Report: Obama White House monitored 2012 FOIA request for Clinton emails

May 14, 2019

Report: Obama White House monitored 2012 FOIA request for Clinton emails Action Sports Photography / Shutterstock.com

A new report sheds light on an alleged coverup of Hillary Clinton’s email scandal by the Obama administration.

Obama White House staffers kept track of  a 2012 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit brought against Clinton’s State Department, according to new emails obtained Friday by conservative watchdog Judicial Watch, suggesting that the Obama administration was aware of the unorthodox arrangement as many as three years earlier than previously admitted.

2012 FOIA lawsuit

The unearthed emails show that officials in the Obama administration were aware that Clinton was improperly using a private server long before it was officially acknowledged. The revelation contradicts the State Department’s prior response to the 2012 lawsuit, which was brought by a liberal watchdog, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and sought records from Clinton’s email accounts.

The State Department said in March of 2013 that no relevant records existed, though the agency’s Inspector General found in 2016 that the determination was “inaccurate and incomplete.”

That curt summation belies the reality of went on behind the scenes. According to the fresh emails, the White House got in touch with the State Department about the FOIA request and wanted to know more. The State Department official in charge of FOIA requests, Sheryl Walter, wrote in a December 2012 message to top State officials that the White House was interested in the CREW inquiry. Three months later, the State Department wrongly denied knowledge of the exchange.

“WH called – have we received a FOIA request from CREW (Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington) on the topic of personal use of email by senior officials? Apparently other agencies have. If we have it, can you give me the details so I can call the WH back? I think they’d like it on quick turnaround. Thanks! Sheryl,” Walter wrote.

Telling exchanges

Walter communicated with top Clinton aides Heather Samuelson and Cheryl Mills about the FOIA request in emails and a conference call. Mills and Samuelson later reviewed thousands of Clinton’s emails to determine which were personal and which were work-related, 30,000 of which they turned over to the State Department in 2014. They deleted the other 30,000.

“As a practical matter given our workload, it won’t be processed for some months. Let me know if there are any particular sensitivities,” Walter wrote to Samuelson in December 2012.

In January of 2013, Walter emailed Samuelson, “Hi Heather – did you ever get any intell re what other agencies are doing re this FOIA request that seeks records about the number of email accounts associated with the Secretary (but isn’t specifying “personal” email accounts so we are interpreting as official accounts only). We are considering contacting the requester to find out exactly what it is they are looking for. Do you have any-concerns about that approach?”

Samuelson responded, “White House Counsel was looking into this for me. I will circle back with them now to see if they have further guidance.”

Pro-Clinton bias on display

Judicial Watch learned in April from a former FBI official that the FBI found a batch of Clinton’s emails inside the Obama White House. The watchdog group gained access to the new emails as a result of court-ordered discovery into Clinton’s private server.

“A federal court granted Judicial Watch discovery into the Clinton emails because the court wanted answers about a government cover-up of the Clinton emails. And now we have answers because it looks like the Obama White House orchestrated the Clinton email cover-up,” Fitton said.

The report validates what president Trump and his allies have argued: that the Obama administration was heavily biased towards Clinton and attempted to give her candidacy a lift while working to stop Trump. Republicans have long alleged that bias at the FBI, DOJ, and other agencies tainted their probes of Clinton’s emails, as well as their handling of the Trump-Russia investigation.

Conservatives have long suspected that the FBI, led by Trump foe Jim Comey, ended its probe into Clinton’s emails prematurely. Comey famously exonerated Clinton in a draft memo before she was even interviewed, despite finding her email practices “extremely careless.”

The new information revealed by Judicial Watch reveals that pro-Clinton prejudice may have extended to higher levels, and perhaps began years before Trump or Clinton threw their respective hats  in the presidential ring. It certainly would help explain the stunning pattern of bias in the FBI’s handling of investigations into both.

The new emails come as Attorney General William Barr is working to get to the bottom of the origins of the Russia probe, tapping U.S. Attorney John Durham to investigate the investigators. Meanwhile, Judicial Watch has brought a new lawsuit against the FBI and DOJ seeking texts and emails exchanged between senior intelligence officials at the time the Trump-Russia investigation was getting underway.

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Matthew Boose

Matthew Boose is a staff writer for Conservative Institute. He has a Bachelor's degree from Stony Brook University and has contributed to The Daily Caller and The Stony Brook Press.