This article was originally published on LawFlog.com August 12, 2017.
Last week the FBI informed me that it had not released records pertaining to my Freedom of Information Act request about the Hillary Clinton email investigation because of concerns for her privacy rights. I kid you not.
In a letter dated August 8, 2017, FBI manager David M. Hardy said I would have to prove one of three things in order to get the records: (1) Mrs. Clinton consented to the release of the records; (2) Mrs. Clinton is dead; or (3) my request pertains to a matter of public interest. Here’s an excerpt of the letter that I sent to Mr. Hardytoday:
Frankly, I am stunned that I should have to explain why my request pertains to a matter of public interest. At the time of the perjury referral, Mrs. Clinton was the Democratic nominee for President of the United States, a former U.S. Secretary of State, and a former U.S. Senator. As one would expect, the referral made national news.
I have enclosed a copy of a July 11, 2017 Washington Post article titled “Congressmen ask U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate Clinton for perjury.” One need only Google Chaffetz+referral+Clinton and a string of articles appears. Clearly, my request pertains to a matter of public interest.
I seriously thought about writing that letter in crayon.
My omnibus FOIA request was filed electronically on March 7, 2017, and the Justice Department and FBI have acknowledged that their responses were due on April 4, 2017. In fact, I had filed several prior requests with FBI and DOJ only to get stonewalled. And now, seven months after the Trump administration took over the Justice Department, FOIA requests about Mrs. Clinton are still getting slow-walked.
In fairness, none of this comes as a surprise, and it is not unique to the Trump administration. Ten years ago, I wrote a guest column for the Society of Professional Journalists about bipartisan non-enforcement of the Freedom of Information Act. Nothing has changed since then.
As I noted at the time, the Office of Special Counsel is an independent office charged with prosecuting government employees who flout FOIA. The last time I checked, however, OSC had never prosecuted a single FOIA case. As a practical matter, FOIA enforcement has fallen almost entirely to Judicial Watch, a conservative public-interest group, but even Judicial Watch has no power to punish federal employees who violate the law. No wonder they’re still thumbing their noses at FOIA.
Incidentally, on Friday I appealed the dismissal of my bar grievanceagainst Mrs. Clinton. The Arkansas Supreme Court’s Office of Professional Conduct, by its own admission, did not conduct any investigation but instead relied exclusively on the limited materials that I sent in support of my grievance. I was hoping to send additional evidence from the FBI and Justice Department, but it looks like Mrs. Clinton is being protected from every angle.
The rest of us should be so fortunate.
P.S. A hearing will be held in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court on September 11, 2017, regarding my petition to force the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission to investigate David Kendall, Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson, the lawyers responsible for destroying Mrs. Clinton’s emails.
— Ty Clevenger