Lawyers for Hillary Clinton are going to federal court for the first time to block efforts to force her to testify in a civil lawsuit related to her private email set-up.
Clinton's attorneys submitted a legal filing Tuesday morning in a bid to shut down a conservative group's request for an order forcing her to submit to a deposition in the midst of her presidential campaign.
Clinton’s legal team said her testimony was unnecessary and superfluous in light of her questioning before the House Benghazi Committee last October and several State Department inquiries into the issue.
“Despite this public testimony and the various investigative reports, Judicial Watch claims that it needs to depose Secretary Clinton, a former Cabinet Secretary, about six purportedly unanswered questions," the filing states. "The record, however, already answers those questions or makes clear that Secretary Clinton has no personal knowledge to provide.”
Judicial Watch has asked to depose Clinton in a pair of Freedom of Information Act lawsuits which have raised questions about whether her private email system was created in part to avoid making messages accessible under FOIA.
U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan has set a hearing for Monday on the request for Clinton’s testimony in one of the suits, a case demanding records about employment arrangements of Clinton aide Huma Abedin.In the filing Tuesday, longtime Clinton attorney David Kendall leveled a series of legal arguments against Judicial Watch, even offering the politically awkward contention that a general effort by Clinton to thwart FOIA would not be enough to give the conservative group legal authority to proceed with its case.
Kendall argued that a 1980 Supreme Court case that discussed the possibility of recovering records sought under FOIA but no longer in agency control "requires a close temporal connection between an official’s removal of records and a specific FOIA request."
"That standard cannot be satisfied here. Judicial Watch’s FOIA request was submitted nearly four months after Secretary Clinton left the State Department, and there is no evidence that Secretary Clinton or anyone else at the Department knew that Judicial Watch would submit the request, let alone intended to circumvent it," Kendall wrote, along with attorneys Katherine Turner and Amy Zaharia.
Clinton's legal team has never previously intervened directly in the lawsuits, which name the State Department as defendant.
However, last year, Clinton did submit a declaration under penalty of perjury saying she'd instructed her attorneys to turn over all federal records in her possession to the State Department. Clinton said it was her belief that had been done.The State Department also filed a legal brief Tuesday opposing the call for Clinton to be deposed in the suit before Sullivan.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton called the resistance to a Clinton deposition troubling, in part because Clinton's brief argues that her server was entirely her property after she stepped down as secretary of state in February 2013.
"It is no surprise that neither Hillary Clinton nor the Obama State Department agrees with our request to depose Mrs. Clinton," Fitton said. "It is both significant and disturbing that Hillary Clinton now asserts a private 'claim of right” over her non-state.gov email account, including any of the 55,000 pages of federal records she returned to the State Department."