by Tom Fitton –
Will We Have Rule by Law or Rule by Mob?
Americans should brook no further delay of a full Senate vote on Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.
Let’s be clear: Leftists are trying to blow up the Senate confirmation process in their attack on Judge Kavanaugh. Their latest gambit is about delaying the nomination past the elections. There is no legitimate reason that these last-minute allegations can’t be summarily evaluated, and a Judiciary Committee vote taken within days.
Leftist law breaking, rule breaking, violence, and disruption marred the public Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. One can only imagine the disruptive show trial Leftists plan with the Kavanaugh accuser. The Senate should shut this circus down and move the Kavanaugh confirmation along.
It is important that you let your Senators know how you feel about the Kavanaugh confirmation process. You can reach your Senators at 202-224-3121.
Once Again The Deep State Digs In Its Heels
President Trump has ordered the release of key documents relating to the Obama Justice Department and FBI abuses in the 2016 presidential election, and we endorse this historic and courageous move.
We have numerous lawsuits pending for all of the documents he is now releasing. This is a major anti-corruption breakthrough that will do much to expose the outrageous abuses by the Obama Department of Justice and FBI. And it is a historic day for all Americans who believe in full transparency and the rule of law.
We strongly encourage the President and the Congress to put an end to apparent efforts in the FBI and DOJ to delay and obfuscate this order. This is the Deep State at its finest, and it’s apparent for all to see. If the Deep State wants confrontation, the President should provide it.
As I write this, President Trump tweeted he will allow a bit of delay in response to Justice Department concerns but will demand timely review and release. In the meantime, your Judicial Watch will continue to seek these key documents in federal court.
The Secret Service Doesn’t Want You
To Know What Presidential Travel Costs
President Trump has done an excellent job of reducing the cost of his Presidency – reducing the size of the White House staff, for example. But he might want to look at the expense of his traveling here and there.
And he might want to ask why the Secret Service sits on the details of these costs. As was the case in the Obama administration, the agency blocks seemingly our every attempt to learn what presidential travel costs the taxpayers.
And so, we have yet again filed a Freedom of Information (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for Secret Service records about expense costs associated with President Trump’s travel between December 22, 2017, and April 28, 2018 (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (No. 1:18-cv-01851).
We sued after the Secret Service failed to comply with multiple FOIA requests seeking travel information for the following trips:
• President Trump traveled to his Mar-a-Largo estate in Palm Beach, Florida between December 22, 2017-January 2, 2018 for the Christmas holiday
• President Trump traveled to Atlanta, Georgia, on January 8, 2018, for the NCAA National Championship game
• President Trump traveled to Mar-a-Lago between January 12-15, 2018
• President Trump traveled to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on January 18, 2018, where he attended a rally at H&K Equipment Co. to discuss tax cuts
• Eric Trump traveled to Mar-a-Lago between Jan. 19-21
• President Trump traveled to Mar-a-Lago on February 6 for meetings
• President Trump traveled to Mar-a-Lago between February 17-19 for President’s Day weekend and visited the survivors of the Parkland school shooting
• President Trump traveled to Pennsylvania on March 10 to campaign for GOP House candidate Rick Saccone
• President Trump traveled to Mar-a-Lago between March 23-25 and March 30-April 1
• Trump traveled to Mar-a-Lago between April 20-22, when he hosted a Republican National Committee roundtable.
• Trump traveled to Michigan on April 28 to hold a rally in lieu of attending the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington, D.C.
In a separate lawsuit, we were able to uncover Secret Service expense records totaling $3,024,036.50, which brings the known total for presidential travel expenses to $17,224,938.46 and includes the operation of Air Force One.
We obtained the documents through a January 2018 Freedom of Information (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security after it failed to respond to several FOIA requests for VIP travel expense records of the Trump family between June and October 2017 (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (No. 1:18-cv-00161)).
The Secret Service records show:
• President Trump traveled to his Bedminster, NJ golf club from June 30-July 3. The Secret Service spent $219,251.03 on hotels, $119,543.03 on air/rail, and $27,871 on miscellaneous for a total of $398,727.24
• President Trump traveled to Bedminster from July 14-16 and $206,627.47 was spent on hotels, $55,986.50 on air/rail, $12,752.20 on car rentals and $9,254 on miscellaneous for a total $284,620.17
• President Trump made various trips for a vacation to Bedminster and New York from August 4-21.
o In Bedminster, the Secret Service spent $908,506.51 on hotels, $20,528.68 on rental cars, $14,371.11 on air/rail, and $2,300 on miscellaneous for a total of $945,706.30.
o In New York, they spent $486,365 on hotels, $12,345.62 on air/rail, and $2,726.42 on rental cars for a total of $501,457.04
• President Trump traveled to Phoenix for a campaign rally on August 22. The Secret Service spent $131,189.41 on hotels, $25,251.22 on air/rail, and $21,898 on rental cars for a total of $178,338.63
• President Trump traveled to Missouri to appear at a rally as a kickoff for tax reform at the Loren Cook Company on August 30. The Secret Service spent $26,159.34 on hotels, $13,921.17 on air/rail, and $2,740 on car rentals for a total of $42,820.51
• President Trump traveled to Huntsville, AL, on September 22 to campaign for Sen. Luther Strange, and $22,701.06 was spent on hotels: $2,000 on car rentals and $500 on miscellaneous for a total of $25,201.06
• President Trump then spent the weekend at Bedminster, returning to the White House on September 24. In Bedminster, the Secret Service spent $428,732 on hotels, $3,055.20 on air/rail, $65.70 on rental cars and $16,420 for miscellaneous for a total of $448,272.90
• President Trump traveled to Bedminster from September 29 to October 1. The Secret Service spent $171,391.68 on hotels, $8,611.30 on air/rail, $2,482.17 on car rentals, and $16,407.50 on miscellaneous for a total of $198,892.65The Secret Service records provide costs for meals, hotels, air/rail, car rentals and other incidentals incurred during personal travel by the president and his family.
The Secret Service is a mess when it comes to transparency on its basic operations. Presidential travel is too expensive, and, in particular, taxpayers subsidize too much of the bill for presidential campaign travel. President Trump would do well to reform and demand a better, less expensive way to move him around the country.
This is not the first time we have been forced to file suit against the Department of Homeland Security for failing to respond to FOIA requests for presidential travel-expense records. While monitoring travel for President Obama and his family, we encountered continuous resistance to FOIA requests. Between July 21, 2014, and November 10, 2015, the Secret Service failed to respond to 19 separate FOIA requests seeking records of security-related expenses for travel by Barack Obama and other VIPs.
On November 10, 2015, we filed a FOIA lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia asking the court to enjoin the Secret Service from continuing to withhold responsive documents from Judicial Watch (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (No. 1:15-cv-01983)).
We appealed the District Court’s dismissal of our claim that the agency has a policy and practice of violating FOIA’s procedural requirements in connection with processing of our FOIA requests. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reversed the District Court’s judgment on our request for injunctive relief and remanded the policy and practices claim for further proceedings. The D.C. Circuit held that “[t]he Secret Service’s alleged practice of prolonged, repeated, and unexplained delay, if allowed to continue, would harm Judicial Watch’s mission to inform the public about the costs of VIP travel by unlawfully interfering with its statutory right to ‘promptly’ obtain non-exempt records upon request.”
We were forced to file a related suit on May 6, 2016, after the Secret Service failed to respond to five (5) additional travel-related FOIA requests (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (No. 1:16-cv-00863)).
To date, we have uncovered total travel expenses of the Obamas amounting to $114,691,322.17.
Bill and Hillary Are Still
Using Influence to Spread the Cash
Over the years, we’ve reported on the many times Hillary and Bill Clinton used her position as secretary of state to reward their friends and the coffers of their own foundation. Our Corruption Chronicles blog reports on yet another example, the spreading taxpayer dollars around under the guise of helping women get ahead – in Afghanistan.
The U.S. government has blown almost $90 million on a doomed project to help Afghan women enter the workforce with a big chunk of the money going to a Clinton-aligned “development” company that reaped big bucks from Uncle Sam while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. The cash flows through the famously corrupt U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID), which is charged with providing global economic, development and humanitarian assistance. In this case USAID allocated $216 million to supposedly help tens of thousands of Afghan women get jobs and gain promotions over five years. Known as “Promoting Gender Equity in National Priority Programs,” the endeavor was launched in 2014, and tens of millions of dollars later it’s proven to be a major failure.
Someone must be pocketing the cash because the costly program has helped between zero and 60 women. This isn’t a joke, though it sounds like a bad one. All the dirty details are laid out in a scathing federal audit released this month by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). Investigators found that around 55 women got “new or better” jobs in three years and they can’t even fully credit the U.S.-backed program for the women’s prosperities. SIGAR writes that it found “multiple problems” in the program, including security, staffing and economic conditions in Afghanistan. “In addition, SIGAR found that USAID/Afghanistan’s records on the contractors’ required deliverables were incomplete and inaccurate because the agency’s management did not give contracting officer’s representatives enough guidance on record keeping,” the report states.
Of interesting note is that one of the biggest contracts went to a company, Chemonics International, with close ties to the Clintons. The Washington-based development firm was awarded $38 million, according to the figures included in the SIGAR report. “Chemonics thrived during Clinton’s tenure, nabbing more contracts during the Haiti reconstruction effort than any other company,” a 2015 news report reveals. “Peter Schweizer noted the extensive Clinton connections to development failures in Haiti in his book, Clinton Cash.”
Here’s a nugget from this month’s SIGAR report that illustrates how poorly this boondoggle was planned by the government: Even when the Afghan women complete the program, there are not jobs waiting for them. The audit reveals that the Afghan government won’t sustain the program, referred to as Promote, because it can’t hire all the graduates. “It is also unclear whether the graduates will obtain jobs in the private sector in large numbers due to the country’s low projected economic growth rate,” the report states. “This raises questions about whether Promote is sustainable at all and could put USAID’s investment in the program in jeopardy.” So, the U.S. government is spending enormous amounts of taxpayer dollars to train women in a crime-infested, third-world country for jobs that don’t exist. Afghanistan has a poverty rate of 39.1 %, according to the World Bank, and an unemployment rate of 22.6%. The security situation has worsened and civilian casualties are at their highest since 2002, with an unprecedented level of conflict-induced displacement.
Nevertheless, in the summer of 2013 the Obama administration announced it was launching the “largest women’s empowerment program in [USAID] history.” The goal was to advance opportunities for Afghan women to become political, private sector, and civil society leaders and to build upon existing and previous programs for women and girls. Of course, this requires a lot of money, so the administration allocated the $216 million to get the job done. The money was supposed to educate, promote and train a new generation of Afghan women in order to increase their contributions to the country’s development. “Promote strengthens women’s rights groups,” USAID proclaims, and boosts female participation in the economy while increasing the number of women in decision making positions within the Afghan government. It also helps women gain business and management skills. The SIGAR report identifies Promote as the “largest single investment to advance women globally.”
A few years ago, Judicial Watch reported on another scandalous USAID program aimed at helping women in Afghanistan escape repression. After spending a whopping $64.8 million on 652 projects, programs and initiatives, a federal audit determined lack of accountability and follow up made it impossible to know if they made a difference. That disastrous project was also funded by the departments of State and Defense, and federal investigators found that none of the three agencies had effective mechanisms for tracking the funding associated with the projects.
It is particularly appalling that they hide their misdeeds under cloaks of good deeds.
An Immigration Cash Cow for the Establishment
Many rely on dubious government programs for the power it brings them, but they like it even more for the cash it generates. Consider one interesting game being played, as reported by our chief investigative reporter, Micah Morrison, in his Investigative Bulletin.
Congress gets another shot at killing that swampiest of swamp creatures, the EB-5 visa program, at the end of September. EB-5 is a cash-for-visas program beloved of Democrats and Republicans, real estate developers, and a not insignificant number of crooks and hustlers. Cause of Action has been documenting mounting EB-5 scams at a new website. It’s an eye-opener.
Under EB-5, foreigners—mainly Chinese citizens—get a green card and a path to citizenship by paying $500,000 into the program, the money designated for job creation in economically distressed “targeted unemployment areas” in the U.S. The payments are brokered by politically connected EB-5 Regional Centers, which often rake off hefty fees.
As for those targeted unemployment areas? Critics charge that they are often nothing more than elaborately gerrymandered maps drawn from census tracts to create fictional qualifying districts.
The program is a magnet for fraud.
Estimates vary, but the best guess is that around $15 billion in EB-5 cash has come into the country in the last decade. Part of the problem is that EB-5 is so loosely regulated, it’s difficult to follow the money. Real estate developers love EB-5’s lax guidelines and easy financing opportunities.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is a huge fan of EB-5. Schumer’s longtime political ally, developer Bruce Ratner, built the Barclays Center sports arena and Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn with $500 million in EB-5 funds. Ratner has since walked away from the project with a hefty profit.
Former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe is a beneficiary of the EB-5 program. McAuliffe and Tony Rodham—Hillary Clinton’s brother—raised about $46 million from EB-5 investors for their GreenTech Automotive electric-car company. Greentech filed for bankruptcy in February.
Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also appears to have crossed paths with EB-5. According to Cause of Action, Reid may have improperly intervened to assure EB-5 financing for the SLS Las Vegas Hotel and Casino project. Reid’s son and his law firm were legal counsel to SLS, a major Democratic Party donor. Reid denies any wrongdoing. The Los Angeles Times reports that sixty Chinese EB-5 investors are now suing SLS for failing to deliver on green card promises.
President Trump has benefited from EB-5 through a $40 million program investment in a Trump-branded luxury hotel in Austin. Senior adviser Jared Kushner’s family raised $50 million in EB-5 funds for a New Jersey project.
Mr. Kushner’s sister recently got in trouble for hawking EB-5 visas in China.
The White House responded with a statement saying it was “evaluating wholesale reform of the EB-5 program.”
Last year, I outlined some of the regulatory changes that might reform EB-5.
Congress kicked the decision down the road, but a reform moment is upon us again. The EB-5 Regional Center Program expires September 30. The regional centers handle the vast majority of EB-5 visas, so killing the centers in effect kills the entire EB-5 program.
Some critics want to end EB-5, others want to mend it. Swamp critters fear both approaches. They want to see the status quo continue.
Doing nothing sends a signal, too.
They don’t call it The Swamp for nothing.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton