J.K. Trotter of Gawker yesterday secured the attention of Philippe Reines, a longtime spokesman for Hillary Rodham Clinton. In a story following up on a New York Times piece exposing Clinton’s use of a private e-mail account to conduct official business during her tenure as secretary of state (2009-2013), Trotter cited an informed source as alleging that Reines was guilty of the same practice.

“The source named two staffers in particular, Philippe Reines and Huma Abedin, who are said to have used private email addresses in the course of their agency duties,” noted the Gawker story. 

Though Trotter documented via Nexis that Abedin had used an e-mail address with the same domain as her boss — Clintonemail.com — he didn’t cite a similar search or results for Reines. Another Clinton aide, Nick Merrill, denied that Reines had used the Clintonemail.com domain but didn’t answer questions as to whether Reines had used some other personal e-mail service to conduct his official business.

So Trotter’s piece left dangling the question of just what sort of e-mail arrangement Reines had used during his time as a Clinton aide at the State Department. And when something regarding Reines is left dangling, Reines will be heard from.

Last night, the Erik Wemple Blog was included in the addressees — along with Brian Stelter of CNN — of an e-mail from Reines responding to Trotter’s story. The e-mail also included CJ Ciaramella of the Washington Free Beacon and Vice, who had sent Reines an inquiry based on Trotter’s reporting in Gawker. In case this is all too confusing, here’s our best effort at a shortcut:

• Gawker’s Trotter writes a piece citing an anonymous source as saying that Reines had used private e-mail during his time at State;

• Ciaramella wrote Reines an inquiry based on the Trotter story;

• Reines responded by e-mailing the two of them and folding in the Erik Wemple Blog and Stelter as observers.

Here’s how Reines couched his play: “Since this fundamentally comes down to honesty, transparency and accountability, I thought we’d go through an exercise together – with Erik Wemple of The Washington Post and Brian Stelter of CNN included as observers.”

Then he writes and writes and writes. As we’ve noted before, Reines is a hellacious guy to abridge, so here’s the full text:

JK,

In your piece, which CJ references below, you wrote:

“’Her top staffers used those Clinton email addresses’ at the agency, said the source, who has worked with Clinton in the past. The source named two staffers in particular, Philippe Reines and Huma Abedin, who are said to have used private email addresses in the course of their agency duties.”

That’s a pretty clear assertion by you through your source that they had firsthand knowledge of my having and using an email account on the clintonemail.com domain. You then wrote:

“We were able to independantly [SIC] verify that Abedin used a ClintonEmail.com address at some point in time. There are several email addresses associated with Abedin’s name in records maintained by Lexis-Nexis; one of them is huma@clintonemail.com. An email sent to that address today went through without bouncing.”

A few questions:

1) Did you attempt to verify your source’s assertion of my use of such an email using the same creepy methods you did with my close friend and colleague Huma Abedin? Assuming you did, why doesn’t your piece note the results of your creepy methods?

2) Did you attempt to send an email to me at that domain, and if so did it go “through without bouncing”? Assuming you did, why don’t you note the results of your test?

3) If your lying liar pants on fire source worked with me at a federal agency as you and they contend, did you ask them to provide even a single email exchange with my using that account?

4) Better yet, in the off chance they don’t have every single email they ever sent or received, have you availed yourself of the same FOIA laws to petition the lying liar’s agency for any email between them and me that you have with our email?

I mean, you either naively or knowingly swallowed quite the whopper. Not sure which is worse. Actually, that’s not true.

Now, on the subject of FOIA…

You have to ask State about your requests, appeals, etc.

But while I have you I’m really hoping you can explain something to me. You wrote that “The use of private email addresses may explain the State Department’s puzzling response to several FOIA requests filed by Gawker in the past two years,” continuing, “That request was confoundingly denied on the grounds that the State Department had no record of Reines—whose job it was to communicate with reporters—emailing Hastings or any other journalists.”

So, is your cockamamie theory that the reason there is no record of my emailing with reporters is because I improperly used my personal email address to email with those reporters in an attempt to circumvent FOIA, and that every one of the many reporters you reasonably assume I emailed with are in on this conspiracy of having only emailed with me on my non-official email? All sorts of media outlets reached out to me, including FOX and The Daily Caller. Are they in on it? Is everyone in on it aside from Gawker?

Now, to answer your question: email is a two way street. You’d be surprised how many reporters deliberately email government officials to their personal accounts. You’d be equally surprised to know that when they did, I moved the exchange to my state.gov account because, between you and me, my personal account is about the last place I want to be emailing reporters or conducting work.

Which brings me to my last question(s) – for both JK & CJ:

Have either of you ever deliberately emailed a US Government official anywhere other than their official address to discuss official US Government business? If so, why? Have you ever received an email from a US Government official from anywhere other than their official address to discuss official US Government business? If so did you ask them why?

Looking forward to your responses!

Philippe

 

To unpack some things here: There is nothing at all “creepy” about Gawker relying on a commonly used trick on Nexis to obtain the e-mail addresses used by a public figure such as longtime Clinton confidante Huma Abedin. Nor would there be anything “creepy” about doing so vis-a-vis Reines.

Reines has a unique and colorful relationship with e-mail. In September 2012, he wrote some flaming messages to the late BuzzFeed reporter Michael Hastings following a dispute over how CNN handled a diary recovered in Benghazi belonging to the former U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens. “Have a good day. And by good day I mean F[—] Off,” wrote Reines at one point.

News of the historic e-mail tilt between Reines and Hastings was enough to tickle the Gawker’s investigative curiosities. The same day that Hastings reported on his exchange with Reines, Gawker’s John Cook fired off a Freedom of Information Act request seeking more precious metals in the Reines archives — specifically seeking correspondence between the Clinton firebrand and 34 media outlets.

Almost a year later, Cook got the stunning response that “no records responsive to your request were located.” Mind-blowing: How could the department not find any records of Reines e-mailing? That’d be like Fox News finding no records of Bill O’Reilly yelling. As Reines himself notes to Trotter and Ciaramella, he’s not responsible for the department’s FOIA responses. Which is a good thing, because they seem bankrupt. (Gawker appealed State’s no-records finding in the Reines request).

In a subsequent e-mail blast at Trotter and Ciaramella (and this time rolling in Josh Gerstein of Politico and Ben Smith of BuzzFeed), Reines wrote, in part:

From my perspective, if I were emailing with a reporter, I had to assume that it could end up in the public domain, as the exchange with Michael reminded me the very hard way. That’s just the nature of the beast, and what email account you use isn’t going to prevent that. Not to mention that much of what’s written to reporters is purposefully meant for the public domain since that’s the job. And believe me, I’d be far happier with you all having a field day poring through my largely boring and tedious email, than unfairly and erroneously reading that I intentionally undermined or circumvented the process. That frustrates me as much as State responses are frustrating you.

During Clinton’s State Department run, “I must have sent and received nearly half a million email,” notes Reines.

Over the final months of Clinton’s term as secretary of state, Reines engaged in several e-mail interactions with the Erik Wemple Blog. A random search found no instances of Reines using a private e-mail account to communicate with this blog — the messages, instead, came from “reinesp@state.gov.”

UPDATE 1:40 p.m.: Trotter has replied to Reines. Here it is, in full:

Hi Philippe, thanks for the email. Here are the answers you requested.

1) Did you attempt to verify your source’s assertion of my use of such an email using the same creepy methods you did with my close friend and colleague Huma Abedin? Assuming you did, why doesn’t your piece note the results of your creepy methods?

Yes. I looked for but could not find a ClintonEmail.com listed under your name on Lexis-Nexis. That is why I asked your spokesperson, Nick Merrill, about whether you actually possessed a ClintonEmail.com address. He said you did not, and I included his statement in the same article to which you refer.

2) Did you attempt to send an email to me at that domain, and if so did it go “through without bouncing”? Assuming you did, why don’t you note the results of your test?

No, because I didn’t find a ClintonEmail.com under your name and because your boss’s email address, hdr22@clintonemail.com, was deliberately obscure. I decided to hold off on trying to email easily guessable usernames (e.g., philippe@clintonemail.com) until we had heard back from Merrill. Only after Merrill denied that you had a ClintonEmail.com address did I discover that Huma Abedin had a ClintonEmail.com address.
For reasons that remain unclear, however, Merrill only addressed questions concerning you; he repeatedly refused to address questions about Abedin—the one Clinton staffer whose possession of a ClintonEmail.com account has been publicly confirmed.

3) If your lying liar pants on fire source worked with me at a federal agency as you and they contend, did you ask them to provide even a single email exchange with my using that account?

Neither I nor my source contended that they worked at a federal agency with you. They only claimed to be aware of the fact that Clinton’s closest aides used private email accounts to conduct official government business, based on their experience working with Clinton. I worked to confirm that the source was correct, and reported Merrill’s claim that you did not have a ClintonEmail.com address. Again, I included all of this in the very article to which you refer.

4) Better yet, in the off chance they don’t have every single email they ever sent or received, have you availed yourself of the same FOIA laws to petition the lying liar’s agency for any email between them and me that you have with our email?

No, I didn’t file a FOIA request for emails between you and the source. Doing so would have put the source’s name on the public record, and as you know, the State Department often takes years to respond to even the most simple requests. It is unlikely that such a request would have been fulfilled by deadline.

So, is your cockamamie theory that the reason there is no record of my emailing with reporters is because I improperly used my personal email address to email with those reporters in an attempt to circumvent FOIA, and that every one of the many reporters you reasonably assume I emailed with are in on this conspiracy of having only emailed with me on my non-official email? All sorts of media outlets reached out to me, including FOX and The Daily Caller. Are they in on it? Is everyone in on it aside from Gawker?

My theory is that, if the State Department has been repeatedly unable to locate records of known email exchanges—for a reason other than institutional incompetence—then the reason might have to do with the the deliberate flouting of record-keeping regulations by State Department staffers. Nobody has provided an alternative explanation.

Now, to answer your question: email is a two way street. You’d be surprised how many reporters deliberately email government officials to their personal accounts. You’d be equally surprised to know that when they did, I moved the exchange to my state.gov[state.gov] account because, between you and me, my personal account is about the last place I want to be emailing reporters or conducting work.

This is not, in fact, an answer. You were employed by the State Department when Gawker filed a FOIA request for correspondence between you and Michael Hastings. You were also employed by the State Department when your agency denied that request. And yet you refuse to clarify why the State Department could not locate a record of your exchange with Hastings.

Have either of you ever deliberately emailed a US Government official anywhere other than their official address to discuss official US Government business? If so, why? Have you ever received an email from a US Government official from anywhere other than their official address to discuss official US Government business? If so did you ask them why?

No.

Now that I’ve addressed your questions, would you mind answering these?
1. Were you made aware of Gawker’s FOIA request for correspondence between you and 34 media outlets, which was submitted—and later denied, on the grounds that no record of the correspondence was found—when you were a State Department employee? If not, when did you become aware of the request?
2. Why have several FOIA requests for known email exchanges been rejected, because no records of them were found, when Clinton was secretary of state?
3. Why were you not given a ClintonEmail.com address, but Huma Abedin was?
4. How many people have ClintonEmail.com addresses, and what are their names?
5. You wrote that you received emails from reporters to your personal email while you were at State. Did you take steps to ensure those records were preserved under the rules set by the National Archives and Records Administration and the Freedom of Information Act?
6. Did you conduct any other State Department business on an email account other than your @state.gov[state.gov] one? If so, did you take similar steps to preserve those emails as well?
7. In your September 2012 exchange[buzzfeed.com] with Michael Hastings, he wrote in a message to you: “I now understand what women say about you, too! Any new complaints against you lately?” What was he referring to?
I also have a few questions for your colleague Huma Abedin (whom I’ve CC’d on this email):
1. Why were you given a ClintonEmail.com email address?
2. What do you use this email address for?
3. Did you use this email address for official State Department business?
4. Why do two of your colleagues, Nick Merrill and Philippe Reines, refuse to answer any questions about your possession of a ClintonEmail.com account?
Thanks again,
Keenan