On March 19, 2017, King’s law office in Washington, DC, received a request from the Justice Department’s Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to access the White Houses voter file.
The King’s office was aware that the WhiteHouse was storing voter files from past presidential elections, and had requested access to the presidential files in 2018 and 2020.
But the EAC told the King that it had no legal authority to access WhiteHouse.gov data and was required to provide a list of names on file that could be used to obtain a voter’s name, date of birth, gender, and social security number.
In the end, the King was able to access only the records from President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, and their Social Security numbers.
The records were encrypted, so the King could not read them.
But when the King sought access to those records, the ECC said that it could not because they had been “unmasked” as part of the government’s effort to target Russian operatives.
The EAC was then told that King’s had the legal authority under federal law to request the data, but that King was not entitled to them.
In an email, the office of the White, House Counsel Matthew Eisenmann wrote that the request for the Whitehouse.gov voter file had been made “under the Freedom of Information Act” and “is one of the very few that we can provide you.”
It is unclear whether Eisenmann received a response from the Trump White House, the White house legal counsel, or the Trump Justice Department, and the White said it had not received any response to its request.
It was also unclear whether the King had been able to obtain the records.
The Washington Post, which broke the story of the King request on March 23, 2017 with an article by David Fahrenthold, found that the King did not have the legal right to access voter files, and that the records were not unmasked.
Fahrenstold, who is now the Washington Post’s Washington bureau chief, reported that the government “could have been targeting a specific voter or a subset of them and the data could have been unmasked by Russian operatives,” without providing details.
Fahrerenthofld wrote that, in the past, the government had been willing to make the data public on the condition that “the White House would hand over its entire voter file to the government.”
In the case of the 2016 presidential election, the Trump campaign, under the leadership of Paul Manafort, requested that the voter files be made public as part a request to the FBI, the Justice and State Departments, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to search the voter file for information on individuals who had voted in the election.
Manafort’s request was denied.
On the night of March 19-20, the next day, the FBI sent a memo to FBI Director James Comey that stated that the Trump administration had “no current information indicating that any information in the voter records sought by [Manafort] was tied to Russian operatives.”
The FBI did not provide any further information on what the Trump team had in its possession, but the memo said that “no records or information in any of the files have been determined to be responsive to the [Manhamnich] request.”
The King then sued the Trump law office for its violation of federal law.
“The King’s request for information regarding the Whitehouses voter files was unlawful and therefore the King cannot request the documents,” the King said in a court filing.
The lawsuit was consolidated with another civil case filed by the King against the Trump Trump Campaign, a case that is still ongoing.
On March 22, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that said that the Justice Office could not use the White’s files to identify any potential Russian agents.
In its ruling, the court said that because “the King was informed that [the Whitehouse’s] voter file was being unmasking in a manner not authorized by law, the Court could not properly assess whether [the King] had the right to obtain those documents.”
In a statement, the DOJ said that its legal position was clear.
“As we explained in our filings, the Office of Government Ethics and the Office for Governmental Ethics do not review the content of individual records or their availability for FOIA purposes,” the statement read.
“However, we can confirm that, under a law of the United States, the [Whitehouse’s Law office] and its lawyers have the authority to request, in accordance with federal law, information regarding Whitehouse files.”