Emails from a reporter for the New York Times to government employees obtained exclusively by Breitbart News demonstrate that the newspaper’s employees are not just on the receiving end of leaks, but are actually soliciting government employees to become leakers. What’s more, the emails demonstrate the Times colluded with the president of government union to encourage and solicit these leaks—something that may become highly problematic for both institutions.
“Thanks again for taking the time to speak today,” Coral Davenport, an “Energy and Environment Correspondent” for the New York Times, writes in an email to John J. O’Grady of the EPA workers’ union. O’Grady is the president of the AFGE Council 238 in Chicago—which represents EPA workers.
“As I mentioned, I’m working on a story looking specifically at concrete examples of unusual secretary at E.P.A.,” Davenport states, continuing:
I’ve heard a lot of second-hand rumors, but in order to report these incidents, I’d need to have first-hand or eyewitness accounts. I’m looking for examples of things like, information being communicated only verbally when it would historically have been put in writing, people being told not to bring phones, laptops or even take notes in meetings where they would in the past typically have done so, eyewitness accounts of things like the administrator or top political appointees refusing to use official email, phones or computers, or any other specific, first-hand examples of practices that appear to demonstrate unprecedented secrecy or transparency.
The revelation of these emails comes as President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions crack down on leakers. It also comes as EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, the former attorney general of Oklahoma, has emerged as one of the most successful cabinet-level officials in the Trump administration, and Trump’s political enemies throughout the left and media aim at targeting Pruitt.
The Times has come under significant scrutiny for a piece in late July by Lisa Friedman, one of Davenport’s colleagues, for bashing Pruitt for traveling home regularly to Oklahoma.
“Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, traveled to his home state, Oklahoma, 10 times over three months this year, largely at taxpayer expense, according to a report released Monday,” Friedman wrote, adding:
The findings from the Environmental Integrity Project, a nonprofit group founded by former E.P.A. officials, are drawn from Mr. Pruitt’s calendar and the travel expenses he has submitted for reimbursement. Obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the documents show Mr. Pruitt spent 43 out of 92 days from March through May in Oklahoma or traveling to or from the state.
But, as she buries in the story several paragraphs in, the report she cites “does not assert” that anything about Pruitt’s travels back to Oklahoma as EPA administrator is at all “improper.”
In an editorial after the questionable Times piece on Pruitt, the Tulsa World newspaper in Oklahoma mocked the Gray Lady for making a mountain of a mole hill.
“If we were supposed to be shocked to learn that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is going home on weekends, we’re not,” the Tulsa World’s editorial board wrote under a headline: “Heaven Forfend! Scott Pruitt is going home on weekends!”
What’s more, Trump himself has ripped the New York Times in recent days via his Twitter account—calling the newspaper “totally inept”:
The failing @nytimes, which has made every wrong prediction about me including my big election win (apologized), is totally inept!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 7, 2017
A Times spokeswoman, Danielle Rhoades-Ha, told Breitbart News there is nothing abnormal about these emails.
O’Grady, the union official with whom Davenport was colluding per these emails to solicit government leakers, has not responded to a request for comment.
Davenport continues in her written plea to O’Grady in the email by noting that if he successfully delivers her the government leakers she is soliciting, she will protect their identities.
“While I’d like to speak to staff about these examples, I DON’T need to quote them by name or with any sort of identifying details that could in any way reveal the source of the information,” Davenport writes. She continues:
We’re VERY sensitive to the need to protect career folks who speak to us, and we DO NOT want to endanger anyone’s employment. But, in order to ensure that our reporting is based on facts rather than rumors, we do need to feel sure that the examples we give are based on first-hand or eyewitness experiences rather than second and third-hand rumors.
Davenport then provides her contact information and encourages people to text, call, email, or contact her on the encrypted phone apps Signal or WhatsApp. She provides both her personal email address and her Times email address. Breitbart News has redacted that information from the emails published herein, as well as all personal contact information in the emails.
She then continues her plea for leaks and explains the nuts and bolts of how she would go about consolidating leaks into becoming key revelations in a New York Times article down the road.
“Another way to do this might be through a combination of your interviews and my reporting,” Davenport writes, adding:
If you gave put together multiple eyewitness accounts of a specific example of behavior that demonstrates an unprecedented lack of transparency, we could cite that. Or, if I speak to multiple people who describe, firsthand, such an example, I could cite that without needing any quotations. In general, the more folks I speak to who can offer specific, first-hand accounts of similar phenomena, the more I can write with authority in a broad way with no quotations or identifying details.
From there, she moves on to describe how she has already done this.
“We’ve already done this in a number of other stories this year,” Davenport writes. “Below are four stories that I reported with the help of multiple interviews with current EPA employees. Since the employees gave multiple firsthand accounts but could not be quoted, I was able to describe what was going on without naming, quoting, or identifying any of them. The only employees quoted in these stories are those who specifically gave permission to do so — generally the union leaders. However, the accounts of employees who were not quoted helped to deeply inform the story and allowed me to write with more authority. So looking to do the same this time.”
Davenport ends her note by telling O’Grady to “feel free to send this note around to folks who might be willing to chat,” and then includes the links to the four aforementioned Times pieces built on leaks she solicited from inside the EPA.
The four pieces that Davenport links in the email are all critical of Pruitt and the Trump administration’s using leakers she admittedly solicited from inside the federal bureaucracy to do so. The headlines of the four pieces she links to are:
- Counseled by Industry, Not Staff, E.P.A. Chief Is Off to a Blazing Start, published July 1
- E.P.A. Official Pressured Scientist on Congressional Testimony, published June 26
- E.P.A. Head Stacks Agency with Climate Change Skeptics, published March 7
- Senate Confirms Scott Pruitt as E.P.A. Head, published February 17
O’Grady then forwarded the email from Davenport to a large list of EPA employees. With Davenport’s full message, O’Grady added a note of his own for EPA officials he was encouraging to leak to the New York Times.
“Below is an e-mail I received from Coral Davenport of the New York Times,” O’Grady wrote to his colleagues. “She needs our assistance in verifying some information she has heard.”
It includes two bullet points that use wording to describe what Davenport is looking for that is identical to her original email O’Grady. First, O’Grady wrote that Davenport is “looking for examples of things like, information being communicated only verbally when it would historically have been put in writing, people being told not to bring phones, laptops or even take notes in meetings where they would in the past typically have done so.” Second, O’Grady wrote that Davenport was looking for “eyewitness accounts of things like the administrator or top political appointees refusing to use official email, phones or computers, or any other specific, first-hand examples of practices that appear to demonstrate unprecedented secrecy or transparency.”
O’Grady wrapped up his email to EPA employees by encouraging them to reach out to Davenport.
“Please feel free to contact Coral directly,” he wrote.
Ironically, the list of email addresses to which O’Grady forwarded Davenport’s message included a number of personal email addresses of EPA employees—particularly rich since Davenport was seeking evidence of Trump administration EPA politically appointed officials mishandling government email protocol. Again, Breitbart News has redacted, in the images of the emails obtained, personal contact information, including the email addresses in the list of names to which O’Grady forwarded Davenport’s email.
The email chain obtained by Breitbart News chops off the original date and time that Davenport sent her email to O’Grady. But it does include the time and date that O’Grady forwarded the email to EPA career officials. The email O’Grady sent to a number of EPA officials was forwarded on Thursday, August 3, at 2:33 p.m.
The government employees to whom O’Grady forwarded this email—whose email addresses Breitbart News has redacted from this email chain published via PDFs here—include: Antony Tseng, Bethany Dreyfus, Britta Copt, Clovis Steib, Dennis Miller, Priscilla Oliver, Gary Morton, Lucretia Myers, Mark Coryell, Michael Mikulka, Natasha Greaves, Nate James, Shane Nelson, Silvia Saracco, Steve Calder, Thelma Estrada, Denise Morrison, Jeanne Schulze, Keith Fusinski, Russell Wiener, Sarah Perham, Steve Hopkins, Amer Al-Mudallal, Brent Maier, Destinee Cooper, Diane Lynne, Stephanie Doolan, Leah Oliver, Lesley Mills, Mark Sims, William McBride, Michael Ottlinger, Patrick Chan, and Ann Pitchford.
Approximately half of those—including O’Grady himself—were on personal email addresses, and many of them were fellow union officials. Some of them were on official EPA email addresses.