On Friday, a federal judge declined to grant the government’s motion to dismiss American Oversight’s lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs for failing to recover the former secretary’s official emails from personal accounts.
This past spring, American Oversight uncovered evidence that former Secretary David Shulkin, who was fired in March 2018, used personal email extensively and unlawfully to communicate about official business, including with three members of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club. Democracy Forward and American Oversight sent letters to the VA demanding that the government recover those emails as required by the Federal Records Act, and we sued in August to compel the department to take action.
In a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the VA on Oct. 28 to dismiss our lawsuit, we learned that back in June, Shulkin had provided the VA with more than 22,000 pages of official communications from his personal email accounts and had declined to confirm whether he had turned over all federal records in his possession. The department’s motion to dismiss argued that the court did not have jurisdiction to hear the case because the department’s processes were ongoing — despite the fact that the Federal Records Act requires agencies to take enforcement actions upon discovering violations like Shulkin’s.
Judge Randolph Moss held off on granting that motion to dismiss, and instead ordered the VA to talk to Shulkin and his lawyers about how he conducted his search for those 22,000 pages and to confirm his understanding of his own obligations and commitment to preserve records. The court ordered VA to provide an update on its efforts by December 13.