— -- A federal judge ruled today that Hillary Clinton will have to submit written answers to questions by the conservative group Judicial Watch about her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. The ruling relates to part of a freedom of information lawsuit playing out in Washington D.C.'s U.S. District Court.
Lawyers for Judicial Watch originally asked that Clinton be deposed in person, but the judge did not grant that request.
"The Court is persuaded that Secretary Clinton’s testimony is necessary to enable her to explain on the record the purpose for the creation and operation of the clintonemail.com system for State Department business," Judge Emmet G. Sullivan wrote in his order today.
The case ultimately seeks to determine whether or not the State Department complied fully with Judicial Watch’s request for all relevant employment records of Huma Abedin, one of Clinton’s longtime aides.
Judicial Watch wants to know whether Abedin’s employment status with the State Department and other outside groups connected to Clinton broke any rules. The group sued the State Department for relevant documents. During the court proceedings, Clinton’s email -- and the question of whether or not she deliberately sought to hide information normally subject to FOIA -- has been a central topic of discussion.
Already as a part of this case Judicial Watch has deposed senior officials and aides who worked for Clinton during her tenure at the State Department, including Abedin, Cheryl Mills, Patrick Kennedy and Bryan Pagliano.
Clinton's camp issued a terse response to the ruling today, blasting the plaintiff as an anti-Clinton group. "Judicial Watch is a right-wing organization that has been attacking the Clintons since the 1990s. This is just another lawsuit intended to try to hurt Hillary Clinton's campaign, and so we are glad that the judge has accepted our offer to answer these questions in writing rather than grant Judicial Watch's request."
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton issued his own statement, saying "the decision is a reminder that Hillary Clinton is not above the law.”
Judge Sullivan ordered the written answeres be submitted no later than October 14.
Despite the fact that the Justice Department has decided not to prosecute Clinton for her use of private email while secretary of state, it seems likely the issue will continue to dog her at least until Election Day. Last week Judicial Watch released previously unseen email from Clinton's aides that raised serious questions about the intersection of official State Department business and that of her husband's philanthropic group, the Clinton Foundation.
Also this week the State Department confirmed it will eventually release several thousand unseen emails belonging to Clinton that the FBI discovered during the course of its investigation.