A former top aide to Hillary Clinton appeared to joke with reporters that he wanted to avoid open records laws, years before his and other Clinton aides’ use of private email accounts became an issue for her presidential campaign.
“I want to avoid FOIA,” Philippe Reines, Clinton’s combative former adviser, wrote in an email to journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann in February 2009, referring to the Freedom of Information Act.
The email was revealed Thursday as part of a lawsuit launched by Gawker earlier this year.
The message was apparently sent before Reines took a job at the State Department and is being dismissed by his lawyers as a joke.
Yet critics of Clinton are likely to view it more seriously, given long concerns that the use of personal email accounts by Reines, Clinton and other top officials not only skirted government recordkeeping laws but may have jeopardized national security.
Reines’s comment was in response to emails from Halperin and Heilemann, who had gone through him to ask Huma Abedin — another longtime Clinton aide — for an interview for their 2010 book, “Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime.”
“He wants specifics,” Reines wrote. “I want to avoid FOIA.”
“I just want to know what your job and email address are,” Halperin responded. “i [sic] think those are subject to (or exempt from) foia.”
The email was sent on Feb. 6, 2009. In a statement to Gawker, Reines’s spokeswoman indicated that he did not begin his job at the State Department for another three weeks, making it impossible for him to communicate through anything other than his personal account.
Reines has become a frequent target of scorn for journalists, and Clinton's critics are unlikely to let the matter go unnoticed.
He and the State Department had previously denied that there were any emails to turn over in response to a 2013 FOIA request by Gawker, which sought messages between Reines and dozens of reporters.
Last year, the State Department abruptly reversed its position, declaring that there were actually more than 17,000 emails that might have been covered by the request. Those emails were only discovered after Gawker filed a lawsuit to obtain the documents.