Aides to Hillary Clinton should not be required to answer questions about how she used her private server after it was established in 2009, the State Department said in a court filing Tuesday night.
Responding to a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan that watchdog group Judicial Watch could conduct "limited discovery" into details surrounding the server, which would involve interviews with key Clinton aides, the department maintained that discovery should be limited to "the reasons for the creation of [the clintonemail.com] system."
"State respectfully submits that the court's order should specify that discovery is limited to this topic," the filing adds. "To that end, State requests that the court clarify that plaintiff is not entitled to discovery on matters unrelated to the topic identified by the court, to include without limitation: the substantive information sought by plaintiff in its [Freedom of Information Act] request in this case, which involves the employment status of a single employee; the storage, handling, transmission or protection of classified information, including cybersecurity issues; and questions about any pending investigations."
The filing also asks for a prohibition on questions that could be relevant to a probe by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. "State objects to any discovery requests pertaining to the FBI's pending investigation into matters referred to it by the inspectors general of the intelligence community and State in connection with former Secretary Clinton's use of a private email server."
Last month, Sullivan ruled that Judicial Watch could proceed with a request for discovery that could involve seven Clinton aides at the department. Those include Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills, Deputy Chief Huma Abedin and Bryan Pagliano, the IT assistant who surreptitiously set the server up in Clinton's basement unbeknownst to the department.
"It remains State's position that discovery in this action is not appropriate," the department's filing protested.
U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth issued a separate ruling last week that Judicial Watch could submit a similar discovery request through him in the event that discovery granted by Sullivan is insufficient to cover its inquiry into another matter. In his ruling, Lamberth slammed the department for failing to respond properly to record requests, saying that it amounted to "evidence of government wrongdoing and bad faith."
Sullivan is expected to rule by April 15 on whether to grant the department's request to limit discovery. Judicial Watch will then have 10 days to submit particulars of its request to Lamberth.