The Obama administration is trying to prevent former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from being deposed in an ongoing open records case connected to her use of a private email server.
Late Thursday evening, the Justice Department filed a court motion opposing the Clinton deposition request from conservative legal watchdog Judicial Watch, claiming that the organization was trying to dramatically expand the scope of the lawsuit.
Judicial Watch is “seeking instead to transform these proceedings into a wide-ranging inquiry into matters beyond the scope of the court’s order and unrelated to the FOIA request at issue in this case,” government lawyers wrote in their filing, referring to the Freedom of Information Act.
The lawyers wrote that the request to interview Clinton “is wholly inappropriate” before depositions are finished in a separate case also concerning the email server.
Judicial Watch’s FOIA case began as a way to seek documents about talking points related to the 2012 terror attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, but has since grown to encompass wider questions about Clinton’s use of a personal server while working as secretary of State.
Last week, Judicial Watch asked the court to interview Clinton and five other current and former State Department officials about the server, after it received a judge’s permission to move ahead with the process.
The case is the second in which Judicial Watch has been granted approval to depose witnesses to gather evidence about Clinton’s email setup. In the other case, interviews of current and former Clinton aides have already begun.
Clinton is not scheduled to answer questions as part of that case, through a federal judge has warned that she could be called upon in the future.
In the government’s filing late Thursday, the Justice Department said that Judicial Watch’s request is “overbroad and duplicative.”
Instead, it claimed, the group should complete the depositions in the other case first before demanding an interview of Clinton and the other officials.
However, the department did say that it would not oppose a request to subpoena Jake Sullivan, a former senior State Department official and current top aide in Clinton’s presidential campaign, as long as questions were “on the limited topic” of officials using personal email accounts at the department.
The department also said it would be willing to provide an unnamed witness to provide answers on behalf of the State Department in response to narrow questions about the FOIA request at the heart of the case.
That solution, government lawyers claimed, would “avoid the burden and expense” of going through a deposition process “that replicates activities already underway in another, overlapping case between the parties.”