by Tom Fitton –
President – Judicial Watch –
Today, the U.S. Department of State began releasing Huma Abedin’s work-related documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that were found on her estranged husband Anthony Weiner’s personal laptop.
This is a major victory. After years of hard work in federal court, Judicial Watch forced the State Department to finally allow Americans to see these public documents. We have been following this case closely because from our past experience we know that Abedin’s emails include classified and other sensitive materials.
The document are still being posted, but our team has seen enough to confirm that classified information from Hillary Clinton’s email server has been found on the laptop of Anthony Weiner, the disgraced former congressman from New York who was married to Clinton aide Huma Abedin. The fact that classified information has been found from Clinton and Abedin on Weiner’s laptop shows the urgent need for a criminal investigation by the Justice Department.
Back in October, in accordance with a court ordered production of documents, the State Department announced: “The State Department identified approximately 2,800 work-related documents among the documents provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” The State Department told the court it expected to complete its review and production of the FBI records by December 31, 2017.
The production of these documents is the result of a May 5, 2015, lawsuit we filed against the State Department (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:15-cv-00684)). We sued after State 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.”
Abedin was former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s deputy chief of staff. Weiner is a disgraced former congressman and New York mayoral candidate who pleaded guilty to transferring obscene material to a minor. Abedin kept a non-State.gov email account that she used repeatedly for government business on Hillary Clinton’s notorious email server(s).
We previously released 20 productions of documents in this case that show examples of mishandling classified information and instances of pay to play between the Clinton State Department and the Clinton Foundation. Also, at least 627 emails were not part of the 55,000 pages of emails that Clinton turned over, and further contradict a statement by Clinton that, “as far as she knew,” all of her government emails had been turned over to department.
Perhaps Clinton and Abedin were expecting all of this to just go away with Clinton’s election to the White House last year. Let’s hope the Justice Department finally gets it act together and proves that bet wrong.
Judicial Watch Opposes Secrecy in Obama IRS Scandal
Judicial Watch continues the fight for accountability over the misdeeds tied to the Obama IRS scandal. We just asked a federal court to unseal the depositions of Lois Lerner, the former director of the Exempt Organizations Unit of the IRS, and Holly Paz, her top aide and former IRS director of Office of Rulings and Agreements. Both played key roles in the targeting of conservative nonprofit groups opposed to Obama policies in the run up to the 2012 presidential election.
We made the request in an amicus curiae brief filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division, supporting NorCal Tea Party Patriots’ class action lawsuit seeking the unsealing of the depositions (NorCal Tea Party Patriots, et al. v. The Internal Revenue Service, et al. (No. 1:13-cv-00341)).
A federal judge sealed the depositions after Lerner’s and Paz’s lawyers claimed the two were receiving threats. Our brief argues that the documents sought may shed light on government misconduct, and the shielding of internal government deliberations does not serve the public’s interest.
We detailed how the Lerner and Paz depositions may significantly impact our ongoing lawsuits seeking information about misconduct by government officials in the IRS targeting scandal:
In addition to the revelation of IRS employees’ conduct in the emails uncovered, the records obtained by Judicial Watch [in the course of its FOIA investigation] also sparked investigations into Lois Lerner’s emails and IRS’ failure to preserve thousands of emails that were potentially relevant to the various investigations about the IRS’ treatment of conservative groups. While the federal government has now admitted that the targeting “was wrong” and “for such treatment, the IRS expresses its sincere apology” the IRS continues to this day to withhold from the public in Judicial Watch’s main IRS case … email communications with Lois Lerner and/or Holly Paz …
Lerner was actively engaged in the attempted cover-up of IRS misconduct. In July 2016, we revealed that both Lerner and Paz, knew the agency was specifically targeting “Tea Party” and other conservative organizations two full years before disclosing it to Congress and the public. They also knew donor lists of tax-exempt organizations were being used to target those donors for audits.
After refusing to acknowledge the targeting, the IRS was forced by Judicial Watch to finally admit that the agency had used “inappropriate political labels” to screen the tax-exempt applications of conservative organizations. IRS agents were targeting organizations requesting tax-exempt status based on “guilt by association” and “party affiliation.” We brought to light the fact that the IRS was going to require 501(c)(4) nonprofit organizations to restrict their alleged political activities in exchange for “expedited consideration” of their tax-exempt applications.
In April 2015 we released court ordered IRS documents that included an email from Lerner asking that a program be set up to “put together some training points to help them [IRS staffers] understand the potential pitfalls” of revealing too much information to Congress. The documents also contain a Lerner email from 2013 in which she says she is willing to take the blame on some aspects of the scandal. She also indicates that she “understands why the IRS criteria” leading to the targeting of Tea Party and other opponents of the President Obama “might raise questions.”
In July 2015 we revealed that the IRS scandal also included the Justice Department and FBI as well. According to documents we obtained under court order, in an October 2010 meeting Lerner, Justice Department officials and the FBI planned for the possible criminal prosecution of targeted nonprofit organizations for alleged illegal political activity. As part of that effort, the Obama IRS gave the FBI 21 computer disks, containing 1.25 million pages of confidential IRS returns from 113,000 non-profit, 501(c)(4) social welfare groups as part of its prosecution effort.
According to a letter from then-House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, “This revelation likely means that the IRS – including possibly Lois Lerner – violated federal tax law by transmitting this information to the Justice Department.”
In response to our litigation, the IRS initially claimed that emails belonging to Lerner were missing. Later, IRS officials conceded that the “missing” emails were on IRS back-up systems. Throughout our litigation, we have repeatedly exposed a variety of IRS record keeping inconsistencies, erroneous claims, and failures to produce court-ordered records:
• In June 2014, the IRS claimed to have “lost” responsive emails belonging to Lerner and other IRS officials.
• In July 2014 Judge Emmett Sullivan ordered the IRS to submit to the court a written declaration under oath about what happened to Lerner’s “lost” emails. The sworn declarations proved to be less than forthcoming.
• In August 2014, Department of Justice attorneys for the IRS finally admitted that Lerner’s emails, indeed all government computer records, are backed up by the federal government in case of a government-wide catastrophe. The IRS’ attorneys also disclosed that Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) was looking at several of these backup tapes.
• In November 2014, the IRS told the court it had failed to search any of the IRS standard computer systems for the “missing” emails of Lerner and other IRS officials.
• On February 26, 2015, TIGTA officials testified to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that it had received 744 backup tapes containing emails sent and received by Lerner. This testimony showed that the IRS had misled Congress, Judge Sullivan, and Judicial Watch that Lerner’s emails were irretrievably lost. The testimony also revealed that IRS officials responsible for responding to the document requests never asked for the backup tapes and that 424 backup tapes containing Lerner’s emails had been destroyed during the pendency of our lawsuit and Congressional investigations.
• In June 2015, Judicial Watch forced the IRS to admit in a court filing that it was in possession of 6,400 “newly discovered” Lerner emails. Judge Emmet Sullivan’s ordered the IRS to provide answers on the status of the Lerner emails the IRS had previously declared lost. We raised questions about the IRS’ handling of the missing emails issue in a court filing, demanding answers about Lerner’s emails that had been recovered from the backup tapes.
• In July 2015, U.S District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan threatened to hold John Koskinen, the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, and Justice Department attorneys in contempt of court after the IRS failed to produce status reports and recovered Lerner emails, as he had ordered on July 1, 2015.
In a republic, citizens have a right to know what their government is up to, especially when officials abuse the powers entrusted to them. This effort to seal Lois Lerner and Holly Paz depositions for all time is affront to the rule of law and government accountability.
Happy New Year!