Posted tagged ‘Freedom of Information Act’

Inside Judicial Watch: The Politicized DOJ — Mueller, Comey, Strzok, Yates, & More!

December 7, 2017

Inside Judicial Watch: The Politicized DOJ — Mueller, Comey, Strzok, Yates, & More! Judicial Watch via YouTube, December 5, 2017

 

Judicial Watch: Justice Department Argues Comey’s Leak of ‘Flynn’ Memo to New York Times was Unauthorized, Compares Comey to Wikileaks

November 9, 2017

Judicial Watch: Justice Department Argues Comey’s Leak of ‘Flynn’ Memo to New York Times was Unauthorized, Compares Comey to Wikileaks, November 8, 2018

Judicial Watch argues that if disclosure of the “Flynn” memo would harm the Russia investigation, then the Justice Department should have taken steps to “address Ex-Director Comey’s removal of the memo from the FBI, leaking of the memo to the media, and subsequent testimony about the memo, to the extent that testimony was unauthorized and not coordinated with [the Justice Department], the FBI, and/or Special Counsel Mueller. Removal of government records is a federal offense.” While the Justice Department compares Comey to WikiLeaks, it makes no claim to have addressed Comey’s misconduct. Judicial Watch points out that its “failure to do so further undercuts any claim of harm” to an ongoing law enforcement investigation.

“We now have Justice Department confirmation that Comey was wrong to have leaked records to the media to settle a score with President Trump,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “How can this Justice Department defend its position that memos written for pernicious purposes to target a sitting president with a criminal investigation should remain secret? Mr. Mueller may have an interest in protecting Comey, but the public’s interest demands transparency about Comey’s vendetta against President Trump.”

***********************************

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that the Justice Department is now comparing former FBI Director James Comey to WikiLeaks. After Comey was fired by President Trump on May 9, 2017, he gave the New York Times a February 14, 2017, memorandum written about a one-on-one conversation he had with President Trump regarding former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Judicial Watch is asking a federal court to order the release of all Comey’s unclassified memoranda about his one-on-one conversations with the president.

Comey testified under oath before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that he authored as many as nine such memos about his one-on-one conversations with President Trump. He also admitted, regarding the “Flynn” memo, “I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter [for The New York Times] … I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.” The New York Times published a report about the memo on May 16, 2017. Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed the following day.

On June 16, 2017, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia after the Department of Justice failed to respond to a May 16 FOIA request (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:17-cv-01189)). Judicial Watch seeks:

FBI Director James Comey’s February 14, 2017 memorandum…memorializing an Oval Office conversation he had with the President on that date regarding former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

In its lawsuit Judicial Watch refutes the Justice Department’s claim of exemption for law enforcement purposes:

Ex-Director Comey plainly did not use the February 14 Memo for any recognized or legitimate law enforcement purpose. He used it to settle a score with the President, who had just fired him.

Judicial Watch argues that if disclosure of the “Flynn” memo would harm the Russia investigation, then the Justice Department should have taken steps to “address Ex-Director Comey’s removal of the memo from the FBI, leaking of the memo to the media, and subsequent testimony about the memo, to the extent that testimony was unauthorized and not coordinated with [the Justice Department], the FBI, and/or Special Counsel Mueller. Removal of government records is a federal offense.” While the Justice Department compares Comey to WikiLeaks, it makes no claim to have addressed Comey’s misconduct. Judicial Watch points out that its “failure to do so further undercuts any claim of harm” to an ongoing law enforcement investigation.

On September 7, 2017, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit on behalf of the Daily Caller News Foundation after the Department of Justice failed to respond to a June 9 FOIA request (Daily Caller News Foundation v. U.S. Department Justice (No. 1:17-cv-01830)). The lawsuit seeks:

All unclassified memoranda authored by former FBI Director James Comey that contemporaneously memorialized his discussions with President Donald Trump and his aides [during] the time frame…November 8, 2016 to May 9, 2017.

In the Daily Caller News Foundation suit Judicial Watch argues that neither the FBI nor the Justice Department prevented Comey from testifying, nor do they dispute anything he said. Comey is not under investigation for violating any non-disclosure agreements or removing records from the FBI when he was fired. “Their silence and inaction speak volumes,” Judicial Watch argues.

Judicial Watch further debunks the notion that Comey wrote the memos for law enforcement purposes:

[Director Comey] explained, “I knew that there might come a day when I would need a record of what happened, not just to defend myself, but to defend the FBI and – and our integrity as an institution and the independence of our investigation.” … He authored the records not for law enforcement purposes but for administrative and institutional purposes. His testimony could not be clearer.

Judicial Watch argues in both filings against withholding the memoranda under the guise of a national security exemption. The FBI fails to demonstrate that material contained in the memoranda was classified through proper procedures.

In its court filing opposing the release, the Justice Department also asserts that some of the Comey memos contain classified material.

“The Freedom of Information Act was designed to give the American people access to the records its government keeps,” said Neil Patel, publisher and CEO of the Daily Caller News Foundation. “This access is fundamental in a democracy like ours. Today, when so many Americans feel detached from a government that they feel often doesn’t serve their interests, this sort of access is more important than ever. When the Daily Caller News Foundation made a reasonable request for access to FBI Director Comey’s memos we were completely stonewalled. Our request is legally sound and completely within the public interest so with the help of our friends at Judicial Watch we are fighting in court to see it through.”

“We now have Justice Department confirmation that Comey was wrong to have leaked records to the media to settle a score with President Trump,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “How can this Justice Department defend its position that memos written for pernicious purposes to target a sitting president with a criminal investigation should remain secret? Mr. Mueller may have an interest in protecting Comey, but the public’s interest demands transparency about Comey’s vendetta against President Trump.”

Both cases have been consolidated in Cable News Network, Inc., v. Federal Bureau of Investigation (No. 1:17-cv-01167).

Tom Fitton on Clinton/Russia Scandal, FBI Coverup of Clinton/Lynch Meeting, & Abedin/Weiner Laptop

October 20, 2017

Tom Fitton on Clinton/Russia Scandal, FBI Coverup of Clinton/Lynch Meeting, & Abedin/Weiner Laptop, Judicial Watch via YouTube, October 20, 2017

(Please see also, How Corrupt Are American Institutions? — DM)

Judicial Watch Presents: ‘Exposing the Deep State’

September 16, 2017

Judicial Watch Presents: ‘Exposing the Deep State’ via YouTube, September 15, 2017

The blurb beneath the video states,

Judicial Watch hosted a special educational panel on Friday, September 15, 2017, discussing “Exposing the Deep State.” The expert panelists include: Dr. Sebastian Gorka Former Deputy Assistant to the President Author of New York Times best seller Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War Diana West Journalist and Author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character Todd Shepherd Investigative Reporter Washington Examiner James Peterson Senior Attorney Judicial Watch Moderated by Christopher J. Farrell Director of Investigations and Research Judicial Watch.

FBI Reopens Conservative Group’s FOIA Case on Loretta Lynch-Bill Clinton Meeting

August 16, 2017

FBI Reopens Conservative Group’s FOIA Case on Loretta Lynch-Bill Clinton Meeting, Washington Free Beacon, August 16, 2017

Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch / Getty Images

The FBI has reopened a conservative organization’s request for information about former Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s meeting with President Bill Clinton after denying last year that there were any relevant records to disclose.

The American Center for Law and Justice’s Jordan Sekulow said Wednesday he has received a letter this week from the FBI’s chief of records management saying that the agency had determined that there may be “responsive” FBI records to the group’s Freedom of Information Act request last July and so he had reopened the case.

The agency told the ACLJ in October of last year, when the FBI was still under the direction of James Comey, that it had no records related to the infamous meeting between Lynch and Clinton on the Phoenix tarmac.

The letter reopening the FOIA dated Aug. 10 came after Sekulaw pointed out in an appearance on Fox and on the ACLJ’s website that it had recently received documents from the Department of Justice (DOJ) showing that FBI emails and other agency documents exist about the tarmac meeting.

Critics of Comey’s handling of the agency’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email abuses point to the tarmac meeting as a turning point in the probe. After the late June meeting created a media firestorm questioning whether Lynch could remain impartial in the probe, Lynch announced that she would accept Comey’s determination on whether or not to indict Clinton based on the FBI’s email findings.

Just days later, Comey held a press conference announcing that the investigation determined that Clinton had been grossly negligent but her actions were not criminal.

“It is clear that there were multiple records with the FBI responsive to our request and that discussions regarding the surreptitious meeting between then-AG Lynch and the husband of the subject of an ongoing of an ongoing FBI criminal investigation reached the highest levels of the FBI,” Sekulow wrote on this website.

He also said the FBI’s claim last year that no responsive documents existed is a “direct contravention to the law” and the group will continue its legal fight to “hold the FBI’s feet to the fire and demand an expeditious and thorough search for all documents responsive to our request.”

“We know they exist, and we’re willing to go to court to get them if necessary,” he said.

The Justice Department documents the group received include several emails from the FBI to the DOJ officials concerning the tarmac meeting. One with the subject line “FLAG” is a conversation between FBI officials and DOJ officials concerning a media report about a “casual, unscheduled meeting between former President Bill Clinton and the AG.”

In the email string, the DOJ official tells an FBI press official to “let me know if you get any questions about this” and provides “[o]ur talkers [DOJ talking points] on this.”

The talking points are redacted.

Another email to the FBI contains the subject line: “security details coordinate between Loretta Lynch/Bill Clinton?”

Additionally, on July 1, 2016, a DOJ email chain under the subject line, “FBI just called,” indicates that the FBI is looking for guidance in responding to media inquiries about news reports that the FBI had prevented the press from taking photos of the Clinton-Lynch meeting.

An hour later, Carolyn Pokorny, Lynch’s deputy chief of staff, said in one email, “I will let Rybicki know.” Jim Rybicki was Comey’s chief of staff. The information in the email that was provided to him was redacted, along with several other documents in the DOJ email cache the ACLJ received with notes that the redactions were requested “per FBI.”

Report: Obama Holdovers Slow-Roll Release of Clinton Emails, Officials Cite ‘Diminished Public Interest

July 24, 2017

Report: Obama Holdovers Slow-Roll Release of Clinton Emails, Officials Cite ‘Diminished Public Interest, BreitbartKristina Wong, July 24, 2017

AP/Cliff Owen

Officials from the State and Justice Departments argue a hiring freeze and lack of public interest are responsible for its inability to process and release the 100,000 Hillary Clinton emails as ordered under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, according to a report.

A U.S. official familiar with the case told Circa “there are still holdovers” within the State and Justice Departments who don’t want to see the emails released, and are slow-rolling the process. But the report also said the president’s own Justice Department attorneys are citing “diminished public interest” in the emails, and that the president should demand the agencies abide.

According to Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton, the FBI turned over to the State Department a new disk of emails belonging to Clinton aide Huma Abedin that were discovered on a laptop owned by her husband, Anthony Weiner.

State and Justice Department lawyers say they can’t release them until they judge whether they are personal or government, and can be shared publicly. Fitton said there are apparently 7,000 emails on the laptop.

State Department spokeswoman Pooja Jhunjhunwala told Circa that the Department “takes its records management responsibilities seriously and is working diligently to process FOIA requests and to balance the demands of the many requests we have received.”

“We are devoting significant resources to meeting our litigation obligations,” she said.

Fitton argued they are moving too slowly. The State Department was ordered in November to process 500 pages per month, but he said it would take until 2020 for the bulk to be made public.

“President Trump needs to direct his agencies to follow the the law but right now they are making a mockery of it by saying they won’t finish releasing it until 2020,” he said.

Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, released 448 pages of documents the State Department did turn over from Abedin last week. The group said the emails describe preferential treatment “to major donors to the Clinton Foundation and political campaigns.”

“The documents included six Clinton email exchanges not previously turned over to the State Department, bringing the known total to date to at least 439 emails that were not part of the 55,000 pages of emails that Clinton turned over to the State Department, and further contradicting a statement by Clinton that, ‘as far as she knew,’ all of her government emails had been turned over to the State Department,” the group said in a July 14 press release.

Tom Fitton discussing Comey Lawlessness, Smoking Gun Clinton Email, & New JW Lawsuits

June 9, 2017

Tom Fitton discussing Comey Lawlessness, Smoking Gun Clinton Email, & New JW Lawsuits, Judicial Watch via YouTube, June 9, 2017

 

Obama operatives stripped Judicial Watch of ‘media’ status, overcharged for FOIA requests

September 30, 2016

Obama operatives stripped Judicial Watch of ‘media’ status, overcharged for FOIA requests, Washington Times

(But how could that be?

Oh well. — DM)

 

tomfitton_c0-46-1253-776_s885x516“This is what we put up all the time from the agencies,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. (Associated Press)

Political operatives within the Obama administration wrongly punished conservative legal group Judicial Watch, stripping it of “media” status and trying to force it to pay higher fees for its open records requests, the General Services Administration inspector general said in a letter released Thursday.

The GSA botched several high-profile open records requests, delaying them for months while political appointees got involved, Inspector General Carol F. Ochoa said. The findings were released while the administration was facing charges of slow-walking open records requests for Hillary Clinton’s emails, as well as other requests.

In the case of Judicial Watch, the order to strip it of media status came from political operatives with long ties to Democratic causes — and even from the White House.

The inspector general said the decision came at the behest of Gregory Mecher, a former Democratic campaign fundraiser who at the time was liaison to the White House. He is married to Jen Psaki, a longtime spokeswoman with the Obama administration and its election campaigns.

Ms. Ochoa said stripping Judicial Watch of media status violated several agency policies and things got worse when the GSA denied an appeal by the group.

The same person who ruled on the initial request also ruled on the appeal, “contrary to GSA procedures,” the inspector general said.

Judicial Watch ended up suing over the request, the agency finally agreed to waive all fees and even ended up paying Judicial Watch $750 as part of the settlement.

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, questioned the agency’s decision to fight a losing case that ended up costing it money.

“It’s outrageous but not surprising. Welcome to our world. This is what we put up with all the time from the agencies,” he said.

President Obama promised an era of transparency when it came to open records requests under the Freedom of Information Act, which is the chief way for Americans to pry loose data from the federal government.

Despite the president’s exhortations, the government is increasingly fighting requests, forcing the public to file lawsuits to look at information.

Last year, the administration spent $31.3 million to fight FOIA cases — more than twice the $15.4 million the administration spent in 2008, the final year under President George W. Bush.

The GSA has not been one of the major offenders, reporting no FOIA legal spending in 2015 and just $11,000 a year in 2014 and 2013, when it faced Judicial Watch’s lawsuit and paid the $750 settlement.

That doesn’t mean the agency has been operating cleanly. In a 2010 letter, a previous inspector general said the agency botched a request seeking information about GSA communications with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and two other Democrats.

White House officials got involved and further delayed the request, the inspector general said.

Ms. Ochoa said in her letter that she found three bungled cases in the five years since that 2010 investigation. A 2013 request for records mentioning Donald Trump — now the Republican presidential nominee — took 242 days, five times the average. A 2012 request seeking information on GSA bonuses was blocked for 515 days.

The Judicial Watch request, though, was the most striking.

The group was trying to get a look at a goofy video produced by the agency’s New York office on company time and using company resources. The GSA at the time was facing fierce criticism from Capitol Hill for having wasted money on lavish conferences with questionable team-building activities such as the video.

Judicial Watch asked to be treated similar to a member of the media, which would mean an exemption from fees. Two weeks earlier, Judicial Watch was approved for the media exemption.

But ahead of the GSA request, Mr. Mecher, the political appointee with ties to the White House, requested that Judicial Watch’s status be re-examined, investigators said. Elliot Mincberg, a lawyer with deep Democratic ties who was on loan to the GSA at the time, issued a determination rejecting Judicial Watch as a media requester.

Ms. Ochoa said the justification for that was weak — a page from a Justice Department guide that predated the current law governing the definition of media. Mr. Mincberg “did not conduct any independent legal research” about the 2007 law, and that “shows a lack of due diligence,” Ms. Ochoa concluded.

The GSA then failed to follow its own procedures in its denial letter — despite internal misgivings — and again in mishandling the appeal, Ms. Ochoa wrote.

“Why are White House liaisons involved in our FOIA request?” said Mr. Fitton, the Judicial Watch president.

Mr. Mecher, who is now a top congressional staffer in the office of Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III, did not respond to an email seeking comment on his role.

Mr. Mincberg said in an email that he “performed a relatively minor task” at Mr. Mecher’s request but declined to elaborate, saying he was acting at the time as an attorney for the agency and would need its approval to speak more.

Mr. Mincberg had been lent to the GSA as a FOIA troubleshooter — though his arrival was met with skepticism. Ms. Ochoa reported that one senior lawyer emailed a colleague saying, “This will not end well.”

Later, Mr. Mincberg would run into trouble at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, where he was a senior attorney.

In 2014, that department’s inspector general cited him for obstructing an investigation into the deputy secretary. Mr. Mincberg was accused of withholding information from investigators, appearing to coach witnesses and, during one interview, threatening to bring charges against the investigators themselves.

GSA spokeswoman Ashley Nash-Hahn did not respond to specific questions about Mr. Mincberg or Mr. Mecher, but insisted that her agency had improved its handling of FOIA requests. She said the agency has a new tracking system and increased training and coordination.

“With these improvements, GSA accelerated its processing time from an average of 21 days for simple requests and 63 days for complex requests in fiscal year 2013 to 12 days for simple requests and 46 days for complex requests last fiscal year,” she said.

Judicial Watch is fighting a series of court cases to get a look at Mrs. Clinton’s emails from the State Department and has other cases pending against the CIA, the Pentagon, the Justice Department and the IRS.

A case against the Homeland Security Department, in which Judicial Watch argued that the department regularly obstructed its requests, was dismissed Thursday.

Judge Richard J. Leon, sitting in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, ruled that delays for Judicial Watch’s requests weren’t enough to prove that Homeland Security was violating its policies.

Judicial Watch points to no fact or statement to establish why the requests were delayed or how the delays were the result of an either formal or informal DHS policy or practice to violate FOIA’s requirements, rather than an inevitable but unintended delay attributable to a lack of resources,” the judge wrote.

EXCLUSIVE: State Department Won’t Release Clinton Foundation Emails for 27 Months

July 1, 2016

EXCLUSIVE: State Department Won’t Release Clinton Foundation Emails for 27 Months, Daily CallerRichard Pollock, June 30, 2016

Borson [State Department counsel provided by the Department of Justice — DM] also provided new details about how few resources the State Department has devoted to answering 106 separate Freedom of Information Act requests that are pending before it, many of them ordered by federal judges. Only 71 “part-time” retired foreign service officers are being used to review all of the pending FOIA requests.

********************

Department of Justice officials filed a motion in federal court late Wednesday seeking a 27-month delay in producing correspondence between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s four top aides and officials with the Clinton Foundation and Teneo Holdings, a closely allied public relations firm that Bill Clinton helped launch.

If the court permits the delay, the public won’t be able to read the communications until October 2018, about 22 months into her prospective first term as President. The four senior Clinton aides involved were Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Michael Fuchs, Ambassador-At-Large Melanne Verveer, Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills, and Deputy Chief of Staff Huma Abedin.

The State Department originally estimated that 6,000 emails and other documents were exchanged by the aides with the Clinton Foundation. But a series of “errors” the department told the court about Wednesday evening now mean the total has grown to “34,116 potentially responsive documents.”

During Clinton’s four years as America’s chief foreign diplomat, her aides communicated with officials at the Clinton Foundation and Teneo Holdings where Bill Clinton was formerly both a client and paid consultant, on the average of  700 times each month, according to the Justice Department filing.

David N. Bossie, president of Citizens United, which requested the documents under the Freedom of Information Act, called the delay “totally unacceptable” and charged that “the State Department is using taxpayer dollars to protect their candidate, Hillary Clinton.”

“The American people have a right to see these emails before the election,” Bossie told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras, a President Obama-appointed judge, had previously ordered the State Department to release the requested documents by July 21. But Department of Justice lawyers informed Contreras Wednesday night that “the [State] department discovered errors in the manner in which the searches had been conducted in order to capture documents potentially responsive to plaintiff’s request.” The motion was filed by Justice Department attorney Joseph Borson on behalf of the State Department.

Borson also provided new details about how few resources the State Department has devoted to answering 106 separate Freedom of Information Act requests that are pending before it, many of them ordered by federal judges. Only 71 “part-time” retired foreign service officers are being used to review all of the pending FOIA requests.

The State Department also revealed that despite the large number of requests seeking information about Secretary Clinton’s ties to the Clinton Foundation over the last two years, the Obama administration has not requested additional funds for reviewers.

The amount budgeted has remained at about $16 million over the last several years, according to Eric Stein, co-director of the State Department Office of Information Programs and Services. The department claims with its current workforce, it would only be able to release 500 documents each month.

The FBI has a “public corruption” probe underway investigating whether Clinton used her position to benefit or recruit donors to the Clinton Foundation.

Bossie told The DCNF that “the conflicts of interest that were made possible by the activities of Hillary Clinton’s State Department in tandem with the Clinton Foundation are of significant importance to the public and the law enforcement community.”

In addition to the Clinton Foundation, Citizens United requested communications between the four aides and Teneo Holdings, the firm created by Doug Band, Bill Clinton’s personal aide in the White House and thereafter as a former chief executive. The former President was a paid consultant to Teneo until 2012.

Huma Abedin simultaneously served as an employee for both Teneo and as deputy chief of staff to Clinton at the State Department in 2012, an issue which Congress has raised as a key conflict of interest.

Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff also worked at the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative while she served at the State Department.