Biden SCOTUS Nominee Protected Hillary Clinton State Department Aide From Email Scrutiny

Joe Biden’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, protected a high-level State Department aide from scrutiny involved in the scandal surrounding email security when Hillary Clinton served as Secretary of State.

Jackson was a federal district court judge in 2015 when she denied legal requests from media outlet Gawker seeking information about press aide Philippe Reines’ use of a personal email account to conduct official government business. The requests came as part of a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit requesting disclosure of emails Reines exchanged with 34 different media accounts.

Jackson denied the public records request, describing it as “extraordinary.” She found insufficient evidence that Reines acted in “bad faith” when using a personal email account on State Department business.

Much the same as Hillary Clinton, the email account used by Reines was not preserved on State Department recordkeeping systems. When Gawker first requested the emails directly from the State Department, it was told there were no government records to disclose, leading to the FOIA lawsuit.

During the litigation, the State Department directed Raines to turn over all government records in his possession at the Gawker requests. He transferred documents to the government through his lawyers in July 2015. At the time, it had been two years since he worked for the State Department.

Jackson then gave Gawker time to review the documents under court supervision before disclosure. Gawker meanwhile demanded that Reines provide sworn testimony that he had turned over everything in his possession and described the process used to gather and transfer the documents to the government.

Jackson ultimately found that the government did not have to produce the records, stating FOIA did not require the State Department to “solicit or produce” records in the sole possession of a former government official. She found that the government’s decision about producing records is separate and distinct from the decision about what records should be maintained in the first place.

In distinguishing the Reines emails from the Clinton emails that were ordered to be disclosed by a different judge, Jackson found “a total absence of any indicia of bad faith” by Reines in using his email account. However, at least one of Reines’s emails to journalists in 2009 said he wanted “to avoid FOIA” using his account.

The FOIA case finally ended when Gawker dismissed the case in 2017.

Given Jackson’s thin judicial record of written legal opinions, the country should expect Republican senators to ask her about the Reines FOIA case during her confirmation hearings.