Mark Toner, the deputy spokesman for the State Department, was grilled by AP reporter Matt Lee during a press briefing Tuesday over the statement that it will take 75 years to release many emails from top aides to then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton after the Republican National Committee made a Freedom of Information Act request for the emails. That length of time came in a court filing made by attorneys for the State Department in response to the request.
Lee said almost every other document that the government releases takes far less time to produce, even classified documents.
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"The RNC FOIA request, you guys say it's going to take 75 years to complete?" Lee said.
"And I actually did a little digging on this, and I'll, you know, that is an incredible number. But, so I can't comment specifically because it's a matter of ongoing litigation but I would ask you guys to look at the court filings, they do provide the details on why we arrived at the figure," Toner said. "I mean, it's an enormous amount of emails, or rather, sorry, it's an enormous amount of FOIA requests and very broad and very complex."
"Yeah, but this stuff would be released sooner than 75 years just under the regular records, wouldn't it?" Lee said. "I mean, foreign relations with the United States, the volume, I mean that's longer than most classifications last until, I mean, a lot of the stuff that's classified is for only 20 years. Seventy-five years? It seems—" Lee said.
"Again, I refer you to the court filing. It's a very broad range, involving a number of people over a period of, I think four years and it's not an outlandish estimation, believe it or not," Toner said.
"It's not outlandish? I mean, it just, I mean, if stuff is coming," Lee said as he laughed at Toner's response.
"I refer you to the court filing. It gives the rationale behind this estimate," Toner said.