State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner defended the agency's decision to not release Hillary Clinton's emails about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement until after the presidential election on Tuesday.
Toner’s defense came after a Freedom of Information Act request by David Sirota, a reporter at the International Business Times, for emails from Clinton and her staff that pertained to the trade deal. The State Department responded to Sirota with an estimate that his request would be fulfilled around Nov. 31, 2016—a date that does not exist.
"I understand that this is a rather large request involving large amounts of email that would have to be gone through and looked at, but is it really the case that it would take until almost December?" Associated Press reporter Matt Lee asked Toner.
"You're right to say we don't comment on ongoing FOIA requests … but based on the information in the original article about this FOIA request, this is a very broad request," Toner said. "I think it asks for any correspondence in an over four-year period between sort of 2009 to 2013, between the staff, well, the office of the secretary and the staff in the [the U.S. Trade Representative's office] that mentions TPP. So, that's going to be a broad spectrum of emails and so it's not just related to Secretary Clinton's emails."
"[W]e've received approximately 22,000 FOIA requests in the last fiscal year. There's a lot to go through. So, it's not simply an estimate that we're throwing out a date like that, it's based on our best estimation right now."
Lee then asked Toner about the Nov. 31 date referenced in the State Department’s response to Sirota.
"And the date given, I mean, does November 31 exist as a date on the State Department calendar or what's the deal with that?" Lee asked. "I mean is that one of these weird, alternate universe kind of things?"
"No, look, I assume whoever gave that date meant to say the last day of November," Toner said.