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These 1,941 historic emails from Ted Cruz show how Washington works

These 1,941 historic emails from Ted Cruz show how Washington works

Few Public documents reveal as much about the work of government officials as their emails.

Consider the 1,941 emails Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) wrote and received over six months in 2001, when he was deputy attorney general at the Department of Justice. These were recently released to The Washington Post in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Cruz’s emails provide real-time, unvarnished insight into his professional life when his political star was rising. The correspondence portrays Cruz as a jovial and well-liked colleague and helps explain how the Justice Department works Policy sausage was made, showing how Cruz helped — and was helped by — political connections.

Because of Cruz’s fame as a US senator and as president 2016 presidential candidate, I requested these emails in April 2022 after I noticed the National Archives and Records Administration, or NARA, noted on its website that his emails had been recorded — or formally transferred — to the Justice Department’s archives.

Some of Cruz’s power as a networker stemmed from the influence of his former boss, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. At the Supreme Court, Cruz clerked for Rehnquist during the 1996 term and remained active in an email conversation among his former fellow law clerks, who referred to Rehnquist as “El Jefe” in their conversations.

‘Always nice to see CJ’s exes making amends. …Beware of us little boys in the field. See you at the reunion in a few weeks,” former clerk Ronald Tenpas wrote to Cruz, welcoming him to DC from Texas, where Cruz had worked on George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign.

Through his Justice Department email account, Cruz also promoted the Federalist Society, a Washington-based conservative legal organization. When a colleague asked if he wanted to join the group, Cruz said effusively, “Call Leonard Leo… He’s the director of the law department, and a very good guy. He is a friend; tell him I suggested you call.”

Leo is now the co-chair and former executive vice president of the Federalist Society, often credited with helping establish a right-wing majority on the Supreme Court.

In February 2001, Cruz invited Leo to lunch – and updated him on his efforts to land a potential job candidate at the White House. “Apparently there are no spots available in the White House, but there may be opportunities within the agencies, with their respective faith-based offices. Do you have a… resume I can refer to?’

The Post contacted Cruz to describe the emails generally and request comment. In response, a spokesperson said: “Sen. Cruz has often advocated making public the records of various government officials because it is one of the most important ways the American people can understand what is happening in Washington and hold bureaucrats accountable.”

Government emails can be difficult to obtain through FOIA. In general, an applicant should specify the desired emails so that an agency can search for them frequently inside a program such as Microsoft Outlook. This means that the requester will typically need to provide the name of the email account or inbox to search, the general dates of the emails, who sent the emails, and some keywords in the emails. Even when agencies find responsive emails, they often claim a wide range of exceptions that turn the emails into a Swiss cheese of redactions.

But Cruz’s emails had been transferred to the National Archives because of their historical significance his leading position at the Ministry of Justice. The National Archives has developed a “keystone approach” to preserving the emails of top government officials once they leave office. Timelines vary, but agencies are encouraged to eventually transfer all emails sent and received by senior officials to the archives after they leave the government. In this case, all I had to do was cite FOIA and ask for all the data within “National Archives Identifier 79444417.”

My request was expedited for demonstrating “an urgency to inform the public” about Cruz’s tenure at the Department of Justice. This was fortunate, as the National Archives reports that the agency’s oldest pending FOIA request was filed in 2006. Yet my request took 19 months. longer than the average processing time of more than 10 months for requests in the agency’s “expedited” queue.

In addition to the 1,941 emails made public, the archives withheld 891 emails sent from Cruz’s “.gov” account and classified them as “personal information.” I have appealed this decision, arguing that all emails held in .gov email are considered related to federal government business and should be disclosed without a strong justification for withholding such as releasing someone’s social security number..

It’s hard to imagine why the Archives revealed an email invitation to Cruz to a Gold Cup horse racing party – mentioning “5 barrels, 30 handles and barbecue” – which he forwarded to his future wife Heidi Nelson, but withheld 891 other emails.

The released emails, preserved as PDFs, provide insight into how Cruz shaped Justice Department policy.

One of the biggest items in Cruz’s portfolio at the Justice Department was helping negotiate an international treaty with the Council of Europe to help prevent internet crime, called the Convention on Cybercrime. On his way to a related meeting in Rome, he noted that because he and his assistant did not speak Italian, he had difficulty securing a hotel room. “My flight is already booked; now I just have to avoid sleeping in the square,” he wrote.

Call Leonard Leo… He’s a friend, tell him I suggested you call.

– Email from Ted Cruz

Cruz also worked to expand “Project Exile,” a somewhat controversial federal law enforcement initiative that he described in a February 2021 email as “prosecuting those who commit crimes with guns, usually combined with a public relations campaign to let potential criminals know that, if they use a gun to commit a crime, they will receive severe penalties.” As a senator Since 2013, Cruz has introduced several bills to expand the project, which began in Richmond in the late 1990s. The National Association for Gun Rights has criticized Cruz’s proposed expansion as “Project Gestapo,” saying the program leads to “law enforcement abuse of search and seizure and (to) punishment for mere possession of a weapon that is excessive in comparison with crime.”

His emails show that he also participated in efforts to block websites falsely claiming to be the official White House website and helped draft an executive order to expanding community-based programs for people with disabilities, and helped refine the government’s position on medical marijuana and the psychedelic substance ayahuasca.

The emails not only show how Cruz worked on policy issues, but also provide a glimpse of Cruz as a colleague. He was charming and quick to make self-deprecating jokes: “The work of the Justice Department is never done… No, I just have too weak a social life to do anything better on a Friday evening than review the OMB (Office of Office of Office). Management and Budget) regs. :-)” he emailed a colleague at 7:57 PM on a Friday in May.

After Cruz, When he was 30 and announced in June 2001 that he was leaving the Justice Department to become director of the Office of Policy Planning at the Federal Trade Commission, a colleague wrote: “It was our privilege to work with you – and we felt Even before that, we knew you and your wife would become media figures because of your WH romance… we’ll be continually scanning the (Washington Post) Style section for more articles about you. The Post had just published an article about Cruz with the headline “Cupid in Chief.”

Cruz updated colleagues on his upcoming wedding to Nelson in California – “26 days to go!” But he wise avoided providing the details about his bachelor party from his government email account: “BP was a lot of fun. I was extremely tired, but had a good time,” he wrote.

The emails Cruz sent and received show how careers in Washington are often built — through networking, lunches, after-work drinks and pushing out resumes.

In one, a former fellow law clerk asked Cruz for a favor.

‘Teddy, I have to push a friend of mine against you. . . Sound in all respects (including) on ​​religion and school choice matters. Will be fantastic. He is in the Ted Cruz league of people I like,” wrote Rick Garnett.

Cruz obliged. He emailed Paul Clement, then principal deputy attorney general: “My co-clerk to the Chief, law professor at Notre Dame, and as good a human being as I know… sent me the following email, about a possible prospect on all of you.”

Of course, anything you could say. . . giving my name a boost would be very helpful.

– Email from Ted Cruz

Cruz seemed to place a high value on personal networking. He regularly had lunch with conservative thinkers at the Caucus Room, a popular restaurant near the Justice Department, and usually sent an email thanking them, often with a link or quote from an article they were discussing.

Cruz had a fond memory of who he had met on previous social outings. “You probably don’t remember,” Cruz wrote to an official recently appointed to the State Department, “(but) we destroyed a few liver cells together” during Bush’s presidential campaign.

And Cruz wasn’t afraid to ask for favors.

“GWB has made a great choice. If you’re getting some fresh air, I’d like to buy you a beer to celebrate,” he wrote in April to Kevin J. Martin, President Bush’s newly appointed member of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Tenpas, Garnett and representatives for Leo and Martin declined to comment. Clement did not respond to a request for comment.

A week later, Cruz emailed Martin about a job he might be interested in at the FCC.

“Obviously you can say anything. . . Putting my name forward would be extremely helpful,” Cruz wrote.

Have a question, comment or FOIA idea? Leave a comment or email me [email protected].