Gawker continues to reap fruits from its FOIA-suit tree. Headlining this latest batch is an email exchange between former deputy assistant secretary of state Philippe Reines and journalists/With All Due Respect hosts John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, then at work on their book, Game Change.
“He wants specifics. I want to avoid FOIA.” Is the text of Reines’ response to a series of emails in which Heilemann and Halperin appear to be asking Reines for the email address at his upcoming job at the State Department.
Gawker’s J.K. Trotter finds this line questionable:
Given his wording, it’s certainly possible that Reines was simply indicating he didn’t want to provide his State address to Heileman and Halperin, even if he didn’t have one at the time, because their conversations would be placed in a government record (in this case, the State Department’s email system), which would make them subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
Trotter sought, and received, a response from Reines’ spokeswoman about just what he meant by his “I want to avoid FOIA” line–according to her, “a joke.”
If you want to go through the emails yourself, Gawker has them up here.
If you need to get caught up, here’s how Gawker’s FOIA-fest happened:
Back in 2013, Gawker filed a FOIA request for emails from a “private, non-governmental email address” belonging to none other than Hillary Clinton. The request–for emails between Clinton and State Department aide Philippe Reines, and between Clinton and aide Huma Abedin–didn’t go anywhere. The reason? “That request was denied, with the State Department explicitly claiming that it didn’t have any records,” writes John Cook.
In March 2015, Gawker Media and John Cook v. Department of State enters the public record, Gawker’s suit against State for FOIA records. This was in response not to the denied 2013 request, but to an earlier 2012 request for Reines’ press correspondence, something State claimed it couldn’t find.
In August of 2015, a miracle happens: those emails are found! 17,000 or so of them.
Gawker gets to work on the email batches as they come in, producing pieces like today’s, and the Mike–Allen-promises-Reines-a-friendly-no-surprises-interview-with-Chelsea–Clinton story that briefly lit up computers screens last month.