In a chat this morning on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal,” Gawker Media Executive Editor for Investigations John Cook said his outlet would be filing suit against the State Department to revive an idle Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the Web site in 2012. In that instance, Gawker sought e-mails between Philippe Reines, who served as a spokesman for then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and 34 news organizations — a request that should have netted big stacks of correspondence.
It yielded none. “We’re filing … for those records,” Cook said on the C-SPAN program, noting that Gawker had appealed State’s empty response. “State Department has been absolutely terrible. You send a request to them and it’s clear they do not even look at it. They just reject it for whatever reason they can come up with in the hopes of making you go away, basically. And if you actually want the record that you’re entitled to, you have to fight, you have to push and now you have to sue.”
The Associated Press would agree with that last part. It announced this week that it’s suing the State Department over a number of fruitless FOIA requests dating back to 2010 — it’s looking for “materials related to [Clinton’s] public and private calendars, correspondence involving longtime aides likely to play key roles in her expected campaign for president, and Clinton-related emails about the Osama bin Laden raid and National Security Agency surveillance practices.”
The litigation comes after Clinton herself addressed a scandal over her use of private e-mail during her 2009-2013 tenure as secretary of state. In a news conference this week, Clinton said she used an account on the “clintonemail.com” domain out of “convenience,” meaning that she needed to carry only one handheld device instead of two. She also said that the State Department had captured a great deal of her e-mails because they were sent to State colleagues who were using the “state.gov” domain.
Clinton’s defenses failed to convince Cook. “It’s insulting to the intelligence of the American people that she thinks that [convenience] would be a reasonable explanation for why she took the extraordinary steps of setting up an e-mail server apparently in her home, monitored and administered outside of the bounds of a State Department team that is there to ensure the security of communications,” said Cook. “It’s preposterous. The reason that they hatched the scheme was so that when I filed a FOIA request for those communications, the State Department would say we don’t have them.” Same thing for congressional investigators looking into Benghazi or other issues, said Cook. “It certainly is very Nixonian, this plot,” said Cook.
A caller on the program suggested a prosecution stemming from the private e-mail, to which Cook responded, “It would be a very, very, very big stretch to try to gin up criminal charges out of this. I mean, it is a conspiracy to defraud the government,” he said. But “that’s not going to happen.”
Also, Cook dismembered the idea that the “liberal media” might cushion the scandal for Clinton. “In terms of a liberal media issue, the liberal media is the one pushing this story. I am a liberal, I am the first to report on the existence of this e-mail address. The New York Times has a reputation as being a member in good standing of the so-called liberal media; they’re the ones that broke the story. I don’t think you can make the case that there’s any effort to cover this up.”