by Tom Fitton –
I was pleased to represent you in providing testimony to the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties during a hearing titled “Protecting the Right to Vote During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
I reminded the committee that Judicial Watch has “been involved for almost a decade in ensuring the honesty and integrity of our electoral processes” and “is now the nation’s premier enforcer, public or private, of the election integrity provisions of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA).”
“The American people see what they conclude are disingenuous fights over electoral procedures and lose faith in the honesty of our elections,” I said. “With this background in mind I turn to measures proposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the more common suggestions now is to require greater reliance on mail-in ballots. For example, last month Governor Newsom issued an executive order requiring that county elections officials transmit mail ballots to every registered voter in the State. I view this as a real threat to the integrity of American elections.
“It is now about five months until election day, and the pandemic’s infection curve has flattened. Insisting now on all-mail ballot elections seems less like a response to a health crisis and more like a partisan application of the immortal words of Rahm Emanuel: ‘Never allow a good crisis to go to waste.’”
For more than 25 years, Judicial Watch has been known for its aggressive, leading edge use of public records laws and lawsuits, as well as taxpayer, civil rights, and whistleblower protection litigation to fight government corruption. In 2012, we launched a nationwide effort to promote voting integrity and protect voting rights. As part of this effort, we assembled a team of highly experienced voting rights attorneys who have fought gerrymandering in Maryland, stopped discriminatory elections in Hawaii, and cleaned up voter rolls in Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky, among other achievements.
In 2018, California settled a federal lawsuit with Judicial Watch and began the process of removing up to 1.6 million inactive names from Los Angeles County’s voter rolls. In April, Judicial Watch sued North Carolina and Pennsylvania to force them to clean up their voter rolls. We also just filed a lawsuit to stop the special, statewide vote-by-mail mandate issued by California Governor Gavin Newsom.
Other participants in the hearing included:
• Stacey Abrams, Chair, Fair Fight Action
• J. Christian Adams, President and General Counsel, Public Interest Legal Foundation
• Barbara Arnwine, President, Transformational Justice Coalition
• Jocelyn Benson, Secretary of State, State of Michigan
• Michelle Bishop, Disability Advocacy Specialist for Voting Rights, National Disability Rights Network
• Dale Ho, Director, Voting Rights Project, American Civil Liberties Union
• Myrna Pérez, Director, Voting Rights and Elections Program, Brennan Center for Justice
I suspect the Left wasn’t terribly happy with my testimony, as I called them out for using coronavirus to scare Americans from voting in person. This is the real voter suppression.
Thank you to Subcommittee Chairman Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Ranking Member Congressman Mike Johnson (R-LA) for running the hearing and allowing Judicial Watch the opportunity to make our case for more secure elections.
My written testimony is available here. Video from the hearing is available here.
Court Rules Cash Payments to
Illegal Aliens Likely Violate Federal Law
A federal court just ruled that a Montgomery County, MD, program that provides $10 million in cash payments to illegal aliens likely violates federal law and irreparably harms county taxpayers.
The court ordered the county to hold back 25% of any unspent funds until the court can fully consider the merits of our taxpayer lawsuit (Bauer, et al, v. Elrich, et al. (No. 20-cv-01212)). However, the court denied our request for a temporary restraining order.
This action comes in our lawsuit on behalf of Montgomery County taxpayers Sharon Bauer and Richard Jurgena, originally filed on May 13 in Montgomery County Circuit Court, which Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and Raymond Crowel, director of the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, subsequently removed to federal court. The lawsuit seeks to permanently enjoin Elrich and Crowel from expending taxpayer money on the cash-benefits program known as the “Emergency Assistance Relief Payment Program” (EARP). Payments under EARP would amount to $500 per single adult, $1,000 per family with one child and $150 per additional child, up to a maximum of $1,450 per family.
Under federal law, certain categories of aliens, including unlawfully present aliens, are ineligible for state or local public benefits. Such benefits include direct, cash payments. If a state chooses to provide such benefits to unlawfully present aliens, it must enact a state law affirmatively providing for such eligibility.
We argue that EARP violates federal law because the Maryland State Legislature has not authorized Montgomery County to provide these benefits to unlawfully present aliens. Therefore, Elrich and the County Council overstepped their authority when they created the program. The Montgomery County DHHS has stated that “unlawfully present aliens are eligible to apply for and receive cash payments.”
The court agreed with us, ruling that:
Based on an analysis of the federal statute alone, the Court concludes that Plaintiffs have demonstrated a strong likelihood of success on the merits.
Although the court denied a request for a temporary restraining order, it did order that county retain at least 25% of any unspent funds until the court could fully consider the merits of the case.
This ruling pushes back on the abuse by county officials who want to send taxpayer coronavirus money to illegal aliens in violation of federal law. The coronavirus challenge doesn’t give politicians a pass to violate the law. If politicians want to use tax money from law-abiding taxpayers and send cash payments to illegal aliens, they must be accountable and transparent, and, as federal law requires, pass a state law to do so.
Appeals Court Weighs Whether
We Can Depose Hillary Clinton
We participated in an appeals court hearing this week by teleconference regarding former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s efforts to avoid testifying, under oath, about her emails. Clinton’s former Chief of Staff, Cheryl Mills, also seeks to avoid giving testimony.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is considering Clinton and Mills’ extraordinary request, known as a “petition for writ of mandamus,” to overturn an order issued by U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth requiring them to testify.
Hillary Clinton is essentially saying: “What difference does it make!” She argues that she shouldn’t have to testify because she is a former, high level government official and that the case is moot because the FBI already tried to recover her emails from various sources when it investigated allegations that classified information was improperly stored or transmitted on the personal e-mail server she used at State.
Our position is that neither Clinton nor Mills has demonstrated that they should not have to follow ordinary appellate rules to challenge the District Court’s order and that the case is not moot. We argue that the FBI’s effort was not exhaustive, as demonstrated by the discovery of some 30 additional Clinton emails late last year, among other developments, and that other emails may be recovered if State is required to look for them.
This hearing came in our FOIA lawsuit that seeks records concerning “talking points or updates on the Benghazi attack” (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:14-cv-01242)). In 2014, we uncovered “talking points” created by the Obama White House showing that statements about the attack made on the eve of the 2012 elections by then-National Security Advisor Susan Rice were misleading, if not false. This FOIA lawsuit led directly to the disclosure of the Clinton email system in 2015.
On March 2, 2020, Judge Lamberth granted us discovery that includes taking testimony from Clinton and Mills, under oath, regarding Clinton’s emails and the existence of records about the Benghazi attack. In April, we and the State Department, which is represented by Justice Department lawyers, filed responses opposing Clinton’s and Mills’ request to overturn the order requiring their testimony. The lower court found that Clinton’s testimony was necessary and that it was time to hear directly from Secretary Clinton.
In December 2018, Judge Lamberth ordered discovery into whether Clinton’s use of a private email server was intended to avoid FOIA; whether the State Department’s intent to settle this case in late 2014 and early 2015 amounted to bad faith; and whether the State Department has adequately searched for records responsive to our request. The lower court also authorized discovery into whether the Benghazi controversy motivated the cover-up of Clinton’s email. It ruled that the Clinton email system was “one of the gravest modern offenses to government transparency.”
Judicial Watch senior attorney Ramona Cotca did a fantastic job this week against Mrs. Clinton’s lawyer and some tough questioning by the court.
The issue is now fully submitted and we await the panel’s ruling. You can listen to the hearing here.
Facebook Censorship Board Has
Ties to Leftwing Billionaire George Soros
Social media has assumed a primary role in how Americans talk to eachother and learn what is going on. And so, the censorship that is choking the major platforms is a serious threat to online conservative voices including, as we saw with Twitter’s recent censorship, the President of the United States.
Consider the hard Left make-up of Facebook’s censorship board — our Corruption Chronicles blog has the details.
The recently appointed Facebook oversight board that will decide which posts get blocked from the world’s most popular social networking website is stacked with leftists, including a close friend of leftwing billionaire George Soros who served on the board of directors of his Open Society Foundations (OSF). Judicial Watch conducted a deep dive into the new panel that will make content rulings for the technology company that was slammed last year with a $5 billion fine for privacy violations. The information uncovered by Judicial Watch shows that the group of 20 is overwhelmingly leftist and likely to restrict conservative views. More than half of the members have ties to Soros, the philanthropist who dedicates huge sums to spreading a radical left agenda that includes targeting conservative politicians. Other Facebook oversight board members have publicly expressed their disdain for President Donald Trump or made political contributions to top Democrats such as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren. As one New York newspaper editorial determined this month, the new Facebook board is a “recipe for left-wing censorship.”
Among the standouts is András Sajó, the founding Dean of Legal Studies at Soros’ Central European University. Sajó was a judge at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for nearly a decade. He also served on the board of directors of OSF’s Justice Initiative. Sajó was one of the ECHR judges in an Italian case (Latusi v. Italy) that ruled unanimously that the display of a crucifix in public schools in Italy violates the European Convention on Human Rights. The decision was subsequently overturned. Sajó’s deep ties to Soros are also concerning. Through his OSF Soros funds a multitude of projects worldwide aimed at spreading a leftist agenda by, among other things, destabilizing legitimate governments, erasing national borders and identities, financing civil unrest and orchestrating refugee crises for political gain. Incredibly, there is a financial and staffing nexus between the U.S. government and Soros’ OSF. Read about it in a Judicial Watch special report documenting how Soros advances his leftist agenda at U.S. taxpayer expense.
At least 10 other members of the Facebook oversight board are connected to leftist groups tied to Soros that have benefitted from his generous donations, according to Judicial Watch’s research. Alan Rusbridger, a former British newspaper editor and principal at Oxford University, serves on the board of directors of the Committee to Protect Journalists, which received $750,000 from OSF in 2018. Rusbridger also served as a governor at a global thinktank, Ditchley Foundation, that co-hosted a conference with OSF on change in the Middle East and North Africa as well as understanding political Islam. Afia Asantewaa Sariyev, a human rights attorney, is the program manager at Soros’ Open Society Initiative for West Africa. Her research includes critical race feminism and socio-economic rights of the poor. Sudhir Krishnaswamy, an Indian lawyer and civil society activist, runs a progressive nonprofit called Centre for Law and Policy Research that focuses on transgender rights, gender equality and public health. The group is a grantee of a justice foundation that received $1.4 million from OSF between 2016 and 2018. Krishnaswamy’s Centre also received money from a radical pro-abortion group, Center for Reproductive Rights, generously funded by the OSF.
The list of Facebook judges connected to Soros and the organized left continues. Julie Owono is the executive director of a Paris-based nonprofit, Internet Sans Frontieres, that advocates for privacy and freedom of expression online. In 2018, Internet Sans Frontieres became a member of the Global Network Initiative, an internet oversight and policy consortium handsomely funded by Soros. Nighat Dad is a Pakistani attorney and the founder of the Digital Rights Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Pakistan that has received $114,000 in grants from OSF. Dad’s group also gets funding from Facebook Ireland. Ronaldo Lemos, a Brazilian law professor, served on the board of directors of the Mozilla Foundation, which collected $350,000 from OSF in 2016 and was also a board member at another group, Access Now, that also got thousands of dollars from Soros. Tawakkol Karman, a journalist and civil rights activist, sits on the advisory board of Transparency International, which gets significant funding from Soros’ OSF.
Rounding out the Soros-affiliated field on the new Facebook censorship board are Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Catalina Botero-Marino and Maina Kiai. Thorning-Schmidt, Denmark’s former prime minister, sits on the board of the European Council of Foreign Relations, which took in more $3.6 million from OSF in 2016 and 2017. She is also a trustee at the International Crisis Group which has collected over $8.2 million from OSF and includes George and Alexander Soros on its board. The former Danish prime minister is also a member of the Atlantic Council’s International Advisory Board, which received approximately $325,000 from OSF in the last few years and the European Advisory Board of the Center for Global Development, which got north of half a million dollars from OSF in 2018. Botero-Marino is the dean of a Colombian law school called Universidad de Los Andes that obtained more than $1.3 million from OSF between 2016 and 2018, the records obtained by Judicial Watch show. Botero-Marino also sits on the panel of experts at Columbia University’s Global Freedom Expression Project, which gets funding from OSF, and she was a board member at Article 19, a group that got about $1.7 million from OSF between 2016 and 2018. Kiai is the director of the Global Alliances and Partnerships at Human Rights Watch, which accepted $275,000 from OSF in 2018. He is also a member of OSF’s Human Rights Initiative advisory board and was the founding executive director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission, which got $615,000 from Soros in the last two years.
Others on the Facebook board have slandered President Trump in social media posts and donated money to high-profile Democrats. Taiwanese communications professor Katherine Chen’s Twitter account includes retweets of numerous anti-Trump and pro-Obama posts and articles. Nicolas Suzor, a law professor in Australia, retweeted a column implicitly comparing Trump to Hitler and Columbia University law professor Jamal Greene has made campaign contributions to Obama, Hillary Clinton and Warren. Pro-Trump impeachment Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan, who took a cheap shot at President Trump’s teenage son during the Brett Kavanaugh impeachment hearings, has also contributed money to Obama, Hillary Clinton and Warren. The new board has only a few token conservatives such as Stanford law professor Michael McConnell, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. The overwhelming majority of those making Facebook’s “final and binding decisions on whether specific content should be allowed or removed,” are leftists. They represent a new model of content moderation that will uphold “freedom of expression within the framework of international norms of human rights.” Facebook’s economic, political or reputational interests will not interfere in the process, the company writes in its introduction to the new board. Eventually the board, which will begin hearing cases later this year, will double in size. “The cases we choose to hear may be contentious, and we will not please everyone with our decisions,” Facebook warns.
Virus Update: Data Wars Rage Over Trump-Boosted Drug
It’s a sign of the times: medical advice has now been politicized. How can ordinary people get to the truth when seemingly trusted sources of information so blatantly spout untruths?
Our senior investigative reporter, Micah Morrison, continues to follow the best-known example in his Investigative Bulletin. The latest:
Scientific fisticuffs are flying over hydroxychloroquine (HC), the anti-malaria drug enthusiastically promoted by President Trump in the war against the coronavirus. The president—backed by an array of global reports, anecdotal evidence, and outside advisers—thinks HC could be an effective preventative, a weapon for frontline medical personnel, and helpful when administered in the early stage of the virus. On May 18, Trump doubled down and made it personal, announcing that he himself had been taking HC. Trump’s critics are aghast at this exercise of the presidential bully pulpit, warning that HC has serious side effects and possibly zero effectiveness in fighting the virus.
But the president has had an impact. Medical studies are moving at warp speed. Yesterday, the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine published a University of Minnesota study that concluded HC did not work as a preventative for the disease. The study, with more than 800 participants, “had an unusual design,” noted NPR in a report on the findings.
“It was all web-based,” a leader of the project told NPR. “People would go to our website if they were interested in enrolling.”
To qualify for the study, NPR reported, “people had to be within a few days of their encounter with a Covid-19 patient and not have any symptoms of the disease themselves. ‘Encounters’ meant being within six feet of a sick person for more than ten minutes while wearing neither a face mask nor an eye shield, or while wearing a face mask but no face shield. The volunteers received either a five-day supply of hydroxychloroquine, or a placebo.” The study concluded that HC was not effective in preventing healthy people from getting the disease. Read more about it here.
Meanwhile, an influential study published May 22 in another high-profile medical journal, The Lancet, has come under fire. The study, based on a more than 90,000 patient records from a little-known hospital data company, concluded that patients taking HC were more likely to develop abnormal heart rhythms and more likely to die.
The reaction to the Lancet report was swift. Trump was denounced. France, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the World Health Organization put holds on clinical trials investigating HC.
But questions soon emerged about the Lancet report. How much was known about Surgisphere, the hospital database company behind the study?
Within a week, more than 100 scientists published an open letter to the Lancet raising questions about Surgisphere’s methods and the integrity of its data. Yesterday, the WHO reversed course on HC and resumed clinical studies.
Judicial Watch readers have questions of their own about the Lancet study.
“I really hate to go down this path,” writes one emergency responder, requesting anonymity due to concerns about career repercussions, “but we know damn well this whole thing has been sucked into the blender of U.S. politics. This study almost seems written by design to play into that.”
This reader notes that the Lancet report indicates that patients in the study already were “very, very sick,” because only the very sick in the past months have been admitted to U.S. hospitals. “So… the patient is already fragile” and has “classically negative co-morbidities and contra-indications for use.” The patient is then given a heavy dose of drugs, which “by design, are toxic. Fragile + over-dosed toxin = bad outcome.” And what do the authors of the study do? “Blame the drug.”
Epidemiologist Andrew Bostom writes us to say that there are two “truly enormous” HC-related studies getting underway, but won’t be completed until year’s end. Meanwhile, Dr. Bostom suggests, the Trump approach to HC is appropriate and compassionate.
“Above all, do no harm,” Dr. Bostom writes. “Both chloroquine (CQ) and hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), given short-term, are safe and effective for malaria prophylaxis and treatment (ongoing, barring areas of parasite resistance). HCQ, in particular, is also remarkably safe for chronic treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus (‘Lupus’) and other rheumatic (‘inflammatory’) diseases. Accordingly, it was completely appropriate to try them as compassionate-use drugs to treat even late-stage Covid-19…. The fact that such patients might begin to experience ‘toxicities’ when they are severely ill with Covid-19, often with multi-organ system failure grossly impairing the ability to metabolize HCQ or CQ normally—or many other drugs for that matter—is hardly a revelation!”
Hastily published studies, Dr. Bostom suggests, leave us groping in the dark. It’s a situation, he says, “made uniquely worse by the anti-Trump Left, including the ‘academic’ Left, with their vicious politicization of what should have been a purely investigative clinical-science issue.”
Read more about the Lancet controversy here.
Is something rotten at Surgisphere? Read about it here.
Since this piece was published, the researchers behind the Lancet study used to attack President Trump on hydroxychloroquine was officially retracted!