Today, Gawker Media filed a Freedom of Information Act complaint in U.S. District Court against the Department of State, seeking email correspondence between former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Philippe Reines and members of the news media.
The backstory: Gawker first reported in 2013 that as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton was using a private, off-the-books email account (email@example.com) to conduct government business. We sought comment from Clinton and from the White House about whether those emails were being properly retained and archived, and we filed a FOIA request at the time for some of those emails. That request was denied, with the State Department explicitly claiming that it didn't have any records. We had also filed a separate request for emails to and from Clinton aide Huma Abedin and that request was also denied in full.
Since then, we have learned that Clinton and some members of her senior staff, including Abedin, conspired to communicate over a private server, controlled by Clinton, that kept their emails out of the reach of FOIA requestors and congressional investigators. We declined to administratively appeal the State Department's denials of our requests for Clinton and Abedin's emails, which leaves us unable to sue the State Department over its failure to produce them thanks to Clinton's scheme.
But in 2012, we also filed a request with State for Reines' email exchanges with reporters, inspired by this colorful back-and-forth with Buzzfeed's Michael Hastings. State claimed in response to that request—preposterously, given the fact that Reines' job was to correspond with reporters and that one of those exchanges were already on the internet—that it simply didn't have any such emails. We did appeal that denial, and State has been purportedly searching for those emails for more than a year. It has not produced them. The fact that we have appealed and that State has long missed the statutory deadline for responding to our request means that our request is ripe for a lawsuit, and with the help of Washington, D.C., FOIA attorneys Mark Zaid and Bradley Moss, we filed one today.
According to our reporting, Reines did not use a clintonemail.com address, but was known by at least one Clinton insider to use private accounts to conduct government business. Reines himself told us— in a colorful email exchange!—that he is mystified as to why State has failed to honor our request for this long. It's time for the State Department to turn over these records. You can read the complaint here or read it below.