During Hillary Clinton’s entire tenure at the State Department, the agency regularly denied requests for her email correspondence, claiming they didn’t exist. But they do exist.
According to The New York Times, Clinton used a private email account, firstname.lastname@example.org, to conduct her official business.
So did the State Department fail to request documents from Clinton’s private email account? Or did Clinton decline to turn them over?
The State Department did not answer those questions, but senior department officials told TheDC that FOIA searches are conducted using only records that are in the possession, custody and control of the State Department at the time that the search is conducted.
Because Clinton only turned over her private emails in December, FOIA searches would not hit on those email records.
That means that future FOIA requests will include those records.
But what about past requests? How did the State Department respond?
Below is a list of FOIA requests submitted by reporters in 2012 and 2013 for Clinton emails. The requests come from agency logs which list all FOIA requests throughout the year.
As shown, emails Clinton sent from any of her accounts were specifically requested by Anne L. Weismann, who now happens to work at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington — a group now controlled by David Brock, a rabidly pro-Clinton operative.
TheDC reached out to Weismann to find out how the State Department responded, but she has not yet replied.
Nitasha Tiku was a reporter at the website Gawker. She submitted a FOIA request after a hacker obtained emails between Clinton sent from her private email address and longtime associate Sidney Blumenthal.
As Gawker reported on Tuesday, the State Department responded to that request stating that no records could be found. At the time Gawker submitted that request, it was not known that Clinton only used private email to conduct government business.
As Gawker’s J.K. Trotter pointed out, the State Department’s ruling that the agency could find no Clinton email records is in violation of requirements which make official and private email accounts used for official business subject to FOIA.
The questions raised here are significant because Clinton’s handlers have downplayed her use of private email accounts claiming that she has always maintained them as records. But the failure to turn those records over in response to FOIA requests undermines that claim.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest appeared to be unaware that reporters have submitted FOIA requests for Clinton’s emails in the past.
“I don’t know exactly what the rules are under the Freedom of Information Act for the State Department,” Earnest told reporters. “But certainly, if you’re interested in seeing those emails, that would be the avenue that I would recommend.”
Hoping to clear up how the State Department processed those FOIA requests, TheDC submitted a FOIA request for all “processing notes,” records showing how the agency’s FOIA officers attempted to retrieve the documents.
Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group that has numerous lawsuits filed against the State Department and other agencies related to FOIA requests, issued a statement following the Clinton email revelations.
“One key concern is that these emails must be immediately secured so that they can be searched in response to our lawful FOIA requests,” Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said. “In addition to violations of the Freedom of Information Act, laws governing the preservation of federal records and the handling of classified information also may be implicated in this latest Clinton scandal.”