Pompeo’s Use of Personal Email While CIA Director Highlights State Department’s Failure to Produce His Emails as Secretary

Update: Letter to NARA, CIA, State Department

On Oct. 22, American Oversight sent a letter to the National Archives and Records Administration, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department, urging them to take prompt action to recover any records that may have been unlawfully removed as a result of Pompeo’s use of personal email to conduct government business.

 

The Federal Records Act generally prohibits officials from using non-government electronic messaging accounts for agency business, and the extensive volume of Pompeo’s official communications over his personal email while CIA director suggests he may have continued the practice after moving to the State Department. Read the letter here.

Last week, as the president dredged up his favorite accusations about Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo promised to release the former secretary’s emails ahead of the November election. Pompeo scoffed at accusations that the move would be a violation of the Hatch Act, claiming the release would be “for the sake of transparency.”

But professed concerns about transparency have not led to the release of any of his own State Department emails. For the past two and half years of Pompeo’s tenure as secretary, American Oversight has submitted dozens of Freedom of Information Act requests for his emails. We’ve also sued multiple times after the department failed to comply with such requests, and have received not a single email sent from Pompeo’s official State Department account. Our litigation has, however, recently produced nearly 400 pages of his personal emails from his time as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. 

These records not only reveal a problematic amount of official business being conducted over private email — a major issue of the 2016 presidential election that President Donald Trump continues to bring up, despite his own administration’s rampant disregard for the rules. They also show Pompeo fielding questionable investigation requests as well as the involvement of his wife, Susan Pompeo, in official government activities.

One email from January 2018 indicates that Pompeo tasked agency officials to look into an issue brought to his attention by one of his personal acquaintances. While the subject matter is redacted, the acquaintance said they had been made aware of the issue by a friend who found “some disturbing things.” According to the email, Pompeo’s acquaintance was “concerned that law enforcement does not seem to have revealed the whole story.” That day, Pompeo forwarded the email to colleagues, instructing them to “[s]ee what our team knows.” 

The emails also include multiple indications of Susan Pompeo’s engagement with CIA officials during Pompeo’s tenure as director, adding to public reporting of her extensive and potentially inappropriate level of involvement at both the CIA and the State Department. She played a detailed role in generating ideas for Pompeo’s introduction as director, such as brainstorming branding ideas for his “Meet with Mike” employee engagement efforts, flagging press articles for his review, and working to arrange a “congressional spouses lunch.”

Throughout his time as director, Pompeo appears to have regularly received official schedules at his personal email account — an unusual arrangement for high-level government officials, who generally would have access to government systems at their home offices and on work phones. 

This extensive use of personal email for agency business raises questions about what other activities Pompeo conducted over personal email, including at the State Department — and about whether efforts need to be undertaken to preserve government records in personal accounts. American Oversight received these documents after requesting Pompeo’s communications with senior staff using any non-governmental email addresses associated with Pompeo, as well as exchanges between his work and personal accounts. However, emails not sent to either Pompeo’s work account or the accounts of select specified officials would not have been captured by this request.

Meanwhile, more than a year after we filed suit, the State Department has not yet produced documents in response to our litigation for his personal emails while serving as secretary, even as Pompeo’s pledge to declassify former Secretary Clinton’s emails has publicly underscored his purported commitment to transparency. American Oversight has called for an investigation into whether that pledge has led the secretary — or any staff he directed to work on it — to violate the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity in their official roles. On Monday, the Office of Special Counsel said it would open a case file on the issue.

Read all the Pompeo emails we obtained from the CIA here.

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