Politics

Judge Wrong To Keep Clinton Deposition Videos Sealed

| by Nik Bonopartis
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Less than a month ago, Hillary Clinton said she'll be completely honest with the American people and federal investigators about her use of a private, unsecured email server.

“No one has reached out to me yet,” Clinton lied on CBS’s May 8 "Face the Nation." "I think last August I made it clear I’m more than ready to talk to anybody any time."

What she didn't say is that the only way it'll happen is over her cold, dead body.

Thanks to a damning report from the state department's Inspector General, we now know that Clinton flatly refused to speak to state department investigators. Her aides also closed ranks, declining to participate in interviews.

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Thanks to that same report, which quoted previously-unreleased Clinton emails, we know the former Secretary of State didn't use a private, unsecured email system for "convenience," as she's insisted for the past year. In her own words, writing to her own aides, Clinton admitted she did it to circumvent the Freedom of Information Act -- in other words, to prevent Americans and media organizations from learning the details of how she operated and communicated in one of the government's most important posts.

"We should talk about putting you on State email or releasing your email address to the department so you are not going to spam," Clinton's deputy chief of staff wrote to her, according to the state department report.

"Let's get separate address or device, but I don't want the risk of personal [email] being accessible," Clinton replied.

What Clinton was really saying is that she would decide which emails the media and the public could have access to, and thanks to the ongoing probes into the email controversy, we know Clinton excluded thousands upon thousands of emails that were directly tied to government business.

Then there are the 30-plus lawsuits filed in the past four years by media organizations and non-profits that tried, in vain, to gain access to Clinton's communications. Those organizations have every right to that information, but they were stonewalled by a state department that literally did not have the emails to release because Clinton kept them even from her own agency.

For media organizations, the Freedom of Information Act is one of the most important tools they can use to learn about what government officials are doing in the shadows, away from the glare of TV cameras or the ears of print journalists. It's a law that codifies Americans' right to know what their leaders are doing, and Clinton has shown absolute contempt for it. It's a law that applies to every politician, from the president right on down to your local mayor. But it does not, apparently, apply to Hillary Clinton.

Now a federal judge is helping Clinton keep even more details from Americans.

On May 26, former Clinton Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills was questioned by lawyers from Judicial Watch in a deposition. The public has every right to know what happened during that deposition, and to have access to recordings of it.

But U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan says no. Siding with Clinton's attorneys, Sullivan said transcripts of the deposition will be made public, "therefore unnecessary to also make the audiovisual recording of Ms. Mills' deposition public."

And why did attorneys for Mills and Clinton petition the judge for the release of only a transcript, instead of a recording? Because if a video of the deposition was released, it could be potentially used “as part of a partisan attack” against Clinton in the presidential election, says RT.

Got that? Americans' right to know is now superseded by Clinton's concerns about being attacked politically, according to a judge appointed by former President Bill Clinton. That means we'll miss facial expressions, stammers, pregnant pauses, body language and all the other non-verbal aspects of that deposition that could shed just as much light on the situation as the transcript does. They might even reveal more than the words Mills spoke, since her lawyers interrupted Judicial Watch's questions literally hundreds of times, according to the transcript.

Sullivan is dead wrong to seal the recordings. He should know better, especially in a case that has been defined by Clinton's complete, utter contempt for the public's right to know. He should know that even the mere appearance of secrecy isn't acceptable.

And for voters, how can anyone take Clinton at her word when she says she'll conduct government business in public as president, and run a transparent administration? How can anyone expect transparency from a politician who has fought tooth and nail to keep documents from the public at every stage of her career?

For better or worse, the majority of coverage and reaction to the Clinton email controversy has focused on whether she compromised state secrets and broke the law. But her efforts to cloak her actions should concern every person who's considering pulling the lever for her in November... if she makes it that far.

Click here for the opposing view on this topic.

Sources: RT, U.S. Department of State, Wall Street Journal / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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