Judicial Watch’s Fitton Blasts DOJ for ‘Protecting Obama and Clinton’ in Email Case

March 26, 2019 Updated: March 28, 2019

WASHINGTON—Attorney General William Barr “did the right thing on the Mueller report,” but “he’s got to look at how [the Department of Justice] is handling these transparency issues and why they are protecting Obama and Clinton,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton told The Epoch Times on March 26.

“That’s what’s happening here,” said a clearly frustrated Fitton, concerning a March 11 motion by Justice Department (DOJ) lawyers representing the Department of State in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The government asked the court for “a protective order sealing any audio-visual recordings of plaintiff’s forthcoming depositions of current and former career officials at the State Department.”

“The resting state of the Deep State is secrecy,” Fitton told The Epoch Times. “This is just typical of what we are dealing with from DOJ and State on these issues.”

The government has resisted disclosure at every turn in the case since its filing, he said.

“Everything is a fight,” Fitton said. “We even have to sue to get the time of day. It’s unbelievable.”

Earlier this year, Judge Royce Lamberth ordered 10 current and former State Department employees with knowledge of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email system to be deposed under oath by the nonprofit’s attorneys.

Unedited versions of the videos of the depositions would be posted on Judicial Watch’s web site.

In its motion, DOJ lawyers representing the State Department claimed all career government employees “have a legitimate privacy interest in limiting permanent and public dissemination of video recordings of them being deposed about the alleged misconduct of others.”

They also claimed that “no legitimate public interest is served” by making deposition videos public, since the government doesn’t object to written transcripts being released.

They also argued that “given the notoriety surrounding issues relating to former Secretary Clinton’s use of a private email server, these individuals are at significant risk of being subjected to unwarranted attention and embarrassment.”

In addition, the DOJ lawyers said making the deposition videos public would harm the State Department’s “ability to recruit, hire, and retain talented individuals to work among its career ranks.”

Among those to be deposed are: Susan Rice, former national security adviser to President Barack Obama; former senior Obama White House aide Ben Rhodes; FBI counterintelligence division Assistant Director E.W. Priestap; Monica Hanley, former personal aide to Clinton; former Clinton deputy chief of staff Jacob Sullivan; and former Clinton senior adviser Heather Samuelson. Depositions of Rice, Rhodes, Priestap and Hanley were to be done via them responding to written questions from Judicial Watch.

The March 11 motion would apply most immediately to scheduled depositions of Justin Cooper, described by Judicial Watch as “a former aide to [former President] Bill Clinton who reportedly had no security clearance and is believed to have played a key role in setting up Hillary Clinton’s non-government email system,” and Clarence Finney, described as “deputy director of the Executive Secretariat staff who was the principal advisor and records management expert in the Office of the Secretary responsible for control of all correspondence and records for Hillary Clinton and other State Department officials.”

The motion is the latest move by federal officials in response to Judicial Watch’s long-running Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suit, which seeks documents linked to Secretary of State Clinton’s use of a private email server for official business from 2009 to 2013 and to her actions regarding the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Rhodes has refused to comply with the court’s deposition order.

Cooper, who was represented by private counsel, separately filed a motion that video of his deposition not be made public, citing arguments like those made by DOJ.

Judicial Watch originally filed the suit in July 2014 after the State Department failed to respond by the legal deadline to the nonprofit’s document request in the case. This case led to public disclosure of Clinton’s private email system in 2015.

In a response filed March 25, Judicial Watch argued that the DOJ’s “concerns are nothing more than sheer speculation” and noted that Cooper, “a longtime close aide to President Clinton, hypothesizes that release of his deposition video would result in ‘unwarranted harassment or embarrassment.’

“While failing to offer any specific reason for this concern, Mr. Cooper also does not mention that he previously testified before Congress on this specific matter and that a video recording of his testimony is widely available on the Internet and has been for some years.”

Despite video of Cooper’s testimony being on the internet, he didn’t cite any examples of harassment that resulted.

Judicial Watch also noted that Finney, like Cooper, has testified at length before Congress and that video of his testimony has been available on the internet for years, without harming his “privacy interest.”

A DOJ spokesman declined The Epoch Times’ request for a response to the Fitton statement.

Contact Mark Tapscott at mark.tapscott@epochtimes.nyc

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