A White House spokesman touted the Obama administration's implementation of the Freedom of Information Act the same day a congressional committee released a scathing report about the administration's failures when it comes to FOIA.
Josh Earnest, White House press secretary, pointed to the release of roughly 30,000 of Hillary Clinton's private emails as evidence of the president's "transparency."
"There's no denying that we have made improvements," Earnest said. "You have the former secretary of state releasing all of her work-related emails consistent with the FOIA process ... I think the outcome here is evidence of the kind of commitment to transparency that the president has championed."
However, the Clinton emails were not released until a federal judge ordered the State Department to do so in a high-profile FOIA lawsuit. The case was emblematic of a common obstacle to obtaining documents from the administration: many requests go untouched by federal officials unless the requester decides to sue the government.
Members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee called the FOIA process "sytemically broken" in a report made public Monday, detailing the "unlawful presumption in favor of secrecy" that has characterized the Obama administration's approach to handling open records requests.
The House passed a bipartisan bill aimed at fixing FOIA Monday afternoon after a more than year-long struggle to implement such reforms.
In its report, the Oversight Committee highlighted ways the transparency law has been warped across the federal government.
"Agencies create and follow FOIA policies that appear to be designed to deter requesters from pursuing requests and create barriers to accessing records," the report said.
For example, the Environmental Protection Agency had sunk into "a culture of unrepentant noncompliance" with FOIA, which led to "inexplicable delays" and even "the deletion of potentially responsive records."
Homeland Security officials were required to forward all "significant" records requests to the secretary's office for review, injecting politics into the process of deciding which information should be released. The Department of Homeland Security boasts the largest backlog of FOIA requests of all agencies.
But the State Department received the harshest criticism from the committee, which citedthe agency as the worst in the federal government for handling FOIA requests.
"Compounding concerns about inappropriate political review, State also has numerous high profile cases wherein the agency claimed there were no responsive records when documents did exist," the report said.
The Oversight Committee's review of FOIA came just days after the State Department's own inspector general found the agency had botched or suppressed multiple FOIA requests for records related to Clinton.
Within hours of the release of the Oversight Committee's report, Judicial Watch announced the State Department had somehow found thousands of previously overlooked Clinton records in one of its pending FOIA lawsuits.
The conservative watchdog group was one of the top organizations involved in extracting Clinton-related documents from the State Department last year.
"It's like pulling teeth, getting basic information about document production from the State Department," Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, told the Washington Examiner.
State Department officials said in court filings late Friday that they had discovered thousands of potentially responsive records within the Office of the Secretary, but noted they wouldn't be able to provide any details about what the documents entailed or how many were actually related to the group's FOIA request until next month.
"It's not like they've been forthcoming on Mrs. Clinton's tenure before, so the benefit of the doubt that sometimes would be afforded to a government agency, they don't deserve the benefit of the doubt," Fitton said.
Also on Monday, Citizens United filed a new lawsuit against the State Department over six FOIA requests that had been ignored by the agency for months.
The conservative group's requests included emails between top Clinton aides and Clinton Foundation employees, as well as records involving Clinton aides' ties to a controversial consulting firm called Teneo Strategies.