by Tom Fitton –
Your Judicial Watch performed a massive public service this week. We exposed how key Obama spying scandal documents, including the infamous Susan Rice unmasking records, were moved to the Obama Presidential Library.
The National Security Council (NSC) informed us by letter on May 23, 2017, that the materials regarding the unmasking by Obama National Security Advisor Susan Rice of “the identities of any U.S. citizens associated with the Trump presidential campaign or transition team” have been removed to the Obama Library.
The NSC will not fulfill our April 4 request for records regarding information relating to people “who were identified pursuant to intelligence collection activities.”
The agency also informed us that it would not turn over communications with any intelligence community member or agency concerning the alleged Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election; the hacking of DNC computers; or the suspected communications between Russia and Trump campaign/transition officials. Specifically, the NSC told us:
Documents from the Obama administration have been transferred to the Barack Obama Presidential Library. You may send your request to the Obama Library. However, you should be aware that under the Presidential Records Act, Presidential records remain closed to the public for five years after an administration has left office.
Our April 4 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request sought:
1.) Any and all requests for information, analyses, summaries, assessments, transcripts, or similar records submitted to any Intelligence Community member agency or any official, employee, or representative thereof by former National Security Advisor Susan Rice regarding, concerning, or related to the following:
• Any actual or suspected effort by the Russian government or any individual acting on behalf of the Russian government to influence or otherwise interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
• The alleged hacking of computer systems utilized by the Democratic National Committee and/or the Clinton presidential campaign.
• Any actual or suspected communication between any member of the Trump presidential campaign or transition team and any official or employee of the Russian government or any individual acting on behalf of the Russian government.
• The identities of U.S. citizens associated with the Trump presidential campaign or transition team who were identified pursuant to intelligence collection activities.
2.) Any and all records or responses received by former National Security Advisor Susan Rice and/or any member, employee, staff member, or representative of the National Security Council in response to any request described in part 1 of this request.
3.) Any and all records of communication between any official, employee, or representative of the Department of any Intelligence Community member agency and former National Security Advisor Susan Rice and/or any member, employee, staff member, or representative of the National Security Council regarding, concerning, or related to any request described in Part 1 of this request.
The time frame for this request was January 1, 2016, to April 4, 2017.
While acknowledging in its FOIA request that “we are cognizant of the finding by the Court of Appeals … that [the NSC] “does not exercise sufficiently independent authority to be an ‘agency’ for purposes of the Freedom of Information Act,” we argued:
The records sought in this request pertain to actions by the former National Security Advisor that demonstrate a much higher degree of independent authority than was contemplated by the court; specifically, the issuance of directives to the Intelligence Community related to the handling of classified national security information…
The recent revelations of the role of Susan Rice in the unmasking the names of U.S. citizens identified in the course of intelligence collection activities and the potential that her actions contributed to the unauthorized disclosure of classified national security information are matters of great public interest.
We have filed six FOIA lawsuits related to the surveillance, unmasking, and illegal leaking targeting President Trump and his associates (see here, here, here, here, here and here).
Prosecutors, Congress, and the public will want to know when the National Security Council shipped off the records about potential intelligence abuses by Susan Rice and others in the Obama White House to the memory hole of the Obama Presidential Library. We are considering our legal options, but we hope that the Special Counsel and Congress also consider their options and get these records.
As noted, the records could be squirreled away from the public for at least five years, but there are ways they can be obtained almost immediately under law.
The exceptions to Obama Library records restricted access are as follows:
“subject to any rights, defenses, or privileges which the United States or any agency or person may invoke, Presidential records shall be made available–
(A) pursuant to subpoena or other judicial process issued by a court of competent jurisdiction for the purposes of any civil or criminal investigation or proceeding;
(B) to an incumbent President if such records contain information that is needed for the conduct of current business of the incumbent President’s office and that is not otherwise available; and
(C) to either House of Congress, or, to the extent of matter within its jurisdiction, to any committee or subcommittee thereof if such records contain information that is needed for the conduct of its business and that is not otherwise available;
You can see that both President Trump and Congress can quickly get ahold of these records. As JW considers it legal options, they should both move quickly to preserve, protect, and disclose the Obama spying scandal documents to JW and the American people.
Judicial Watch Sues for Obama Family Travel and Secret Service Costs
Our presidents are catered to 24/7, and nobody would deny them safety and tools to do the job. However, all too often they seem to be tempted to slip into occasional ostentation, to conflate their personal and political agendas with the duties of their office? You know it happens, and we do, too.
That’s why filed a Freedom of Information lawsuit (FOIA) against the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security seeking Air Force and Secret Service expense records for Obama family travel dating back to 2014. We filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security (No. 117-cv-01007)).
We also want Secret Service expenditure records for the kickoff to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign between April 1 and May 6, 2015. Additionally, we seek travel records regarding President-elect Donald Trump between November 9 and December 12, 2016, for residing in Trump Tower and then going on a “Thank You Tour” of six states.
We went to court after the Air Force and Secret Service failed to respond to multiple FOIA requests filed between October and December 2016.
Our requests to the Air Force are seeking records concerning mission taskings, transportation costs, and passenger manifests for:
• Obama’s trip to Los Angeles in October 2016, which included two fundraisers and an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live”
• Michelle Obama’s October 2016 appearance at a Clinton campaign rally in North Carolina
• Obama’s November 2016 appearance at a Clinton campaign rally in Orlando, FL.
Our requests to the Secret Service are seeking all records of costs for providing security and other services for all VIPs for the following:
• Obama Palm Springs vacation in February 2014.
• Michelle Obama and her daughters on their yearly Aspen vacation in February 2014. The Secret Service expenditures totaled $121,876.21 for a similar vacation in 2015, which includes airfare.
• Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from April 1, 2015 – May 6, 2015.
• Michelle Obama’s trip to Morocco, Spain and Liberia in June and July 2016 to “promote education.”
• Obama’s vacation to Martha’s Vineyard in August 2016.
• Michelle Obama’s October 2016 Clinton campaign stop in North Carolina.
• Obama’s October 2016 trip to Los Angeles.
• Obama’s November 2016 trip to Orlando.
• Security expenses for then President-Elect Donald Trump and Trump Tower in New York, New York from November 9, 2106 – December 5, 2016.
• President-elect Trump’s “Thank You Tour” from November 9, 2016 – December 12, 2016.
• Security expenses for Obama’s residence in Chicago, Illinois, between January 20, 2009 – December 7, 2016.
As you know, we monitored Obama family travel costs throughout his presidency. On May 17, we announced our latest figures showing Obama family travel cost taxpayers at least $99,714,527.82 during his two terms.
We are also demanding transparency from the Trump administration, tracking and suing for records of the travel expenses incurred by President Trump, the First Lady and other VIPs.
The government could not care less about giving taxpayers basic information about what it costs to provide travel and protection to our political leadership and candidates. Judicial Watch shouldn’t have to file federal lawsuits to get basic information about how much taxpayers spend on the presidency, but if that what it takes….
President Trump: Please End the Obstruction on Benghazi Cover-up Documents
We have a new secretary at the State Department, but we apparently don’t have a new attitude in the agency about releasing information that might make even a former Obama official look bad.
You can find the background in the fine work of our JW staff attorneys who just asked a federal court to order the department to end its “slow dragging strategy” in producing documents regarding the handling of requests about the false talking points used by then-Ambassador Susan Rice to talk about the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. (We’re in court as part of a FOIA lawsuit we filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch vs. Department of State (No. 1:17-cv-00205)).
You will recall that in the wake of the attacks in which four Americans were killed, Rice was dispatched to five Sunday news programs to falsely claim that the Benghazi attack was the result of a “spontaneous” protest against an “anti-Islamic” Internet video. Separate JW litigation into the Benghazi talking-points scandal led to the discovery of the Hillary Clinton email issue and to the creation of the House Select Committee on Benghazi. Now we want to know how the Clinton email scandal was covered up the Obama State Department.
On May 26, the State Department informed us that the department’s “searches have uncovered in excess of 3,100 potentially responsive documents.” On June 1, the State Department disclosed that the documents consist of approximately 51,329 potentially responsive pages.
The State Department initially proposed a production schedule that we argued would “carry out the rolling production of responsive documents by more than 30 months (to December 2019).” The State Department then amended the proposal to extend its production to October 2018.
But we aren’t happy with this delay so my attorney colleagues asked the court to order the State Department to produce all “non-exempt responsive records” in three monthly productions, with a final production on or before September 30, 2017.
Back on March 15 the State Department was ordered to produce documents. Judicial Watch argues in its new filing that:
The State Department’s two productions included a total of 22 documents released in full. During the course of approximately 10 weeks, [the State Department] processed and reviewed only 108 documents in response to [Judicial Watch’s] FOIA request (as 86 documents were withheld in full) – an average of 10 documents per week or 4 documents per business day.
The Trump administration needs to put its foot down and stop the Deep State from protecting Hillary Clinton and the Obama gang. It is disheartening to see the Trump administration stall the release of documents about the Benghazi cover-up. President Trump needs to take direct action to ensure the truth truly and fully comes out about the Benghazi scandal.
We sued after the State Department failed to respond to a December 2, 2016, FOIA request seeking:
• All records related to the processing of the FOIA request served on the State Department by Judicial Watch, Inc. on May 13, 2014. All tasking, tracking, and reporting records for searches conducted in response to the request should be considered responsive. Forms DS-1748 and any “search slips,” “search tasker,” and “search details,” also should be considered responsive.
• All internal State Department communications that relate to the processing of or search for records responsive to the FOIA request, including any guidance about how and where to conduct the searches, whether and how to search the emails of then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and any issues, problems, or questions regarding the searches and/or search results.
• All records that relate to the State Department’s discovery, prior to February 2, 2015, that additional searches for records responsive to the FOIA request were necessary. In this regard, the State Department represented in a February 2, 2015 status report filed in litigation regarding the FOIA request that:
o In the course of preparing additional information to provide to [Judicial Watch] for purposes of settlement discussions, [the State Department] has discovered that additional searches for documents potentially responsive to the FOIA [request] must be conducted.
• All records that identify the location(s) or source(s) of potentially responsive records that necessitated the “additional searches …”
Previously, we filed a June 21, 2013, FOIA lawsuit about the Benghazi talking points that produced a declassified email showing then-White House Deputy Strategic Communications Adviser Ben Rhodes and other Obama administration public relations officials attempting to orchestrate a campaign to “reinforce” President Obama and to portray the Benghazi consulate terrorist attack as being “rooted in an Internet video, and not a failure of policy” (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:13-cv-00951)).
Supreme Court to Hear Big Case Against Proposed Wisconsin Redistricting
We are praising the decision by the United States Supreme Court to stay a lower court’s ruling and to hear a case concerning gerrymandering in Wisconsin. Judicial Watch and the Allied Educational Foundation (AEF) filed an amici curiae brief in an effort to convince the high court to reject the arbitrary method of drawing Wisconsin’s electoral districts adopted in Beverly R. Gill, et al. v. William Whitford, et al. (No. 16-1161). The lower court struck down Wisconsin’s 2011 redistricting plan on the grounds that it was an unconstitutional gerrymander. We asked the court to take up the case and overturn that ruling.
Judicial Watch and AEF argued in our joint brief against the ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin that it relied in part on the use of a test for gerrymandering known as the “the efficiency gap,” which focuses on a purely hypothetical estimate of what each party “should” win in a “fair” election.
We pointed out that the test amounts to court-ordered proportional representation and that this will not prevent gerrymandering:
[P]roportional representation has nothing to do with preventing gerrymandering. Deviations from proportional representation, however defined, may occur for any number of reasons other than gerrymandering, including the political views or missteps or personal qualities of the candidates of one of the parties. The absence of proportional representation does not uniquely identify gerrymanders. In any event, proportional representation is not required by the Constitution.
We plan to file another amicus curiae brief as the case moves forward in the Supreme Court.
Here’s the bottom line: Leftists want the courts to overturn district lines if not enough Democrats win. We’re happy that the Supreme Court will now have a chance to rule that Democrats – or any political party – will not have a constitutional right to win elections.
Tom Fitton – President
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