Judicial Watch as part of a civil suit on June 6.

Pagliano previously refused to speak to the House Benghazi Committee or Congressional investigators. However, it has been reported that he made an immunity deal with the Justice Department as part of cooperating with the FBI’s Clinton investigation.

Also, despite the fact that Pagliano plans on not answering any questions, his lawyers also ask that no video recording of his deposition be made. US District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan has already ruled that videos of the deposition should be put under seal. However, Pagliano’s lawyers argue there still could be a chance a video could be released later. (Politico, 6/1/2016) (The Hill, 6/1/2016)

Two days later, Sullivan announces that Pagliano’s deposition will be postponed until issues about his pleading the Fifth are resolved. Sullivan has asked Pagliano’s lawyers to reveal the scope of the immunity deal between Pagliano and the Justice Department, and how that could affect this civil case. There are different types of immunity deals, and until now it hasn’t been clear which type applies to Pagliano. (Politico, 6/3/2016) (The Hill, 6/3/2016)

June 7, 2016: Pagliano is revealed to have received a limited immunity that leaves him open to prosecution.

Clinton’s former computer technician Bryan Pagliano files a copy of his immunity deal with the Department of Justice as part of a civil suit presided over by US District Judge Emmet Sullivan. Pagliano asks that the deal remain secret, and Sullivan will agree to that several days later. However, in making the filing, Pagliano’s lawyers mention that he was granted “derivative use” immunity in December 2015.

LawNewz explains this form of immunity “does not prevent the government from prosecuting Pagliano, but just limits them from using any evidence derived from Pagliano’s testimony against him.” His lawyers are arguing that what he might say in a deposition in this court case could be used against him in the FBI’s Clinton investigation, despite the immunity deal. (LawNewz, 6/7/2016)

June 10, 2016: Justice Department lawyers want the details of Pagliano’s immunity deal to remain a secret.

Bryan Pagliano was Clinton’s computer technician, and he made an immunity deal with the Justice Department in late 2015.

Several days earlier his lawyers revealed to federal judge Emmet Sullivan that it was a limited “derivative use” immunity deal. But they argue that releasing more details of “Mr. Pagliano’s agreements with the United States could prematurely reveal the scope and focus of the pending investigation.” Furthermore, “The FBI cannot publicly disclose the specific focus, scope, or potential targets of any such investigation without adversely affecting the investigation.” (Politico, 6/10/2016)

 Several days later, Sullivan will agree to keep the details a secret.

June 14, 2016: A federal judge refers to the FBI’s Clinton investigation as a “criminal investigation.”

US District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan is presiding over a case in which former Clinton aide Bryan Pagliano is fighting giving a deposition. Sullivan comments, “The privacy interests at stake are high because the government’s criminal investigation through which Mr. Pagliano received limited immunity is ongoing and confidential.” As part of the case, Sullivan is privy to information from the FBI that has not been made public.

Politico points out that this is the first “explicit confirmation that the investigation—which Clinton has repeatedly referred to as a ‘security review’—is actually a criminal probe.” (Politico, 6/14/2016)

June 14, 2016: Pagliano’s immunity deal will remain secret and he will be privately videotaped.

US District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan is presiding over a civil suit in which he wants Clinton’s former computer technician Bryan Pagliano to be deposed under oath and answer questions from Judicial Watch about Clinton’s email server. Pagliano has said he will plead the Fifth Amendment due to receiving an immunity deal with the FBI’s Clinton investigation.

Sullivan orders the immunity deal to be submitted to the court, but declares that details of the deal will not be made public, stating, “In the Court’s opinion, the need for public access to Mr. Pagliano’s agreement with the government is minimal.”

Pagliano also petitioned not to be videotaped, but Sullivan denies this request. Sullivan previously ruled such a video recording would remain under seal and not publicly released, and that will still be the case. Pagliano had been scheduled to be deposed on June 6, 2016. Sullivan orders him and Judicial Watch to arrange a new date for it before the end of June. (Politico, 6/14/2016) (The Washington Post, 6/14/2016)

June 22, 2016: Clinton’s former computer technician Bryan Pagliano repeatedly pleads the Fifth in a sworn deposition.

Pagliano has been forcibly deposed by Judicial Watch in a civil suit presided by US District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan. He originally was supposed to be deposed on June 6, 2016, but it was delayed after he revealed he planned to invoke his Fifth Amendment constitutional right against self-incrimination, as well as arguments over the implications of his limited immunity given as part of a deal he made to cooperate with the FBI’s Clinton investigation.

As expected, he pleads the Fifth, doing so more than 125 times, according to Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton. Fitton also says, “On many of the key issues, he took the Fifth. He took the Fifth even on questions about his resume.”

In addition, Pagliano’s lawyers reportedly object to many questions, saying they go beyond the scope of discovery permitted by Sullivan. Fitton says he hopes Sullivan will see Pagliano’s failure to answer any substantive questions as further evidence that Clinton’s private email server set up by Pagliano may have been designed to evade Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. (Politico, 6/22/2016)

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.

160718EmmetSullivan

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 10, 2016: Cheryl Mills answers additional questions she failed to answer in her deposition.

Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s former chief of staff at the State Department, was deposed in May 2016 as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit by Judicial Watch. At that time, she refused to answer some questions, citing attorney-client privilege. Judge Emmet Sullivan worked out a compromise to have Mills answer some questions in writing to prevent further litigation, and Mills’ written answers are made public by Judicial Watch on this day.

This written testimony shows that shortly after the hacker known as Guccifer broke into the email account of Clinton confidant Sid Blumenthal and publicy revealed Clinton’s private email address in March 2013, Mills was worried about the potential impact this coud have on Clinton’s private email server. Mills discussed this with Clinton’s computer techician Bryan Pagliano. Clinton’s email address was changed, but it is still unknown if any other security measures were taken. (Politico, 8/10/2016)

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)