— -- For the first time since the saga of Hillary Clinton's private email server began over a year ago, the former secretary of state has had to submit written answers to questions on the issue, all given under the possibility of a penalty of perjury.
Clinton and her legal team gave what appear to be careful responses to 25 different questions, posed by the conservative and anti-Clinton group, Judicial Watch, which has released a transcript of the exchange.
The Clinton team used some variation of the phrase "does not recall" 20 times in their responses.
Judicial Watch's request for sworn testimony was approved by a federal judge in August as part of the organization's freedom of information lawsuit against the State Department for records related to Clinton aide Huma Abedin's employment status while she worked for both Clinton at the State Department and Teneo, a global consulting firm that later hired Abedin.
Many of Clinton's top aides were required to participate in oral depositions as part of the case, but the presidential candidate and her attorneys were given the option of submitting written responses instead. These written responses were filed yesterday.
Judicial Watch's questions to Clinton focused in large part on the security of the email system she used as secretary of state and whether, in deciding to use a personal email account, she considered that "emails used to conduct official State Department business would be searched in response to [Freedom of Information Act] requests."
Clinton has apologized publicly for her decision to use private email, saying she did it for convenience and that it was a mistake. In her written responses to Judicial Watch's questions, she and her legal team said, "Secretary Clinton does not recall considering factors other than convenience in deciding to use a personal email account to conduct official State Department business."
The Clinton team also said she does not recall having any communications before or during her time as secretary of state about the decision to use private email.
Asked further whether she participated in any communication about the use of private email conflicting with federal recordkeeping laws, Clinton and her lawyers responded that she did not recall any.
An investigation by the State Department's inspector general concluded this year that her use of the private server violated the department's rules, and that she should have preserved federal records she created and received on her personal account. The report also said the inspector general found no evidence that Clinton "requested or obtained guidance or approval to conduct official business via a personal email account on her private server," and that she did not meet her "obligation to discuss using her personal email account to conduct official business." An FBI investigation concluded this summer that Clinton's actions were not criminal.
Clinton's team responded to Judicial Watch that she assumed everything sent from her emails as secretary of state to her staff on their official emails would be captured by government recordkeeping systems and that these emails were subject to freedom of information requests. "Secretary Clinton states that her practice was to email State Department staff on their state.gov email accounts," read one response.
But Clinton and her lawyers also said she did not consider how emails sent to nongovernmental accounts would be retained as public records.
Clinton said she was never told about the risks of hacking into the private server: "Secretary Clinton states that she does not recall being advised, cautioned, or warned" about hacking into her email account or server.
She also dismissed a question about why she continued to use an unsecured Blackberry device after reading a memo emphasizing the security risks, responding that, “The plaintiff is not entitled to discovery on 'cybersecurity issues.'”
Clinton was also asked about a June 2011 message from her office to all State Department personnel that specifically discouraged them from using private email from personal email accounts due to the security risks. Her lawyers responded, "The presence of Secretary Clinton’s name at the end of the cable was a formality, and it did not mean that she sent, authored, or reviewed the cable."
Asked about the process for deleting emails on the server, Clinton said she had no knowledge of the details of the process followed in deleting her personal emails. Clinton turned over 52,455 emails to the State Department in early 2015 and acknowledged at the time that she permanently deleted over 30,000 pages of email that were personal and not work-related.
In a statement released along with the transcript of Clinton's testimony, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said, "Mrs. Clinton’s refusal to answer many of the questions in a clear and straightforward manner further reflects disdain for the rule of law.”