A federal judge in Washington, D.C., accused State Department officials last Friday of lying to the court in an affidavit concerning producing all of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s work-related documents and emails.
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth was also “shocked” and “dumbfounded” to learn this past summer that the Justice Department had given former Clinton chief of staff Cheryl Mills immunity during its investigation into the then-2016 Democratic presidential nominee’s use of a private email server while she was head of the State Department.
Fox News reported that in 2014 the government transparency group Judicial Watch sued the State Department after it did not respond to a Freedom of Information Act request seeking information related to the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
The State Department moved to dismiss the suit at the time, arguing in an affidavit to the court it had done a search of the documents and emails in its possession and turned them over to Judicial Watch.
The affidavit did note some more documents could be forthcoming.
In a tense exchange with Justice Department attorney Robert Prince last Friday, Lamberth said, “The State Department told me that it had produced all the records when it moved for summary judgment and you filed the motion. That was not true when the motion was filed.”
“At that time we had produced all,” Prince responded, adding, “Your Honor, it might be that our search could be found to be inadequate, but the declaration was absolutely true.”
Lambeth shot back: “It was not true. It was a lie.”
Prince denied it was a lie.
The judge then turned to discussing Clinton’s email server, charging the State Department knew when it filed its affidavit the department was not in possession of vast quantities of emails; however, it did not reveal this fact to the court or to Judicial Watch.
“So you’re playing the same word game she played?” Lambeth queried, accusing the attorney of “doublespeak.”
Prince countered, “Being wrong about the search being inadequate does not make it a false affidavit.”
The attorney later conceded, “It’s true that we told Judicial Watch that State was done when it was not done. … That was not great. The situation would have been better if someone knew. … It’s not bad faith.”
Lambeth denied the State Department’s motion for a summary judgment following Judicial Watch filing its 2014 suit, and he said on Friday he was glad he did.
“It was clear to me that at the time that I ruled initially that false statements were made to me by career State Department officials, and it became more clear through discovery that the information that I was provided was clearly false regarding the adequacy of the search and this — what we now know turned out to be the Secretary’s email system,” Lamberth said.
The judge also took DOJ to task for how it handled Mills, citing the findings of the department’s inspector general report released in June.
“I had myself found that Cheryl Mills had committed perjury and lied under oath in a published opinion I had issued in a Judicial Watch case where I found her unworthy of belief, and I was quite shocked to find out she had been given immunity in — by the Justice Department in the Hillary Clinton email case,” he said.
“So I did not know that until I read the IG report and learned that and that she had accompanied the Secretary to her interview,” Lambeth added.
The IG noted in its report that it was “inconsistent with typical investigative strategy” to have allowed Mills to sit on Clinton’s July 2016 interview with the FBI concerning her server. Normally, the agency would seek to corroborate or find inconsistencies between two subjects in an investigation by interviewing them separately.
In a news release on Wednesday, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton called on President Donald Trump to intervene in the matter.
“President Trump should ask why his State Department is still refusing to answer basic questions about the Clinton email scandal,” he said. “Hillary Clinton’s and the State Department’s email cover up abused the FOIA, the courts, and the American people’s right to know.”
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