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Judicial Watch Submissions
November 20, 2017 - Judicial Watch Sues State Department for Podesta Group Records
Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of State for all records about the Podesta Group Inc. and the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, which have both been connected to the recent special counsel indictment of Paul Manafort (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:17-cv-02489)).
Judicial Watch sued after the State Department failed to respond to a September 13, 2017, FOIA request for:
All records of communication between any official, employee, or representative of the Department of State and any principal, employee, or representative of Podesta Group, Inc.
All records produced related to any meetings or telephonic communications between any official, employee, or representative of the Department of State and any principal, employee, or representative of Podesta Group, Inc.
All records regarding the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine.
The FOIA request covers the timeframe of January 1, 2012 to the present.
The Podesta Group, formerly led by Anthony Podesta, and the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine have been mentioned in connection with the criminal indictment of Paul Manafort by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
“Mueller’s special counsel operation seems more interested in the alleged foreign ties of the Trump Team, rather than Hillary Clinton’s associates,” stated Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton. “Judicial Watch aims to figure out the truth of what exactly the Podesta Group was doing with the Obama State Department.”
November 20, 2017 - Illegal Immigrant Gangster in Murder Plot arrested by U.S. Marshals in a Colorado "Sanctuary City".
A previously deported illegal immigrant gang member charged with attempted murder and kidnapping this month was arrested by U.S. Marshals in Ft. Collins, a northern Colorado sanctuary city that ousted a finalist for police chief over his support of immigration enforcement.
This recent case proves how sanctuary policies endanger communities. The suspect, an illegal alien from El Salvador named Angel Ramos, tried to kill a woman by stabbing her repeatedly with a screw driver then running her over with his car before trying to stuff her in the trunk. He is a confirmed member of the violent street gang Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and is wanted for homicide in his native El Salvador, according to information provided to the media by the U.S. Marshals Service. The 36-year-old has been charged with attempted murder, assault, menacing with a deadly weapon, kidnapping, domestic violence and criminal impersonation. Last year Ramos was deported from Texas to El Salvador after getting arrested for domestic violence, authorities told a national news outlet. Days after trying to kill the woman this month, he was arrested at the Ft. Collins construction site where he worked.
It’s not clear how or when Ramos ended up in Ft. Collins, but it’s not unreasonable to assume that the city’s sanctuary measures made it attractive for a previously deported gang member on the run. The MS-13 is a feared street gang of mostly Central American illegal immigrants that’s spread throughout the U.S. and is renowned for drug distribution, murder, rape, robbery, home invasions, kidnappings, vandalism and other violent crimes. The Justice Department’s National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC) says criminal street gangs like the MS-13 are responsible for most violent crimes in the U.S. and are the primary distributors of most illicit drugs. Wonder how Ft. Collins residents feel about their city leaders enabling MS-13 members to live and work in their community?
Judicial Watch is embroiled in a public records saga with Ft. Collins officials for documents surrounding the selection process of their police chief and abrupt elimination of a respected veteran law enforcement official with impressive credentials. Ft. Collins is trying to keep records secret by asserting that the “material is so candid or personal that public disclosure is likely to stifle honest and frank discussion within the government.”
The former chief deputy for the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office in central Arizona, Steve Henry, was a finalist for the Ft. Collins position and was invited to travel to the city for an interview. But Henry’s offer was abruptly rescinded, according to a source closely involved with the selection process, because he publicly supported an Arizona law (SB1070) that makes it a state crime to be in the U.S. without proper documentation and bans “sanctuary city” policies. This clashes with Ft. Collins’ sanctuary policies, which have been well documented in media reports. Mayor Wade Troxell said in a local newspaper that the city is an open, inclusive and friendly community and that “all people matter.” Members of the city council have consistently said they support diversity and want the city to be a welcoming place for all people.
Of interesting note is that Ft. Collins’ local newspaper, the Coloradoan, makes no mention of Ramos’ immigration status, reporting only that “Homeland Security agents assisted with the arrest.” The paper supported Ft. Collins’ push to become a sanctuary for illegal immigrants and appears to be completely in the city government’s pocket. Other Colorado media outlets rightfully mentioned the newsworthy information about Ramos’ immigration status. The Ramos case indicates that Ft. Collins could use a better newspaper and a police chief like Steve Henry, whose support for the rule of law ironically served as a disqualifier for a candidate hired to enforce the rule of law.
October 13, 2017 - FBI Finds 30 Pages of Clinton-Lynch Tarmac Meeting Documents
Who is running the store at the FBI?
First the FBI told us [Judicial Watch] it had no documents related to the infamous tarmac meeting between former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton. But now, the FBI located 30 pages of documents related to the June 27, 2016, meeting, and it proposes that it produce non-exempt material no later than November 30, 2017.
On June 27, 2016, Attorney General Loretta Lynch met privately with former President Bill Clinton on board a parked private plane at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona. The meeting occurred during the then-ongoing investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s email server, and mere hours before the Benghazi report was released publicly involving both Mrs. Clinton and the Obama administration. We filed a request on June 30 that the U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General investigate that meeting.
The FBI is out of control. It is stunning that the FBI “found” these Clinton-Lynch tarmac records only after we caught the agency hiding them in another lawsuit. We will continue to press for answers about the FBI’s document games in court. In the meantime, the FBI should stop the stonewall and release these new records immediately.
This case has also forced the FBI to release to the public the FBI’s Clinton investigative file, although more than half of the records remain withheld. The FBI has also told us that it anticipates completing the processing of these materials by July 2018.
October, 13, 2017 - A Spy Ring in the U.S. House of Representatives?
As you may already know, a Democratic IT staffer named Imran Awan was arrested in July on charges of bank fraud. He was employed with Debbie Wasserman Shultz and other members of Congress. Wasserman Schultz is a Democratic congresswoman from Florida and former chair of the Democratic National Committee.
Imran Awan is also a suspect in a cybersecurity investigation, having been banned from congressional networks in February. In addition, his relatives, also government IT employees, are currently being investigated for alleged involvement in defrauding the federal government as well as compromising sensitive information from congressional servers.
Here are some of my remarks before a Congressional Committee:
I’m not aware of any official hearing by the House into this burgeoning scandal. This needs to be front and center for the House. The Republican majority is in charge of making sure the rules are being followed, and it doesn’t seem to me they’re doing the work necessary to reassure the American people.
National security is obviously something that is front and center here, but my concern is that the Justice Department is afraid to raise the issue when it comes to crimes with a political component. I fear the Justice Department is going to fear to tread here. We’ve already seen pushback from Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
What happened led to breaches of secure information all over the place. We’ve had evidence that they were in contact with some Pakistani officials. There were aliases used. Also data being moved in large quantities suggests something wrong. But evidently to even raise that question is controversial.
Hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars have gone missing in the form of equipment. Moreover, when citizens communicate with their House members they often reveal the most private information. As sensitive as anything the IRS has or anything your healthcare provider has. People provide Social Security information. And that material could be on their member’s servers. All of that could have been breached here.
This house has not policed itself, and it has left itself susceptible to being defrauded by crooks.
Judicial Watch commends the House members, especially Rep. Louie Gohemert, who participated in this educational event. It is remarkable that they had to do an unofficial hearing on this key corruption issue. And I’m proud to say that Judicial Watch played a key role in recording and disseminating the video of the hearing across the media, where it took off like wildfire.
It doesn’t appear that the Congress or the federal agencies or the press want to handle this hot potato.
Sanctuary Cities Released Illegals with Assault, Drug, and Weapon Charges
Over 700 pages of newly released documents from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reveal that hundreds of counties across the U.S. denied Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) detainer requests for criminal illegal aliens in the first quarter of fiscal year 2017.
We [Judicial Watch] forced the release of the documents as a result of a court order in our May 26, 2017, FOIA lawsuit filed after DHS failed to respond to an April 13, 2017, FOIA request (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (No. 1:17-cv-01008)). We were seeking:
All complaints received by ICE concerning the [Declined Detainer Outcome Report]
All records concerning the suspension of the weekly publication of the [Declined Detainer Outcome Report]
All records identifying the reporting methodologies used to create the [Declined Detainer Outcome Report]
We released several spreadsheets compiling statistics on the nature of criminal activities illegal aliens had committed during the first four months of 2017; a nationwide list of jails that failed to cooperate with the ICE detainer program; and the top 50 jurisdictions that failed to cooperative with the ICE detainer program.
Leading the pack of counties denying detainers were Ventura County, CA (188); Miami-Dade, FL (93); Denver, CO (74); Clark, NV (68); and Los Angeles, CA (57). A total of 284 detainers were declined during the first three months of fiscal year 2017, involving: various forms of assault (16); drug-and-alcohol-related charges (39); weapons charges, and crimes against persons and property (18).
The Declined Detainer Outcome Reports highlighted state and local governments that did not comply with ICE’s detainer program (also known as sanctuary cities). According to one new ICE email, the “declined detainer” reports was meant to be easily understood:
So an American citizen sitting at home can open the report, see the total number of detainers issued in a week, detainers issued to jurisdictions that don’t cooperate, the confirmed declined detainer list, and the list of all jurisdictions that don’t honor detainers. A snapshot, in essence.
In an April 6, 2017, email from Acting Director of DHS, Thomas Homan, to DHS staff in response to complaints about errors in the DDOR from U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) office, Homan said:
Certainly but NYC is extremely uncooperative. We will provide the information and work with OPLA and OGC staff to engage. They removed our officers from Rikers Island and will not honor detainers. I met with them personally last year in an effort to gain more cooperation. We will review asap.
In at least one instance, local law enforcement actions went beyond a simple lack of cooperation with ICE to turn over detained illegal aliens to outright obstruction of ICE’s efforts to pick up illegal immigrants in local custody. For example, according to a March 21, 2017, ICE email: “Hennepin County Adult Detention Center released an alien out the front door of the jail as an ICE officer was waiting in their sally port to take him into custody.”
These new documents confirm that sanctuary policies are dangerous and help the worst of worst criminal element. The complaints of sanctuary politicians aside, the Trump administration must catalogue the continued threat to the public safety caused by lawless sanctuary policies.
In April, Judicial Watch obtained 204 illegal alien Detainer Requests denied to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by the Travis County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office. The illegal aliens protected by the Sheriff’s Office were charged or convicted of 31 acts of violence, 14 thefts or burglaries, and three acts or threats of terrorism. Forty-four of the denied requests were for inmates originally detained by Homeland Security and temporarily transferred to Travis County (home to the state capital in Austin) for disposition of state or local charges.
According to CNN, the Trump administration suspended publication of the Declined Detainer Outcome Reports on April 11, 2017, after only three weeks and three total reports due to “complaints.” The Hill further reported that according to ICE spokeswoman Sarah Rodriguez, the Declined Detainer Outcome Reports were halted in order to “analyze and refine [the organization’s] reporting methodologies.”
The Declined Detainer Outcome Reports highlighted state and local governments, often referred to as sanctuary cities, that did not comply with ICE’s detainer program:
ICE places detainers on aliens who have been arrested on local criminal charges and for whom ICE possesses probable cause to believe that they are removable from the United States, so that ICE can take custody of the alien when he or she is released from local custody. When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release serious criminal offenders, it undermines ICE’s ability to protect public safety and carry out its mission.
In June, President Trump conducted a roundtable discussion with families of victims of crimes committed by illegal aliens. Let’s hope he never has to do that again.
Murrieta - September 15, 2017 - Mosquito populations spur spraying, continued vigilance for West Nile virus
Spraying is scheduled next week in Murrieta. Mosquitos at Monroe Basin tested positive for the West Nile virus. Due to the high number of mosquitos trapped, the Riverside County Vector Control Program staff has scheduled ultra-low volume ground applications of Zenivex, using truck-mounted sprayers to reduce the number of adult mosquitos. The basin covers 36 acres and the treatment area is bordered by Jackson Avenue to the north and Monroe Avenue to the southwest.
Application of Zenivex, a mosquito-control product approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA Reg No 2724-807), is scheduled for Wednesday (9/20) from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Signs will be posted along the route Monday (9/18) informing residents of the control efforts.
Zenivex is registered by the EPA for use in controlling mosquitos and protecting public health. It is applied according to label instructions by trained and certified technicians. Although the product poses very low to no risk, some people may prefer to avoid exposure. For those who wish to minimize exposure, residents and pets should remain indoors and keep windows closed during and for 15 minutes following ground application. The amount of material sprayed is three ounces per acre, which ensures that humans, animals and crops are safe.
The vector-control staff follows a pest management protocol that includes, intensifying mosquito surveillance, searching out breeding sites, conducting larval control where appropriate, and educating property owners about how to prevent mosquito breeding on their property.
To protect yourself from mosquito bites:
Apply Insect Repellent. Use a repellent with DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide), picaridin (KBR 3023), oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-methane 3, 8-diol (PMD)] or IR3535 according to the instructions on the product label. DEET products should not be used on infants under two months of age and should be used in concentrations of 30 percent or less on older children. Lemon eucalyptus oil should not be used on children under three years of age.
Be Aware of Peak Mosquito Hours. Dawn and dusk are peak biting times for many mosquitos. If mosquitos are biting you during the daytime hours, please mention that when you call our office because it might help identify the species of mosquito in your area.
Clothing Can Help Reduce Mosquito Bites. Wear long-sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors to help keep mosquitos away from skin.
Mosquito-Proof Your Home. Drain Standing Water. Mosquitos lay their eggs in standing water. Limit the number of places for mosquitos to breed by draining/discarding items that hold water. Check rain gutters and drains. Empty and scrub out any unused flowerpots and wading pools. Change water in birdbaths, livestock troughs and pet bowls at least weekly, scrubbing thoroughly before refilling.
Install or Repair Screens. Keep mosquitos outside by having tightly fitting screens on all of your windows and doors.
Please call the vector control office at 951-766-9454 if you have any questions, would like to report a mosquito problem in your area or to request mosquito larvae-eating fish. You may also visit our website www.rivcoeh/programs/vector or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/RiversideCountyEH/ for more information.
September 15, 2017 - Menendez & Netanyahu Corruption Trial Predictions
By Micah Morrison, chief investigative reporter for Judicial Watch.
The federal corruption trial of Senator Robert Menendez and his very good amigo, Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, is underway in New Jersey. It doesn’t appear to be going well for the prosecution.
On Tuesday, the government put Dr. Melgen’s girlfriends on the stand, and they weren’t happy about it. Senator Menendez is accused, inter alia, of exerting improper influence to obtain visas for the foreign-born women in exchange for gifts—bribes, prosecutors say—from Dr. Melgen.
Svitlana Buchyk, a “model and actress,” had the courtroom “laughing at some of her answers,” Politico reported. When asked by a defense attorney how long she had spent with prosecutors preparing her testimony, she said she didn’t know, “it just seems very long when I’m around them.”
Asked if she understood why she was in court, Ms. Buchyk “let out a long, exasperated ‘no,’” Politico reported. “No, I don’t know why I’m here,” she said, indicating lead prosecutor Peter Koski. “He’s just forcing me to be here.”
In the courtroom, Judge William Walls did not allow Dr. Melgen’s girlfriends to be referred to as “girlfriends,” only “friendship” was acknowledged, fooling no one. In a bizarre filing before the trial opened, the government worked hard to portray the senator and the wealthy doctor as two dirty old men living the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Dr. Melgen wanted to bring his young “foreign girlfriends to the United States to visit him,” the document notes. The women were “from Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and Ukraine.” Senator Menendez helped with the visas. Dr. Melgen arranged for Mr. Menendez and his girlfriend (oh by the way both men are married) “to stay in Punta Cana, an exclusive oceanside resort town” in the Dominican Republic.
On other occasions, the two men and their, er, friends, enjoyed vacations “at Melgen’s villa at Casa de Campo, a cloistered resort on the southeastern coast of the Dominican Republic with renowned golf courses, a spa, polo fields, a marina, restaurants and other amenities.” The trial brief describes an “enclave, venerated for its seclusion” and “frequently visited by luminaries in sports, entertainment and business, including Beyonce, Jay-Z, Jennifer Lopez, Richard Branson and Bill Gates.” Elsewhere in the brief, the government notes that with assistance for Dr. Melgen, Mr. Menendez stayed at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Paris, “one of Europe’s most elite, routinely hosting celebrities from the world over, including the likes of George Clooney and Maria Sharapova.”
It’s unclear what relation Beyonce and George Clooney have to the case, but eventually the trial will get down to narrow matters of law. As I noted last month, this is where it’s likely to run into trouble with the Supreme Court’s recent McDonnell decision, which narrowed the definition of corrupt practices by public servants. But meanwhile, getting pushed around by your own witness and filing specious briefs are signs your case is in trouble.
Lavish lifestyles and big money also form the background to the travails of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu. I surveyed the complicated corruption allegations against him. Four cases are pending, including one for accepting expensive gifts. Another case, the so-called “Submarine Affair,” took a turn for the worse earlier this month with the arrest of David Sharan, the prime minister’s former chief of staff. The case involves bribery of government officials to grease the skids for a billion-dollar submarine deal. Mr. Netanyahu is not a target of the investigation—at least not yet, at least not officially. But the net is tightening around members of his inner circle.
In a separate development, the pressure on the prime minister increased last week when the Israeli attorney general announced that he intended to bring fraud charges against Mr. Netanyahu’s wife, Sara. Mrs. Netanyahu is a lightning rod for public criticism in Israel for her allegedly high-handed ways. She is accused of improperly spending about $100,000 in restaurant and take-out food purchases, a misuse of government funds allocated to the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem. Mr. Netanyahu has dismissed the allegations as “absurd” and Mrs. Netanyahu will have an opportunity to defend herself in court before a final decision is made on charging her.
It’s a long way from Casa de Campo to Jerusalem, but the veteran politicians have something in common: a taste for the high life. Of course this is nothing new. “Whoever loves money never has enough, whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income,” notes Ecclesiastes. But is it a crime? In New Jersey, the government’s case is off to a shaky start and McDonnell looms. In Israel, the sheer weight of the multiple cases involving the prime minister seem certain to take a toll and embolden his many parliamentary enemies.
The betting here: Menendez survives, Bibi is gone by April.
September 8, 2017 - Deep State Watch: New Lawsuit for Comey Memos
The already strange case of James B. Comey gets, as Lewis Carroll might observe, “curiouser and curiouser” with each passing day.
We have filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit on behalf of the Daily Caller News Foundation against the U.S. Department of Justice seeking memoranda allegedly written by former FBI Director James Comey regarding his discussions with President Donald Trump and Trump’s aides (Daily Caller Foundation v. U.S. Department Justice (No. 1:17-cv- 01830)).
We sued after the Justice Department declined to respond to a June 9, 2017, FOIA request and then failed to respond to an administrative appeal. The Daily Caller is asking for:
“All unclassified memoranda authored by former FBI Director James Comey that contemporaneously memorialized his discussions with President Donald Trump and his aides. The time frame for the request was from November 8, 2016 to May 9, 2017.”
Four of the seven memos that Comey wrote following his interactions with President Trump reportedly contained classified information.
“Americans have a right know the full facts about former FBI Director James Comey’s unclassified memos regarding his conversations with President Trump and his aides prior to his firing,” said Daily Caller News Foundation co-founder Neil Patel. “And the FBI must be required to honor the Freedom of Information Act.”
We are separately pursuing a FOIA lawsuit against the Department of Justice for information about Comey’s memorandum written after his meeting with President Trump regarding potential interference by the Russians in the 2016 presidential election (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:17-cv-01189)).
In July, we filed a FOIA lawsuit against the Department of Justice for the metadata of the memoranda written by Comey memorializing his conversations with President Donald Trump as well as records about Comey’s FBI-issued laptop computer or other electronic devices and records about how Comey managed his records while he was FBI Director (Judicial Watch, Inc., v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 17-cv-01520)). The metadata information may include details about when the memos were created or edited and by whom.
In August, we sued the Justice Department for all non-disclosure agreements pertaining to the handling, storage, protection, dissemination, and/or return of classified information that were signed by or on behalf of former FBI Director James Comey (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:17-cv-01624)).
Such records would include:
All SF-312 (Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement) forms
All FD-857 (Sensitive Information Nondisclosure Agreement) forms
All FD-597 (Receipt for Property Received/Returned/Released or Seized) forms
All FD-291 (FBI Employment Agreement) forms
All Case Briefing Acknowledgement forms
Here is the bottom line: Comey leaked information from these memos so that the media would pick it up. It is a scandal and contrary to FOIA law for the FBI to hide this information.
Be Sure to Tune In to Judicial Watch’s 'Exposing the Deep State'
We will host a spectacular panel a week from today (Friday, September 15, 2017, from 2 to 3 pm ET) to discuss “Exposing the Deep State.” It would be hard to top our panelists who currently 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"
Sara A. Carter - Senior National Security CorrespondentCirca News
We hope you will take the opportunity to watch the panel live at www.judicialwatch.org/live. We will also stream the presentation on Facebook Live – visit our Facebook page to watch.
In the meantime, let’s all pray for a miracle down in Florida this weekend as our fellow Americans face a terrible threat.
September 8, 2017 - Judicial Watch Applauds the End to Obama’s Illegal Alien Amnesty
The Left seems to have settled on the word “cruel” to describe President Trump’s ending of Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. I choose to say that he restored the rule of law. Here is the statement I issued:
“Judicial Watch applauds the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the Obama administration amnesty program for 800,000 illegal aliens. Judicial Watch already exposed how the Obama administration bypassed security background checks for DACA recipients, which placed the nation’s security and public safety at risk. President Trump’s decision helps restore the rule of law and constitutional governance. The Trump administration’s enforcement action on immigration shows the best immigration reform is to finally enforce the law.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who made the announcement, called DACA a “unilateral executive amnesty.” Sessions also called DACA an “open-ended circumvention of immigration laws” and an “unconstitutional exercise of authority” by the Obama administration.
In June 2013, we released documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request showing that the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) abandoned required background checks, adopting instead costly “lean and lite” procedures in an effort to keep up with the flood of amnesty applications spurred by President Obama’s DACA directive.
Not only was this program illegal, it posed a real threat to American citizens. That’s what strikes me as genuinely cruel.
September 8, 2017 - Judicial Watch Lawyers Take On Sanctuary Policy
Judicial Watch will be in court on Monday, September 11, 2017, before Judge Harold A. Kahn regarding our taxpayer lawsuit against San Francisco Sheriff Vicki Hennessy and the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department (SFSD).
Our goal is to prevent the use of taxpayer funds on policies “that prohibit or restrict SFSD personnel from sharing … immigration-related information with federal immigration law enforcement officials.”
We filed on behalf of Cynthia Cerletti, a taxpayer of the city and county of San Francisco, in the Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco (Cynthia Cerletti v. Vicki Hennessy (No. CGC-16-556164)). Robert Patrick Sticht, a Los Angeles-based attorney, is serving as lead counsel in the Cerletti litigation.
In our court filing opposing Sheriff Hennessy’s effort to have Ms. Cerletti’s lawsuit dismissed, we argue:
Sheriff Hennessy’s refusal to share basic information about the release of deportable criminal aliens in her custody – the date, time, and place of their scheduled release – plainly frustrates Congress’ clear purpose in enacting section 1226(c). By refusing to share release information, Sheriff Hennessy allows deportable criminal aliens in her custody – aliens Congress plainly intended to be detained upon release from the custody of [law enforcement agencies] such as SFSD – to escape federal immigration officials’ grasp. Her restrictions enable aliens who have committed aggravated felonies or other crimes deemed sufficiently serious by Congress to warrant detaining them and denying them bond or conditional parole to remain at large pending removal. Not only might such persons pose a further danger to the community – which was one of Congress’ main concerns – but federal immigration officials must spend additional time and resources and assume unnecessary risk to themselves, the aliens, and others locating and apprehending them.
Simply put, San Francisco’s sanctuary policy is illegal and dangerous. It and other sanctuary cities are on notice that taxpayers can challenge these unlawful policies in court.
August 14, 2017- State Agency That Disciplines Judges Fights to Keep Operating in Secrecy after 56 Yrs.
A California judicial commission that’s operated in secrecy for more than five and a half decades is engaged in a legal battle to thwart an audit ordered by state legislators and Judicial Watch has filed a court brief supporting the long overdue probe in the name of transparency. A court hearing has been rescheduled three times and shuffled around to different judges, with the latest scheduled for August 17 before Judge Suzanne Bolanos in San Francisco Superior Court. The case sheds much-needed light on the unbelievable history of a taxpayer-funded agency that’s conducted its business in private—and with no oversight—for 56 years, even though protecting the public is among its key duties. The agency is known as Commission on Judicial Performance (CJP) and it’s charged with enforcing rigorous standards of judicial conduct and disciplining judges in the nation’s largest court system.
California’s court system serves over 37 million people and has more than double the judges (1,882) of the federal judicial system, which has 840. The CJP should serve as a tool to keep the system in check. Instead the commission has dismissed 90% of complaints about judges in the last decade, according to figures published in a California newspaper. Only 3.4% ended in disciplinary action and less than 1% led to public censure. None of the decisions were transparent, the news story reveals, and critics have demanded accountability for CJP for years, asserting that the commission gives “biased and inept judges a pass.” In its 2016 annual report, CJP discloses that 1,079 of the 1,210 complaints it received were dismissed after “initial review.” Discipline was issued in only 45 cases with more than half of the offenders receiving an “advisory letter.” Eleven others received “private admonishment,” six got “public admonishment” and eight “public discipline.” Only one judge was removed from office and another received public censure. Offenses included on-bench abuse of authority, administrative malfeasance, bias or appearance of bias and improper political activities.
Last year, a California legislative committee authorized State Auditor Elaine Howle to conduct the first-ever examination into the CJP, including whether the commission upholds due process when considering allegations against judges and how investigators determine which complaints to dismiss. Lawmakers finally acted after mounting pressure from a variety of sources, including Court Reform LLC, a group that pushes for fair and transparent courts that’s found CJP is “ineffective at enforcing judicial discipline, wastes public money and is too secretive about its operations.” An in-depth probe conducted by the group compares the data and policies of judicial disciplinary commissions in California and three other states and finds that the CJP is “under-investigating and under-disciplining judicial misconduct and misappropriating public funds.” It calls for the state auditor to investigate. Howle is appointed by the governor and her office functions as an independent external auditor that provides nonpartisan, accurate and timely assessments of California government’s financial and operational activities.
To stop the audit, the CJP sued Howle and her office asserting that a probe would violate its constitutionally granted power to conduct confidential investigations. The complaint also says that allowing a review of its operations would violate the separation of powers doctrine that prohibits one branch of government from intruding on the powers of another. In her response, Howle fires back that the CJP does not have special immunity because it was created by the state constitution and that the California legislature regularly directs the auditor to audit other agencies established by the constitution, including the State Bar, Public Utilities Commission and the University of California. Furthermore, Howle’s attorneys write, audits of other state agencies, including the Attorney General’s Office and Judicial Council, have not interfered with their core functions. “No court has ever blocked the Legislature’s effort to obtain information about a state agency’s performance via an audit,” Howle’s response to the court states. “There is no reason—and no legal justification—to start now.”
In its lengthy friend of the court brief (officially known by its Latin term, amicus curiae), Judicial Watch acknowledges that there may be a valid reason to keep certain parts of CJP’s work confidential, but the lack of information regarding its procedures and overall judicial discipline undermines public confidence in the integrity and independence of the state judiciary. “An audit issued by a competent, neutral auditor advances public confidence in the integrity of the audited public agency,” Judicial Watch writes in its brief. Judicial Watch also mentions its firsthand experience with CJP’s judicial complaint process and addresses CJP assertions that an audit would damage confidentiality. “In Judicial Watch’s experience, CJP’s disciplinary process is opaque with virtually no information publicly available about how the CJP handles complaints or when, if at all, it acts. Judicial Watch has been unable to ascertain if any action was ever taken regarding its complaints.” Regarding the confidentiality issue, Judicial Watch points out that confidential information is regularly shared between governmental agencies without the information losing its confidential status.
CJP was established in 1960 as a state agency to investigate complaints of judicial misconduct and incapacity as well as for disciplining judges. It has 11 members that include one appellate court justice and two superior court judges appointed by California’s Supreme Court. The others include two attorneys and two lay citizens appointed by the governor and four additional lay citizens appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules and Speaker of the Assembly. Members are appointed to four-year terms. The CJP’s mandate is to protect the public, enforce rigorous standards of judicial conduct and maintain public confidence in the integrity and independence of the judicial system. It’ difficult to accomplish that in absolute secrecy.
Aug 11, 2017 - Judicial Watch Victory: D.C. Court Orders State Department to Search Benghazi Emails of Clinton Advisors
D.C. District Court Judge Amit P. Mehta ordered the State Department “to search the state.gov e-mail accounts of Huma Abedin, Cheryl Mills, and Jacob Sullivan,” former aides of Hillary Clinton during her tenure as Secretary of State. Judge Mehta ordered the State Department to search in those accounts “for records responsive to [Judicial Watch’s] March 4, 2015, FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] request.”
Judge Mehta, an Obama appointee, described our Clinton-Benghazi FOIA lawsuit as “a far cry from a typical FOIA case. Secretary Clinton used a private e-mail server, located in her home, to transmit and receive work-related communications during her tenure as Secretary of State.”
Further, Judge Mehta ruled:
[I]f an e-mail did not involve any state.gov user, the message would have passed through only the Secretary’s private server and, therefore, would be beyond the immediate reach of State. Because of this circumstance, unlike the ordinary case, State could not look solely to its own records systems to adequately respond to [Judicial Watch’s] demand.
[The State Department] has not, however, searched the one records system over which it has always had control and that is almost certain to contain some responsive records: the state.gov e-mail server. If Secretary Clinton sent an e-mail about Benghazi to Abedin, Mills, or Sullivan at his or her state.gov e-mail address, or if one of them sent an e-mail to Secretary Clinton using his or her state.gov account, then State’s server presumably would have captured and stored such an e-mail. Therefore, State has an obligation to search its own server for responsive records.
State has offered no assurance that the three record compilations it received [from Secretary Clinton and her aides], taken together, constitute the entirety of Secretary Clinton’s e-mails during the time period relevant to Plaintiff’s FOIA Request. Absent such assurance, the court is unconvinced “beyond material doubt” that a search of the state.gov accounts of Abedin, Mills and Sullivan is “unlikely to produce any marginal return.”
Accordingly, the court finds that State has not met its burden of establishing it performed an adequate search in response to Plaintiff’s FOIA Request and orders State to conduct a supplemental search of the state.gov e-mail accounts of Abedin, Mills, and Sullivan.
This major court ruling may finally result in more answers about the Benghazi scandal – and Hillary Clinton’s involvement in it – as we approach the attack’s fifth anniversary. It is remarkable that we had to battle both the Obama and Trump administrations to break through the State Department’s Benghazi stonewall. Why are Secretary Tillerson and Attorney General Sessions wasting taxpayer dollars protecting Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration?
Judicial Watch asked a federal court to compel the Trump State Department to undertake a thorough search of all emails of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding the terrorist attack on Benghazi, including those of Clinton’s closest advisors. We also specifically asked the court to compel the agency to produce all records of communications between Clinton and top aide Jake Sullivan relating to Ambassador Susan Rice’s appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” the Sunday following the 2012 Benghazi massacre.
This long journey began on May 6, 2015, when we filed a lawsuit after the State Department failed to respond to a March 4, 2015, FOIA request seeking all emails of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton relating to the September 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Special Mission Compound in Benghazi, Libya (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:15-cv-00692)).
This latest breakthrough made headlines and again focused public attention on the Benghazi outrage. JW attorney Ramona Cotca, who was lead attorney on this case, discussed the victory on Fox News last night. The State Department has until September 22, 2017, to update the court on the status of the supplemental search and production of additional emails to us. We’ll let you know what we find!
Judicial Watch Goes to Supreme Court to Protect Clean Elections
Judicial Watch is in the middle of an election integrity fight before the Supreme Court. We filed an amicus curiae brief asking the court to reverse a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which had ruled that Ohio’s process for cleaning voter rolls was in violation of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) (Jon Husted, Ohio Secretary of State v. Philip Randolph Institute, et al. (No. 16-980)).
According to our brief, “Ohio’s Supplemental Process allows the sending of a statutory confirmation notice to any registrant who has not had any voting-related activity for two years. After that, the registrant may be removed from the rolls if there is no response or further activity for two general federal elections.” The Sixth Circuit concluded that this amounted to removing a voter for failing to vote, which is forbidden by federal law.
In our brief we noted that “the failure to vote only leads to the sending of a notice. Subsequent removal is due to the failure to respond to that notice for a period of time that may extend up to four years. The Sixth Circuit’s attempt to argue otherwise relies on a misuse of the plain language of the NVRA.”
Our amicus brief points out that the Sixth Circuit’s decision undermines a 2014 settlement agreement between Judicial Watch and Ohio, which required Ohio to contact inactive voters every year via a Supplemental Mailing to confirm they had not moved or died, as one of many steps to fulfill Ohio’s obligations under the NVRA to maintain the integrity of its voter list.
We “never would have agreed to the settlement agreement with Ohio and dismissed its lawsuit if [we] believed the Supplemental Mailing was legally impermissible. If the Sixth Circuit’s ruling in this case is allowed to stand, this key provision of the settlement agreement could be voided. This would undermine Judicial Watch’s extensive efforts to protect the integrity of elections for its Ohio members.”
We also noted how “Congress, the Justice Department, and 19 states have concluded that using the failure to vote as a basis for sending confirmation notices or taking other actions to remove voters is fully consistent with the NVRA.”
There is no question about the importance of counting only the votes of eligible voters. The Supreme Court should reverse the Sixth Circuit decision and allow Ohio to continue to work toward clean and fair elections.
Our own Robert Popper, director of Judicial Watch’s Election Integrity Project, has also joined with five other former attorneys of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department to file an amicus curiae brief in the Husted case. In their brief, Popper and his associates argue:
First, the Sixth Circuit’s interpretation of the NVRA conflicts with its text, structure, and history. Amici have long interpreted the statute oppositely, and they helped the Justice Department negotiate settlements that would be illegal under the Sixth Circuit’s view. [Emphasis added.]
Second, the Sixth Circuit’s decision deprives Ohio and other jurisdictions of an important means to combat bloated voter rolls, a real and pressing threat to the integrity of federal elections.
Between this and our other Election Integrity Project efforts to force states across the nation to clean election rolls, your JW is the tip of the spear against voter fraud and for clean elections.July 28, 2017- Judicial Watch Files Three Lawsuits for Info on FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe
First lawsuit seeks communications between FBI and McCabe concerning “ethical issues” involving wife’s political campaign; second seeks McCabe communications with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe; third seeks McCabe travel vouchers.
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch today announced that it filed three separate Freedom of Information (FOIA) lawsuits against the U.S. Department of Justice seeking records for current FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe relating to his political activities, travel vouchers, and employment status. The first two lawsuits specifically seek records of McCabe’s political activities involving his wife’s failed campaign for political office and interactions with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. The first FOIA lawsuit, filed on July 24 (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:17-cv-01494)), seeks the following: Any and all records of communication between FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and other FBI or Department of Justice (“DOJ”) officials regarding, concerning or relating to ethical issues concerning the involvement of Andrew McCabe and/or his wife, Dr. Jill McCabe, in political campaigns; Any and all records related to ethical guidance concerning political activities provided to Deputy Director McCabe by FBI and/or DOJ officials or elements.
The second Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit, filed on July 26, seeks communication records between then-Deputy Director McCabe and Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic National Committee (DNC), and the Democratic Party of Virginia (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:17-cv-01495)), including: Any and all records of communication between Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and any of the following individuals: Any official within the office of the Governor of Virginia, including but not limited to Governor Terry McAuliffe; Any official, representative or employee with the Democratic National Committee; Any official, representative or employee with the Democratic Party of Virginia.
In 2015, a political action committee run by McAuliffe, a close friend and political supporter of Bill and Hillary Clinton, donated nearly $500,000 to Jill McCabe, wife of McCabe, who was then running for the Virginia State Senate. Also, the Virginia Democratic Party, over which McAuliffe had significant influence, donated an additional $207,788 to the Jill McCabe campaign. In July 2015, Andrew McCabe was in charge of the FBI’s Washington, DC, field office, which provided personnel resources to the Clinton email probe. The Hatch Act prohibits FBI employees from engaging "in political activity in concert with a political party, a candidate for partisan political office, or a partisan political group."
The third FOIA lawsuit, also filed by Judicial Watch on July 26 (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:17-cv-01493)), seeks the following: Any and all Standard Forms 50 and 52 (i.e., SF-50s and SF-52s) for FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe; Any and all requests for approvals of travel submitted by FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe; Any and all travel vouchers and accompanying receipts and related documentation submitted by FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe; Any and all calendar entries for FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
“There are numerous questions about the ethics and judgement of the FBI’s top leadership, particularly Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “These new lawsuits will help Americans “watch the watchers” at the powerful FBI. Judicial Watch is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Contributions are received from individuals, foundations, and corporations and are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.judicialwatch.org
Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act
On July 20, 2017 U.S. Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced the Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act, a bipartisan bill that if passed would provide grant money to states and tribal authorities for programs to alleviate jail overcrowding and to eliminate the money bail system. It is estimated that it costs taxpayers $14 billion annually to incarcerate individuals who await trial. Rather than being released by posting bail, criminals can be released under the watchful eye of state or tribal authority employees and in turn receive federal grant monies for their efforts and programs. A pdf of the bill is online. Google "Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act"
July 13, 2017- Mosquitos and Complaints
Heavy rains this year has exacerbated the mosquito problem in Riverside County and residents are advised to monitor and report mosquito breeding grounds in visible and hidden detention basins in their area.
One such visible detention basin in Murrieta is over 30 acres in size and located along Monroe and Jackson Ave. This huge detention basin, only one of many in Riverside county, saved developers millions of dollars in flood control infrastructure.
Some of these basins are not easily monitored as they are hidden below ground, such as one that was approved for the Meadowlane Condos on Adams Ave in Murrieta. According to the public hearings, the drainage channels on the property eventually drain to a grassy slope at the northerly corner of the project and fills a basin that when full will spill excess waters over into the Line E flood control channel on Adams Ave. Be especially watchful of these types of breeding grounds as they are not monitored nor under any mosquito abatement spraying program.
While the risk for West Nile, Zika, and malaria are currently low in Riverside County, it is advised to be proactive in protecting yourself, your family, and your pets from bites. Dead birds in the area are an indication of local disease carrying mosquito breeding grounds.
Residents are advised to call the Riverside Vector Control office at 951-766-9454 to report a mosquito problem.