Missing Emails From Governor Bullock’s Years as Attorney General Beginning to Surface – House Speaker Plans Investigation – Both Campaigns Weigh In
When Governor Steve Bullock said recently the official emails from his time as Montana's Attorney General no longer exist, some are now surfacing, and at least one state official is considering an investigation that could involve the upcoming legislative session.
The missing email situation was revealed in October, when it was discovered that emails during Bullock's time as AG were missing, and the current AG Tim Fox's spokesman, John Barnes said 'we don't know what happened to those records.'
On Saturday, November 5, Gary Marbut, President of the Montana Shooting Sports Association issued a press release stating that a 'smoking gun' has surfaced that would contradict the Governor's claims that those years of emails was missing. That news release is below;
(for immediate release, November 5, 2016)
Attorney General Bullock's Deleted Emails Now Beginning to Surface
Gun Rights Groups Finds "Smoking Gun" that Contradicts Bullock Deleted Email Claims
MISSOULA, Mont. - A story in the Washington Free Beacon about the missing emails from when Governor Bullock was the Montana Attorney General says that it cannot be proven that the deleted emails were business-related because those deleted emails are simply no longer available to examine. Despite that claim, relevant emails are beginning to surface, just as the thousands of emails deleted from Hillary Clinton's private server have surfaced.
In 2011, while Bullock was Attorney General, the Montana Shooting Sports Association (MSSA) had litigation in process to validate the Montana Firearms Freedom Act in federal courts. Montana, represented by the Montana Department of Justice (MtDoJ), became an intervenor in that case, MSSA v. Holder. MSSA has archived email exchanges with senior staff at MtDoJ concerning that case, which was clearly official business for MtDoJ to participate in defending a law passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. MSSA is making these deleted-by-DoJ emails public.
This first trickle of emails is likely the beginning of a flood of MtDoJ emails that may surface from when Bullock was Attorney General, emails that some authorities assert must by law be preserved for public inspection under the right to know in the Montana Constitution.
MSSA President Gary Marbut commented, "We need a serious dose of sunshine and integrity in government. The people should no longer tolerate any burning of records or wholesale deletion of emails in order to destroy possible evidence of backroom or illegal deals. There is a good reason why the people have put the open records requirement into the Montana Constitution. Destruction of public records is simply unacceptable."
Many national observers have been stunned by the wholesale deletion of emails from the Clinton private server, emails which are now becoming public because of Wikileaks and the FBI investigation.
Marbut continued, "Although the original claim was that these emails were only a few about yoga lessons, recovered emails paint a far different picture, vivid picture of corruption, complicity, cronyism, and compromise of national security. We don't want that happening here in Montana."
Reacting to that press release, Speaker of the Montana House of Representatives, Austin Knudsen, said he plans an investigation into the missing emails, which he says is a violation of state law.
"When you're an elected official, your emails are subject to Montana's public records laws," Knudsen began. "There are a couple of different provisions, one that says you're supposed to hand over your official emails to your successor, and another that says you're supposed to hand your official emails over to the state archives for posterity's sake, for historical purposes. Neither of those were done when Governor Bullock left the Attorney General's office when he was elected governor. Not only are there no emails from his entire four years, there are no emails for his top senior staff, as well."
Knudsen says at least two state laws have been violated, and he believes the upcoming legislature should look into the matter.
"We need to get to the bottom of this and find out what happened, and why," he said. "I think, legally, we can have the judiciary committee of the House or Senate look into this, but I know we certainly have legislative authority to look into this."
Knudsen said the investigation will go forward no matter who wins the election on Tuesday, Bullock or his Republican opponent, Greg Gianforte.
"This is something I've had to explain to a lot of people," he said. "This is a situation where the law was violated. My day job is as an attorney, and I've looked at the two statutes, and from what I've been presented with, these two statutes have been violated. So, win, lose, or draw, no matter who's governor, we're going to do this investigation, that's my pledge to the people of Montana."
Knudsen said the governor's office has stated that the emails were turned over to his successor, but Attorney General Tim Fox's office says they received no emails from Governor Bullock. Another explanation was that the emails were stored on the Department of Administration's server, and somehow, they lost them.
"Well," Knudsen went on. "An audit was done by the current Attorney General's office and they found that that was not true. The Department of Administration never had possession of those emails. Those emails were in fact stored on the attorney general office servers, and those emails no longer exist, so, that means either those servers were intentionally wiped, or they were negligently wiped. But, one way or the other, they were in Steve Bullock's possession while he was attorney general, and they no longer exist."
Knudsen said ultimately, it was Governor Bullock's responsibility to make sure all those emails were turned over, and they were not.
"In fact, it looks like they were destroyed," he said.
KGVO News has reached out to Governor Bullock's office and his reelection campaign staff for a comment, and received this reply from Jason Pitt from the Montana Democratic Party;
"If New Jersey millionaire Greg Gianforte thinks old out-of-office replies are relevant records, he should be a lot more concerned about his own record of lobbying for a statewide sales tax, suing to block public river access, and funding organizations that want to use public education funding for private schools."
To which the Gianforte campaign promptly responded through spokesman Aaron Flint;
Every single one of Bullock's false claims have already been discredited. The only candidate open to a sales tax is Steve Bullock. Career politician Steve Bullock is desperate to distract attention from the fact that Montana is 49th in the nation in wages, revenues are in a steep decline, and our economy declined for the last two quarters. This is why we need a high wage job creator like Greg Gianforte serving in the Governor's office.