by Tom Fitton –
Court Orders Discovery to Begin on Clinton Email/Benghazi Scandals
Last week, I reported to you that we had submitted a court-ordered discovery plan for the depositions of several top former government officials involved in the Clinton email scandal, including Obama administration senior officials Susan Rice, Ben Rhodes, Jacob Sullivan, and FBI official E.W. Priestap.
This week I am pleased to tell you that U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth has ruled that discovery can begin. We will now depose Obama administration senior State Department officials, lawyers, and Clinton aides under oath.
Senior officials — including Susan Rice, Ben Rhodes, Jacob Sullivan, and FBI official E.W. Priestap — will now have to answer our written questions. The court rejected the DOJ and State Department’s objections to our discovery plan. (The court, in ordering a discovery plan last month, ruled that the Clinton email system was “one of the gravest modern offenses to government transparency.”)
We 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 court will hold a post-discovery hearing to determine if we may also depose additional witnesses, including Clinton and her former Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills.
Rice and Rhodes will answer interrogatories under oath regarding the Benghazi scandal. Rejecting the State and Justice Department’s objections to discovery on the infamous Benghazi talking points, Judge Lamberth reiterated:
Yet Rice’s talking points and State’s understanding of the attack play an unavoidably central role in this case: information about the points’ development and content, as well as their discussion and dissemination before and after Rice’s appearances could reveal unsearched, relevant records; State’s role in the points’ content and development could shed light on Clinton’s motives for shielding her emails from FOIA requesters or on State’s reluctance to search her emails.
We may also serve interrogatories on Monica Hanley, a former staff member in the State Department’s Office of the Secretary, and on Lauren Jiloty, Clinton’s former special assistant.
According to Lamberth’s order, regarding whether Clinton’s private email use while Secretary of State was an intentional attempt to evade FOIA, we may depose:
1. Eric Boswell, the former Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security.… Boswell’s March 2009 memo to Mills … discusses security risks Clinton’s Blackberry use posed more generally. And Boswell personally discussed the memo with Clinton. So, he plainly has relevant information about that conversation and about his general knowledge of Clinton’s email use. Judicial Watch may depose Boswell.
2. Justin Cooper. the Clinton Foundation employee who created the clintonemail.com server. In its proposal, Judicial Watch noted Cooper’s prior congressional testimony “appears to contradict portions of the testimony provided by Huma Abedin in the case before Judge Sullivan.” … Cooper repeatedly told Congress that Abedin helped set-up the Clintons’ private server, e.g., Examining Preservation of State Department Federal Records: [before a Congressional hearing] Abedin testified under oath she did not know about the server until six years later.… Judicial Watch may depose Cooper.
3. Clarence Finney, the former deputy director of State’s Executive Secretariat staff…. [T]his case’s questions hinge on what specific State employees knew and when they knew it. As the principal advisor and records management expert responsible for controlling Clinton’s official correspondence and records, Finney’s knowledge is particularly relevant. And especially given the concerns about government misconduct that prompted this discovery, Judicial Watch’s ability to take his direct testimony and ask follow-up questions is critical.
Judicial Watch seeks to go beyond cursory, second-hand testimony and directly ask Finney what he knew about Clinton’s email use. This includes asking about emails suggesting he knew about her private email use in 2014, and emails he received concerning a December 2012 FOIA request from Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington (CREW) regarding senior officials’ personal email use-topics State’s 30(b)(6) deposition in Judge Sullivan’s case never addressed. Judicial Watch may depose Finney.
4. Heather Samuelson. the former State Department senior advisor who helped facilitate State’s receipt of Hillary Clinton’s emails.… [T]his case turns on what specific government employees knew and when they knew it. Judicial Watch must be able to take their direct testimony and ask them follow-up questions. Judicial Watch may depose Samuelson.
5. Jacob Sullivan. Secretary Clinton’s former senior advisor and deputy Chief of Staff. The government does not oppose Sullivan’s deposition.
Regarding whether the State Department’s settlement attempts that began in late 2014 amounted to “bad faith,” we were granted depositions from the State Department under Rule 30(b)(6); Finney; John Hackett, the former deputy director of State’s Office of Information Programs & Services; Gene Smilansky, an attorney-advisor within State’s Office of the Legal Advisor; Samuelson; and others.
We were also granted interrogatories on whether the State Department adequately searched for responsive records, as well as several document requests.
This is a major victory for accountability, and you no doubt recognize the significance of Judge Lamberth’s authorizing us to take discovery on whether the Clinton email system evaded FOIA and whether the Benghazi scandal was one reason for keeping Mrs. Clinton’s email secret.
The court-ordered discovery is the latest development 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.
Our discovery plan was in response to a December 6, 2018, ruling by Judge Lamberth.
Incredibly, Justice Department attorneys admit in a filing opposing our limited discovery that, “Counsel for State contacted the counsel of some third parties that Plaintiff originally included in its draft discovery proposal to obtain their client’s position on being deposed.” This collusion occurred despite criticism from the Court that the DOJ engaged in “chicanery” to cover up misconduct and that career employees in the State and Justice Departments may have “colluded to scuttle public scrutiny of Clinton, skirt FOIA, and hoodwink this Court.”
We countered that “[t]he government’s proposal, which is really nothing more than an opposition to [Judicial Watch’s] plan, demonstrates that it continues to reject any impropriety on its part and that it seeks to block any meaningful inquiry into its ‘outrageous misconduct.’”
Keep in mind that our FOIA lawsuit led directly to the disclosure of the Clinton email system in 2015. Had we not been pursuing the truth, who knows if it would have ever come to light.
I talked about this major development with told Harris Faulkner at Fox News earlier this week. In the meantime, I’ll be sure to keep you updated as appropriate as discovery proceeds.
Documents Detail Nancy Pelosi’s CODEL Travel in 2015
We know something about Congressional junkets, because we’ve been documenting the questionable travel of both presidents and congressmen for years. With Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s latest CODEL cancellation by President Trump on the front pages, we can offer some interesting context.
Just today, we released documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Air Force detailing $134,587.81 plus $50,000 for an advance of funds for an “escort officer” for a total of $184.587.81 for then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) Congressional delegation (CODEL) to Italy and Ukraine in 2015.
We filed a December 2015 FOIA lawsuit after the Air Force failed to respond to an August 2015 request (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Defense (No 1:15-cv-02236)) for:
• All records regarding mission taskings of flights escorting members of Congress
• All records concerning transportation costs for transporting members of Congress
• All passenger manifests (DD-2131) for transporting members of Congress
• All weekly travel reports for members of Congress
The documents show that from July 30 to August 6, Pelosi took a trip to Milan, Rome and Naples, Italy, and Kiev, Ukraine, for herself, her husband, several members of congress and their spouses. The Italy trip included Milan, Rome and Naples with visits to the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, Duomo and viewing Da Vinci’s “Last Supper.”
The documents also show the Air Force’s negative response to a Pelosi staff request for a specific crew for Pelosi’s flight. An official notes that it: “would be a disastrous precedent to set even if it were possible.” The Air Force further points out: “Our ARC crews have plenty to balance already with military duties and their civilian employers.”
The documents also detail a CODEL trip for Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), who traveled commercial flights to Asia, including Tokyo and Okinawa, Japan; Seoul, Korea; plus Beijing and Hong Kong, China. This trip, with flights and per diems, cost at least $26,009.03.
We previously uncovered that Pelosi’s military travel cost the United States Air Force $2,100,744.59 over one two-year period — $101,429.14 of which was for in-flight expenses, including food and alcohol.
Our work exposing Pelosi’s travel abuses resulted in her successor John Boehner declining to use Air Force luxury jets to travel to his Ohio congressional district.
The record shows Nancy Pelosi abusing the perks of office that give her access to military luxury travel paid for by taxpayers.
U.S. Doles Out Millions to Costa Rica, Mozambique During Shutdown
You suspect our government is dysfunctional, and you hardly need more proof. But here it is from our Corruption Chronicles blog.
The U.S. government may be shut down but it’s still doling out large sums of taxpayer dollars to foreign causes that American citizens may not consider a priority. In the last few days alone, Uncle Sam dedicated millions of dollars in grants to projects that include helping socially vulnerable youth in crime-ridden Costa Rican communities, tackling an AIDS epidemic in Mozambique, improving health in Nigeria and shriveling “important diseases in Senegal.”
There are plenty more with details posted this month on the government’s grant website which says that, during a lapse in federal appropriations, the system will “remain in an operational status.”
Just yesterday, hundreds of thousands of dollars were allocated to the Costa Rican youth project and the Mozambique AIDS program. The U.S. feels obligated to help Costa Rican youths tempted to quit school and join a crime gang, according to the grant announcement. “In vulnerable communities, poverty and lack of opportunities are factors that make young people quit school and start working or join a crime gang,” it reads. “Efforts from local governments have been concentrated in getting these demographic opportunities to finish high school and get a job. This is key to reduce crime and youth involvement in the narcotraffic chain.” The document offers a history of the Central American nation’s sustained increase in violent crime, mainly associated with drug trafficking. This includes a surge in homicides and the use of illicit drugs. To save the vulnerable youth, American taxpayers will spend $150,000 on an experimental, one-year program. “National and international data show that many Costa Rican communities are in significant need of assistance as they continue to experience a myriad of serious drug problems,” the grant announcement says.
The government also announced yesterday that it is dedicating $274,676 to counter a growing epidemic of HIV and AIDS in Mozambique, where around 13% of the population is infected with the sexually transmitted disease. The magnitude of the AIDS epidemic and the African country’s “health infrastructure” limitations call for the U.S. to step in, according to the grant document. The money will support a national HIV response plan that may reduce new infections and care for those already infected. Nearly 2 million Mozambicans have HIV, according to government figures included in the announcement, which also reveals that women are infected at a higher rate (15%) than men (10%). “Key factors driving the epidemic include multiple sexual partners, high levels of mobility and migration, cross-generational sex, transactional sex, low perception of risk, gender inequality and sexual violence, limited condom use, and limited treatment coverage,” it reads.
A whopping $5 million is going to programs that strengthen public health in Nigeria, the U.S. government confirmed this month. The money will fund epidemiological studies and laboratory-based projects and surveillance of “important diseases” in the African nation nearly 6,000 miles across the Atlantic. This includes but is not limited to acute febrile illness, emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, zoonotic and vector borne diseases as well as environmental health issues, biosafety and security and other public health threats. “Research projects should outline clear plans to incorporate the results of research activities into operational disease detection, prevention, and response or control programs in Nigeria and ensure the strengthening of local workforce capacity and dissemination of findings across the region, with partners, and globally,” the U.S. grant document says. “Other areas for research include activities to antimicrobial resistance and hospital acquired infections, respiratory infections and influenza, enteric illnesses, and other public health threats.
The Senegal health project will receive $1 million, according to a grant announcement posted this month, for a similar program involving diseases in the African nation. These public health research projects may include but are not limited to activities to address acute febrile illness, antimicrobial resistance and hospital acquired infections, respiratory infections and influenza, enteric illnesses, and other public health threats,” the document reads. As in Nigeria, the U.S.-funded project will also focus on emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, zoonotic and vector borne diseases; environmental health issues effecting infectious diseases (such as water and air); vaccine-preventable diseases; biosafety and security; public health threats of local importance, and implementation research to evaluate the impact of public health programs and interventions and their cost effectiveness. These are just a few of many examples illustrating how government is handing out cash for questionable causes during the so-called shutdown.
The Murder Epidemic in Indian Country
Here’s a scandal that ought to be stamped out forthwith – the crime crisis on American Indian reservations. We can ask if law enforcement is really paying attention, but we can also wonder why the Congress had a chance to act but didn’t.
Micah Morrison, our chief investigative reporter, has the story in his Investigative Bulletin.
On August 19, 2017, 22-year-old Savanna LaFontaine-Graywind disappeared in Fargo, North Dakota. The upstairs neighbor immediately was a suspect: she had been acting strangely and texted LaFontaine-Graywind earlier that day. Savanna was eight months pregnant, with swollen feet. Her car was in the parking lot, her wallet was at home: wherever she went, she wasn’t planning to go far.
Eight days later, her body was found in the Red River. Her baby had been cut from her womb.
Two months earlier, Ashley HeavyRunner Loring vanished from the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana. A witness later reported seeing Ashley running from a vehicle on Highway 89.
The two cases are part of storm of domestic abuse and murder hitting Native American and Alaska Native women. Statistical surveys are thin, but the numbers out there indicate that Native American women are murdered at a rate 10 times the national average.
In Montana alone, more than twenty-four Native Americans–most of them women–went missing in 2018, Senator John Tester said at a Senate Indian Affairs hearing last month. “We have an epidemic on our hands.”
The law enforcement response often is tepid.
“Law enforcement did not take Ashley’s case seriously, as well as other girls that have gone missing and been murdered in Indian country,” Ashley’s sister, Kimberly Loring, told Congress.
Days after Savanna’s disappearance in Fargo, a deputy sheriff told a local news outlet that there was “nothing to suggest criminal activity.”
“Where’s the problem? Is it with [the Bureau of Indian Affairs], is it with the FBI, is it with tribal law enforcement?” Tester said at the December hearing. “Why are we not finding these people? We would have a different reaction if this was a non-native.”
Tester, a Montana Democrat, and his Republican counterpart Steve Daines, are pressing Congress to come up with a solution. “Savanna’s Act” would create standardized procedures for responding to cases of missing and murdered Native American and Alaska Native women and sharpen cooperation between federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement. Inter-agency cooperation is often a big problem. The act would also upgrade Justice Department intake of information related to crimes against Native Americans and Alaska Natives. The bill unanimously passed the Senate last year but stalled in the House. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski has vowed to reintroduce it.
That’s too late for Savanna LaFontaine-Graywind. The depraved upstairs neighbor murdered her and took her baby. And it’s probably too late for Ashley HeavyRunner Loring. Her family searched the remote countryside in the heat, the cold, the rain and snow more than 120 times and came up empty. Last month, human remains were found on the Blackfeet Reservation. They have been sent to the FBI laboratory for analysis.
The discovery came one day after Ashley’s sister testified to Congress. “We are going missing,” Kimberly Loring said. “We are being murdered. We are not being taken seriously.”
There is just no reason to let this continue. Perhaps the well-to-do elites crying “Me, too!” could look into it
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton