Hillary Clinton and her team have worked quickly to downplay a judge's ruling Tuesday that will force her top aides to undergo questioning for their role in setting up the former secretary of state's personal email network.
Clinton's campaign manager, Robby Mook, blamed "right wing attacks" for the court order. Her spokesman, Nick Merrill, blamed the judge's ruling on the conservative group that filed the lawsuit in question. Then, Clinton herself attempted to minimize the controversy by likening it to her testimony last October before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which is unrelated to the case.
But Clinton could face a new set of legal challenges now that a judge, appointed to federal court by her husband, has raised the possibility of issuing a subpoena for her and one of her top campaign staffers, Huma Abedin. Even if those subpoenas never materialize, Clinton's closest aides will be required to tell the court why a personal server was set up in Clinton's New York home and how they decided which emails they would ultimately erase from that server in 2014.
The decision to grant Judicial Watch, a conservative nonprofit, its motion for discovery in the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit at hand marked a rare and significant step in the legal battle over Clinton's emails. Attorneys for Judicial Watch have in the past argued that what little is known to the public about Clinton's email arrangement suggests she and her staff intentionally hid records that could have raised uncomfortable questions for her presidential campaign.
"It just boggles the mind that the State Department allowed this circumstance to arise in the first place," Judge Emmet Sullivan of U.S. District Court said during the FOIA hearing Tuesday. "It's just very, very, very troubling."
Later in the day, Mook blamed Judicial Watch for bringing the suit forward in the first place.
"We all know that the right wing sees Hillary Clinton as the Democrats' best chance to hold on to the White House and continue to build on the progress that President Obama has made. That's why this right wing group filed this lawsuit," Mook said during an appearance on CNN. "Of course, they're trying to subpoena people, of course they're trying to get this into the news."
Host Jake Tapper interrupted to remind Mook that Sullivan was appointed by President Bill Clinton.
"Well, it's the judge's decision to make," Mook said. "My point is this is promulgated by a right-wing group. Our campaign is accustomed to these right wing attacks and they're going to continue."
MSNBC's Chuck Todd pressed Mook further when he raised the same argument in a subsequent interview.
"In fairness, if the lawsuit didn't have merits, it would have been thrown out," Todd said. "Obviously, a federal judge thought the lawsuit had merits."
"Again, it's really important to focus on what group brought this lawsuit," Mook said. "It is a right wing group that has built their mission on taking down Democrats."
Merrill told Politico the case was part of a long pattern of attacks from Judicial Watch.
"This is one of several lawsuits filed by the same right-wing group, which will stop at nothing in pursuing the Clintons, just as they have done since the 1990s," he said.
At a televised town hall Tuesday evening, Clinton argued she has worked hard to be transparent about her emails.
"Here, I have turned over 55,000 pages of emails. Nobody in any cabinet position has ever been as transparent or open," she said. "I know there are, you know, challenges about what the State Department did or didn't do. That'll all be worked out. It is just not something that, you know, is going to have any lasting effect, and I am not at all worried about it."
Clinton said she has grown accustomed to the allegations of wrongdoing that have followed her throughout her decades in politics.
"I'm well aware of the drip, drip, drip. I've been in the public arena for 25 years, and have been the subject of a lot of ongoing attacks, and misinformation and all the rest of it," she said. "But I can only tell you what the facts are, and the facts are that every single time somebody has hurled these charges against me, which they have done, it's proved to be nothing. And, this is no different than that."
Clinton has frequently turned to her testimony before the Benghazi committee last year to argue she has entertained and answered all questions about her emails.
"I testified for 11 hours on the Benghazi committee, you know? People were really, you know, 'My goodness, my goodness.' I told the truth, I testified under oath, and at the end, they had to say, well, there was nothing there," she argued.
Mook has said he will "leave it up to the lawyers" whether Clinton campaign aides will comply with the court order to answer questions about the controversial email arrangement.