Aide said Clinton didn't want emails accessible to 'anybody'

June 30, 2016

File - In this Sept. 20, 2011 file photo, Huma Abedin, top, deputy chief of staff and aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, during a meeting with leaders for the Open Government Partnership in New York.
Associated Press

WASHINGTON  Longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin said in a legal proceeding that Clinton did not want the private emails that she mixed in with State Department emails on her private computer server to be accessible to "anybody," according to transcripts released Wednesday.

Abedin's comments provided new insight into the highly unusual decision by the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate to operate a private email server in her basement to conduct government business when she served as secretary of state.

Abedin also said under oath that she was not aware whether Clinton personally deleted any emails during her tenure as secretary.

Abedin told lawyers for the conservative group Judicial Watch in a deposition that she could not recall whether she or Clinton discussed with any State Department officials Clinton's use of her server exclusively for government business. Abedin was Clinton's deputy chief of staff at the State Department, now works with Clinton's presidential campaign and often travels with the candidate. Abedin used an email account on Clinton's server occasionally for government business, although Abedin also used a government address.

"I assumed it was OK to do," she testified.

Abedin is one of several former State Department officials who are being deposed by the conservative group in a civil lawsuit over the agency's failure to turn over files under the Freedom of Information Act. A transcript of the proceeding was released by Judicial Watch on Wednesday.

Judicial Watch lawyers repeatedly pressed Abedin to explain Clinton's concern expressed to her in a November 2010 message that her emails might become public, but the longtime aide insisted that Clinton's interest in wanting to keep her personal correspondence from being exposed was similar to any private citizen's.

"I would imagine anybody who has personal email doesn't want that personal email to be read by anybody else," Abedin explained. "I read it the same way as she has written it."

But Clinton's private server contained tens of thousands of work-related emails as well as private messages, and her decision to conduct both private and government business on her system meant that she kept control of both types of correspondence, effectively preventing her State Department correspondence from being archived by the agency and made available for public records requests. It was not until late 2014 more than a year after Clinton left office that the State Department learned that she held all of her email and requested that she turn over all work-related records.

Clinton turned over nearly 33,000 business-related messages while disposing of about the same number of personal messages. But Clinton failed to turn over at least three dozen work-related emails, according to the agency. Among those emails was a November 2010 email exchange with Abedin discussing her concerns about the risk of the "personal being accessible."

The Clinton campaign Wednesday criticized Judicial Watch for its role in filing several lawsuits against the State Department, among more than 30 filed by conservative legal groups and media outlets, including The Associated Press, to obtain Clinton documents. Clinton campaign spokesman Nick Merrill said Judicial Watch's lawsuits end up "clogging up the courts at the expense of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars."

Abedin's deposition also raised questions about the State Department's practices responding to government records requests under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. Abedin, a senior aide during Clinton's entire tenure there, testified under oath that she never searched or was asked to search for documents in her State Department or her private Clinton email accounts in response to requests or lawsuits under the open records law.

But a review of all requests to the State Department during that period found several asking specifically for copies of Abedin's emails on a variety of subjects, including her husband, one-time disgraced Rep. Anthony Weiner.

"Did you ever search, were you ever asked to search your e-mail account in response to a FOIA request or FOIA litigation?" lawyer Ramona Cocta asked.

"I believe I said 'no,'" Abedin answered.

"Were you ever asked to search your Clinton account during your tenure at the State Department in response to a FOIA request or FOIA litigation?" Cocta asked.

"No, I was not," Abedin said.

It was not immediately clear how the State Department could have complied with such legal requests for Abedin's emails without asking Abedin to search her messages. Some federal agencies permit full-time FOIA staffers to search the inboxes of senior government officials, but many agencies expect officials to search their own accounts and no U.S. employee presumably would have had access to Abedin's personal account on Clinton's private server. Abedin said she was not aware that anyone else searched her accounts, either.

Trump hires Rep. Duffy's chief of staff in Wisconsin

MADISON, Wis.  Donald Trump has hired U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy's chief of staff to run his campaign in Wisconsin, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee's campaign told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The move indicates that Trump will be making a push to win Wisconsin and its 10 electoral votes, a Midwestern industrial state that hasn't voted Republican since 1984. Wisconsin is expected to be a key target in the expected race between Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Trump lost Wisconsin's April primary by 13 points to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, but won Duffy's rural congressional district and a similar one in the western part of the state. Duffy, a former contestant on the reality show The Real World in the late 1990s and in 2002, was elected to Congress in 2010.

Pete Meachum has been Duffy's chief of staff since December 2012 and will join Trump's effort immediately, the campaign said. Meachum joins Vince Trovato, who had worked for Trump in Wisconsin's primary, as his two paid staff members in the state. Trump's campaign says Trovato will focus his work on the state's delegates to the Republican National Convention.

Wisconsin is sending 42 delegates to the convention, but under state party rules 36 of them are bound to vote for Cruz in the first round of balloting. They can only be released to Trump if Cruz allows it or Cruz fails to get a third of the votes in any round of balloting.

A spokeswoman for Clinton's campaign in Wisconsin, Gillian Drummond, had no immediate comment on the latest Trump hire.

Clinton has had paid staff in Wisconsin since early May, led by Jacob Hajdu, who previously served as political director and executive director of the Democratic Party Of Wisconsin. Clinton currently has five paid staff members in her Madison-based office, and more field offices are expected to open in coming weeks.

Clinton had a 9-point advantage over Trump in a Marquette University Law School poll released June 15.

There was a strong anti-Trump push in Wisconsin that helped fuel his defeat in the state's primary, with influential conservative talk radio hosts in Milwaukee and other major media markets at the forefront. Gov. Scott Walker campaigned heavily for Cruz and many other Republican office holders opposed Trump.

While Walker and House Speaker Paul Ryan, of Janesville, have endorsed Trump, both have been critical of some of his remarks in recent weeks. Walker has hedged his endorsement as other Republicans in the state have been slow to publicly embrace Trump.

Duffy was one of only two Republicans who spoke at the Wisconsin Republican Party convention in May to even refer to Trump by name.

"We're going to continue to make America great again, and we're going to make America great again with Donald Trump," Duffy said then.


Associated Press