“Page-by-Page Review” Concluded “Record Series Cannot Be Considered Personal,” Not Exempt from Federal Record-Keeping Laws
Newly obtained emails reveal Cheryl Mills, a top aide to Hillary Clinton, conducted official State Department business with a Gmail account, and there is nearly a 5-month gap in the paper trail. The documents were uncovered as a result of just 1 of the 20 Freedom of Information Act lawsuits filed by Judicial Watch, a government watchdog group who shared them with PPD.
The first batch of documents contains a heavily redacted email dated April 21, 2015, with the subject “HRC Emails.” It was sent from State Department official Eric F. Stein, deputy director of global information systems, to Margaret P. Grafeld, deputy assistant secretary of global information systems. Stein writes to Grafeld that the “gaps” in the emails Clinton decided to hand in for scrunity include the periods from Jan. 21 to March 17, 2009 (Received Messages); Jan. 21 to April 12, 2009 (Sent Messages); and Dec. 30, 2012 to Feb. 1, 2013 (Sent Messages).
In addition, Stein also details Clinton’s appointment-to-employment-to-termination timeline, which is as follows:
- Secretary Hillary Clinton
- Appointed: January 21, 2009
- Entry on Duty: January 21, 2009
- Termination of Appointment: February 1, 2013
Both timelines are accompanied by a chart that details the first and last emails both sent and received to Clinton’s email address, in which the email address “[email protected]” is listed as the very account to receive the last email the State Department currently has from Clinton’s “home-brew” server for clintonemail.com. The documents raise significant legal and ethical questions about practices and statements from the former secretary and current Democratic presidential frontrunner.
“I have directed that all of my emails on clintonemail.com in my custody that were or potentially were federal records be provided to the Department of State,” Clinton said last month under penalty of perjury in response to a court order Judicial Watch obtained in a separate FOIA lawsuit. But, according to the State Department’s own deputy of director of global information systems, that’s simply not true.
The chart provided by Stein shows a significant email gap that lasts 40 days before Miguel Rodriguez, under the email address “[email protected],” responded to Clinton’s account in an email dated March 18, 2009. Consequently, Mr. Rodriguez worked in the Clinton State Department and is now a private attorney, the very attorney representing Clinton aide and confidante Huma Abedin, who lawyered up after learning the FBI opened a criminal investigation into the email scandal. The documents also show the “email gap” was forwarded to other top officials in the State Department, including Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy.
“Judicial Watch’s discovery of the Clinton email ‘gap’ may take a place in history next to the discovery of the Nixon tapes,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The Obama administration and Hillary Clinton have taken their cover-up of the email scandal too far. I suspect that federal courts will want more information, under oath, about the issues raised in these incredible documents.”
In a February 9, 2015, document entitled, “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Email Appraisal Report,” the State Department expresses concern over the likelihood that they would be unable to recover all of the former secretary’s correspondences, as is required by law. Worth noting, the State Department’s concerns underscore the serious conflict with Mills also using her own Gmail account.
This record series is the only comprehensive set of Secretary Clinton’s email correspondence. Some of Secretary Clinton’s email correspondence may be available elsewhere in the Department either as duplicate copies or scattered among record-keeping systems and other government officials’ email accounts. However, of the sample examined, many of the emails were from Secretary Clinton’s personal email account to official Department email accounts of her staff. Emails originating from Secretary Clinton’s personal email account would only be captured by Department systems when they came to an official Department email account, i.e., they would be captured only in the email accounts of the recipients. Secretary Clinton’s staff no longer work at the Department, and the status of the email accounts of Secretary Clinton’s staff (and other Department recipients) is unknown at this time.
If the only way to ensure a complete review and disclosure of Clinton’s emails are possible is to review official State Department email accounts that received messages from the secretary, then Hillary’s correspondences sent to Mills on her personal Gmail account are conveniently excluded from the public record. While Clinton’s campaign and, indeed Clinton herself, first claimed they deleted some 30,000 emails because they were private, the State Department report doesn’t seem to support this explanation.
“This collection contains instances of personal communications. Nevertheless, the fraction of personal communications is small and does not affect the overriding archival value of this collection,” the report states. “This records series meets all of the relevant considerations for archival retention under NARA Directive J 441.”
“This record series cannot be considered personal papers based on the definition of a record in 44 U.S.C. 3301 or Department policy found in 5 FAM 443.”
The internal review states that “a page-by-page review of approximately 1,250 pages of received messages for the period March 15, 2010 through April 30, 2010 to determine the prevalence of personal communications in a random sample of material,” which was conducted by The Agency Records Officer only “identified 30 messages (approximately 30-40 pages) in the sample set as solely personal in nature.”
This is highly problematic from a purely statistical perspective, considering Mrs. Clinton claimed that nearly half of the emails sent and received to and from her home-brew server were deleted because they were personal in nature. Finally, a March 23, 2015 letter to Clinton attorney David Kendall stated “the Department consulted with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)” to inform the former secretary on the proper legal procedure for handling classified information while in her care. It doesn’t at all represent the process used to determine which emails were approved for deletion that the campaign outlined in a release to the media when the controversy first broke.
“Please note that if Secretary Clinton wishes to release any document or portion thereof, the Department must approve such release and first review the document for information that may be protected from disclosure for privilege, privacy or other reasons.”
What if she wants to take it upon herself to delete them? What’s the protocol for that?