Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton continued to face criticism on at least two fronts Friday, both involving electronic communications practices among the former secretary of state and her staff.
Clinton’s legal team on Thursday provided answers to 25 questions submitted by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, concerning her use of a private email server while in office. In those sworn responses — made public by Judicial Watch — Clinton used a variation of “does not recall” at least 20 times.
Clinton’s lawyers also objected generally to the questions, known as interrogatories.
On Friday, Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton sharply criticized those answers. “Hillary Clinton’s alleged failures of memory are incredible and show she fears full disclosure about her emails,” he said in a statement.
Judicial Watch has filed multiple lawsuits seeking documents from Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.
While the long-running legal argument over Clinton’s email practices continued, a separate group, WikiLeaks, released more copies of emails involving Clinton’s campaign staff. Those leaks, of email communications over the last decade, continued to embarrass the Clinton campaign and some of her staff members.
WikiLeaks has now released at least seven compilations of emails taken from the account of John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman. The Clinton campaign has not confirmed the authenticity of the emails and has blamed the Russian government for the email hack. The U.S. government has reached a similar conclusion.
None of the emails has revealed concrete proof of criminal behavior or other disqualifying information, and few involve writing by the candidate herself. But the documents, roughly 9,000 pages, continue to expose campaign discussions and tactics that have embarrassed Clinton and officials close to her candidacy.
They also reveal the extraordinary scrutiny associates gave to her statements about the private server controversy.
A campaign spokesman, for example, urged a blanket denial that Clinton sent classified information through her private email system. Anything less, the spokesman argued in a WikiLeaks email, could expose her to charges she broke the law.
“We should not think it is fine to find something that ‘should have been classified at the time,’ ” Brian Fallon, the spokesman, wrote other top campaign officials in August of last year. “Our position is that no such material exists, else it could be said she mishandled classified info,” he wrote.
After her use of a private email server became known, Clinton said she sent no emails with classified information. She later amended that to say she sent no emails marked classified at the time.
Later, when the FBI said Clinton had sent and received several emails that were marked confidential with a “(c)” in the body of the text, she said she’d sent none that were marked classified in the “header” at the top.
GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has repeatedly referred to the email controversy and the WikiLeaks exposures during campaign appearances this week. The nominee has promised to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton’s “situation” and has echoed other criticisms that Clinton should be prosecuted for her actions surrounding the email server.
“You’d be in jail” for mishandling classified information if he were president, Trump said in Sunday’s debate.
Judicial Watch wanted to ask Clinton questions in person, a request denied by a federal judge. Instead, she was ordered to answer written questions submitted by the group.
Judicial Watch founder Larry Klayman protested the process in a statement Thursday night. He said Sullivan’s denial of Freedom Watch’s requests for an oral deposition “cleverly allowed Hillary Clinton … to stonewall giving responsive and meaningful answers.”
Clinton lawyer David Kendall provided the Democratic presidential nominee’s responses. He generally objected to the questions, arguing they were outside the scope of the lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch.
But he provided limited answers on her behalf. Asked whether she was warned that using a private email account conflicted with federal record-keeping rules, Clinton responded that “she does not recall being advised, cautioned, or warned, she does not recall that it was ever suggested to her, and she does not recall participating in any communication, conversation, or meeting in which it was discussed.”
Fallon called Judicial Watch a “right-wing organization” and said her answers are consistent with what she’s said before.
Earlier this year, the FBI said it would not recommend prosecution of Clinton, although it said she seriously mishandled government communications.
More broadly, the WikiLeaks disclosures have been troublesome for Clinton and her associates. They’re revealed detailed summaries of her paid speeches to Wall Street firms, her campaign’s negotiations with news media outlets over coverage plans, concerns over potential conflicts involving the Clinton Foundation and more.
In the leaked emails, staff members argue their approaches to the Benghazi hearings, opponent Sen. Bernie Sanders, even the Keystone XL Pipeline. The campaign discussed the need to say one thing to reporters and the public and something different in private.
In one private speech, Clinton allegedly called for “open borders” and free trade, according to one of the leaked documents.
Staff members also discussed faith issues, including Catholics and evangelicals. Some conservative groups have sharply criticized the emails.
Trump has complained that news coverage of his own lewd conversation during a television taping has obscured the disclosures in the documents. A Clinton campaign spokesman suggested the Trump campaign may have played a role in the leaks.