by Tom Fitton –
New Judicial Watch Lawsuit for FBI Documents on Anti-Trump Collusion
Attorney James Baker had what DC considers a long and distinguished career at the Justice Department – his last position was general counsel of the FBI – until he got himself involved in the anti-Trump machinations of disgraced former Director James Comey and his co-conspirators.
As the FBI’s top lawyer, Baker helped secure the notorious Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant for Carter Page, as well as three renewals. He knew FISA: He was once called “Mr. FISA himself.”
Now he’s out of the DOJ and under criminal investigation.
And we have questions, too. We have filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice for all records of his communication with anti-Trump dossier author Christopher Steele from January 2016 to January 2018.
We sued in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to compel the FBI to comply with our January 5, 2018, FOIA request (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:19-cv-00177). The lawsuit seeks:
Any and all records of communication, including but not limited to emails, text messages and instant chats, sent between Baker and any of the following individuals: former British intelligence officer Steele, principal of Orbis Business Intelligence, Ltd.; Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS; former GPS contractor Nellie Ohr; and/or David Corn, a reporter with Mother Jones magazine.
The FBI claimed it had no responsive records, but Baker was deeply involved with the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign and is currently the subject of a criminal investigation for leaking to the media.
The FBI’s “no records” response is belied by Baker’s closed-door congressional testimony in October 2018, in which he reportedly testified that David Corn, a reporter at the far Left Mother Jones magazine, had provided him with a copy of the anti-Trump dossier the day after President Trump’s 2016 election victory. Baker also reportedly testified that he believed at the time that Corn received the dossier from Simpson, the co-founder of Fusion GPS.
Fusion GPS employee Nellie Ohr is the wife of former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, who was a key conduit between dossier author Christopher Steele and the FBI. Former FBI Director James Comey himself called the dossier “salacious and unverified.”
In August 2018, we filed a related lawsuit seeking records about the Ohrs’ involvement in the anti-Trump dossier and the FBI’s meetings with the Democratic National Committee’s law firm Perkins Coie. In November we filed a lawsuit about Baker’s communication with the Clinton’s law firm itself.
Perkins Coie had hired Fusion GPS to dig into President Trump’s background. Baker reportedly told congressional investigators that Perkins Coie lawyer Michael Sussmann “initiated contact with [Baker] and provided documents and computer storage devices on Russian hacking.” The contact was made in late 2016 as federal investigators prepared a FISA warrant to spy on Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
In August 2018, we released FBI records showing that Steele was cut off as a “Confidential Human Source” after he disclosed his relationship to the FBI to a third party. The documents show at least 11 FBI payments to Steele in 2016.
Baker also advised top FBI officials during the Hillary Clinton email scandal. He left his role as general counsel in January 2018 and resigned from the FBI in May 2018.
The real collusion scandal of the 2016 election is the effort by the Clinton campaign and the Obama DOJ/FBI to spy on and destroy President Donald Trump. And it looks like the FBI is covering up documents on this Russiagate scandal, which is why we are again in federal court.
A Little Known Reason the TSA Is So Ineffective
Next time you’re delayed in an airport security line where surly TSA agents are yelling at you to remove your belt, you might want to thank your representative in Congress. That’s where so many problems begin today, isn’t it? Our Corruption Chronicles blog lays it out.
Money to sustain the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) continuously flowed into the government’s coffers via a special security fee collected from every passenger, yet Congress didn’t release the funds during the shutdown.
Known as the September 11 Security Fee, air carriers collect $5.60 per one-way trip and $11.20 round trip to help fund the TSA. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reports an average daily air passenger flow of 2.6 million, which translates into $14.5 million per day in TSA fees. That amounts to more than $507 million collected during the 35-day government shutdown yet the agency’s 51,000 employees didn’t get paid, igniting an onslaught of hardship stories in the media. What happened to the money?
Why didn’t Congress release it even though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claims, “Our nation’s leaders have no greater responsibility than ensuring the safety and security of the American people.”
The truth is Congress has for years diverted billions of dollars in September 11 Security Fees and used the money for other causes not related to air security. This predates the recent government shutdown and indicates where the “safety and security of the American people” sits on the congressional list of priorities.
In 2001 the TSA fee was $2.50 per passenger, but Congress increased it to the current $5.60 in 2013 and restructured the payment plan so that around $13 billion of the TSA fees would go to “deficit reduction” and other government sectors. Under the revamp, created by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, the revenue collected from passengers gets deposited in the general fund of the U.S. Treasury and a chunk of the money is used for other matters. The original statute enacted after the worst terrorist attack on American soil specifically required that the revenue from the passenger security fee be dedicated to providing civil aviation security services. The Budget Act amended it to require that a portion of money, $12.63 billion generated over 10 years, be deposited in the general fund as “offsetting receipts for the Federal budget.”
Redirecting passenger security fees naturally caused a ruckus in the airline industry, which has repeatedly demanded that Congress stop the practice.
Using the TSA’s budget for functions not related to aviation security has caused a multitude of problems, including excessive screening lines and a failure to align TSA staff and equipment with passenger volumes by location, according to the industry’s trade organization, Airlines for America (A4A). In a letter to a U.S. Senator, the group’s president writes that if Congress wants to take constructive and well-justified action, it would immediately put the diverted billions, paid by airline passengers, where it belongs. In Congressional testimony last summer, the group’s senior vice president revealed that in 2017 alone special taxes on airlines and their customers totaled over $24 billion—more than $66 million per day. “Stop the annual practice of diverting passenger security fee revenue,” the airline official, Sharon Pinkerton, told the House Homeland Security Committee.
If the TSA, created after the 2001 terrorist attacks, were properly funded perhaps it would be better equipped to meet its critical mission or handle unexpected events such as a government shutdown. The agency is charged with securing transportation by adequately screening luggage, passengers and properly vetting foreign flight students.
Instead, it is best known for its shameful security lapses and efforts to cover them up. For nearly a decade Judicial Watch has reported extensively—and uncovered records—involving the TSA’s serious transgressions and failure to adequately fulfill its mission.
This includes missing guns and bombs during covert exercises known as “red team tests,” TSA agents literally sleeping on the job and steeling from passengers, the failure to properly screen luggage and a number of other violations that have risked the nation’s safety. Records obtained by Judicial Watch a few years ago show hundreds of badges that allow agents to access secure areas of airports went missing along with uniforms and other devices used to control entry. Just a few months ago, a bipartisan congressional investigation found that persistent misconduct by TSA managers often goes unpunished and whistleblowers who report it as well as airport safety risks are penalized by senior officials.
The TSA is a non-essential agency that performs an essential job that could otherwise be performed by the private sector. You can see the hurdles aren’t principled but rather Big Government avarice for the fees the TSA generates to support other government spending.
New York’s War on Religious Education
The Left is infected by a virulent strain of anti-Christian animus these days, with leftist Democratic Senators repeatedly attacking Trump nominees because of their Christian faith. The anti-sectarian virus is infecting New York and is impacting other traditionalist faiths, as our chief investigative reporter, Micah Morrison, reveals in his Investigative Bulletin:
New York State has opened the door to a war on religious education. New guidelines from the state’s Department of Education are framed as applying to all “religious and independent schools” in New York, but no one is fooled. The changes are aimed right at New York City’s freewheeling Orthodox Jewish seminaries, known as yeshivas. More than 100,000 students attend yeshivas in New York City.
The new guidelines revisit the “substantial equivalency” statute that has kept the peace in New York schools since 1897. Non-public schools can educate their students as they see fit, provided the education is “substantially equivalent” to public schools. The new guidelines change the equation. Math must be taught every day. English, science, and social studies must be taught.
Schools must provide samples of teaching schedules, textbooks, and lesson plans. Non-compliant schools risk withdrawal of funding for things like textbooks and transportation, and students ultimately could be forced to go to another school. Students that resist transfer risk being declared “truant” and legal steps to challenge parental competency could follow. The new mandates will be enforced by inspections from local school district officials.
The guidelines, wrote two Orthodox educators in the Wall Street Journal, are a shocking power grab by secular forces. They “empower local school boards to evaluate private schools and to vote on our right to continue educating our students.” The new curriculum requirements demand “so much time that it crowds out Torah study, our sacred mission.”
The controversy began when dissident former yeshiva students started raising concerns about the quality of their education. Members of the Orthodox community concede that some yeshivas need improvement. But when you’ve been in business for 1,500 years, give or take a few centuries, change comes slow. And as history as shown, it’s a very bad idea to tell a Jew how to run his religion.
New Yorkers of all stripes were quick to recognize the threat to religious freedom. Ed Mechmann, director of public policy at the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, wrote that the new regulations would “give local school boards virtually unlimited power over private religious schools. There is no protection against government officials who are hostile to religious schools or who just want to eliminate the competition.”
A majority of the New York City Council — not a group known for its theological fervor — complained in a letter to the state Education Department about the “unprecedented incursion into private schools’ curricula” and warned it to refrain “from threatening to remove student-based funding from schools that do not acquiesce to these guidelines.”
In New York City, the Orthodox community is a powerful political force, often delivering critical votes in closely fought elections. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio opened a probe in 2015 following complaints about sub-standard education from the yeshiva dissidents. But the investigation went nowhere. De Blasio’s own investigations commissioner, Mark Peters, looked into the controversy, only to be fired later by the mayor.
The new guidelines put the mayor back in the yeshiva hot seat and could revive the dormant investigation. They seem sure to ignite more controversy.
School inspections are slated to begin in February. The yeshiva establishment says it won’t cooperate with inspectors, ditto from New York’s Catholic school leadership. That’s going to be a big problem.
New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza told The New York Times he’s starting the inspections with yeshivas that have barred city officials or have been noted in complaints about poor education standards.
Carranza said the de Blasio administration intends to “move aggressively and get this taken care of.”
Don’t bet on it.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton