Shutdown slows court-ordered inquiry into Clinton email setup

A series of depositions that a federal judge authorized this week to explore Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account
as secretary of State have been put on ice due to the partial government shutdown.
On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth granted a request from Justice Department lawyers to put the
discovery process he ordered on hold and that all related deadlines be extended for as long as the budget standoff continues.

In an order Tuesday, Lamberth agreed to allow the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch to take depositions from
10 or more individuals to explore whether Clinton’s use of the private email set-up was a deliberate effort to avoid the
Freedom of Information Act and whether lawyers acted in bad faith by trying to settle a Judicial Watch FOIA suit in 2014
and 2015 even though some State Department officials were aware of Clinton’s private email arrangement.

Among the officials Lamberth agreed to subpoena for depositions are former Clinton deputy chief of staff Jake Sullivan,
Clinton attorney and adviser Heather Samuelsohn, former Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security Eric Boswell, and a
former close adviser to President Bill Clinton, Justin Cooper.

However, Justice Department lawyers responded Wednesday with a request that the case — nominally about a search for
records related to talking points about the 2012 Benghazi attack — be suspended until funding for the Justice Department
and State Department is restored.

“To respond to Plaintiff’s interrogatories and document requests (including one that will require searches of State’s email
records for 24 officials or former officials) will require not only members of the Department of Justice’s litigation team, all
of whom are currently furloughed, but also State attorneys and employees from various bureaus and components who are
likewise furloughed,” the Justice lawyers wrote. “The Government will require an even broader array of State employees—
most of whom are currently furloughed—to prepare for the numerous depositions described in the Discovery Order.”

On Thursday, the situation grew murkier as the State Department announced it was calling most of its furloughed staff back
to work next week. Officials said they’d located enough funds to cover at least one two-week pay period for those workers.

Justice Department attorneys notified Lamberth of the development just after 11 P.M. Thursday, about 12 hours after he
entered his order putting off the discovery deadlines. They attached an email State Deputy Undersecretary for Management
Bill Todd sent Thursday afternoon announcing the recall of staff.

Justice Department lawyers said they plan to bow out of the case for now, but that State Department employees will
attempt to begin gathering records responsive to the discovery the judge authorized.

“During the time the Department of State has funds available to cover its direct-hire employees, State Department
personnel will, to the extent possible without the advice and direction of Justice Department attorneys, take steps to make
what progress they can in preparing responses to the discovery requests that Plaintiff has already served,” the Justice
attorneys wrote.

Another judge handling a separate FOIA case previously granted Judicial Watch discovery into the Hillary Clinton email
issue. That led to depositions of former Clinton chief of staff Cheryl Mills and deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin. The
conservative group is not seeking to depose them again in the suit before Lamberth.