Watchdog’s released documents reveal State Dept. alerted Hillary campaign about CREW request
Judicial Watch on Wednesday released 10 pages of new State Department records that include an email sent by State Department spokesman Brock Johnson alerting Cheryl Mills, Hillary Clinton’s then Chief of Staff, that a “significant” Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request had been made for records showing the number of email accounts used by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The documents were produced under court order in a March 2016, FOIA lawsuit against the State Department for all records “about the processing of a December 2012 FOIA request filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington [CREW]” (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:16-cv-00574)). Earlier this year, the State Department Office of Inspector General concluded that the “no records response” sent in response to this request was “inaccurate and incomplete.”
The documents show that at 4:11 p.m. on December 11, 2012, several State Department officials, including Brock and the Director of the Office of Correspondence and Records of the Executive Secretariat (S/ES-CRM) Clarence Finney were alerted of the request seeking Clinton’s email addresses.
In an email exchange labeled “Significant FOIA Report” Brock alerts Mills about the FOIA request:
From: Johnson, Brock A
Sent: Tuesday, December 11 2012 05:39 PM
To: Mills, Cheryl D
Subject: FW: Significant FOIA Report
FYI on the attached FOIA request from:
- Anne Weismann of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) requesting “records sufficient to show the number of email accounts of or associated with Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the extent to which those email accounts are identifiable as those of or associated with Secretary Clinton.”
Mills later sends an email that acknowledges receipt and “thanks” Brock.
In January 2016 the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report titled “Evaluation of the Department of State’s FOIA Processes for Requests Involving the Office of the Secretary,” which highlighted systemic problems within the State Department’s FOIA processing practices that led to “inaccurate and incomplete” responses to records requests:
In December 2012, the nonprofit organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sent a FOIA request to the Department seeking records “sufficient to show the number of email accounts of, or associated with, Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the extent to which those email accounts are identifiable as those of or associated with Secretary Clinton.” On May 10, 2013, IPS [Information Programs and Services] replied to CREW, stating that “no records responsive to your request were located.” At the time the request was received, dozens of senior officials throughout the Department, including members of Secretary Clinton’s immediate staff, exchanged emails with the Secretary using the personal accounts she used to conduct official business. OIG found evidence that the Secretary’s then-Chief of Staff was informed of the request at the time it was received and subsequently tasked staff to follow up. However, OIG found no evidence to indicate that any of these senior officials reviewed the search results or approved the response to CREW. OIG also found no evidence that the S/ES [Office of Secretary and Executive Secretariat], L [Office of the Legal Adviser], and IPS staff involved in responding to requests for information, searching for records, or drafting the response had knowledge of the Secretary’s email usage. Furthermore, it does not appear that S/ES searched any email records, even though the request clearly encompassed emails.
On August 11, 2014, the Department produced to the House Select Committee on Benghazi documents related to the 2012 attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi. The production included a number of emails revealing that Secretary Clinton used a personal email account to conduct official business. OIG discovered four instances, between July and September 2014, in which staff from L, A, or the Bureau of Legislative Affairs reviewed the CREW request and the Department’s May 2013 response, but the Department did not amend its response. L and A [Bureau of Administration] staff also told OIG that the Department does not customarily revise responses to closed FOIA requests. Nevertheless, during the course of this review, Department staff advised OIG of their belief that the Department’s response to CREW was incorrect and that it should have been revised to include the former Secretary’s personal email account used to conduct official government business.
When asked during her deposition by Judicial Watch about CREW’s FOIA request, Mills spent several minutes testifying she could not recall much of anything about the controversy, despite it only being a recent one:
Q Okay. Do you recall a FOIA request that came in from CREW that’s discussed in this document [a letter from Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) inquiring about the handling of the CREW FOIA request]?
A I don’t recall the specific FOIA request in terms of what was in the request. But I’ve obviously seen references to this in the media since then.
Q Do you recall a FOIA request that came in relating to — when you were at the State Department, of course, relating to the e-mail accounts used by Secretary Clinton and records that would provide for what the e-mail address was?
A I don’t have a specific recollection of it. But I certainly have read in the media exactly what is in here. And so while it doesn’t necessarily refresh my recollection, I do know that this – obviously this matter took place.
Q Okay. Do you recall or did Brock Johnson bring this FOIA request to your attention?
A I don’t have a specific memory of that.
Q Did you ever – or did you speak with Heather Samuelson [State Department and Clinton attorney who handled Clinton emails] regarding the CREW request?
A I don’t have a memory of that.
In a separate lawsuit, Judicial Watch has requested permission from the court to depose Hillary Clinton, Mr. Finney, as well as the former Director of Information Resource Management of the Executive Secretariat (S/ES-IRM) John Bentel.
It is reported that CREW’s request followed the news that Lisa Jackson, Obama’s former top EPA official, used an alias email account for government business named after her dog.
“This is evidence that Cheryl Mills covered up Hillary Clinton’s email system. She was aware of the FOIA request about Clinton’s email accounts and allowed a response to go out that was a plain lie. And you can bet if Cheryl Mills knew about this inquiry, then Hillary Clinton did, too,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “This is all the more reason for Mrs. Clinton to finally testify under oath about the key details of her email practices.”