The New York attorney general involved in a lengthy probe against Exxon Mobil has turned his sights on the email records of the oil company’s former CEO.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued new subpoenas and questioned witnesses about the disappearance of lost memos from U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s email alias when he led Exxon. Tillerson wrote the lost emails under the pseudonym of “Wayne Tracker.”
Schneiderman is concerned Tillerson was using the alias to discuss climate change risks and other sensitive issues. Exxon admitted earlier this year that nearly a year’s worth of emails may have been lost because of a technical glitch. It is common for executives to use aliases for internal communications, the company noted at the time of the revelation.
Exxon filed a counter-lawsuit earlier this year against the New York AG’s office over allegations the crusading attorney general is hiding the wealthy donors allegedly behind Schneiderman’s year-long probe. The company’s lawsuit began in Texas but has since been remanded to New York, where a slew of environmentalists and AG’s gathered at a conference in 2014 to take on fossil fuel companies.
The company’s lawsuit is unnecessarily holding up the state’s probe, and the company has been unable to show injury to a federal court, Schneiderman told a New York judge Friday. His Massachusetts colleague Maura Healey, who is undergoing her own investigation into the company, also wants the lawsuit dropped.
Exxon’s lawsuit is “part of its continued campaign of delay and distraction, and the New York attorney general said he will continue to pursue its own investigation of Exxon,” Amy Spitalnick, Schneiderman’s spokeswoman, said in a statement Friday.
“We have and will continue to use all of the tools at our disposal to get to the bottom of these issues, and to further our investigation,” she added.
Allen Jeffries, a spokesman for the company, meanwhile, told reporters that the company will continue to challenge the legality of the investigations.
Exxon accused Schneiderman of using the alias email account as an excuse to continue his pursuit against the oil company. The New York Democrat has been unable to uncover any evidence supporting his belief that Exxon worked for decades to dupe the public about climate change, the company said in March.
Company officials also rebutted some of the AG’s primary claims, namely that Exxon purposely hid knowledge about the supposedly secret account from the attorney general, who filed a subpoena against Exxon earlier this year to gather the company’s email communications.
Schneiderman’s decision to issue subpoenas into Tillerson’s emails comes after The Daily Caller News Foundation obtained documents in March showing that an assistant attorney general at the New York Attorney General’s Office used a personal email account in 2012 to prepare for a meeting with various environmental organizations.
The email raised questions at the time about how often Schneiderman’s office uses personal emails for professional meetings, which would be a violation of New York law if done while gathering information for the AG’s Exxon probe.
The assistant attorney general used a personal Gmail account in November of 2012 to send PowerPoint presentations to colleagues in the AG’s office in preparation for a meeting with “environmental organizations.”
It is not clear from the email if the presentation was meant to build a case against fossil fuel companies like Exxon, but there is evidence the campaign against the oil company began as early as 2012 at the La Jolla conference.
Schneiderman and Healey’s investigation has stirred up an internal war among attorneys general.
Republican AGs from 11 states, for instance, filed an amicus brief in April castigating the Democrat-led probe against the oil company’s handling of decades worth of climate data. They argued that the pursuit of Exxon violates the First Amendment of the U.S Constitution and constitutes an “unconstitutional abuse of investigative power.”
Their brief also asserts the probes are seeking to “promote one side of [the] international public policy debate”on climate change issues, which should not be up to the courts to decide.
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