Sheryl Walter (Credit: Facebook)
In December 2012, the non-profit group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, asking for records that show the number of Clinton’s email accounts. (US Department of State, 7/29/2016) But in May 2013, State Department official Sheryl Walter sent a response letter to CREW that stated “no records responsive to your request were located.” US Department of State, 8/29/2016)
In early June 2013, some State Department officials looking over material to possibly give to a Congressional investigation discovered Clinton’s private email address. Then, in the ensuing weeks, senior department officials debated if they were required to turn over such information. In fact, regulations state they are required to do so, but they ultimately fail to share the address with anyone anyway. (US Department of State, 5/25/2016)
During this apparent debate period, on August 7, 2013, employees of the department’s FOIA response team search for FOIA requests related to Clinton’s emails.
Geoff Hermesman (Credit: LinkedIn)
Margaret Grafeld mentions in an email to John Hackett, Sheryl Walter, Karen Finnegan, Geoff Hermesman, and two other department officials, “John, you mentioned yesterday requests for Secretary Clinton’s emails; may I get copies, pls [please] and thx [thanks].”
Sheryl Walter replies to the group, “Goeff, can you get a copy of all requests related to this request? Karen, I don’t think we have any litigation on this topic, do we? Did we respond to the CREW request yet?” (Walter actually was the one who wrote CREW in May 2013 that no emails had been found.)
Geoff Hermesman then replies to Sheryl Walter and the group, “Sheryl, A search of the F2 database identified 17 FOIA cases that contain Clinton in the subject line and can be further construed as requests for correspondence between the Secretary and other individuals and/or organizations. Of these, four specifically mention emails or email accounts.” He also mentions that two of those four cases are open and the other two are closed.
Gene Smilansky (Credit: New York Times)
Walter then emails just Karen Finnegan and Gene Smilansky, “What about the CREW request? Is that still outstanding?”
Finnegan explains in subsequent emails to Walter and Smilansky that CREW was sent a response, and then provides the exact quote of the CREW request.
Smilansky, who is a department lawyer and legal counsel, then asks Walter and Finnegan to discuss it with him over the phone, so that is the end of the email trail. (US Department of State, 8/29/2016)
There is no evidence any of the 17 FOIA requesters are told about Clinton emails that are responsive to their cases, presumably due to the above-mentioned higher-level department debate. Only in the later half of 2014 will the department change this policy, after a new Congressional committee search for documents.