A top aide to Hillary Clinton said the former secretary of state’s use of a private email server to conduct government business on at least one occasion got in the way of Clinton’s work and left the aide frustrated, according to two people who witnessed the aide’s deposition Tuesday.
Huma Abedin, Clinton’s deputy chief of staff and now the vice chair of her presidential campaign, was being deposed about the context of a November 2010 email she sent Clinton that they “should talk about putting you on state email or releasing your email address to the department so you are not going to spam.” Prompting the note, according to the email chain released last week by the State Department under the Freedom of Information Act, was a missed scheduled phone call, one of a number of communications mishaps detailed in Clinton’s 55,000-page email record.
Clinton responded in the 2010 exchange that she could get a “separate address or device” but said she didn’t “want any risk of the personal being accessible,” according to the email chain. Abedin replied that the missed communications were “not a good system.”
Abedin testified that “the personal” referred to nongovernment messages Clinton was also exchanging via the email address rather than any improper treatment of government records, according to one of the people who witnessed the deposition. Abedin, whose close relationship with Clinton has led her to be described as a surrogate daughter, was one of a handful of aides to have her own account on the clintonemail server.
Both witnesses to Abedin’s testimony described her as cooperative. A spokesman for the Clinton campaign, Brian Fallon, didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment. A lawyer for Clinton, David Kendall, declined to comment. A lawyer for Abedin, Miguel Rodriguez, declined to comment.
The deposition was conducted as part of a lawsuit brought by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, which sued the State Department under FOIA in 2013 to obtain access to records regarding Abedin’s simultaneous employment at the State Department, the Clinton Foundation and a consultancy that catered to international clients. (Abedin’s lawyers say she didn’t do work that would have posed a conflict of interest.) As part of that lawsuit, the presiding judge granted Judicial Watch permission to engage in what he called “limited” discovery into the server and department records practices.
The server set-up has dogged Clinton’s presidential run and provided a frequent attack line for her opponents, including presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Trump has suggested she compromised U.S. secrets with her communications practices and should face jail.
The testimony came on the same day Republicans on the House Benghazi committee, which helped uncover Clinton’s email practices, released their final report. It criticized State Department decision-making surrounding the attack on a diplomatic facility in Libya in 2012 that killed four Americans, but contained few revelations about Clinton.
On Monday, Judicial Watch released a cache of emails from Abedin that contained messages between her and Clinton. Like some released earlier, the documents were obtained by Judicial Watch as part of other FOIA litigation and contained some emails not found in the messages Clinton’s lawyers had sent to the State Department. Clinton has publicly said she gave the State Department all relevant emails.
Fallon on Monday said Clinton had turned over “all potentially work-related emails” still in her possession when she received the 2014 request from the State Department, according to The Associated Press. “Secretary Clinton had some emails with Huma that Huma did not have, and Huma had some emails with Secretary Clinton that Secretary Clinton did not have,” Fallon said last week, according to AP.
The president of Judicial Watch, Tom Fitton, said the emails released Monday show Clinton “did not turn over all” records in her possession and raised questions about what other records should have been produced. “I keep on asking, ‘What else is out there?’” Fitton said.
In one message released Monday from early in her tenure, Clinton appeared to fret about records management practices.
“I have just realized I have no idea how my papers are treated at State,” Clinton wrote to Abedin in March 2009. “Who manages both my personal and official files?”
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said, “Secretary Clinton’s paper files were appropriately filed and archived.” Toner repeated in a statement that Clinton had said repeatedly that the 55,000 pages represented “all federal email records in her custody.”
During his June 23 deposition in the matter, Bryan Pagliano, a former Clinton aide who helped maintain the server, invoked his Fifth Amendment rights, according to a transcript released by Judicial Watch. He refused to answer more than 100 questions on issues including how the server was set up, whether it was used to thwart the Freedom of Information Act and whether Clinton deleted government records. A lawyer for Pagliano, Mark MacDougall, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Records released by Judicial Watch show Abedin and Pagliano discussing maintenance of the server in and detail on at least one occasion a possible hack attempt.