New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who has spearheaded the #ExxonKnew crusade, has repeatedly refused to turn over emails under open records laws – and new court documents provide yet another reason why he might want to keep them hidden.
It turns out Schneiderman definitely used a private email address to conduct official business while he has been embroiled in his Exxon investigation.
The court documents, submitted by lawyers for the Energy and Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal), explain that we know Schneiderman’s personal email address was used because it is contained within a privilege log of correspondence that he provided to the court. A judge only recognized that the personal email was used after an in camera review of this log.
All of this occurred after Schneiderman’s office claimed that a search for personal email addresses was not necessary because their office has a policy that personal email is “prohibited.” According to the court documents, “The record reveals that the respondents [Schneiderman’s office] took great pains to hide the true facts of the Attorney General’s use of private email addresses in an effort to stave off a court-ordered supplemental search.” (emphasis added) In fact, Schneiderman’s office provided the email that was sent from a personal address in the log they submitted, but did not identify what email address was used for that correspondence. Therefore the Court “accepted the representations made by the Attorney General.” Yet,
“Events subsequent to this Court’s Interim Order have definitively established that the Attorney General did, in fact, use his Gmail (or some other private email platform) for the performance of his duties at OAG. This Court has recognized after in camera review, that Document 160287-210-211 reflects the Attorney General using a private email address.
“At the time the December 21, 2016 Interim Order was signed, neither the Court nor the petitioners had any affirmative evidence that the Attorney General used a private email account. However, events subsequent to December 21, 2016 unequivocally establish that such a private email account was used for official business, and that the initial briefing in this case obfuscated that fact, causing a miscarriage of justice.” (emphasis added)
Because all of this, E&E Legal is asking that the email address’ domain name be revealed:
“Given OAG’s vociferous denials that a search of the Attorney General’s private email address was necessary, and subsequent revelations that the Attorney General does indeed possess and use a private email address for the business of his office, the public is at a minimum entitled to know the domain name of the email address.
“Quite simply, there is no personal privacy interest implicated by whether the Attorney General’s non-official, non-OAG maintained email account used at least on occasion for official purposes ends in ‘@gmail.com’ or ‘@yahoo.com.’ There is however a public interest in know, e.g., what system has custody of records belonging to the public, and whether the Attorney General was using an account for official correspondence which may be opportunistically encrypted for higher security, which not all of the major email hosting services do; or whether the system he was using…was also highly insecure.”
It’s important to remember that other logs provided to the court also reveal that Schneiderman was in close communication with the Rockefellers Family Fund and Rockefeller Brothers Fund (who have been bankrolling the entire #ExxonKnew campaign) as well as Steyer’s office. These emails date back to early 2015, long before the original #ExxonKnew hit pieces were published
This isn’t the only personal email that has been uncovered at the New York Attorney General’s office, either. Just a few months ago, it was revealed that Lem Srolovic, the Assistant Attorney General in Schneiderman’s office, used a personal Gmail address to converse with activist organizations in 2012.
The irony, of course, is that all this is revealed just after Schneiderman’s office tried to make a big deal about an alternate email for former Exxon president and CEO Rex Tillerson (which was a company-issued account, not a personal email address) that was used to speed up communications with company leadership.
These new revelations, and Schneiderman’s attempt to distract the public, are just further evidence of how much he is trying to hide.