Hillary’s Email Mess Gets Messier

By Pam Martens: March 12, 2015

Hillary Clinton at Press Conference on Her Emails While Secretary of State

Hillary Clinton at Press Conference on Her Emails While Secretary of State

There’s an old adage that goes: “never pick a fight with anyone who buys ink by the barrel.” It’s generally interpreted to mean don’t go to war with the press. That would surely include syndicated reporters working for the Associated Press, which says in a lawsuit filed yesterday that it has “one billion readers, listeners and viewers.”

Despite the sage advice, Hillary Clinton is now in a full blown war with the press over how she became the Decider in Chief over which government emails would be preserved from her time as Secretary of State versus the tens of thousands that she elected to erase, ruling them to be about personal matters.

The Associated Press has filed its lawsuit against the U.S. Department of State because the Federal agency has defied the Freedom of Information Act and stonewalled AP reporters for as long as five years over requests for records pertaining to Hillary Clinton’s term as Secretary of State. The lawsuit suggests a Department of State flagrantly ignoring Federal FOIA laws. One section reads:

“In early March 2015, Secretary Clinton confirmed reports that she used a personal email account, rather than a government account, for government business during her tenure at State. Although AP’s FOIA requests have been pending for years, State first asked Secretary Clinton to turn over emails from that personal account only last summer. Secretary Clinton reportedly provided about 50,000 pages of printed emails to State late last year, and has said she wants those emails to be released to the public. State’s failure to ensure that Secretary Clinton’s governmental emails were retained and preserved by the agency, and its failure timely to seek out and search those emails in response to AP’s requests, indicate at the very least that State has not engaged in the diligent, good-faith search that FOIA requires.”

Not only have Clinton’s emails been denied to AP reporters, but her daily calendar of appointments, record of phone calls and meetings have also been withheld for the past five years. All of this opacity is raising curiosity in the press as to just what might be hiding in these troves of unreleased documents.

The earliest request filed by the AP was by reporter Robert Burns on March 9, 2010, according to the lawsuit. Burns requested “a copy of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s daily calendar of appointments, phone calls, and meetings, from the first day of the Obama Administration to the present,” i.e., “from 1/20/2009 to [March 9, 2010].” The Department of State acknowledged receipt of the request but the AP has received nothing under that request after more than five years.

In a separate FOIA request filed on August 20, 2013, AP reporter Stephen Braun asked for “copies of all of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s public and private calendars and schedules from Jan. 21, 2009 through February 1, 2013.”  Again, the request was acknowledged by the Department of State but no material has been forthcoming in more than 18 months.

Subsequent FOIA requests followed from the AP with either no response or a limited release of documents. The lawsuit case number is 1:15-cv-00345 and has been assigned to Judge Richard J. Leon in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The Associated Press is represented by attorney Jay Ward Brown of Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, LLP. (Read the full text of the lawsuit, Associated Press v U.S. Department of State.)

In a further sign that Hillary’s press war is heating up, the Associated Press took the interesting step of fact-testing Hillary Clinton’s press conference at the United Nations where she attempted to portray the email flap as no big deal. On one assertion by Hillary, the Associated Press wrote:

“CLINTON: ‘I fully complied with every rule I was governed by.’

[Associated Press writes:] “THE FACTS: At the very least, Clinton appears to have violated what the White House has called ‘very specific guidance’ that officials should use government email to conduct business.

“Clinton provided no details about whether she had initially consulted with the department or other government officials before using the private email system. She did not answer several questions about whether she sought any clearances before she began relying exclusively on private emails for government business.

“Federal officials are allowed to communicate on private email and are generally allowed to conduct government business in those exchanges, but that ability is constrained, both by federal regulations and by their supervisors.

“Federal law during Clinton’s tenure called for the archiving of such private email records when used for government work, but did not set out clear rules or punishments for violations until rules were tightened in November. In 2011, when Clinton was secretary, a cable from her office sent to all employees advised them to avoid conducting any official business on their private email accounts because of targeting by unspecified ‘online adversaries.’”

The full fact-checking from AP can be read here.

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