Under the United States Constitution, all treaties must be ratified by two thirds of the Senate. On April 22, 2016, President Obama signed what is called the “Paris Climate Agreement.” He took the position that this was not a treaty and therefore was not subject to the constitutional requirement of Senate advice and consent. But the question of whether something is a treaty or not cannot be determined solely by the president.
In fact, the Paris Agreement actually was a treaty by its terms, custom, and practice. Despite this, the Obama State Department pushed the line, not only via its own spokesmen but through outsiders and certain media contacts, that this agreement was not a treaty and didn’t need to be ratified the Senate. The State Department called these third parties “validators.” We have requested more information about these “validators” through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The State Department operated a vast network of these so-called “validators.” One well-placed “validator” State recruited promised to “write a ‘good news’ op-ed to follow up on his gloomy one in the WSJ from [August 2015].”
In CEI’s FOIA litigation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over former Administrator Lisa Jackson’s infamous “Richard Windsor” account, the EPA produced piles of emails discussing its various “validators” for the Waters of the United States, Clean Power Plan, and other controversial rules now facing rollback. They didn’t pretend there is a personal privacy interest in being a possible, let alone an agreed, pre-arranged promoter of an agency or administration. More information on the communication with these people will provide clarity to the public as to why some media organizations and other individuals were opposing requiring Senate ratification of this treaty.
We have also learned that State Department employees were using the encrypted messaging app WhatsApp during the United Nations Climate Change Conference to communicate with each other. The Federal Records Act requires preserving all such records for historical purposes and regardless of the application used. We wish to confirm that such records were properly preserved and know what the State Department was talking about in such secret communications.
The State Department has not responded to these and related FOIA requests as required by the deadlines imposed under the Freedom of Information Act. As such, yesterday we filed a lawsuit to compel production of these records. These records cannot stay hidden just by ignoring our requests.