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Fact check: Hillary Clinton was not in court June 2 testifying about child sex trafficking

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The Republicans of the House Committee on Benghazi released their findings Tuesday.
USA TODAY

The claim: Hillary Clinton testified to a U.S. appeals court over 600,000 emails involving child sex trafficking

June 4 Facebook post shares five screenshots of similar tweets claiming Hillary Clinton testified, in-person, at a U.S. appeals court on June 2.

One of the photos in the post claims the case involves over 600,000 emails sent across a private server during her time as secretary of State. Multiple tweets claim those same emails contain incriminating information about a child sex trafficking cult the Clintons allegedly have long been involved in.

The claim about the content of her emails has been widely shared by many users. Several posts also state Clinton has lost her case in a U.S. appeals court and will return to court to testify in September.

Yet other posts claim Clinton was on trial over the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans died at a U.S. diplomatic compound there after an attack by Islamist terrorist groups.

Old case, new developments

During her 2016 presidential campaign, then-candidate Clinton admitted she kept and exchanged emails on a private account and server during her time as secretary of State. This led the FBI to conduct an investigation that included an interview with Clinton. It found dozens of messages contained highly classified information, but ultimately recommended against criminal charges.

In July 2016, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that messages and documents in private accounts that are considered government records can be subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. Numerous publications then filed FOIA requests for records relating to the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack. 

One of the most active filers has been conservative group Judicial Watch, which, dating back to 2015, has filed FOIA lawsuits involving the private server. According to NBC, the group has been a strong advocate for complete transparency from the former secretary, claiming no search can be complete without a thorough search of every email. 

One of the most active filers has been conservative group Judicial Watch, which, dating back to 2015, has filed FOIA lawsuits involving the private server. According to NBC, the group has been a strong advocate for complete transparency from the former secretary, claiming no search can be complete without a thorough search of every email. 

Initially, the State Department found 69 pages “responsive” to the group’s FOIA request. However, Judicial Watch has continually filed requests in hopes of accessing the entire server. Most recently, the group has filed FOIA requests for more emails from Clinton and her longtime aide, Cheryl Mills, both of whom have released thousands of emails so far.

After a long delay, on March 2, U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth issued an order that Clinton and Mills would be required to sit for sworn depositions to Judicial Watch about records relating to the 2012 Benghazi attack.

However, immediately after Lamberth’s order, both Clinton’s and Mills’ lawyers petitioned the D.C. Circuit to vacate the order through a writ of mandamus. According to a legal dictionary provided by the Legal Information Institute, a writ of mandamus “is an order from a court, to an inferior government official, ordering the government official to properly fulfill their official duties or correct an abuse of discretion.”

What happened on June 2?

On June 2, attorneys for Clinton and Mills attended a telehearing with the D.C. Circuit. Judges heard arguments regarding a petition to reverse Lamberth’s March 2 ruling that Clinton and Mills be required to give in-person depositions to Judicial Watch.

No ruling was made on the petition.

Judicial Watch attorney Ramona Cotca argued that by proceeding with the depositions, Clinton and Mills might help clarify where the State Department can broaden its search. Cotca also accused Clinton and Mills of trying to “short-circuit this process by using (Mandamus) the most potent weapon in the judicial arsenal.”

However, Clinton’s attorney, David Kendall, argued that both Clinton and Mills have turned over tens of thousands of messages and have no more related emails to surrender. He also argues that Judicial Watch is not seeking information about legal or factual issues relating to the FOIA suit but instead ammunition to embarrass Clinton and her allies.

“The real purpose of the depositions is harassment,” Kendall said. “It’s the creation of video footage that can be used for partisan, political attack ads. It’s social media fundraising.”

There is no evidence that Clinton will be appearing in court in September. And there is no evidence that any emails involve sex trafficking

Fact check: Ellen, Oprah, many others are not under house arrest for child sex trafficking

Our ruling: False

We rate the claim that Hillary Clinton was in court on June 2 testifying about emails relating to child sex trafficking as FALSE because it is not supported by our research. While Clinton’s attorney attended a virtual hearing regarding a petition in a case requesting emails on a private server, Clinton did not testify during the hearing, nor was the case about child sex trafficking. The lawsuit involves records related to the Benghazi attack in 2012.

Our fact-check sources:

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