The 75 years that the State Department recently told the Republican National Committee it will need to fulfill Freedom of Information Act requests it filed for emails from various Hillary Clinton aides is “not an outlandish estimation,” an agency spokesman insisted on Tuesday.
The RNC filed suit for emails sent to and from former Clinton chief of staff Cheryl Mills, her former foreign policy adviser Jake Sullivan, her former email server maintenance man Bryan Pagliano, and Patrick Sullivan, the under secretary for management.State said it initially found 1.5 million pages of documents that were potentially responsive to the requests. After narrowing the requests using certain keywords, the pool of potential records was narrowed to 450,000 pages.
But citing a massive backlog of FOIA requests and lawsuits — largely pertaining to the Clinton email scandal — State estimated it could only release 500 pages of documents a month.
“Given the Department’s current FOIA workload and the complexity of these documents, it can process about 500 pages a month, meaning it would take approximately 16-and-2/3 years to complete the review of the Mills documents, 33-and-1/3 years to finish the review of the Sullivan documents, and 25 years to wrap up the review of the Kennedy documents – or 75 years in total (without considering the requests for the Pagliano records),” the government wrote in the filing, which was submitted last week.
Asked about that production schedule at Tuesday’s daily press briefing, State Department spokesman Mark Toner insisted “it’s not an outlandish estimation.”
“Believe it or not,” he added.
He urged reporters at the daily press briefing to review the State Department court filing.
“They do provide the details on why we arrived at that figure. It’s an enormous amount of FOIA requests. Very broad, and very complex,” he said.
The Associated Press’ Matt Lee responded to Toner pointing out that the federal government would likely release the records much earlier than 75 years as part of its routine release of federal records.
“This stuff would be released sooner than 75 years just under the regular records act, wouldn’t it?” Lee asked.
“That’s longer than most classification last until. A lot of the stuff that’s classified is only for 25 years. 75 years?”
In the filing, government attorneys argue that the RNC’s requests “would impose an undue burden” on the State Department.
“The State Department considers the documents responsive to these requests to be complex because they include classified documents and interagency communications that could have to be referred to other agencies for their review,” the document reads.