Hillary Clinton’s campaign complained internally that Congress is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, so they planned to recruit Washington lawyer Abbe Lowell to send FOIA requests to members of Congress who were investigating Clinton’s emails.
The law, with its congressional exemption, was passed 50 years ago by a Democratic Congress and signed by a Democratic president.
According to a March 5, 2015 email that appeared on Wikileaks as a result of a reported hack of John Podesta’s online communications, Clinton advisor Phillipe Reines sent Lowell an email asking him to FOIA specific Republican members.
Clinton herself “loved the idea,” according to a previous email from Reines but did not want Reines himself sending the requests to Congress, so Podesta suggested Lowell.
“Here is what we are thinking and hoping you can help us with: this kerfuffle with the Secretary’s email is obviously one we are trying very hard to work through and to explain to people,” Reines wrote. “Comes down to the right to know, transparency, etc. Which we strongly believe in, and why we turned over her email.”
“Obviously, the committee investigating the Benghazi attacks have latched on to this, as well as others in and out of Congress who claim this subverted several processes, including FOIA,” he continued. “We do not agree with that, but in the course of this we’ve discussed an ironic hypocrisy that we believe the public would benefit in knowing before judging anyone’s intentions and practices.”
He added, “Congress is exempt from FOIA. Because Congress exempted itself from FOIA.”
Reines went on to say, “Congressional offices do not have to even respond to FOIA requests, let alone fulfill them. I worked on Capitol Hill for seven years and always found it hypocritical (right before I filed the request in the circular cabinet as they say). So while the Republicans and conservative groups tie the Federal Government up in stitches working on FOIA requests for my communications with reporters or Cheryl’s with HRC, their own communications with entities such as the RNC or FOX where they are likely coordinating — or at the very least discussing — is blinded from the public eye.”
He closed by suggesting targeting specific Republicans who have been the most outspoken about the administration’s lack of transparency.
“So we thought one way to demonstrate this would be for someone to submit a series of FOIA requests to a number of Hill offices, specifically, the Chairman of the Select Committee, Rep. Trey Gowdy, along with his fellow Republicans on the Committee, as well as others such as Darrell Issa, Jason Chaffetz, Lyndsey Graham — all those who pound their chests about the public’s right to know how their government functions. Just not their 1/3 of it! And let them respond or not. My guess is that most requests would come back on letterhead with a standard answer. And btw, there is nothing preventing someone from voluntarily complying with such a request. Obviously, those responses would be very compelling to the news media.”
Passed into law in 1966 by a House and Senate controlled by Democrats and signed by Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson, FOIA “applies to records either created or obtained by an agency and under agency control at the time of the FOIA request,” a summary of the Internal Revenue Service says. “Agencies within the executive branch of the federal government, including the Executive Office of the President and independent regulatory agencies, are subject to the FOIA. State governments, municipal corporations, the courts, Congress and private citizens are not subject to the FOIA.”