Avoiding Transparency

As I have previously written, Judicial Watch has done an amazing job of keeping our government transparent, regardless of which party is in power. Recently, Judicial Watch uncovered records that the State Department (during the Obama administration) had told them did not exist. The documents uncovered reveal that the Obama administration was tracting FOIA requests. The question is whether or not Secretary of State Clinton was attemptig to evade FOIA by using her private server.

Yesterday Judicial Watch issued the following Press Release:

WH called – have we received a FOIA request’ – State Department 

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it obtained 44 pages of records from the State Department through court-ordered discovery revealing that the Obama White House was tracking a December 2012 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking records concerning then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of an unsecure, non-government email system. Months after the Obama White House involvement, the State Department responded to the requestor, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), falsely stating that no such records existed.

Judicial Watch’s discovery is centered upon whether Clinton intentionally attempted to evade the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by using a non-government email system and whether the State Department acted in bad faith in processing Judicial Watch’s FOIA request for communications from Clinton’s office. U.S District Court Judge Royce Lamberth ordered Obama administration senior State Department officials, lawyers, and Clinton aides, as well as E.W. Priestap, to be deposed or answer written questions under oath. The court ruled that the Clinton email system was “one of the gravest modern offenses to government transparency.”

The State Department’s Office of Inspector General issued a report in January 2016 saying “At the time the request was received, dozens of senior officials throughout the Department, including members of Secretary Clinton’s immediate staff, exchanged emails with the Secretary using the personal accounts she used to conduct official business.” Also, the IG “found evidence that [Clinton Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills] was informed of the request at the time it was received …”

The State Department produced records in response to court-ordered document requests that detail Obama White House involvement in the Clinton email FOIA request.

In a December 20, 2012, email with the subject line “Need to track down a FOIA request from CREW”, Sheryl L. Walter, director of the State Department’s Office of Information Programs and Services (A/GIS/IPS), writes to IPS officials Rosemary D. Reid and Patrick D. Scholl and their assistants:

WH called – have we received a FOIA request from CREW (Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington) on the topic of personal use of email by senior officials? Apparently other agencies have. If we have it, can you give me the details so I can call the WH back? I think they’d like it on quick turnaround. Thanks! Sheryl

In the same email chain, Walter on December 20, 2012 also emailed Heather Samuelson, Clinton’s White House liaison, describing the CREW FOIA request:

Hi Heather – Copy attached, it was in our significant weekly FOIA report that we send to L and S/ES also. Do you want us to add you to that list? It’s a subset of things like this that we think likely to be of broader Department interest. More detail below re this request. As a practical matter given our workload, it won’t be processed for some months. Let me know if there are any particular sensitivities. If we don’t talk later, happy holidays! All the best, Sheryl

Sheryl: The request is assigned Case #F-2012-40981. It was received on 12/6/2012 and acknowledged on 12/10/2012. The request is assigned for processing.

On January 10, 2013, Walter writes to Samuelson that she is not including “personal” accounts in the FOIA request search:

Hi Heather – did you ever get any intell re what other agencies are doing re this FOIA request that seeks records about the number of email accounts associated with the Secretary (but isn’t specifying “personal” email accounts so we are interpreting as official accounts only). We are considering contacting the requester to find out exactly what it is they are looking for. Do you have any-concerns about that approach?

Soon afterward, Samuelson responds, “White House Counsel was looking into this for me. I will circle back with them now to see if they have further guidance.”

CREW’s general counsel, Anne Weismann, submitted a FOIA request to the State Department on December 6, 2012, seeking “records sufficient to show the number of email accounts of or associated with Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the extent to which those email accounts are identifiable as those of or associated with Secretary Clinton.”

On May 10, 2013, [Information Programs and Services] replied to CREW, stating that “no records responsive to your request were located.”

Samuelson became Secretary Clinton’s personal lawyer and in 2014 led the review of Clinton’s emails to determine which ones were work-related and which were personal. She was also one of five close Clinton associates granted immunity by the Department of Justice in the Clinton email investigation.

Samuelson is one of several Obama administration and State Department officials ordered by U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth to respond under oath to Judicial Watch questions regarding whether Clinton’s private email use while Secretary of State was an intentional attempt to evade FOIA.

The new documents also include a January 2013 email exchange discussing Clinton’s departure from the State Department in which Agency Records Officer Tasha M. Thian specifically stating that Secretary Clinton “does not use email.”

This was directly contradicted by an email exchange between Secretary Clinton and Gen. David Petraeus dating back to January 2009 – the very first days of Clinton’s State Department tenure – in which she tells Petraeus that she “had to change her email address.”

Interestingly, this email exchange between Petraeus and Clinton was not produced in a related FOIA lawsuit seeking “all emails” of Hillary Clinton. The bottom portion of the email chain was produced, but not the beginning emails.

In a January 2013 email under the subject “RE: Sec Clinton’s papers,” Thian writes:

Just so you know, Secretary Clinton – she brought with her a lot of material as Senator and First Lady – 47 boxes. In case you hear there are many boxes I wanted you to know what they are. She is taking her copies of photos, public speeches, press statements, contacts, templates (some of these are both hard copy and electronic), reimbursements, etc …

Although Sec. Clinton does not use email [emphasis added] her staffers do – I have agreed that the emails of the three staffers will be electronically captured (and not printed out).

Also included in the new batch of documents is the draft Departing Officials Notice, which states that State Department personnel are not to remove classified records from Department “custody and control.”

The new records obtained by Judicial Watch are further evidence revealing the Obama White House’s early knowledge of questions surrounding Clinton’s email use. In late April, Judicial Watch announced that E.W. (Bill) Priestap, assistant director of the FBI Counterintelligence Division, had admitted, in writing and under oath, that the agency found Clinton email records in the Obama White House, specifically, the Executive Office of the President.

“These documents suggest the Obama White House knew about the Clinton email lies being told to the public at least as early as December 2012,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “A federal court granted Judicial Watch discovery into the Clinton emails because the court wanted answers about a government cover-up of the Clinton emails. And now we have answers because it looks like the Obama White House orchestrated the Clinton email cover-up.”

Judicial Watch’s filed its 2014 FOIA lawsuit after the State Department failed to respond to a May 13, 2014 FOIA request (Judicial Watch v. Department of State (No. 1:14-cv-01242)).

Real news is out there, you just have to look for it. Sometimes you simply have to go after it using the legal process.

Is Anyone Actually Surprised By This?

Yesterday BizPacReview reported:

Recently published case files from the FBI’s investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appear to show that certain evidence from that investigation has gone “missing.”

Reportedly released last week by the FBI itself, the records contain internal emails sent only three months ago in which it’s revealed that a CD that contained notes from an Aug. 3, 2015 meeting with the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community has gone “missing.”

One email starts by saying that certain “Special Agents (SAs)” have been gathering and captioning evidence “in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)” request.

Judicial Watch has been doing a phenomenal job of investigating the Hillary Clinton email scandal.

On May 1, Judicial Watch issued the following in regard to their investigation:

Judge Lamberth made the ruling in Judicial Watch’s 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.

“A federal court wants answers on the Clinton email scandal and Mr. Sullivan is one of many witnesses Judicial Watch will question under oath,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “It is shameful that the Justice and State Departments continue to try to protect Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration on the email scandal.”

U.S District Court Judge Royce Lamberth ordered Obama administration senior State Department officials, lawyers, and Clinton aides, as well as E.W. Priestap, to be deposed or answer written questions under oath. The court ruled that the Clinton email system was “one of the gravest modern offenses to government transparency.”

Judicial Watch previously released interrogatory responses given under oath by E.W. (Bill) Priestap, assistant director of the FBI Counterintelligence Division, in which he stated that agency found Clinton email records in the Obama White House, specifically, the Executive Office of the President.

I will post more on the Judicial Watch investigation as it becomes available. Meanwhile, it seems as if the government’s investigation can’t get out of its own way.

BizPacReview reports:

“On February 6, 2019, SA [redacted] contacted SA [redacted] regarding the notes,” another email reads. “SA [redacted] explained he documented all relevant case materials before leaving the case and did not retain any notes or other case materials. As such WFO CI-13 considers the item missing and will enclose this document [the email?] into 1A4 as a placeholder until the missing item is located.”

In other words, this evidence — whatever it may be — has inexplicably been destroyed (someone or something cracked the CD) or gone “missing,” as the federal agency would prefer to put it.

What it’s unclear what aspect of the Clinton investigation these notes had covered, what’s known is that Clinton has a track record of destroying evidence.

Around March of 2015, it was learned that the then-Democrat presidential candidate had “unilaterally decided to wipe her server clean and permanently delete all emails from her personal server,” as noted at the time by then-Congressman Trey Gowdy.

When asked later that year by Fox News’ Ed Henry about wiping her server clean, she tried to feign ignorance by innocently asking, “Like with a cloth or something?

Clinton also reportedly ordered her aides to discard her old SIM cards and destroy her Blackberrys.

Obstruction, anyone?

The Need To Hold Individuals Accountable

I think one of the most frustrating things about watching the news these days is watching people in power say things that have no foundation in fact and do things that an ordinary person would go to jail for. Those days may be coming to an end (one can only hope).

Yesterday The Gateway Pundit reported that Judicial Watch has filed an ethics complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics against House Intel Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA).

The article reports:

The official complaint filed by Judicial Watch with the Office of Congressional Ethics, requests House Intel Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) be investigated in connection with recent revelations that he secretly met with Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson in Aspen, Colorado in July of 2018.

The complaint also requests Schiff be investigated after it was revealed his staff traveled to New York and met with Michael Cohen for 10 hours prior to Trump’s former lawyer testifying to the House Intel Panel.

The article includes a portion of the ethics complaint:

Dear Chairman Skaggs,

Judicial Watch is a non-profit, non-partisan educational foundation, which promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government and fidelity to the rule of law. We regularly monitor congressional ethics issues as part of our anti-corruption mission.

This letter serves as our official complaint to the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) concerning the activities of Rep. Adam Schiff. Rep. Schiff appears to have violated House Code of Official Conduct, Rule 23, clauses 1 and 2, by inappropriately communicating with witnesses. Clauses 1 and 2 provide:

1.A Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, officer, or employee of the House shall behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.

2.A Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, officer, or employee of the House shall adhere to the spirit and the letter of the Rules of the House and to the rules of duly constituted committees thereof.

Rep. Adam Schiff attended the Aspen Security Forum conference in July 2018, which was also attended by Glenn Simpson, the founder of the firm Fusion GPS. Press reports have detailed evidence of a meeting and discussion between Rep. Schiff and Glenn Simpson at the July 2018 Aspen Security Forum. As noted in The Hill newspaper:

At the time of the encounter, Simpson was an important witness in the House Intelligence Committee probe who had given sworn testimony about alleged, but still unproven, collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Fusion GPS is the political opposition research firm involved in procuring “unverified” information claiming the Trump presidential campaign had “colluded” with Russia, among other things. That Fusion OPS-supplied information was the basis upon which the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) obtained Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) surveillance warrants against Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page.

Mr. Simpson’s leadership of Fusion GPS and his centrality to events resulted in his having to testify before congressional committees or their staffs. Specifically, Mr. Simpson testified before the House Intelligence Committee, of which Rep. Schiff was the ranking Democratic member, on October 16, 2018 – approximately three (3) months after the Aspen Security Forum.

We note that following revelations in 2017 that Rep. Devin Nunes had informed President Trump that U.S. intelligence agencies had been engaging in “incidental collection” of his campaign’s communications, Rep. Schiff demanded that Rep. Nunes, then Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, recuse himself from any investigations involving alleged Trump collusion with Russia. Indeed, Rep. Schiff wrote the following on twitter:

This is not a recommendation I make lightly … But in much the same way that the attorney general [Jeff Sessions] was forced to recuse himself from the Russia investigation after failing to inform the Senate of his meetings with Russian officials, I believe the public cannot have the necessary confidence that matters involving the president’s campaign or transition team can be objectively investigated or overseen by the chairman.

Then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi concurred with Rep. Schiff’s call for Mr. Nunes to recuse himself.

The July 2018 contacts between Rep. Schiff and Mr. Simpson create, at a minimum, the appearance of impropriety. As a result of Rep. Schiff’s previously undisclosed, private discussions with Mr. Simpson, the public’s confidence in Mr. Schiff’s ability to objectively and impartially carry out his duties as Committee Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence have been gravely damaged.

Further, Rep. Schiff’s contacts with Mr. Michael Cohen should also be scrutinized in the same light as the Simpson contacts. Journalists have reported:

President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen told House investigators this week that staff for Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., traveled to New York at least four times to meet with him for over 10 hours immediately before last month’s high-profile public testimony, according to two sources familiar with the matter – as Republicans question whether the meetings amounted to coaching a witness.

The sources said the sessions covered a slew of topics addressed during the public hearing before the oversight committee – including the National Enquirer ‘s “Catch and Kill” policy, American Media CEO David Pecker and the alleged undervaluing of President Trump’s assets.

Judicial Watch is a watchdog group that fights for government transparency. The are equally hard on Democrats and Republicans. They have been major players in exposing much of the deep state in recent years.

Ignoring Government Transparency Rules

The following is a Judicial Watch Press Release dated November 1:

Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it filed lawsuits regarding the maintenance of text messages as federal records and for records of the audit of communications of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

After the FBI claimed that text messages are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Judicial Watch filed suit to ensure that text messages are being preserved. The new Administrative Procedure Act lawsuit against the FBI challenges the FBI failure to preserve FBI text messages as required by the Federal Records Act. (Judicial Watch v. FBI (No.1:18-cv-02316)).

In its lawsuit Judicial Watch points to a related case in which Michael G. Seidel, the assistant section chief of the Record/Information Dissemination Section in the FBI’s Information Management Division, stated: “text messages on [FBI]-issued devices are not automatically integrated into an FBI records system.” (Danik v. U.S. Department of Justice, (No. 1:17-cv-01792)).

Judicial Watch argued that the FBI “does not have a recordkeeping program in place that provides effective controls over the maintenance of electronic messages, including text messages.” Moreover, “The FBI relies upon its personnel to incorporate their text messages into a recordkeeping system. If FBI personnel do not actively incorporate their text messages into a recordkeeping system, the text messages are not preserved.”

Judicial Watch asked the court to declare the FBI’s failure to have a recordkeeping program for electronic messages to be “not in accordance with law” and that the court order the FBI “to establish and maintain a recordkeeping program that provides effective controls over the maintenance of electronic messages.”

If text messages are not preserved, then they may be deleted and never produced to Congress, criminal investigators, and to the American people under FOIA.

Judicial Watch also filed suit against the Justice Department after the DOJ failed to respond to an August 27, 2018, FOIA request seeking the FBI’s audit records of McCabe’s communications (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:18-cv-02283)).

In 2015, a political action committee run by Terry McAuliffe, a close friend and political supporter of Bill and Hillary Clinton, donated nearly $500,000 to Andrew McCabe’s wife Jill, who was then running for the Virginia State Senate. Also, the Virginia Democratic Party, over which McAuliffe had significant influence, donated an additional $207,788 to the Jill McCabe campaign. In July 2015, Andrew McCabe was in charge of the FBI’s Washington, DC, field office, which provided personnel resources to the Clinton email probe.

In July 2017, Judicial Watch filed three FOIA lawsuits seeking communications between the FBI and McCabe concerning “ethical issues” involving his wife’s political campaign; McCabe’s communications with McAuliffe; and McCabe’s travel vouchers.

Following an Inspector General Report, a grand jury reportedly was impaneled recently to investigate McCabe’s possible role in leaks to the media “to advance his personal interests.”

The FBI has told Judicial Watch that it is under no legal obligation to produce any of Andrew McCabe’s text messages under FOIA, which has attracted criticism from President Trump.

“This lawsuit exposes a massive FBI cover-up of its text messages, which are government records and are, by the thousands, likely to have been deleted and lost by FBI employees,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “And of course, this cover-up conveniently impacts the production of text messages to Judicial Watch and Congress of disgraced FBI officials Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page and James Comey.”

It is time to uncover the corruption in the FBI during the Obama administration. The FBI should be subject to FOIA requests.

About That Transparency Thing…

As anyone who regularly reads this blog is aware, I am involved in the fight against Common Core in North Carolina. There is a better plan, the North Carolina Education Plan, that would better suit the students of North Carolina–it will encourage critical thinking and improve both their reading and mathematics skills. Common Core is a one-size-fits-all group of standards that is heavily funded by the Bill Gates Foundation and supported by the political class in Washington, D.C. Bill Gates himself has stated, “It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.”  The father of Common Core is the “No Child Left Behind” Law which moved a large part of education in America under the control of the federal government. Just for the record, the federal government does not have the Constitutional right to control local education. Well, No Child Left Behind has morphed into the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, now before Congress.

On Thursday, Truth In American Education posted an article about the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

The article stated:

Because the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind) will be the largest piece of federal education legislation Congress will pass in over a decade, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) should allow the bill to be made publicly available for at least 60 days before the House considers it.

The bill is not scheduled to be made publicly available until November 30th. Thus, a vote should not be scheduled until late January. Currently, it is scheduled for December 2; two days is clearly not sufficient. House members will be forced to vote on a bill they haven’t read.

The American people expected a new style of leadership under Speaker Ryan, not more of the same. If he allows a bill of this magnitude to become law without adequately vetting its merits and faults, it will affirm that the same ills that plagued Congress under Speaker Boehner remain fully intact.

Transparency is obviously an issue here, but there are other issues.

The article further states:

What we have heard, but can’t confirm:

The new bill is hundreds of pages longer than either prior version.

It contains new programs that weren’t in either prior version.

There is a new competitive grant for pre-schools- think Race to the Top for Tots

Very complex language that is unclear. This means the US Depart of Education will have tremendous leeway to interpret it to the advantage of the federal government. Because it has discretion over how to administer the law, unclear language makes it easier for the US Department of Education to justify and make decisions to place requirements on the states through its rule-making authority.

Education needs to be under local control. Admittedly, every student in America needs to learn basic English and Mathematics, but different areas of the country have different educational needs beyond that. Americans are individuals, we need to have an education system that educates individuals. One size does not fit all.

One thing that could really help the federal budget would be to get rid of the Department of Education on the federal level. In 1953, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare became a cabinet-level agency of the U.S. government. In 1979, Jimmy Carter created the cabinet-level Department of Education. In 1979, the Office of Education had 3,000 employees and an annual budget of $12 billion. When the Department of Education was created, it had an annual budget of $14.2 billion and 17,000 employees. According to the government Budget Office, the U. S. Department of Education currently administers a budget of $67.1 billion in discretionary appropriations. I truly think it is time for them to go away.

I also think it is time for Speaker Paul Ryan to live up to his promises about transparency.