Newly obtained emails on John Kerry’s climate fiefdom raise questions about his stubborn secrecy and possible use of a private email account for official government business.
Protect the Public’s Trust, an ethics watchdog group, tells the Herald that new Climate Office emails released through a records request show staffers scrambling to downplay titles and a memo cc’d to a Gmail account that appears to be for Kerry.
Kerry’s climate communications office did not respond to Herald questions about the Gmail account and related topics. Protect the Public’s Trust, however, did share all the emails gained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Those documents raise serious questions about how Kerry runs his office and how the Climate crew remains chilly toward transparency. The emails are heavily redacted but do reveal some of the inner workings of the first-of-its-kind agency.
One key email shows that on Jan. 31, 2022, a “Manchin discussion/engagement” dispatch was cc’d to “John F Kerry (redacted) @gmail.com.” That same email about U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is also cc’d to “Kerry, John F (redacted) @state.gov.”
The redacted email portions were labeled “(b)(6),” meaning that they fell under the sixth exemption to the FOIA. That exemption allows an agency to withhold “personnel and medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”
All the other emails listed on the 102-page FOIA file are peppered with state.gov or other .gov email extensions.
The Gmail outlier is what Protect the Public’s Trust is raising a red flag over — that and the steps Kerry’s office takes to be cagy with titles, as they were in April of 2021 when giving a statement to Columbia University media from a Climate Office staffer who wrote they identified as “just … supporting jk on intl negotiations.”
Titles, it seems, are closely guarded. The Herald has asked for all of the titles and pay for Kerry’s office. Those records, FOIA officials have said, will not be produced until October of 2024.
This all shows, says Michael Chamberlain, director of Protect the Public’s Trust, that the Climate Office under Kerry remains cloaked.
“The message that the Biden Administration is the most transparent in history apparently hasn’t made its way to John Kerry’s crew,” Chamberlain said.
“The games they play and the time and effort on the taxpayer’s dime they spend to avoid revealing something so mundane as a title is astounding. It doesn’t take a cynic to begin to wonder what else they have to hide. And why. Add in the inclusion of Kerry’s personal email on official communications and the question naturally arises that, while they claim to be working on serious matters, are they really taking their obligations to the American public very seriously?” he added.
Ironically, on Friday Manchin blasted the Biden administration in a memo over new Treasury Department rules for electric cars that “strengthen Chinese supply chains and Chinese Communist Party-affiliated companies.” Those same rules, which take effect April 18, cut the $7,500 federal tax credit for EV purchases in half for many electric vehicles, the Associated Press reports.
Also, if Kerry is using a Gmail account for Biden administration business, it would be similar to Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state that triggered an FBI probe days before the 2016 election. She was never charged, but she lost that presidential race to Donald Trump.
Kerry has been named President Biden’s Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change — a Cabinet-level position “that serves on the National Security Council and leads the Administration’s efforts to combat global climate change.”
That office, according to the Department of Justice, is subject to the Freedom of Information Act — despite the prominence of Kerry’s post.
See the complete FOIA return today at bostonherald.com in this story.