The Obama White House made an effort to track a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request filed in 2012 that sought communications related to then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, according to newly released emails.
Judicial Watch, a conservative advocacy group, obtained emails Friday that show Obama White House officials were aware of a FOIA request submitted to the State Department by liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which was ultimately denied. The FOIA request, filed in December 2012, was rebuffed by the State Department on the grounds that no responsive records existed — a response the State Department described as “inaccurate and incomplete” in a 2016 report.
One day after the FOIA request was filed, Sheryl Walter, the State Department official in charge of FOIA requests, emailed a number of State Department officials to inform them that the White House was interested in learning about the specifics of the request:
WH called – have we received a FOIA request from CREW (Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington) on the topic of personal use of email by senior officials? Apparently other agencies have. If we have it, can you give me the details so I can call the WH back? I think they’d like it on quick turnaround. Thanks! Sheryl”
Walter went on to communicate at length with Clinton’s top aides, Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson, about when and how to comply with the FOIA request in a series of emails and a conference call.
“As a practical matter given our workload, it won’t be processed for some months. Let me know if there are any particular sensitivities,” Walter wrote in a subsequent email to Samuelson.
The emails, when considered in light of the State Department’s eventual improper response to the FOIA request, suggest a cover up orchestrated by White House officials, according to Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton.
“These documents suggest the Obama White House knew about the Clinton email lies being told to the public at least as early as December 2012,” Fitton said in a statement released Friday. “A federal court granted Judicial Watch discovery into the Clinton emails because the court wanted answers about a government cover-up of the Clinton emails. And now we have answers because it looks like the Obama White House orchestrated the Clinton email cover-up.”
The public eventually learned of Clinton’s use of a private email server via a 2015 New York Times report. Samuelson and Mills conducted a review of Clinton’s emails to determine which were related to official business. They ultimately turned over 30,000 emails to the State Department in December 2014 while deleting another 30,000 that they claimed were entirely personal.