Former Hillary Clinton deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin and at least five others will be questioned by a conservative watchdog group’s lawyers seeking information about Abedin’s overlapping employment at the U.S. State Department, the Clinton Foundation and an outside consulting firm.
The conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch claims Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server hindered its efforts to get records about what it called the “controversial” employment status of Abedin.
The first of the six to testify in a sworn deposition will be former State Department employee Lewis A. Lukens, according to a schedule filed Tuesday in federal court in Washington. Lukens will be questioned Wednesday. Judicial Watch was less definitive about other former staffers saying they were served with subpoenas. Clinton’s chief of staff at the State Department, Cheryl Mills, might testify on May 27. Abedin, now the vice chair of Clinton’s presidential campaign, may be deposed on June 28.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said when allowing the depositions on May 4 that Judicial Watch could also question Clinton, but only if necessary and only with his prior permission.
Judicial Watch has been pursuing records related to Clinton’s tenure as the top U.S. diplomat, including those stored on a private e-mail server at her home in Chappaqua, New York. Clinton, the Democratic Party’s front-runner for its 2016 presidential nomination, faces primaries Tuesday in Kentucky and Oregon.
Earlier this year, Sullivan said Washington-based Judicial Watch was entitled to engage in what he called “narrowly tailored” discovery as part of its 2013 Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking details of Abedin’s multiple roles. That process, he said, would help him determine whether the government’s response to the group’s FOIA request was legally adequate.
Under Sullivan’s order, Judicial Watch lawyers can ask about what led to the creation of the private e-mail system and how the State Department responded to the group’s information request. While trying to determine whether the government has turned over all the requested documents, the lawyers are barred from asking about the substance of Abedin’s employment arrangements, the handling and protection of classified information and any pending law enforcement investigations.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is separately probing Clinton’s use of the private e-mail server.
Also set to be questioned are former State Department Executive Secretary Stephen Mull, on June 3, and its undersecretary for management, Patrick F. Kennedy, on June 29. While those dates and the Lukens date are firm, according to the court filing, Judicial Watch subpoenaed Abedin, Mills and former State Department employee Bryan Pagliano, who maintained the private Clinton e-mail server. The group seeks to depose him on June 6.
Lukens, according to the judge’s May 4 order, traded e-mail messages with Kennedy and Mills about setting up a computer for Clinton to check her private e-mail account. Kennedy’s responsibilities included technology and information services.
Mull, the executive secretary from June 2009 to October 2012, had suggested the secretary of state be issued a State Department BlackBerry that would have both protected her identity and been subject to Freedom of Information requests, according to that May 4 order.
The State Department declined to comment on the court filing as did Abedin’s lawyer, Miguel Rodriguez. The Clinton campaign didn’t immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment. Attorneys for Mills, Pagliano and Kennedy also didn’t immediately reply to messages seeking comment. Mull’s and Lukens’s lawyers couldn’t immediately be identified.
Judicial Watch has
asked a different judge for permission to question Clinton in a separate case concerning the group’s quest for records related to the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
The case is Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State, 13-cv-01363, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).