Today’s extraordinary Appeals Court decision protecting Hillary Clinton from having to obey a court order requiring her to testify about her emails is contrary to longstanding precedent and undermines the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The opinion’s deviation from a long line of earlier mandamus cases creates the appearance of favoritism towards Clinton and undermines the public’s confidence in the fair administration of justice. One need only contrast the DC Circuit’s agony over granting General Flynn mandamus relief with the unprecedented mandamus relief so easily given to Clinton.
As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton hid her government emails, then stole them when she left office. Her lawyers unilaterally determined what would be returned later. The State Department knew this occurred but tried to game a federal trial court into shutting down Judicial Watch’s FOIA lawsuit before Clinton’s scheme became public. In response, the trial court rightly ordered Clinton to testify about the reasons for her actions and their impact on the public’s right to know. That this was too much for the DC Circuit is a miscarriage of justice.
In addition to today’s political decision, the Justice and State Departments’ continuing efforts to avoid getting to the bottom of Clinton’s email misconduct are a scandal. President Trump should hold Secretary Pompeo and Attorney General Barr accountable for their failures of leadership.
Judicial Watch Uncovers Fusion GPS/Steele and DOJ Connections Back to 2015
As the clock ticks on William Barr’s and John Durham’s investigations of Obamagate, we continue to reveal the true details of the “Russia Investigation.” One thing is clear: there is much more to be learned.
We released 168 pages of records from the U.S. Department of Justice, including a handwritten timeline of meetings going back to 2015 connected to Peter Strzok, Lisa Page and Steele/Fusion GPS, as well as a list of records the DOJ sent to Congress related to their investigation into the FISA warrants involving the Clinton-funded dossier.
The records also include a letter from Congress demanding the investigation into Hillary Clinton, James Comey and others, as well as a scathing email from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on the lack of cooperation from the DOJ/FBI.
We obtained the records through our August 2018 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:18-cv-01854)) filed against the Justice Department after it failed to respond to a May 29, 2018, FOIA request for:
- All records from the Office of the Deputy Attorney General relating to Fusion GPS, Nellie Ohr and/or British national Christopher Steele, including but not limited to all records of communications about and with Fusion GPS officials, Nellie Ohr and Christopher Steele.
- All records from the office of former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce G. Ohr relating to Fusion GPS, Nellie Ohr and/or British national Christopher Steele, including but not limited to all records of communications (including those of former Associate Deputy Attorney General Ohr) about and with Fusion GPS officials, Nellie Ohr and Christopher Steele.
- All records from the office of the Director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force relating to Fusion GPS, Nellie Ohr and/or British national Christopher Steele, including but not limited to all records of communications (including those of former Organized Crime Task Force Director Bruce Ohr) about and with Fusion GPS officials, Nellie Ohr and Christopher Steele.
The newly released records include a handwritten note with the heading “FBI: 11/21, Lisa Page, Peter Strzok DAD, [Redacted] SSA,” which has an attached page with the heading “Partial Chron” and the following list:
2007 Met 1st time London
2008 Jun met UK
7/30/2016 Meeting in DC
[8/22/2016 Simpson DC]
9/23/2016 Met in DC
A heavily redacted six-page record dated June 28, 2018, titled, “Summary of High Profile Congressional Requests,” which has the corresponding headings “Congressional Request” and “Department’s Accommodation,” lists various documents requested by Congress and the DOJ’s response to each. The documents that the DOJ provided to a Congressional Request titled “Reliance on Dossier for FISA Application” included the following:
- The FISA application and three renewals from a FISA warrant obtained “where information provided by Mr. Steele was utilized”
- An electronic communication that “describes the predicate for the counterintelligence investigation, the date the investigation began, and the name of the authorizing official.”
- “A Confidential Human Source validation report”
- “A summary of a defensive briefing provided to the Trump Campaign by the FBI”
- “A timeline of payments to the Confidential Human Source.”
On April 20, 2018, Deputy Attorney General Scott Schools forwarded a letter from former Representative Ron DeSantis and other members of Congress demanding a criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton, James Comey, Loretta Lynch, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and former Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente to DOJ Acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan, US Attorney for DC Jessie Liu, DOJ IG Michael Horowitz and FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich.
This letter was initially sent to Attorney General Sessions, FBI Director Christopher Wray and US Attorney John Huber.
On September 22, 2017, Damon Nelson, staff director for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, sent an email to Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Stephen Boyd, copying other senior FBI and DOJ officials saying:
The rest of the IC (Intelligence Community) has found a way to provide the committee access to all the docs it has requested for the investigation – including raw intelligence. I find it interesting that the FBI and Justice are taking a different approach. The information is critical to the House’s investigation and access to the raw documents are needed to complete the investigation (of Russian interference in the US election).
These new documents further demonstrate that the Obama FBI and DOJ had a close, working relationship with Fusion GPS/Christopher Steele. These documents also show the agencies had zero interest in telling Congress and the American people about their role in Obamagate.
This case is part of our ongoing investigation into Nellie and Bruce Ohr’s involvement with Fusion GPS and the Clinton-funded dossier. Previous document releases include Russia-related communications between Nellie Ohr and high-ranking DOJ official Lisa Holtyn; a conversation between former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Kathleen Kavalec and Bruce Ohr discussing the targeting of Donald Trump with Steele dossier material; Nellie Ohr telling Bruce Ohr that she was deleting emails sent from his Department of Justice account; and Bruce Ohr sending an email to his lawyer before his intelligence committee testimony about, “possible ethics concerns.”
Previous document releases can be found here, here, here, and here.
Judicial Watch Sues DC Government for ‘Black Lives Matter/Defund the Police’ Street Painting Records
It may sound strange, but we find ourselves in the position of suing the local government of our nation’s capital city.
We filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, the DC Department of Transportation and the DC Department of Public Works for records about the painting of “Black Lives Matter” and “Defund the Police” on a DC street in front of the White House (Judicial Watch. v. Muriel Bowser, et al. (2020 CA 003357 B)).
We sued after Mayor Bowser failed to respond to three separate FOIA requests, the DC Department of Public Works failed to respond to two separate FOIA requests, and the DC Department of Transportation stated that they located 616 pages of records, but could not provide 615 of the pages, “due to deliberative process privilege (internal discussions).”
Here’s a summary of the six FOIA requests:
- Three FOIA requests to the Mayor seek all records related to the cost of, communications between District officials and outside organizations about, and policy and procedure for painting “Black Lives Matter” and “Defund the Police” on 16th Street. These records also include communications related to our request to paint “Because No One Is Above the Law!” on District streets.
- Two FOIA requests to the Department of Public Works seek all records related to the cost of, communications between District officials and outside organizations about, and policy and procedure for painting “Black Lives Matter” and “Defund the Police” on 16th Street.
- One FOIA request to the Department of Transportation seeks records of communication about the closure of 16th Street, N.W. between H and K Streets.
Initially, the Department of Transportation improperly asked for specific names of employees for emails and phone numbers for texts we are seeking. After we responded with a previous DC Court of Appeals ruling as to why the hold on the records search was improper, the Department of Transportation stated that it “located 616 pages of public records held by DOT that are responsive to your FOIA request” and that “615 pages of these records have not been provided to you because, although responsive, they are exempt in their entirety from being disclosed due to deliberative process privilege (internal discussions).”
Separately, we have filed a civil rights lawsuit against DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and other officials for First Amendment violations over their refusal to allow us to paint the message “Because No One Is Above the Law!” on a DC street. We filed this lawsuit after we sent a letter requesting permission to paint the message on another DC street near our headquarters by Capitol Hill in the identical size and coloring of the “Black Lives Matter = Defund the Police” painting.
Mayor Bowser is playing games with the First Amendment, and the DC government is now hiding documents on using tax dollars to paint political messages on DC streets. First, Mayor Bowser refused to allow us to paint our own message, and now we are facing a cover up about this abuse.
Judicial Watch Uncovers the Cost of Travel Expenses for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s LAPD Security Detail
We have obtained the details of the travel expenses of Garcetti’s LA Police Department security detail from fiscal years (FY) 2015 – 2018. Over the four-year period, taxpayers funded $438,195.06 on their flights, lodging, meals and incidentals. These costs do not account for salaries and potential overtime.
We obtained this information in our California Public Records Act (CPRA) request seeking:
- Any and all record concerning, regarding, or relating to monetary expenses of the Mayor’s security detail;
- Every fiscal year budget of the Mayor’s security detail;
- Any records and communications concerning, regarding, or relating to the Mayor’s security between the LAPD and the following entities:
- The Office of the Mayor;
- The California Fraternal Order of Police.
The timeframe of the records was July 1, 2013, to present.
The security detail travel expenses from FY 2015-2018 break down as follows:
Total Cost: $438,195.06
Lodging and Car Rentals: $132,516.87
Meals and Incidentals: $54,063.66
Specific International trip costs:
$16,408.81 to Paris
$5,525.47 to Aukland, New Zealand
$6,996.48 to Beijing
$22,270.16 to Rio de Janeiro
$4,842.52 to Doha, Qatar
$2,895.61 to Mexico City
$9,163.79 to Aarhus, Denmark
$10,712.44 to Berlin
$8,145.91 to Lausanne, Switzerland
$2,185.20 to Lima, Peru
$9,437.12 to Paris
On June 3, 2020, Fox News reported that Mayor Garcetti said “that he tasked the city to ‘identify $250 million in cuts’” from the police department budget. Adding that, “Garcetti said it is incumbent on the city to ‘step up and say, “What can we sacrifice?’”
On June 3, 2020, The Los Angeles Times reported that in response to Mayor Garcetti’s request, Los Angeles officials stated that “they will look to cut $100 million to $150 million from the city’s police budget as part of a broader effort to reinvest more dollars into the black community.”
On November 2, 2018, The Los Angeles Times also uncovered and reported that, “Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s security detail has racked up nearly $450,000 in travel costs since 2015 as Garcetti visited other parts of the United States and foreign countries …” According to the Times, Garcetti’s travel was intended, “to bolster his national profile ahead of a possible presidential run …”
Mayor Garcetti would defund the police and thereby weaken police protection for citizens while personally benefiting from police protection as mayor on junkets abroad. Amazing.
Judicial Watch Sues for HHS Records of Sales of Unusable Respirator Masks to the Indian Health Service
We have sued the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) for records related to the contract given to former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Zach Fuentes for KN95 masks, reportedly made in China, in April 2020 (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (No. 1:20-cv-02147)).
We sued after the Indian Health Service (IHS), a component of HHS, failed to respond to our May 28, 2020, FOIA request for:
- All records regarding the contract awarded to Zach Fuentes LLC for KN95 masks in April 2020. For purposes of clarification, this contract is identified by award number FY20-NAO-COVID19-PROFORMA KN95.
- This request includes, but is not limited to, any and all records of communication between any official, employee, or representative of the Indian Health Service and any other individual or entity regarding the contract, as well as any and all records regarding the quality of the masks provided under the contract.
The Indian Health Service in May 2020 acknowledged, as reported by ProPublica, that “1 million respirator masks it purchased from a former Trump White House official do not meet Food and Drug Administration standards for ‘use in healthcare settings by health care providers.’” The Indian Health Service awarded a $3 million contract for the masks to an 11-day-old company run by former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Zach Fuentes.
ProPublica reports that Indian Health Service confirmed that the masks sold by Fuentes were “made by four Chinese manufacturers and are registered in an FDA database, but have not met the regulator’s relaxed pandemic-era standards for Chinese-made masks.”
HHS needs to get its act together and answer our simple request about a coronavirus mask contract that seems to have wasted millions of tax dollars and is obviously suspect.
Judicial Watch Sues Maryland County for Bodycam Footage in Fatal Police Shooting
Judicial Watch filed a Public Information Act (PIA) lawsuit against the Montgomery County, MD, Police Department (MCPD) seeking all body-cam videos from the fatal shooting of Duncan Socrates Lemp.
The 21-year-old Lemp, a student and software developer, was shot and killed by police in his Potomac, MD, home during the execution of a “no-knock” search warrant in the early morning hours of March 12, 2020.
Lemp’s family reportedly said that Lemp and his family were asleep “when police besieged the residence from the front of the house” and the family was “awakened by shots fired through Duncan’s bedroom window followed by the sound of flash bangs.” According to the family’s attorney, an eyewitness said Lemp was asleep in his bedroom when police opened fire from outside the house.
Police disputed that account. The MCPD said in a statement that SWAT team officers were acting on an anonymous tip that Lemp was in possession of firearms that he was prohibited from having “due to his criminal history as a juvenile.”
The MCPD maintains that, upon making contact with Lemp, officers identified themselves as the police and gave Lemp multiple orders to show his hands and comply with the officer’s commands to get on the ground. It also reportedly maintains that Lemp refused to comply with the officer’s commands and proceeded towards an interior bedroom door where other officers were located.
According to the Lemp family attorneys, SWAT officers shot Lemp multiple times. They also reported that an eyewitness “told investigators that police never made verbal commands upon either her or Duncan until after Duncan was shot and lay bleeding on the floor. Multiple eyewitnesses told investigators that the police only forced entry into the home after Duncan was shot. According to those eyewitnesses, the police had no contract with any family members until after Duncan was shot.”
The MCPD statement said Lemp was out of bed and standing “directly in front of the interior bedroom door” holding a rifle “he slept with” each night as officers “made entry into the bedroom.”
We filed the lawsuit in the Montgomery County Circuit Court after the Montgomery County Police Department failed to respond to our June 18 PIA request (Judicial Watch v. Montgomery County Police Department (No. V482964)). We are asking for:
All body-worn camera videos relating to the raid on, and resulting death of, Duncan Socrates Lemp by a Montgomery County Police SWAT team on March 12, 2020 at Mr. Lemp’s home in Potomac, Maryland.
Given the vastly differing accounts of what happened, the Montgomery County Police Department needs to release all body-cam footage from the SWAT team raid on and shooting of Duncan Lemp. Withholding basic public information about a police shooting undermines public confidence in law enforcement.
Until next week …