by Tom Fitton –
Judge Declares FBI’s Search for Peter Strzok Records Inadequate
A petulant child or employee will perform a task halfway and wait to see if he can get away with it. Such seems to be the strategy of the entire Deep State bureaucracy.
The FBI is particularly good at this, and we are particularly good at calling them on it. Luckily for the American people we have judges who respect the Freedom of Information Act.
A case in point: U.S. District Court Judge Christopher R. Cooper for the District of Columbia has agreed with that the FBI did not adequately search for records related to the removal and reassignment of Peter Strzok from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team. He was a former deputy to the assistant director for counterintelligence at the FBI.
In granting our request, Judge Cooper ordered the FBI to further search their records. (The original, deficient search had only returned 14 pages.)
The order comes in the December 2017 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit we filed after the DOJ failed to respond to and August 17, 2017, request (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Federal Bureau of Investigation (No. 1:17-cv-02682)). Judicial Watch seeks:
• All records regarding the assignment of FBI Supervisor Peter Strzok to the special counsel’s investigation led by former Director Robert Mueller.
• All records related to the reassignment of FBI Supervisor Peter Strzok from the special counsel’s investigation to another position within the FBI.
• All SF-50 and/or SF-52 employment forms, as well as all related records of communication between any official, employee, or representative of the FBI and any other individual or entity.
On July 31, 2018, we released the first 14 pages of FBI documents produced in this FOIA lawsuit, showing that Strzok insisted on retaining his FBI security clearance before moving to the Mueller team and confirmed that Strzok played a pivotal role in the flawed Hillary Clinton email investigation.
In his decision, Judge Cooper called the FBI’s search “overly cramped:”
Notwithstanding that Judicial Watch’s request referred to Mueller by name … the Bureau searched only for the term “special counsel.” But surely one would expect that Agent Strzok and other FBI personnel might use the Special Counsel’s name — “Mueller” — rather than his title when discussing Strzok’s assignment to the Russia investigation, especially in informal emails. Another logical variation on “special counsel” is its commonly used acronym “SCO,” which appears to be used within the Special Counsel’s Office itself, as reflected by documents that the FBI uncovered and produced to Judicial Watch.
The ruling also stated that the FBI did not adequately respond to our FOIA lawsuit because it limited its search to only Strzok’s email account.
Judge Cooper ordered that the FBI must conduct a new search that includes “the email accounts of any of Agent Strzok’s superiors or other Bureau officials who were involved in the decision to assign him to the Special Counsel’s Office or the decision to reassign him to the FBI’s Human Resources Division after his removal from the Mueller investigation.”
The FBI must also expand its search to other forms of communication in addition to email. Given Strzok’s well-known use of text messaging, “it strikes the Court as reasonably likely that he discussed his assignment to the Special Counsel’s Office in text messages—which again is the standard for assessing an agency’s selection of search locations.”
Strzok was reportedly removed from the Mueller investigative team in August 2017 and reassigned to a human resources position after it was discovered that he and then-FBI lawyer Lisa Page exchanged text messages during the Clinton investigation and 2016 election season that raised serious questions about his anti-Trump/pro-Clinton bias. They were also engaged in an extramarital affair. Strzok infamously texted “there’s no way he gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk.”
Strzok reportedly oversaw the FBI’s interviews of former National Security Adviser, General Michael Flynn; changed former FBI Director James Comey’s language about Hillary Clinton’s actions regarding her illicit email server from “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless;” played a lead role in the FBI’s interview of Clinton and is suspected of being responsible for using the unverified dossier to obtain a FISA warrant in order to spy on President Trump’s campaign.
The Court rightly slammed the FBI for its gamesmanship in searching for records about one of the most notorious FBI agents of all time – Peter Strzok. The FBI leadership is in cover-up mode on its abuses targeting President Trump, and we’re pleased a federal court pushed back on this stonewall.
Judicial Watch Sues for Key Anti-Trump Coup Doc
Perhaps you remember the 1964 film “Seven Days in May,” in which a Deep State cabal plotted a takeover of the government. Burt Lancaster starred, and Rod Serling, appropriately, wrote script.
Now we’re living through a real life “Eight Days in May” featuring Rod Rosenstein, the disgraced former FBI official Andrew McCabe and a slew of characters conniving to bring down a real life President.
In the latest scene we are suing the Department of Justice for the communications of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein between May 8 and May 17, 2017.
We filed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit after the DOJ failed to respond to a September 21, 2018, FOIA request (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:19-cv-00481)). We are seeking:
Any and all e-mails, text messages, or other records of communication addressed to or received by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein between May 8, 2017, and May 22, 2017.
This time period is critical. On May 8, 2017, Rosenstein wrote a memo to President Trump recommending that FBI Director James Comey be fired. The next day, President Trump fired Comey. On May 17 Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Between May 8 and May 17, Rosenstein met with then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and other senior Justice Department FBI officials and discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump and whether Rosenstein and others should wear a wire to secretly record conversations with the President.
We previously filed a FOIA lawsuit seeking the communications of former FBI Deputy Director McCabe, the Office of the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, or the Office of Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein discussing the 25th Amendment or presidential fitness. Additionally, that lawsuit seeks all recordings made by any official in the Office of the Attorney General or Deputy Attorney General of meetings in the Executive Office of the President or Vice President.
These critical days in May, a scant three months into President Trump’s term, included extraordinary targeting of President Trump by Rod Rosenstein and other Deep State officials at the DOJ and FBI. Our focused FOIA lawsuit aims to uncover exactly what Mr. Rosenstein’s role was in any discussions to overthrow President Trump.
I don’t have much use for Hollywood, but sometimes it ominously foreshadows reality.
Judicial Watch Files Ethics Complaint
Against Congressman Adam Schiff
The plot deep within the Justice Department to bring down President Trump is but one of three legs: The DOJ/FBI maneuver has been given covering fire all along by the media, and it has been buttressed by members of the Congress, whose unhinged behavior has seriously eroded that institution’s credibility.
No one has been more eager to get in front of the cameras and spout knowingly false conspiratorcy theories than Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who is, remarkably, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
We have now filed an official complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics about Rep. Schiff’s controversial communications and contacts with two congressional witnesses: Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS and Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer.
We are asking that Rep. Schiff be investigated in connection with recent revelations that he met with Simpson in Aspen, Colorado, in July 2018 and that he and his staff coordinated with Michael Cohen on Cohen’s recent testimony to congressional committees. Cohen’s testimony is alleged to be false in several important respects.
You will recall that we filed an ethics complaint on April 13, 2018, against Rep. Schiff and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) for improperly confirming classified information in violation of House rules but the Committee has yet to take any public action on the complaint.
Rep. Schiff has an ethics problem. His and his staff’s irregular communications with anti-Trump witnesses reflect poorly on the credibility of the House and its committees’ investigations. It has long been apparent that Rep. Schiff can’t be trusted to lead the Intelligence Committee, so we hope that Democrats on the Ethics Committee stop protecting Mr. Schiff and take action.
In our complaint we elaborate on our concerns:
Dear Chairman Skaggs,
Judicial Watch is a non-profit, non-partisan educational foundation, which promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government and fidelity to the rule of law. We regularly monitor congressional ethics issues as part of our anti-corruption mission.
This letter serves as our official complaint to the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) concerning the activities of Rep. Adam Schiff. Rep. Schiff appears to have violated House Code of Official Conduct, Rule 23, clauses 1 and 2, by inappropriately communicating with witnesses. Clauses 1 and 2 provide:
1. A Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, officer, or employee of the House shall behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.
2. A Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, officer, or employee of the House shall adhere to the spirit and the letter of the Rules of the House and to the rules of duly constituted committees thereof.
Rep. Adam Schiff attended the Aspen Security Forum conference in July 2018, which was also attended by Glenn Simpson, the founder of the firm Fusion GPS. Press reports have detailed evidence of a meeting and discussion between Rep. Schiff and Glenn Simpson at the July 2018 Aspen Security Forum. As noted in The Hill newspaper:
At the time of the encounter, Simpson was an important witness in the House Intelligence Committee probe who had given sworn testimony about alleged, but still unproven, collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Fusion GPS is the political opposition research firm involved in procuring “unverified” information claiming the Trump presidential campaign had “colluded” with Russia, among other things. That Fusion GPS-supplied information was the basis upon which the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) obtained Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) surveillance warrants against Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page.
Mr. Simpson’s leadership of Fusion GPS and his centrality to events resulted in his having to testify before congressional committees or their staffs. Specifically, Mr. Simpson testified before the House Intelligence Committee, of which Rep. Schiff was the ranking Democratic member, on October 16, 2018 – approximately three (3) months after the Aspen Security Forum.
We note that following revelations in 2017 that Rep. Devin Nunes had informed President Trump that U.S. intelligence agencies had been engaging in “incidental collection” of his campaign’s communications, Rep. Schiff demanded that Rep. Nunes, then Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, recuse himself from any investigations involving alleged Trump collusion with Russia. Indeed, Rep. Schiff wrote the following on twitter:
This is not a recommendation I make lightly … But in much the same way that the attorney general [Jeff Sessions] was forced to recuse himself from the Russia investigation after failing to inform the Senate of his meetings with Russian officials, I believe the public cannot have the necessary confidence that matters involving the president’s campaign or transition team can be objectively investigated or overseen by the chairman.
Then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi concurred with Rep. Schiff’s call for Mr. Nunes to recuse himself.
The July 2018 contacts between Rep. Schiff and Mr. Simpson create, at a minimum, the appearance of impropriety. As a result of Rep. Schiff’s previously undisclosed, private discussions with Mr. Simpson, the public’s confidence in Mr. Schiff’s ability to objectively and impartially carry out his duties as Committee Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has been gravely damaged.
Further, Rep. Schiff’s contacts with Mr. Michael Cohen should also be scrutinized in the same light as the Simpson contacts. Journalists have reported:
President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen told House investigators this week that staff for Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., traveled to New York at least four times to meet with him for over 10 hours immediately before last month’s high-profile public testimony, according to two sources familiar with the matter – as Republicans question whether the meetings amounted to coaching a witness.
The sources said the sessions covered a slew of topics addressed during the public hearing before the oversight committee – including the National Enquirer ‘s “Catch and Kill” policy, American Media CEO David Pecker and the alleged undervaluing of President Trump’s assets.
Again, Rep. Schiff’ s conduct creates the appearance of unethical collusion and synchronization of efforts that calls into question whether Cohen’s testimony was a legitimate congressional hearing or well-rehearsed political theater.
During Mr. Cohen’s congressional testimony, he was questioned by Rep. Mike Turner concerning the number, nature and subject of his [Cohen’s] contacts with the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Rep Jim Jordan pressed Cohen on the subject in subsequent questioning. Cohen hesitantly acknowledged that he had spoken with Schiff “about topics that were going to be raised at the upcoming hearing.”
A pattern of conduct on the part of Rep. Schiff in these matters would exponentially increase the gravity of the prejudice and harm to the public’s confidence in the institution of the House of Representatives.
Rep. Schiff’s conduct and contacts with witnesses must be treated with the same gravity that Reps. Schiff and Pelosi accorded Rep. Nunes’s actions. Rep. Nunes recused himself for a time from certain oversight responsibilities with respect to the Russia-Trump investigations.
In the least, Rep. Schiff and his staff communications with Glenn Simpson and Michael Cohen, undermine the “credibility of the House” and its committee proceedings, especially given Mr. Cohen’s subsequent alleged false testimony.
We call upon the OCE to investigate Rep. Schiff and his previously undisclosed, inappropriate contact with key witnesses in congressional investigation over which that Member holds significant sway.
Thank you for your attention.
The ethics process in the House is a mess so I don’t expect something quickly to happen, but it is important that we put the House on official notice so no politician there has an excuse to let Adam Schiff ‘suntoward behavior slide.
Clinton Email Scandal Witness Testimony Begins
In January U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth ordered senior Obama Administration officials — including Susan Rice, Ben Rhodes, Jacob Sullivan, and FBI official E.W. Priestap – to respond under oath to our questions regarding Benghazi and the Clinton email scandal.
We now have a schedule for the depositions.
This court-ordered discovery comes in our July 2014 FOIA lawsuit filed after the U.S. Department of State failed to respond to a May 13, 2014 FOIA request (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:14-cv-01242)). Judicial Watch seeks:
Copies of any updates and/or talking points given to Ambassador Rice by the White House or any federal agency concerning, regarding, or related to the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Any and all records or communications concerning, regarding, or relating to talking points or updates on the Benghazi attack given to Ambassador Rice by the White House or any federal agency.
Remember that this lawsuit led directly to the disclosure of the Clinton email system in 2015.
Our discovery will seek answers to:
• Whether Clinton intentionally attempted to evade the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by using a non-government email system;
• whether the State Department’s efforts to settle this case beginning in late 2014 amounted to bad faith; and
• whether the State Department adequately searched for records responsive to Judicial Watch’s FOIA request.
The confirmed discovery schedule now includes:
March 12: State Department’s responses to interrogatories and document requests were due.
March 14: Deposition of Justin Cooper, a former aide to Bill Clinton who reportedly had no security clearance and is believed to have played a key role in setting up Hillary Clinton’s non-government email system.
April 5: Deposition of John Hackett, a State Department records official “immediately responsible for responding to requests for records under the Freedom of Information Act.”
April 16: Deposition of Jacob “Jake” Sullivan, Hillary Clinton’s former senior advisor and deputy chief of staff.
April 23: Deposition of Sheryl Walter, former State Department Director of the Office of Information Programs and Services/Global Information Services.
April 26: Deposition of Gene Smilansky, a State Department lawyer.
April 30. Deposition of Monica Tillery, a State Department official.
May 7: Deposition of Jonathon Wasser, who was a management analyst on the Executive Secretariat staff. Wasser worked for Deputy Director Clarence Finney and was the State Department employee who actually conducted the searches for records in response to FOIA requests to the Office of the Secretary.
May 14: Deposition of Clarence Finney, the deputy director of the Executive Secretariat staff who was the principal advisor and records management expert in the Office of the Secretary responsible for control of all correspondence and records for Hillary Clinton and other State Department officials.
June 11: 30(b)(6) Deposition, which will be designated by the State Department.
June 13: Deposition of Heather Samuelson, the former State Department senior advisor who helped facilitate the State Department’s receipt and release of Hillary Clinton’s emails.
As yet to be determined is the deposition date for Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security Eric Boswell, who wrote a March 2, 2009, internal memorandum titled “Use of Blackberries on Mahogany Row,” in which he strongly advised that the devices not be allowed.
Written questions under oath are to be answered by:
Monica Hanley, Hillary Clinton’s former confidential assistant at the State Department.
Lauren Jiloty, Clinton’s former special assistant.
E.W. Priestap, is serving as assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division and helped oversee both the Clinton email and the 2016 presidential campaign investigations. Priestap testified in a separate lawsuit that Clinton was the subject of a grand jury investigation related to her BlackBerry email accounts.
Susan Rice, President Obama’s former UN ambassador who appeared on Sunday television news shows following the Benghazi attacks, blaming a “hateful video.” Rice was also Obama’s national security advisor involved in the “unmasking” the identities of senior Trump officials caught up in the surveillance of foreign targets.
Ben Rhodes, an Obama-era White House deputy strategic communications adviser who attempted to orchestrate a campaign to “reinforce” Obama and to portray the Benghazi consulate terrorist attack as being “rooted in an Internet video, and not a failure of policy.”
We’re doing the heavy lifting in the Clinton email scandal, even as Congress dropped the ball and DOJ and State continued to obstruct our quest for the truth. The Court in our case wants real answers on the Clinton email scandal, which is why our request for basic discovery was granted.
Judicial Watch is #1 on FOIA!
Since 2001 we have led all nonprofit organizations in filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits, according to figures released late last year by The FOIA Project of Syracuse University.
We are announcing this in honor of “Sunshine Week,” March 10-16, which is an “annual nationwide celebration of access to public information.”
According to the FOIAproject.org’s most recent study, we were again No. 1 on the top ten list of most frequent Nonprofit/Advocacy Groups (Jan 21, 2001-July 2018) challenging federal government withholding in court and for the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations.
Overall Top 10 FOIA Filers (Jan 21, 2001 – July 2018)
Rank Plaintiff in FOIA Suit Number Filed
1. Judicial Watch 391
2. American Civil Liberties Union 130
3. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility 94
4. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington 88
5. Electronic Privacy Information Center 74
6. Natural Resources Defense Council 59
7. Center for Biological Diversity 47
8. Cause of Action Institute 44
9. American Oversight 43
10. Electronic Frontier Foundation 43
The FOIA Project “aims to: (1) create a shaming mechanism by which agencies and officials who ignore the law are held accountable, and (2) arm the public with the full record of FOIA efforts that have and haven’t worked, so anyone can more effectively surmount frequently used roadblocks to public access.”
We use the open records or freedom of information laws and other tools to uncover misconduct by government officials and hold to account those who engage in corrupt activities. When agencies balk at releasing information that is of value to the public, we sue.
The Freedom of Information Act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966 to improve public access to government records. The FOIA Project says there is wide agreement that the FOIA’s administrative process has many flaws, with federal agencies frequently resisting its mandates by either refusing to provide properly requested records or ignoring the requirements that the documents be made available within specified time periods.
The most-sued agency is the Department of Justice, which has been the defendant in 2,312 FOIA suits since 2001. Within the DOJ, the FBI has been the most sued division with 712 suits. We frequently clash with the DOJ and FBI in court, often in cases involving IRS malfeasance, the Clinton email scandal, and the Robert Mueller special counsel investigation. Judicial Watch currently is pursuing 40 lawsuits against the DOJ.
We are the most important transparency watchdog organization in the country. For 25 years, we’ve led the way in holding the government to account as both the media and Congress have gone AWOL. Most of what we know about government corruption – from Clinton emails to Deep State abuses – are as a result of our historic FOIA lawsuits.
We couldn’t have done this without the loyalty of our many supporters. Thank you.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton