Philippe Reines, the longtime aide to Hillary Clinton, sent Gawker a long note last night after a reporter for the Washington Free Beacon, C.J. Ciaramella, emailed him about an article of ours concerning his and other Clinton staffers’ use of a private email accounts to conduct official State Department business. The entire exchange, including our response at the very bottom, can be found below. We’ll keep you posted if Reines writes back. (Update: Reines responded; see below).


From: CJ Ciaramella
Date: Tue, 3 Mar 2015 18:47:10
To: Philippe Reines
Subject: Comment on private email address at State Dept

Hi Philippe,

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This is CJ Ciaramella, a reporter for the Washington Free Beacon and Vice. Wondering if you have any response to this Gawker article alleging that you and Huma Abedin used private email addresses to conduct official government business while at the State Dept:

http://gawker.com/source-top-cli...

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As I’m sure you well know, not archiving official business conducted on a private email address is a violation of the Federal Records Act. A FOIA request for your State Dept. emails is also currently being appealed. Please email or call: [redacted]

Best,
CJ Ciaramella


From: Philippe Reines
Date: Tue, Mar 3, 2015 at 9:57 PM
Subject: Email
To: CJ Ciaramella, Keenan Trotter, Erik Wemple, Brian Stelter
Cc: Nick Merrill

Hi CJ. And hi JK.

Since this fundamentally comes down to honesty, transparency and accountability, I thought we’d go through an exercise together—with Erik Wemple of The Washington Post and Brian Stelter of CNN included as observers.

JK,

In your piece, which CJ references below, you wrote:

“‘Her top staffers used those Clinton email addresses’ at the agency, said the source, who has worked with Clinton in the past. The source named two staffers in particular, Philippe Reines and Huma Abedin, who are said to have used private email addresses in the course of their agency duties.”

That’s a pretty clear assertion by you through your source that they had firsthand knowledge of my having and using an email account on the clintonemail.com domain. You then wrote:

“We were able to independantly [SIC] [Ed. note: This word was never misspelled in the original article] verify that Abedin used a ClintonEmail.com address at some point in time. There are several email addresses associated with Abedin’s name in records maintained by Lexis-Nexis; one of them is huma@clintonemail.com. An email sent to that address today went through without bouncing.”

A few questions:

1) Did you attempt to verify your source’s assertion of my use of such an email using the same creepy methods you did with my close friend and colleague Huma Abedin? Assuming you did, why doesn’t your piece note the results of your creepy methods?

2) Did you attempt to send an email to me at that domain, and if so did it go “through without bouncing”? Assuming you did, why don’t you note the results of your test?

3) If your lying liar pants on fire source worked with me at a federal agency as you and they contend, did you ask them to provide even a single email exchange with my using that account?

4) Better yet, in the off chance they don’t have every single email they ever sent or received, have you availed yourself of the same FOIA laws to petition the lying liar’s agency for any email between them and me that you have with our email?

I mean, you either naively or knowingly swallowed quite the whopper. Not sure which is worse. Actually, that’s not true.

Now, on the subject of FOIA...

You have to ask State about your requests, appeals, etc.

But while I have you I’m really hoping you can explain something to me. You wrote that “The use of private email addresses may explain the State Department’s puzzling response to several FOIA requests filed by Gawker in the past two years,” continuing, “That request was confoundingly denied on the grounds that the State Department had no record of Reines—whose job it was to communicate with reporters—emailing Hastings or any other journalists.”

So, is your cockamamie theory that the reason there is no record of my emailing with reporters is because I improperly used my personal email address to email with those reporters in an attempt to circumvent FOIA, and that every one of the many reporters you reasonably assume I emailed with are in on this conspiracy of having only emailed with me on my non-official email? All sorts of media outlets reached out to me, including FOX and The Daily Caller. Are they in on it? Is everyone in on it aside from Gawker?

Now, to answer your question: email is a two way street. You’d be surprised how many reporters deliberately email government officials to their personal accounts. You’d be equally surprised to know that when they did, I moved the exchange to my state.gov account because, between you and me, my personal account is about the last place I want to be emailing reporters or conducting work.

Which brings me to my last question(s) - for both JK & CJ:

Have either of you ever deliberately emailed a US Government official anywhere other than their official address to discuss official US Government business? If so, why? Have you ever received an email from a US Government official from anywhere other than their official address to discuss official US Government business? If so did you ask them why?

Looking forward to your responses!
Philippe


From: CJ Ciaramella
Date: Wed, Mar 4, 2015 at 2:30 AM
Subject: Re: Email
To: Philippe Reines
Cc: Keenan Trotter, Erik Wemple, Brian Stelter, Nick Merrill

Hi Philippe,

And hello JK and Erik and Brian and Nick. It’s wonderful that we can all be here, together.

JK can speak to his article, but the reason I’m interested in your response is because if, like you say, you didn’t use private email and copied any work messages to your state.gov account, then State is either lying through its teeth or wildly incompetent, and flouting the Freedom of Information Act either way. That’s a distinct possibility, although I’d note that Ben Smith tweeted out tonight that your exchange with Michael Hastings was conducted over a Gmail account.

Best,
CJ Ciaramella


From: Philippe Reines
Date: Wed, Mar 4, 2015 at 7:09 AM
Subject: Re: Email
To: CJ Ciaramella, Ben Smith, Josh Gerstein, Keenan Trotter
Cc: Erik Wemple, Brian Stelter, Nick Merrill

Good Morning All,

And let me welcome Ben to our little party, because, well, he’s flat out wrong.

Michael emailed me that morning on my State account, I responded from my State account, I even added a second State person’s State account to that exchange, and it entirely remained on our State accounts without my personal account being referenced or used in any way.

But hey, why let truth or facts get in the way of a good Tweet.

And along those lines, I’ve also added Josh Gerstein of Politico since I’m now noticing that he is simply swallowing JK’s dreck whole and stating it as fact. And so Gawker will be repeated over and over because someone flat out lied to them about my email habits, claiming firsthand knowledge that I had an account that I never did. Which was why I originally initiated this group exchange. Still looking forward to JK’s answers.

As for your requests, I understand your point — and even your frustration — but I simply can’t address or explain any of that, the Department has to. That however doesn’t mean I and others shouldn’t be given the benefit of the doubt. As I think we can all agree, USG officials are permitted to use non-official accounts in the course of their job. There are reasons that happens. An outsider could email you at your personal account, maybe because they only have that address. Maybe their official email is on the fritz. Maybe they lost their device. Maybe they made a mistake. I don’t know. But again, there are legitimate non-nefarious reasons, and there should be a measure of benefit of the doubt afforded to people. In four years, I must have sent and received nearly half a million email. The vast vast vast vast majority, maybe four ‘vast’s, the overwhelming majority, whatever term means closer to 100% than 99%, that’s where I’m guessing my average is. If you want to skewer me over a non-100% rate, I can’t do much about that.

From my perspective, if I were emailing with a reporter, I had to assume that it could end up in the public domain, as the exchange with Michael reminded me the very hard way. That’s just the nature of the beast, and what email account you use isn’t going to prevent that. Not to mention that much of what’s written to reporters is purposefully meant for the public domain since that’s the job. And believe me, I’d be far happier with you all having a field day poring through my largely boring and tedious email, than unfairly and erroneously reading that I intentionally undermined or circumvented the process. That frustrates me as much as State responses are frustrating you.

Anyway, hope this helps.
Philippe


From: Ben Smith
Date: Wed, Mar 4, 2015 at 7:37 AM
Subject: Re: Email
To: Philippe Reines
Cc: CJ Ciaramella, Josh Gerstein, Keenan Trotter, Erik Wemple, Brian Stelter, Nick Merrill

Hey guys: this is my fault. I misremembered. I’m sorry for sowing confusion.

I have corresponded with Philippe on his gmail, but this was not that.

Apologies.
Ben


From: Max Read
Date: Wed, Mar 4, 2015 at 7:16 AM
Subject: Re: Re: Email
To: Keenan Trotter
Cc: John Cook

This seems fun! I’m feeling left out!


From: Keenan Trotter
Date: Wed, Mar 4, 2015 at 1:26 PM
Subject: Re: Email
To: Philippe Reines, CJ Ciaramella, Ben Smith, Josh Gerstein, Erik Wemple, Brian Stelter, Nick Merrill
Cc: Huma Abedin

Hi Philippe, thanks for the email. Here are the answers you requested.

1) Did you attempt to verify your source’s assertion of my use of such an email using the same creepy methods you did with my close friend and colleague Huma Abedin? Assuming you did, why doesn’t your piece note the results of your creepy methods?

Yes. I looked for but could not find a ClintonEmail.com listed under your name on Lexis-Nexis. That is why I asked your spokesperson, Nick Merrill, about whether you actually possessed a ClintonEmail.com address. He said you did not, and I included his statement in the same article to which you refer.

2) Did you attempt to send an email to me at that domain, and if so did it go “through without bouncing”? Assuming you did, why don’t you note the results of your test?

No, because I didn’t find a ClintonEmail.com under your name and because your boss’s email address, hdr22@clintonemail.com, was deliberately obscure. I decided to hold off on trying to email easily guessable usernames (e.g., philippe@clintonemail.com) until we had heard back from Merrill. Only after Merrill denied that you had a ClintonEmail.com address did I discover that Huma Abedin had a ClintonEmail.com address.

For reasons that remain unclear, however, Merrill only addressed questions concerning you; he repeatedly refused to address questions about Abedin—the one Clinton staffer whose possession of a ClintonEmail.com account has been publicly confirmed.

3) If your lying liar pants on fire source worked with me at a federal agency as you and they contend, did you ask them to provide even a single email exchange with my using that account?

Neither I nor my source contended that they worked at a federal agency with you. They only claimed to be aware of the fact that Clinton’s closest aides used private email accounts to conduct official government business, based on their experience working with Clinton. I worked to confirm that the source was correct, and reported Merrill’s claim that you did not have a ClintonEmail.com address. Again, I included all of this in the very article to which you refer.

4) Better yet, in the off chance they don’t have every single email they ever sent or received, have you availed yourself of the same FOIA laws to petition the lying liar’s agency for any email between them and me that you have with our email?

No, I didn’t file a FOIA request for emails between you and the source. Doing so would have put the source’s name on the public record, and as you know, the State Department often takes years to respond to even the most simple requests. It is unlikely that such a request would have been fulfilled by deadline.

So, is your cockamamie theory that the reason there is no record of my emailing with reporters is because I improperly used my personal email address to email with those reporters in an attempt to circumvent FOIA, and that every one of the many reporters you reasonably assume I emailed with are in on this conspiracy of having only emailed with me on my non-official email? All sorts of media outlets reached out to me, including FOX and The Daily Caller. Are they in on it? Is everyone in on it aside from Gawker?

My theory is that, if the State Department has been repeatedly unable to locate records of known email exchanges—for a reason other than institutional incompetence—then the reason might have to do with the the deliberate flouting of record-keeping regulations by State Department staffers. Nobody has provided an alternative explanation.

Now, to answer your question: email is a two way street. You’d be surprised how many reporters deliberately email government officials to their personal accounts. You’d be equally surprised to know that when they did, I moved the exchange to my state.gov account because, between you and me, my personal account is about the last place I want to be emailing reporters or conducting work.

This is not, in fact, an answer. You were employed by the State Department when Gawker filed a FOIA request for correspondence between you and Michael Hastings.* And yet you refuse to clarify why the State Department could not locate a record of your exchange with Hastings.

Have either of you ever deliberately emailed a US Government official anywhere other than their official address to discuss official US Government business? If so, why? Have you ever received an email from a US Government official from anywhere other than their official address to discuss official US Government business? If so did you ask them why?

No.

Now that I’ve addressed your questions, would you mind answering these?

  1. Were you made aware of Gawker’s FOIA request for correspondence between you and 34 media outlets, which was submitted—and later denied, on the grounds that no record of the correspondence was found—when you were a State Department employee? If not, when did you become aware of the request?
  2. Why have several FOIA requests for known email exchanges been rejected, because no records of them were found, when Clinton was secretary of state?
  3. Why were you not given a ClintonEmail.com address, but Huma Abedin was?
  4. How many people have ClintonEmail.com addresses, and what are their names?
  5. You wrote that you received emails from reporters to your personal email while you were at State. Did you take steps to ensure those records were preserved under the rules set by the National Archives and Records Administration and the Freedom of Information Act?
  6. Did you conduct any other State Department business on an email account other than your @state.gov one? If so, did you take similar steps to preserve those emails as well?
  7. In your September 2012 exchange with Michael Hastings, he wrote in a message to you: “I now understand what women say about you, too! Any new complaints against you lately?” What was he referring to?

I also have a few questions for your colleague Huma Abedin (whom I’ve CC’d on this email):

  1. Why were you given a ClintonEmail.com email address?
  2. What do you use this email address for?
  3. Did you use this email address for official State Department business?
  4. Why do two of your colleagues, Nick Merrill and Philippe Reines, refuse to answer any questions about your possession of a ClintonEmail.com account?

Thanks again,
Keenan


Update (1:40 p.m.):

From: Keenan Trotter
Date: Wed, Mar 4, 2015 at 1:40 PM
Subject: Re: Email
To: Philippe Reines, CJ Ciaramella, Ben Smith, Josh Gerstein, Erik Wemple, Brian Stelter, Nick Merrill
Cc: Huma Abedin

Hey everyone! I just realized this line may be incorrect: “You were also employed by the State Department when your agency denied that request.” Philippe, did you leave when Secretary Clinton left the agency, too? (Or was it later?)


Update (6:15 p.m.): Reines has responded to our response:

From: Philippe Reines
Date: Wed, Mar 4, 2015 at 5:42 PM
Subject: Re: Email
To: Keenan Trotter, CJ Ciaramella
Cc: Ben Smith, Josh Gerstein, Erik Wemple, Brian Stelter, Michael Calderone, Dylan Byers, Nick Merrill

Keenan,

  1. I didn’t ask why you didn’t include Nick’s statement. I asked you why you didn’t include the results of your Lexis-Nexis search. Implication being you intentionally omitted anything that would refute your thesis. And they say spokespeople are evasive!
  2. Completely understandable given how very difficult and costly email is to send and you only have so many you can send a day. Not to mention the horrific consequences of a bounceback. Glad you didn’t take risk.
  3. Convenient.
  4. Ibid.

(NOTE: How about you, me and lying liar source take a trip to the polygraph store. The three of us strap in and we let the needle decide. Loser pays and issues a public apology. I don’t need to know their identity until they lose.)

Cockamamie Theory: Is it your belief that I orchestrated this from private life months after leaving my job at State? If yes, is it your belief that my long reach would rig something as implausibly stupid as the reply you got? That’s just insulting. I mean, it put me in a worse light than if they had just ignored you.

Non-USG Email Use: Talk about implausibly stupid replies, you would have to be the only reporter in America to claim that. If true though, very impressive.

To Your Questions:

  1. Sometime after I left State, can’t recall the specific date. Probably from your reporting actually. Will surprise you to know that you & I are in complete agreement on this ludicrousness.
  2. You can ask me this over and over and I still can’t answer why. Again, I’m with you on this one. I sent email, I received email, lots of email – so you have to ask the FOIA people what the problem is. If you find out, let me know – because it’s as frustrating to me as you. And I’m suffering from it more than anyone.
  3. Simple. I didn’t need a personal address, I had one.
  4. I’m not their IT guy. But nobody else at State.
  5. Michael Calderone, cc’d, Tweeted what was my preferred practice. And as Erik Wemple wrote, he emailed me several times at State in 2012 and I replied from State every time. My personal email was the last place I wanted reporters intruding. No offense.
  6. I addressed this in my email to you. Biggest reason people used a personal account was because their work email was down, which happened maddeningly not infrequently. And often in those cases you’d be emailing another State person whose email worked so it would be retained. And then when yours came back up, you’d revert.
  7. Thank you, I’m really glad you asked, for two reasons: 1) My third biggest regret about that exchange — the first being having it at all, second being losing my cool — was not replying one last time to respond to that remark. I don’t know what he was referring to. And given his death I’m reluctant to guess. But I think he was referencing a rumor that stemmed from State’s FOX reporter being removed from the State beat because of a sexual harassment charge against him by a colleague, and said reporter tried to blame me. Which never made sense why he thought that would work. But I guess it kinda did if you’re asking me more than two years later.

But the real reason I am thrilled you asked is because in one sentence you’ve revealed your lack of professionalism, low standards and sheer cruel intent. It’s the purest window into your subjectivity, motivations and credibility you could possibly have invoked. Better than anything I’ve highlighted so far. So again, thank you.

But I’ll sign off by reiterating our common ground: your FOIA request should be resolved in a manner far less ridiculous than it has been to date. If there’s such thing as an amicus brief for FOIA requests, count me in. Or better yet, I’ll jointly sign a new request for my email.

Best,
Philippe

P.S. To your questions about Huma: I just don’t understand what the big deal is. What do you care if she had that one or gmail or Erols? Makes no difference to anything you’re asking.


Update (3/5/2015, 1:20 p.m.): Reines has sent yet another email:

From: Philippe Reines
Date: Thu, Mar 5, 2015 at 12:59 PM
Subject: Re: Email
To: Keenan Trotter, CJ Ciaramella
Cc: Ben Smith, Josh Gerstein, Erik Wemple, Brian Stelter, Michael Calderon, Dylan Byers, Nick Merrill

I’m not looking to continue this back and forth, I think we’ve all made our points loudly and clearly and saying anything further wouldn’t be constructive. And honestly, I don’t find this fun or funny.

But I want to flag that you seem to have pasted into the version you posted online some errant internal Gawker email banter that is not actually part of this chain. With that, I’m truly done, and going to take advantage of the weather and go make snow angels.

From: Max Read
Date: Wed, Mar 4, 2015 at 7:16 AM
Subject: Re: Re: Email
To: Keenan Trotter
Cc: John Cook

This seems fun! I’m feeling left out!


Email the author: trotter@gawker.com · Photo credit: Associated Press