June 19, 2017 - Judicial Watch Asks Court to Order State Department to End Slow Dragging on Benghazi Cover-up Documents
Judicial Watch announced that it asked a federal court to order the State Department to end its “slow dragging strategy” in producing documents regarding the handling of requests about the false talking points used by then-Ambassador Susan Rice to talk about the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeking the documents was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch vs. Department of State (No. 1:17-cv-00205)).
Rice, in the wake of the attacks in which four Americans were killed, was dispatched to five Sunday news programs to falsely claim the Benghazi attack was the result of a “spontaneous” protest against an “anti-Islamic” internet video. Separate Judicial Watch litigation into the Benghazi talking-points scandal led to the discovery of the Hillary Clinton email issue and to the creation of the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
On May 26, the State Department informed Judicial Watch that the department’s “searches have uncovered in excess of 3,100 potentially responsive documents.” On June 1, the State Department disclosed that the documents consist of approximately 51,329 potentially responsive pages.
The State Department initially proposed a production schedule that Judicial Watch argued would “carry out the rolling production of responsive documents by more than 30 months (to December 2019).” The State Department then amended the proposal to extend its production to October 2018.
Judicial Watch asked the court to order the State Department to produce all “non-exempt responsive records” in three monthly productions, with a final production on or before September 30, 2017.
On March 15 the State Department was ordered to produce documents. Judicial Watch argued in its filing that: The State Department’s two productions included a total of 22 documents released in full. During the course of approximately 10 weeks, [the State Department] processed and reviewed only 108 documents in response to [Judicial Watch’s] FOIA request (as 86 documents were withheld in full) – an average of 10 documents per week or 4 documents per business day.
“The Trump administration needs to put its foot down and stop the Deep State from protecting Hillary Clinton and the Obama gang,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said. “It is disheartening to see the Trump administration stall the release of documents about the Benghazi covers up. President Trump needs to take direct action to ensure the truth come out about the Benghazi scandal.”
The suit was filed after the State Department failed to respond to a December 2, 2016, FOIA request seeking: All records related to the processing of the FOIA request served on the State Department by Judicial Watch, Inc. on May 13, 2014. All tasking, tracking, and reporting records for searches conducted in response to the request should be considered responsive. Forms DS-1748 and any “search slips,” “search tasker,” and “search details,” also should be considered responsive.
All internal State Department communications that relate to the processing of or search for records responsive to the FOIA request, including any guidance about how and where to conduct the searches, whether and how to search the emails of then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and any issues, problems, or questions regarding the searches and/or search results.
All records that relate to the State Department’s discovery, prior to February 2, 2015, that additional searches for record responsive to the FOIA request were necessary. In this regard, the State Department represented in a February 2, 2015 status report filed in litigation regarding the FOIA request that: In the course of preparing additional information to provide to [Judicial Watch] for purposes of settlement discussions, [the State Department] has discovered that additional searches for documents potentially responsive to the FOIA [request] must be conducted.
All records that identify the location(s) or source(s) of potentially responsive records that necessitated the “additional searches ..”
Previously, Judicial Watch filed a June 21, 2013, FOIA lawsuit about the Benghazi talking points that produced a declassified email showing then-White House Deputy Strategic Communications Adviser Ben Rhodes and other Obama administration public relations officials attempting to orchestrate a campaign to “reinforce” President Obama and to portray the Benghazi consulate terrorist attack as being “rooted in an Internet video, and not a failure of policy” (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:13-cv-00951)).
June 15, 2017 - Judicial Watch Demands FBI Recover Records Unlawfully Removed by Former Director James Comey – Warns of Lawsuit
(Washington, DC) -- Judicial Watch today announced it sent Acting FBI Director Andrew G. McCabe a warning letter concerning the FBI’s legal responsibility under the Federal Records Act (FRA) to recover records, including memos Comey subsequently leaked to the media, unlawfully removed from the Bureau by former Director James Comey. The June 14 letter from Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton states: As you are well aware, former FBI Director James Comey gave sworn testimony last week before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Among other things, Mr. Comey confirmed that, while in office, he created various memoranda regarding his meetings with President Trump. Mr. Comey also confirmed that, after his departure from the FBI, he provided at least some of these memoranda to a third party, Columbia Law School Professor Daniel Richman, for the purpose of leaking them to the press. Various media outlets now have reported that Professor Richman has provided these memoranda to the FBI. It is unclear whether he still retains copies of the memoranda.
I am writing to you on behalf of Judicial Watch, Inc., a not-for-profit educational organization that seeks to promote transparency, accountability, and integrity in government and fidelity to the rule of law. In furtherance of its public interest mission, Judicial Watch regularly requests access to the records of the FBI through the Freedom of Information Act and disseminates its findings to the public. In fact, on May 16, 2017, Judicial Watch submitted a FOIA request seeking these specific memoranda removed from the FBI by Mr. Comey. Judicial Watch also has pending FOIA lawsuits in which the memoranda may be at issue.
These memoranda were created by Mr. Comey while serving as FBI director, were written on his FBI laptop, and concerned official government business. As such, they indisputably are records subject to the Federal Records Act. 44 U.S.C. §§ 2101-18, 2901-09, 3101-07, and 3301-14. The fact that Mr. Comey removed these memoranda from the FBI upon his departure, apparently for the purpose of subsequently leaking them to the press, confirms the FBI’s failure to retain and properly manage its records in accordance with the Federal Records Act. Even if Mr. Comey no longer has possession of these particular memoranda, as he now claims, some or all of these memoranda may still be in possession of a third party, such as Professor Richman, and must be recovered. Mr. Comey’s removal of these memoranda also suggests that other records may have been removed by Mr. Comey and may remain in his possession or in the possession of others. If so, these records must be recovered by the FBI as well.
As you may be aware, the Federal Records Act imposes a direct responsibility on you to take steps to recover any records unlawfully removed from the FBI. Specifically, upon learning of “any actual, impending, or threatened unlawful removal, defacing, alteration, corruption, deletion, erasure, or other destruction of records in the custody of the agency,” you must notify the Archivist of the United States. 44 U.S.C. § 3106. Upon learning that records have been unlawfully removed from the FBI, you then are required to initiate action through the Attorney General for the recovery of records. Id.
In the event you fail to take these steps, you should be aware that Judicial Watch is authorized under the law to file a lawsuit in federal district court seeking that you be compelled to comply with the law. Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Kerry, 844 F.3d 952, 955 (D.C. Cir. 2016); Armstrong v. Bush, 924 F.2d 282,296 (D.C. Cir. 1991). Please advise us no later than June 26, 2017 if you intend to take the action required under the law. If we do not hear from you by that date, we will assume that you do not intend to take any action. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
“Mr. Comey took government records and the FBI and Justice Department are obligated to get them back,” added Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The former FBI director isn’t above the law and current leadership of the FBI should stop protecting him and take action.”
Judicial Watch is pursuing a lawsuit challenging the State Department’s failure to take any action to recover emails of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other employees unlawfully removed from the agency seeks to force State Department compliance with the Federal Records Act (FRA). Judicial Watch argues the State Department and FBI never bothered to do a full search for Hillary Clinton’s government emails. This is one of several of Judicial Watch’s FOIA lawsuits seeking government records and information about the non-government email system used by Clinton.
June 14, 2017 - Judicial Watch, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization reports: Border Patrol Union Chief Reporting Corruption, Blasting Open Border Policies
National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd is under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for reporting corruption and misconduct in agency management, including a disturbing order issued to officers directing them not to patrol a vulnerable stretch of the northern border with Canada. Judicial Watch has obtained government documents and interviewed numerous sources with direct knowledge of the situation, which appears retaliatory.
The ordeal began in mid-April when Judd, who heads the union that represents some 16,000 Border Patrol agents nationwide, denounced a directive to agents to purposely leave a 40-mile section of the Havre Sector in Montana unsecured. The Havre station covers approximately 108 miles of international border with Canada and much of it is sparsely populated. A conservative news outlet obtained a document from a Havre Sector Border Patrol manager ordering agents to leave 40 miles of Montana border open and unpatrolled. In an article, various Border Patrol agents blamed Obama-era policies and widespread corruption in the Havre Sector’s upper management. One agent said criminal cartels exploit border weaknesses daily so they’re certain to exploit such a large area of open and unpatrolled border.
The federal officers spoke on the condition that their identity be kept anonymous, clearly because they feared retaliation. However, Judd, a veteran Border Patrol agent, went on the record and now DHS is going after him. In the news story Judd revealed that in recent years the Havre sector has seen more complaints than any other sector. The union chief also criticized DHS Secretary John Kelly for endorsing Obama-era open border policies and condoning his predecessors’ (Janet Napolitano and Jeh Johnson) failures. Judd also said this in the article: “President Trump is the president of the common citizen and the choice of the rank-and-file Border Patrol Agents; unfortunately there are those highly paid career managers who want to believe they’re above everyone else — up to and including the President of the United States.”
Secretary Kelly’s DHS management team responded by launching an investigation into Judd, accusing him of “unauthorized disclosure of law enforcement information” in the news story referenced above. In a letter to the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG), the Border Patrol Council’s legal division writes that nothing in the article qualified as law enforcement sensitive information, though such disclosures are protected by the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) as well as the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA). The article did not specify the exact location of the 40 miles, whether the 40 miles was contiguous or even the Border Patrol station within the Havre Sector where the order was given, the letter states. “Based upon the law, DHS/OIG cannot legally sustain any allegation that Mr. Judd improperly disclosed law enforcement information,” the letter says. “Also, we understand that DHS/OIG is only the investigatory body responsible for gathering the facts and that any threatened or actual personnel action would be taken by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. As a result, we are forwarding this memorandum to CBP as well as the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) to ensure that no threatened or actual personnel action be taken against Mr. Judd.”
Originally, the agency watchdog launched a probe into allegations of corruption divulged by Judd in an electronic mail to Border Patrol Chief Ronald Vitiello and Associate Chief Rodolfo Karisch. In the email, titled “Allegation of Corruption,” Judd cited evidence he believed showed that an operations change at the Havre Sector was “due to either corruption, retaliation, or for political purposes.” Judd expressed concern for the safety of agents as well as the public and the DHS OIG launched a criminal investigation into Havre Sector management officials. At some point in the corruption probe of Havre Sector management, the watchdog initiated an administrative investigation into Judd for reasons that aren’t clear.
Judicial Watch reached out to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the 60,000-employee agency that encompasses the Border Patrol, but calls went unanswered. The administration’s official reason for going after Judd is the “unauthorized disclosure of law enforcement information.” In a document obtained by Judicial Watch, the DHS OIG warns Judd that he may be subject to disciplinary action that includes termination.
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June 5, 2017. Trump Administration Defending Obama/Clinton Email Scandal
Judicial Watch Asks Court to Force State Department to Refer Action on Clinton Emails [to the Justice Department]
Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a motion in opposition to the Tillerson State Department's motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging its failure to take any action to recover emails of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other employees unlawfully removed from the agency (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Rex Tillerson (No. 1:15-cv-00785)). The lawsuit seeks to force State Department compliance with the Federal Records Act (FRA). The Trump administration continues to object to taking this strong action to recover Clinton's emails.
On April 30, 2015, Judicial Watch sued former Secretary John Kerry after the State Department failed to take action on a letter sent to Kerry "notifying him of the unlawful removal of the Clinton emails and requesting that he initiate enforcement action pursuant to the [Federal Records Act]," including working through the Attorney General to recover the emails.
After initially being dismissed by the district court, Judicial Watch's lawsuit was revived on appeal by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on December 27, 2016.
While at the State Department, Clinton conducted official government business using an unsecure email server and email accounts. Her top aides and advisors also used non-“state.gov” email accounts to conduct official business. Clinton left office February 1, 2013.
The Trump administration is now defending handling of the email matter by the Obama administration and last month filed a declaration from the FBI trying to justify the State Department’s refusal to follow the law and refer to the Clinton email issue to the Justice Department. (The Federal Records Act states that an agency head “shall” initiate an action through the Attorney General when he becomes aware of any unlawful removal of agency records.)
Judicial Watch argues the State Department and FBI never bothered to do a full search for Hillary Clinton’s government emails. For example:
Secretary Clinton communicated through email with at least 138 persons outside the State Department about State Department business) …There is a high degree of probability that at least some of the emails not yet recovered were sent between at least some of these individuals and Secretary Clinton… It is also worth noting that the FBI itself has discovered that thousands of emails remain to be recovered. Recently released notes of an FBI agent involved in the Clinton investigation show that thousands of emails between David Petreaus and Clinton and thousands more between CENTCOM and Clinton were not returned. A State Department employee informed the FBI that “there are 1000 emails between HRC + Petreaus; most not in 30K.” Another “1000 emails” with CENTCOM and Clinton were not returned.
“It is astonishing the Trump administration is defending Hillary Clinton’s email scheme in federal court,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The State Department should initiate action with the Justice Department – and both agencies should finally take the necessary steps to recover all the government emails Hillary Clinton unlawfully removed.”
June 1, 2017. Judicial Watch reports: New Clinton Emails Show Classified Information Sent to Clinton Foundation Employees
Emails also show Huma Abedin providing government plane and hotel reservations to Chelsea Clinton for trip to Germany while employed at Clinton Foundation.
Abedin tells [Doug] Band that she has ‘hooked up’ people from the Russian American Foundation with ‘the right people’ at the State Department.
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch today [June 1, 2017] released 2,078 pages of documents revealing more instances of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sending and receiving classified information via an unsecured email server. They also show Clinton’s daughter Chelsea and others involved with the Clinton Foundation receiving special favors from Huma Abedin, the former secretary’s deputy chief of staff.
The records were obtained in response to a court order from a May 5, 2015, lawsuit filed against the State Department (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:15-cv-00684)) after it failed to respond to a March 18, 2015, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking: “All emails of official State Department business received or sent by former Deputy Chief of Staff Huma Abedin from January 1, 2009 through February 1, 2013 using a non-‘state.gov’ email address.”
The new documents included 115 Clinton email exchanges not previously turned over to the State Department, bringing the known total to date to at least 432 emails that were not part of the 55,000 pages of emails that Clinton turned over to the State Department. These records further appear to contradict statements by Clinton that, “as far as she knew,” all of her government emails were turned over to the State Department.
On December 6, 2010, Secretary Clinton shared classified information with non-U.S. government employees Justin Cooper, then-aide to President Clinton who helped manage Hillary Clinton’s unsecure email system, and Clinton Foundation director Doug Band (neither of whom held security clearances). The email instructs her aide Oscar Flores to “print for Bill” (presumably Bill Clinton). The email exchange, which involved allegations of the theft of foreign aid by Bangladeshi banker and major Clinton Foundation donor Muhammad Yunus, started with an email from an unidentified person to State Department official Melanne Verveer, who forwarded her exchange on to Hillary Clinton, who then sent it on to Flores, Cooper and Band.
Yunus was accused of embezzling $100 million from the Grameen Bank he founded and was removed from it, although the charges were never proven, and Yunus reportedly returned the money. Subsequently, Clinton’s State Department was accused of threatening IRS action against the Bangladesh prime minister’s son in an attempt to stop a Bangladesh government investigation of Yunus.
In a similar instance on March 14, 2011, State Department official Maria Otero emailed Clinton information about the Grameen Bank/Foundation that was again deemed classified as Confidential by the State Department and redacted under FOIA exemption B1.4(D) – “Information specifically authorized by an executive order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or foreign policy … Foreign relations or foreign activities of the United States, including confidential sources.” Clinton then responds to Otero using her HDR22@clintonemailcom account and copies Abedin on Abedin’s unsecure email account, firstname.lastname@example.org.
In May 2010, Ben Ringel, whose donations to the Clinton Foundation Judicial Watch previously documented, asked Abedin to intervene in an employment dispute on behalf of a USAID employee. Abedin agreed, telling Ringel to forward the woman’s documents to her official State Department email account.
In a May 21, 2011, email exchange sent to Abedin’s unsecure account, then- Ambassador Princeton Lyman sent information relating to his conversation with South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit that is also redacted and classified as “Confidential.”
On July 17, 2012, Abedin forwarded to her private email account for printing a call briefing sheet for Clinton’s upcoming call with Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan, which was classified Confidential and redacted under FOIA exemption B1.4(D).
The new Abedin emails also reveal additional instances in which Clinton’s then- scheduler Lona Valmoro forwarded the former secretary of state’s detailed daily schedule to top Clinton Foundation officials.
The new emails also reveal a number of favors that were requested and carried out.
In May 2010, Abedin tells Band that she has “hooked up” people from the Russian American Foundation with “the right people” at the State Department after Abedin received a request from Russian American Foundation Vice President Rina Kirshner, forwarded by Clinton Foundation donor Eddie Trump (no relation to President Trump).
On Mon, May 10, 2010 at 9:41 PM, Huma Abedin wrote:
Hi Rina – wanted to connect on meeting at state department. Eddie trump passed on your email. Will be in touch soon.
From: Rina KirshnerSent: Wednesday, May 12, 2010 11:29 AMTo: Huma AbedinSubject: Re: Eddie Trump/Doug Band
Ms. Abedin,Just wanted to follow up and express our gratitude. I was contacted today by Ms. Christina Miner who invited us to be part of the US-Russia Cultural Sub-Working Group meeting next week. Thank you very much for all your assistance – if there is any way we can be of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.Sincerely,Rina Kirshner
From: Huma Abedin [Huma@clintonemail.com]Sent: Wednesday, May 12, 2010 12:19:12 PMTo: Doug BandSubject: FW: Eddie Trump/Doug Band
fyi – we hooked her up with the right people here
Judicial Watch reports: The Russia-American Foundation was staffed by Clinton political supporters and operatives, received over $260,000 in grants for “public diplomacy” from the Clinton State Department, and its leadership was supportive of Obama’s Russia policies.
In July 2011, when Chelsea Clinton, using the alias Diane Reynolds and the email address email@example.com, was planning to fly to Germany to see the U.S. women’s soccer team play, her travel agent asked Abedin to confirm that Chelsea’s travel costs could be placed on her parents’ credit card. In response, Abedin tells the agent that she can “stand down” from making arrangements to get Chelsea to Germany, as Chelsea and Bari Luri, Chelsea’s Clinton Foundation chief of staff, would be made part of the “official delegation” going to the match and she would “fly on official govt plane both ways and they will take care of hotels and all transportation.” Chelsea was a fully employed Clinton Foundation executive at this time.
In July 2011, Clinton tells Abedin that she doesn’t wish to fly on the same airplane with Michelle Obama on their way to Betty Ford’s funeral: “I’d be honored to speak. Is it ok that we and Mrs. O take two separate planes?”
A December 15, 2012, email chain shows that a committee of Clinton staffers, including Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin, Jake Sullivan and Philippe Reines, was required to draft a “doctors statement” as to why Hillary supposedly fainted due to “dehydration,” causing her supposedly to hit her head and suffer a “concussion” in December 2012. The same committee then prepared a “discharge statement” when Hillary was released from the hospital.
“These shocking new Clinton emails show why the Justice Department should reevaluate, reopen, or reinvigorate Clinton, Inc. investigations,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The casual violation of laws concerning classified material and noxious influence peddling show the Clinton State Department was ‘corruption central’ in the Obama administration. No wonder Clinton’s allies in the State and Justice Departments had been slow-walking and hiding these emails.”
May 9, 2017 /Standard Newswire/ -- Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton today issued the following statement in response to President Trump's decision to fire FBI Director James Comey:
"This is an important move to restore public confidence in the fair administration of justice at the Federal level. Mr. Comey did not seem to understand some of the laws he was ask to investigate and unfortunately politicized his sensitive positon as the FBI director. President Trump took the right step in cleaning house at the FBI."
Court Rules State Department Must Release Clinton Emails Detailing Obama Response to Benghazi
WASHINGTON, May 5, 2017 /Standard Newswire/ -- Judicial Watch today announced that U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson has ordered the U.S. Department of State to turn over to Judicial Watch "eight identical paragraphs" of previously redact material in two September 13, 2012, Hillary Clinton emails regarding phone calls made by President Barack Obama to Egyptian and Libyan leaders immediately following the terrorist attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. Both emails had the subject line "Quick Summary of POTUS Calls to Presidents of Libya and Egypt" and were among the emails stored on Clinton's unofficial email server. Judge Jackson reviewed the documents directly and rejected the government's contention that the records had been properly withheld under the FOIA B(5) "deliberative process" exemption.
Judge Jackson ruled: "the two records, even if just barely predecisional, are not deliberative. [The State Department] has pointed to very little to support its characterization of these two records as deliberative, and the Court's in camera review of the documents reveals that they do not fall within that category."
The full emails may reveal what former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama knew about the September 11, 2012, terror attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi.
Following Judge Jackson's March 20 ruling, the State Department asked the court to reconsider. The State Department argued that, due to an internal "mistake," it failed to claim that the emails were classified and, therefore, exempt from production under FOIA Exemption B(1).
In response, Judicial Watch argues that the failure was not a mistake, but instead was part of a deliberate effort by the State Department to protect Clinton and the agency by avoiding identifying emails on Clinton's unofficial, non-secure email server as classified.
Judicial Watch's filing cites an interview of an FBI employee who told federal investigators that top State Department official Patrick Kennedy pressured the FBI to keep Clinton's emails unclassified. The employee told the FBI he "believes STATE ha[d] an agenda which involves minimizing the classified nature of the CLINTON emails in order to protect STATE interests and those of CLINTON." [Emphasis in original]
Judicial Watch's filing also cites an interview of a State Department employee who told the FBI that the State Department's Office of Legal Counsel interfered with the FOIA processing of email from Secretary Clinton's server, instructing reviewers to use Exemption B(5) (deliberative process exemption) instead of Exemption B(1) (classified information exemption). According to the FBI interview: MORE BACKGROUND:
THE CONCERN: This potentially historic Benghazi material may never see the light of day thanks to some within the Trump administration. Does President Trump know his State and Justice Departments are still trying to provide cover for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama?”
This extraordinary court ruling that could result in key answers about the Benghazi outrage is being opposed by the Trump administration. This may well be an example of the “deep state” trying to get away with a cover up. If so, then the Trump administration must put a stop to it.
Judicial Watch fought the Obama administration in court repeatedly to uncover the truth about Benghazi that even Congress couldn’t get. Let’s hope the Trump administration appointees understand the stakes and stop fighting us in court (and wasting taxpayer dollars) to defend the indefensible.
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