There are many strands in the story of Hillary Clinton’s State Department email scandal, but they all stem from the suspicion that she used a private email account during her Cabinet tenure so that she wouldn’t have to release shady correspondence to the public; official government emails are subject to release under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA. Clinton has denied that this was her motive, asserting that private email was simply more convenient. But as it happens, some of Clinton’s aides at State also used private email addresses for official business—and Gawker reports Thursday that one of those aides literally answered what appears to be a reporter’s question about his email address by writing, “I want to avoid FOIA.”
The back story to this is a little complicated, but here’s the gist: Gawker has for some time been pursuing access to the State Department correspondence of the aide in question, Philippe Reines, a longtime Clinton aide who has at times been her spokesman. Reines forcefully denied that he habitually used private email to conduct State business, insisting that while some reporters did email his private address, he would always move the conversation to his official account. This denial was contradicted by documents the government released (after a Gawker lawsuit) in which Reines carries on numerous back-and-forths with journalists from his Gmail account.
And now, in more released documents, the website’s newshounds have found an exchange Reines had with political reporters John Heilemann and Mark Halperin from just before Reines began working for State in 2009 in which Halperin appears to be asking Reines about his new job title and email address. (The thread showed up in the FOIA release because it continued through the time that Reines did work for State.) Writes Reines in one email about the subject: “I want to avoid FOIA.”
An attorney representing Reines told Gawker that the line was “a joke.” Funny stuff!