Politics

Top Clinton Aides Worked To Limit And Block Access To Public Records

Derek Hunter Contributor

Cheryl Mills, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff, and other top Clinton aides were personally involved in certain Freedom Of Information Act requests during Clinton’s tenure at the State Department, the Wall Street Journal reports.

In one instance, her chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, told State Department records specialists she wanted to see all documents requested on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, and later demanded that some be held back.

In another case, Ms. Mills’s staff negotiated with the records specialists over the release of documents about former President Bill Clinton ’s speaking engagements—also holding some back.

Mills, a longtime Clinton ally, appears to have had ultimate veto power over which documents were released to the public. And, according to the Journal, she flexed that power.

After the episode, Ms. Mills insisted on reviewing all Keystone-related documents being prepared for release, and flagged as problematic a few that the department’s records-law specialists felt obligated to release, said the person with knowledge of the situation.

Ms. Mills, this person added, told a records specialist that if he released records she wanted held back, Mrs. Clinton’s office wouldn’t comply with any future document requests on any topic.

The Keystone documents Ms. Mills objected to were all either held back or redacted, the same person said. After Ms. Mills began scrutinizing documents, the State Department’s disclosure of records related to Keystone fell off sharply, documents that include a court filing show.

Two others with knowledge of State Department records procedures said political appointees were allowed greater say than the FOIA experts thought was appropriate. It was hard to push back against the political staff, one said.

The speaking engagements of former President Bill Clinton were also subject to political pressure, according to the Journal. Again, Mills had a hand in these “negotiations.”

Mr. Clinton had agreed, when his wife became secretary of state, to submit proposals for his paid speeches to the department for review. Some document requests related to the reviews. On this matter, too, Ms. Mills’s office sometimes objected to the release of records FOIA specialists thought ought to be handed over, this fourth person said.

Asked who had final say, the person said, “We negotiated it out,” and some documents were withheld or redacted.

Experts on FOIA said it might be acceptable for records reviewers to seek the views of political appointees, but there should be no negotiation. “Ultimately, the career people have to be the ones who make the final call,” said Miriam Nisbet, who recently retired as director of the federal FOIA ombudsman office at the National Archives and Records Administration.

Read the whole Wall Street Journal report here.