A federal judge on Wednesday directed State Department officials and top aides to Hillary Clinton to answer questions under oath by June 29 about whether they intentionally thwarted federal open-records laws by allowing Clinton’s use of a private email server throughout her tenure as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in Washington sets the stage for responses before July’s presidential nominating conventions – but does not ensure cooperation – from at least six current and former top officials, including Cheryl D. Mills, who was Clinton’s chief of staff at State; Huma Abedin, Mills’s deputy who now is vice chairman of Clinton’s Democratic presidential campaign; and Bryan Pagliano, a Clinton staff member during her 2008 presidential campaign who helped set up the private server.

While Sullivan didn’t permit questioning of Clinton herself for now, he wrote that the conservative legal watchdog group Judicial Watch may ask to do so later if it thinks “based on information learned during discovery, the deposition of Mrs. Clinton may be necessary.”

Sullivan’s 15-page written opinion and order came after lawyers for the government agreed to a narrowed scope of questions requested by Judicial Watch. The group filed a lawsuit over its 2013 public-records request for information concerning Abedin’s employment arrangement.

For six months in 2012, Abedin was employed simultaneously by the State Department, the Clinton Foundation, Clinton’s personal office and a private consulting firm connected to the Clintons.

Sullivan authorized Judicial Watch to seek answers about the creation and operation of Clinton’s email system for official State Department business, and the department’s handling of Freedom of Information Act requests that could involve Clinton’s and Abedin’s emails.


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