Gawker Media is suing the U.S. State Department under the Freedom of Information Act for access to emails between former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Philippe Reines and members of the press, the site's executive editor for investigations, John Cook, announced Friday.
Though Cook originally reported in 2013 that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had been using a private email address to conduct government business, the story has boiled into a full-blown controversy in recent weeks after The New York Times reported Clinton may have violated federal regulations.
At the time, Gawker filed requests for access to Clinton's emails as well as those of her aide Huma Abedin -- both of which were denied. Because the media company chose not to administratively appeal the decision, it is now unable to sue the State Department for release of the records.
Gawker is, however, able to sue for access to Reines' correspondences. The site first filed a request for Reines' emails in 2012 following a series of combative exchanges with the late Michael Hastings, a BuzzFeed reporter who was killed in a car crash in 2013. Hastings had gotten under the longtime Clinton aide's skin after asking pointed questions about the Benghazi scandal and Reines' criticism of CNN for reporting on the story. The correspondence concluded with Reines telling Hastings to "fuck off" and "have a good life."
"State claimed in response to that request -- preposterously, given the fact that Reines' job was to correspond with reporters and that one of those exchanges were already on the internet -- that it simply didn't have any such emails," Cook wrote. "We did appeal that denial, and State has been purportedly searching for those emails for more than a year. It has not produced them."
"The fact that we have appealed and that State has long missed the statutory deadline for responding to our request means that our request is ripe for a lawsuit," he continued, "and with the help of Washington, D.C., FOIA attorneys Mark Zaid and Bradley Moss, we filed one today."
Gawker reports that while Reines did not use a clintonemail.com address -- the domain used by the former secretary of state -- he "was known by at least one Clinton insider to use private accounts to conduct government business."
Gawker's suit comes days after the Associated Press announced it would be suing the State Department to force the release of Clinton's emails after numerous requests went unanswered.
Gawker's full complaint can be viewed here.