Politics & Policy

Citizens United Sues State Department for Clinton Aides’ E-mails

Cheryl Mills with Clinton on Capitol Hill, October 22, 2015. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Conservative group Citizens United filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit on Monday asking that a judge force the State Department to release e-mails between top Hillary Clinton aides, Clinton Foundation officials, and employees of the Clinton-connected consulting firm Teneo.

Suspecting inappropriate coordination between State Department officials and the Clintons’ byzantine network of charity and business interests, Citizens United first sought the messages through six separate public records requests in October and November of last year. But months later, the State Department still hasn’t responded, leading the watchdog group to seek legal redress.

“What they do is they acknowledge receipt, and then it goes into a black hole,” says Citizens United president David Bossie, adding that litigation has proven the only successful avenue to obtain the public records upon which their investigations rely.

Monday’s suit specifically seeks e-mails from four State Department employees who Citizens United believes improperly collaborated with Clinton Foundation officials and private consultants at Teneo. It comes the same day as a bombshell Fox News report claimed that the FBI is widening their probe into Hillary Clinton’s private server to include potential public-corruption charges. One anonymous official said the agency is now investigating “the possible intersection of Clinton Foundation donations, the dispensation of State Department contracts, and whether regular processes were followed.”

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That’s precisely the “intersection” Citizens United hopes to illuminate with its lawsuit, which seeks e-mails from four close Clinton aides. The first two, Deputy Chief of Staff Huma Abedin and Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills, will be familiar to those who have followed the scandal surrounding Clinton’s private server. Citizens United’s lawsuit expands an earlier request covering communications during Abedin’s time working simultaneously at the State Department and Teneo as a “special government employee” to include Mills and Abedin’s entire tenures at the State Department.

The other two officials, Melanne Verveer and Michael Fuchs, have largely avoided the scrutiny of Citizens United and other watchdog groups until now. Verveer was Clinton’s chief of staff during her time as First Lady, before the two co-founded a women’s leadership nonprofit in the early 2000s. She was appointed United States ambassador-at-large for women’s issues in 2009, a title she held throughout Clinton’s term as secretary of state.

#share#In several e-mails released publicly from Clinton’s private e-mail account, Verveer appeared to facilitate favors and meetings with Secretary Clinton for those close to the Clinton Foundation. In one e-mail from July 28, 2011, Verveer forwarded a meeting request from Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi banker and Clinton Global Initiative participant. And in several messages between 2010 and 2012, she seems to act as the liaison between Clinton and Ukrainian billionaire Viktor Pinchuk, a top Clinton Foundation donor. “We suspect Melanne Verveer was dabbling in Foundation donor mayhem as a State Department employee,” says one Citizens United analyst.

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Fuchs, the other name included in the lawsuit, was a special advisor to then-Secretary of State Clinton, and is copied on several e-mails sent from Clinton Foundation employee and Bill Clinton aide Amitabh Desai to Hillary Clinton’s top staff, including Mills and Abedin. Those e-mails concerned Bill Clinton’s request to give paid speeches to delegations in North Korea and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It’s not clear why Fuchs was involved in these deliberations — a question Citizens United hopes to answer through their FOIA lawsuit.

It’s not the first time the group has sued the State Department in the U.S. District Court for Washington, D.C. Last year, they sought to compel the release of records related to Clinton’s State Department schedule and the photos, videos, and hotel bills from her international travels.

Read the full text of Monday’s lawsuit below:

— Brendan Bordelon is a political reporter for National Review.

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