A federal judge has handed the White House a legal victory in battle with the Democratic National Committee over e-mails related to U.S. attorney firings.
District Judge Ellen Huvelle of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled on Thursday that the DNC does not have a right under the Freedom of Information Act for 68 pages of e-mails sent between White House and Justice Department officials simply because the White House e-mail traffic was transmitted on a server controlled by the Republican National Committee.
The DNC sued the Justice Department in April 2007 after its FOIA request for the e-mails, which relate to the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, was not granted by DOJ. Attorneys for the DNC argued that since the White House officials used “GWB43.com” e-mail addresses to send the messages, they cannot be deemed to be official in nature and therefore must be turned over under the DNC’s FOIA request. 88 White House officials were given those RNC-controlled addresses to conduct political activities, but Bush administration later claimed that the accounts were used to handle other official business, such as interactions between the White House and senior DOJ aides on the prosecutor purge.
In dismissing the DNC lawsuit, Huvelle ruled that it was “based on the false factual premise that White House officials only used their RNC e-mail accounts for political communications.”
Additionally, Huvelle decided that just because an RNC server was used to send the messages – 68 pages out of more than 5,000 which have been denied to the DNC – it is not enough to automatically disqualify the Justice Department from claiming a FOIA exemption in refusing to release them.
“It is therefore clear that RNC e-mail accounts were used (rightly or wrongly) both for official and RNC business, and thus the nature of the server is not necessarily informative as to whether the document contained official or political communications,” Huvelle wrote in her opinion.