by Tom Fitton –
Last week, I reported to you on our efforts to expose the Obama administration’s funding of George Soros’ left-wing political activities in Romania and Colombia. I also noted that we were pursuing his actions in Albania.
This week I’m pleased to say that we have results. We have obtained 32 pages of records showing that the Obama administration sent U.S. taxpayers’ funds to a Soros-backed group that used the money to fund left-wing political activities in Albania. That included working with the country’s socialist government to push for highly controversial judicial “reform.” The records also detail how the Soros operation helped the State Department review grant applications from other groups for taxpayer funding.
We obtained the records in our May 26, 2017, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) after both the State Department and USAID failed to respond to our March 31, 2017, FOIA requests (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (No. 1:17-cv-01012)). We agreed to dismiss the lawsuit after we finally received the documents and payment of attorneys’ fees.
The new documents show USAID funds were funneled through that agency’s Civil Society Project to back Soros’ left-wing Open Society Foundations in Albania, particularly the Soros operation efforts to give the socialist government greater control of the judiciary. USAID reportedly gave $9 million in 2016 to the “Justice for All” campaign, which is overseen by Soros’ “East West Management Institute.”
In March 2017 a group of six U.S. Senators led by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) sent a letter to then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asking that he investigate charges that the U.S. government was using taxpayer funds to assist Soros in Albania. The letter said: “Foundation Open Society-Albania and its experts, with funding from USAID, have created the controversial Strategy Document for Albanian Judicial Reform. Some leaders believe that these ‘reforms’ are ultimately aimed to give the Prime Minister and left-of-center government full control over the judiciary.” In the Albanian parliament, opposition leaders have labeled the Strategy “a Soros-sponsored reform.”
The new records we released include an April 2016 memo from the U.S. Embassy in Tirana that reveals that the embassy “sponsored” a survey along with Soros’ Open Society Foundation to measure Albanian citizens’ “knowledge, support, and expectations on justice reform.” The Soros group survey reported that “91% of respondents either ‘fully support’ or ‘somewhat support’ the need for judicial reform.” The poll did not specify the type of reform the Soros group was seeking.
Also, records dated February 2017 show that the State Department used taxpayer funds to co-sponsor a second poll with the Open Society Foundation on judicial reforms that would essentially solidify the left’s control of the Albanian government. The report notes that the U.S. Embassy’s Public Affairs Section and the Open Society Foundation “each provided funding to a local organization to conduct a public opinion poll on attitudes towards the Judicial Reform effort.”
The records also reveal that the State Department gave the Soros organization direct input for its own program funding reviews in Albania. The February 10, 2017, report on “Engagement with the Open Society Foundation for Albania” notes that “As one of the major assistance providers in Albania, representatives from the Open Society Foundation are frequently asked to participate in technical reviews of application [sic] that we receive for funding.”
U.S. Ambassador to Albania Donald Lu, a holdover from the Obama administration, has been closely linked to Soros and the socialist government in Albania. In May 2017, Lu helped undermine Albanian opposition party plans to protest the upcoming parliamentary election by declaring that the U.S. would recognize the election results even if opposition parties refused to participate. Lu has been described in the U.S. press as “a driving force behind Albania’s judicial reforms.”
The Obama administration quietly spent at least $9 million in U.S. taxpayers’ dollars in direct collusion with left-wing billionaire George Soros’ backing of a socialist government in Albania. It is particularly outrageous that the State Department allowed the Soros operation to help direct taxpayer funds to other groups. George Soros is a billionaire, and he shouldn’t be receiving taxpayer support to advance his radical left agenda to undermine freedom here at home and abroad.
We have more Soros-related lawsuits pending, so I expect we will have more to report to you on the scandal in the coming months.
Mueller’s Russia Probe is Out of Control
This week FoxNews.com asked me to contribute an opinion editorial about Muller’s Russia probe, which I have been saying for the past few months is out of control and needs to be shut down. What piqued their interest was this tweet I posted about a new memo that surfaced this week from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein authorizing Mr. Mueller to investigate issues related to Ukraine. I tweeted in response to an excellent analysis by our friend Andrew McCarthy over at National Review. My tweet in response was:
The Rosenstein memo was written after the fact to justify Mueller’s deep sea fishing in Ukraine and into the costs of Manafort’s dress suits. Still no justification for the targeting of @RealDonaldTrump. Shut it down.
I expanded on the comment with the following op-ed which, thankfully, is getting a lot of attention. I encourage you to read and share!
It looks like the Department of Justice botched the May 17 appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
About three weeks ago, former Trump presidential campaign Chairman Paul Manafort asked a judge to dismiss Mueller’s indictment against him, arguing that Mueller overstepped his jurisdiction in the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
In response, the special counsel was recently forced to pony up a heavily redacted memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein blessing the investigation into Manafort’s work with Ukraine, which turned out to have been written on Aug. 2 – six days after the July 26 predawn, guns-drawn raid of Manafort’s home, and 10 weeks after Mueller’s appointment. Reportedly, Mueller’s team photographed Manafort’s suits during the raid.
In the deputy attorney general’s subsequent justification for Mueller’s wide-ranging investigation into matters related to Ukraine, Rosenstein claims that the special counsel appointment order was purposely vague, “without confirming specific investigations involving specific individuals.”
The original memo authorizing Mueller’s appointment, signed by Rosenstein and dated May 17 last year, focused on Russia. It states:
“The Special Counsel is authorized to conduct the investigation confirmed by then-FBI Director James B. Comey in testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on March 20, 2017, including:
i. any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and
ii. any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation; and
iii. any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a).” (This refers to the special counsel’s original jurisdiction).
There is nothing about Ukraine.
The after-the-fact Rosenstein memo (that had been secret for months!) suggests, without any evidence, that the Ukrainian issue was part of Mueller’s original jurisdiction. Is there another secret document authorizing Mueller to investigate any and all foreign contacts by the Trump team?
Yes, Mueller could have gone back to his putative supervisor – Rod Rosenstein at the Justice Department – and asked for permission to investigate Manafort. And, yes, since no one running the Justice Department seems willing to say no to King Mueller, permission would likely have been granted.
But Mueller and Rosenstein did not do that. The special counsel raided Manafort’s home (as part of the investigation already underway) and then received authorization to investigate him! Mueller and company seem to be making up the rules as they go along.
Rosenstein’s August CYA memo demonstrates that when it comes to the Mueller operation, the Department of Justice is willing to throw the rule of law out the window.
The irregular Rosenstein memo also highlights the constitutional infirmities of the special counsel office.
Mueller isn’t supervised on a day-to-day basis by any Senate-confirmed or otherwise accountable official in the Justice Department. This has resulted in an uncontrolled investigation by a special counsel into who knows what.
All this helps explain why Mueller’s operation has been deep sea fishing in Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates and into the costs of Paul Manafort’s suits.
Shut it down.
HUD Still Funds Dicey Obama Plan to Make Slums Middle Class
President Ronald Reagan is quoted as saying, “Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this Earth!”
Programs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, are full of these “eternal” programs, many pernicious. Consider this latest tale from our Corruption Chronicles blog.
A controversial Obama program that’s reaped enormous amounts of taxpayer money to transform slums into desirable middle-class neighborhoods just got a $5 million infusion from the Trump administration.
Known as Choice Neighborhoods, the costly experiment was the centerpiece of a broader Obama initiative to convert poverty-stricken neighborhoods into sustainable, mixed-income areas with affordable housing, safe streets and good schools. It was launched as a collaboration between the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Education, Justice, Treasury and Health and Human Services (HHS) to help attract private investment necessary to transform distressed areas.
During Obama’s tenure, Choice Neighborhoods received a breathtaking $375 million, according to HUD figures. A substantial chunk of it—$120 million—was rewarded as a parting gift in 2016, the HUD numbers reveal, and the largest portion—$122.27 million—was allocated in 2010 when Obama launched the program. Like many of the former president’s initiatives, large sums of cash went to leftist nonprofits and community groups that aligned with his liberal agenda. Back in 2012 Judicial Watch reported that the administration paid half a million dollars to study the effectiveness of Choice Neighborhoods, including the challenges of bringing healthy food options to poor areas and the characteristics of the neighborhoods being targeted for transformation.
The recent $5 million infusion will promote “a comprehensive approach to transforming neighborhoods struggling to address the interconnected challenges of distressed housing, inadequate schools, poor health, high crime, and lack of capital,” according to a HUD statement. Los Angeles, California; Lewiston, Maine; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, will receive the biggest portions, $1.3 million each. Chicago Illinois, Huntington West Virginia and Cleveland, Ohio, each get $350,000 to revitalize poor neighborhoods.
The goal is to replace distressed public housing with high-quality, mixed-income housing and improve residents’ employment, income, health and education. Ultimately this will create the conditions necessary for public and private reinvestment in distressed neighborhoods, the agency announcement states. Three of the awardees will get an additional $950,000 for “action activities” to build momentum and attract additional investment, according to HUD. The extra cash can be used to recycle vacant properties into community gardens or farmers’ markets or for community arts projects that beautify an area.
There was tremendous hope that the Trump administration would cut back on some of these wasteful Obama-era programs at many of the government’s largest agencies, especially HUD. So far that hasn’t been the case. Earlier this year HUD gave dozens of leftist groups that purport to fight housing discrimination $37 million. The biggest chunk—$999,962—went to a nonprofit that attacked President Trump for terminating an Obama program that protects hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants living in the U.S. Shortly before getting its money the Washington D.C. group, National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), bashed the president over a contentious policy known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that shields nearly 800,000 illegal aliens under the age of 31 from deportation and lets them obtain work permits and drivers’ licenses.
HUD has been embroiled in a multitude of serious scandals—under both Democrat and Republican administrations—over the years, involving leadership, low-level employees and field directors. Problems go back to the Ronald Reagan administration, when an influence-peddling scandal led to the conviction of 16 people, including top aides to then HUD Secretary Samuel Pierce.
Bill Clinton’s housing secretary, Henry Cisneros, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about payments to his former mistress. George W. Bush’s HUD secretary, Alphonso Jackson, was ousted after the feds launched an investigation into his plots to enrich himself and his friends by giving them lucrative government contracts. Barack Obama’s second HUD secretary, Julian Castro, misspent the agency’s federal funds as mayor of San Antonio.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton