State Department mining possible new Clinton email trove
Politics | Official tells House committee FBI disks could contain ‘tens of thousands’ of additional messages
by J.C. Derrick
Posted 9/08/16, 02:03 pm
WASHINGTON—A high-ranking State Department official on Thursday told a congressional committee the agency may have “tens of thousands” of additional work-related emails from Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.
The revelation came at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing about the department’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) compliance. In addition to the 14,900 unreleased emails the agency is working to provide in the coming weeks, Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy said the FBI turned over disks that may include many more documents not previously in the State Department’s possession.
“All of those were received in the last month,” Kennedy said.
Democrats and Republicans spent much of the hearing sparring over which party’s secretaries of state did a worse job of preserving public records. Republicans focused on Clinton’s failure to turn over all work-related emails and accused the State Department of slow-walking FOIA requests and congressional inquiries—and going to court to defend the practice.
“The State Department is … using taxpayer money to make sure that this information never gets out to the public,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. “Fortunately, the State Department keeps losing these lawsuits.”
Kennedy and three other State Department witnesses maintained the agency is making every effort to be transparent under overwhelming demand. Kennedy said FOIA requests have risen more than 300 percent since 2008, creating a 30,000-case backlog.
He acknowledged the backlog is “not acceptable” but blamed the nature of the requests.
“The rate of incoming cases is increasing, and the complexity of these cases is also increasing,” he said, noting the agency has added 25 full-time positions this year and is on track to electronically manage all email records by Dec. 31.
Democrats charged Republicans with hypocrisy and trained their fire on former secretaries of state, especially Colin Powell. Wednesday night Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the top Democrat on the committee, released a 2009 email to Clinton from Powell, who explained how he communicated outside official State Department channels.
“This hearing is not about FOIA or an effort to improve transparency,” Cummings said. “It is an attack—an attack on Hillary Clinton and her candidacy for president.”
According to Kennedy, the State Department has only three emails from Powell’s tenure, during which he used a personal AOL account. Kennedy said he asked Powell to retrieve his work-related emails directly from AOL, but the former secretary has not supplied them.
Republicans agreed the lack of Powell documents is a problem, but Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said the focus on Powell was an attempt to distract from Clinton’s misstatements.
“She said she did not send or receive classified email, but she did,” Gowdy said. “She said she turned over all work-related emails, but she did not. She said her attorneys went through every email, and they didn’t.”
Gowdy, a former prosecutor said, Democrats “threw the Hail Mary of all defense attorneys: ‘Other people did it too.’”