When The Department Of Justice Forgets What It Is Supposed To Be Doing

Yesterday Judicial Watch posted an article revealing documents that had received from the Department of Justice through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request.

The article reports:

Judicial Watch today released 14 pages of records from the Department of Justice showing officials’ efforts in responding to media inquiries centering on talks within the DOJ/FBI allegedly invoking the 25th Amendment to “remove” President Donald Trump from office and former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein offering to wear a “wire” to record his conversations with the president.

The records show that, following a September 21, 2018, report on Rosenstein suggesting he would wear a wire to secretly record Trump and his discussions on using the 25th Amendment, Rosenstein sought to ensure the media would have “difficulty” finding anyone in the DOJ to comment and a concerted effort within the DOJ to frame the reporting as “inaccurate” and “factually incorrect.”

The records show DOJ officials had also discussed characterizing Rosenstein’s reported offer of wearing a wire to record Trump as merely “sarcastic.”

Additionally, the records show DOJ Public Affairs officer Sarah Isgur Flores, after conferring with other top DOJ officials and Rosenstein’s office about her email exchange with New York Times reporter Adam Goldman, waited 12 hours to forward the email exchange to DOJ Chief of Staff Matthew Whitaker. Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly had referred to Whitaker as the president’s “eyes and ears” in the DOJ.

Judicial Watch obtained the records through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed after the Justice Department failed to respond to three separate FOIA requests dated September 21, 2018 (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:19-cv-00388)). The lawsuit seeks all written and audio/visual records of any FBI/DOJ discussions regarding the 25th Amendment and plans to secretly record President Trump in the Oval Office.

The records obtained by Judicial Watch include a September 21, 2018, email from Assistant U.S. Attorney (DOJ/NSD) Harvey Eisenberg to Rosenstein informing the DAG that Washington Post reporter Ellen Nakashima had called inquiring about a New York Times report on the 25th Amendment/wire discussion, Rosenstein responds: “Thanks! Hopefully we are being successful, and the reporters are having difficulty finding anybody to comment about things. [Remainder of email redacted.]” Apparently in response to the redacted portion of Rosenstein’s reply, Eisenberg responds, “I’m aware. Besides letting you know, [redacted]. My best to you and the family.” Rosenstein replies, “I don’t mean about me. [Redacted.]”

The emails also detail the DOJ’s response to the initial story as it was being prepared by the New York Times. On September 20, 2018, the Times’ Goldman emails DOJ’s Flores that he and fellow reporter Mike Schmidt were working on a story and wanted a DOJ response to certain questions, including that at a May 16, 2017, meeting of senior federal law enforcement officials, Rosenstein offered to wear a “wire” to record his conversations with Trump. “He also said McCabe could wear a wire.”

In a second request for comment, Goldman alleges that in a separate conversation between Rosenstein and McCabe, they discussed using the 25th Amendment “to remove President Trump” and “Rosenstein said that he may be able to get (then-Attorney General Jeff) Sessions and Kelly to go along with the plan.”

In a third request for comment, Goldman said he’d learned that Rosenstein in a May 12, 2017, conversation at the DOJ Command Center “appeared ‘upset’ and ‘emotional’ over the Comey firing.”

In a fourth request for comment, Goldman said that in a May 14, 2017, conversation with McCabe, “Rosenstein asked McCabe to reach out to Comey to seek advice about appointing a special counsel. McCabe believed that was a bad idea.”

In a fifth and final request for which he sought DOJ comment, Goldman wrote, “Rosenstein considered appointing (former Deputy Attorney General) Jim Cole as the special counsel.”

On Sept 20, 2018, Flores forwarded the Goldman email to “Annie” and “Bill” — apparently White House Deputy Counsel Annie Donaldson and White House Communications Director Bill Shine — telling Donaldson, “Boss calling Don re the below – if you think appropriate, share with Don [presumably referring to White House Counsel Don McGahn]”. She tells Shine, “We’ve sent a response from the DAG that’s below and had someone in the room dispute the ‘wire’ part noting the dag was being sarcastic.” She then includes the DAG response, which reads, “The New York Times’s story is inaccurate and factually incorrect. I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the Department and are advancing their own personal agenda. But let me be clear about this: based on my personal dealings with the President, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.”

Shine thanks Flores and asks her to “share with Elliott ASAP.” Flores responds that if Shine is directing her to share with Elliott, “I don’t think I know who that is referring to.” Flores sent that response at 10:09 PM on September 20, but Flores waits until 10:00 a.m. the next day to forward the entire exchange to DOJ Chief of Staff Whitaker, saying: “Should have sent this to you last night.”

In a mostly redacted email exchange on the evening of September 20, 2018, shows the efforts of officials in the Public Affairs and DAG’s office to produce a response to the impending news article. DOJ Official Bradley Weinsheimer forwarded to Flores the “DAG response” to the allegations in the article, saying “DAG has cleared this, which is what we just discussed.” He then provides the official DAG response about the allegations over Rosenstein wanting to invoke the 25th Amendment against Trump as being “inaccurate and factually incorrect.” Deputy Attorney General’s office official Ed O’Callaghan responds, “Think good.” The rest of his response is redacted under (b)(5) – deliberative process.

In the final draft of the official DAG response approved by O’Callaghan, the statement is changed from “Based on my dealings with the President, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment” to “Based on my personal dealings with the President, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.”

The article concludes with an amazing statement:

“It is remarkable that Judicial Watch has done more to investigate the DOJ/FBI’s discussions about overthrowing President Trump than the DOJ or Congress,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “These documents essentially confirm the coup discussions about wearing a wire when speaking with President Trump and plans to remove him under the 25th Amendment.”

America just survived an attempted coup, and the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were part of that coup. No one has been held accountable, and that is frightening.

Leading By Example

Forbes Magazine posted an article today about the impact President Trump has had on the While House payroll.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • There are 110 fewer employees on White House staff under Trump than under Obama at this point in their respective presidencies.
  • $5.1 million in payroll savings vs. the Obama FY2015 payroll. In 2017, the Trump payroll amounts to $35.8 million for 377 employees, while the Obama payroll amounted to $40.9 million for 476 employees (FY2015).
  • Nineteen fewer staffers are dedicated to The First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS). Currently, there are five staffers dedicated to Melania Trump vs. 24 staffers who served Michelle Obama (FY2009).
  • Counts of the “Assistants to the President” – the most trusted advisors to the president – are the same (22) in both first-year Trump and Obama administrations. In the Trump White House, Steven Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Omarosa Manigault, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer and 17 others make salaries of $179,700. In Obama’s first-year, David Axelrod, Rahm Emanuel and twenty others held the title with top pay of $172,000.
  • The highest compensated White House Trump staffer? Mark House, Senior Policy Advisor, has a salary of $187,500. Mr. House is “on detail” from a federal agency which allows him to exceed the top pay-grade of $179,700. In Obama’s Administration (2009), David Marcozzi earned $193,000 “on detail” from Health and Human Services.

The article concludes:

At the nation’s founding, Ben Franklin said, “Diligence is the mother of good luck.” Although the White House personnel budget is an infinitesimal part of the $3.9 trillion federal budget, it could be a leading indicator of Trump’s commitment to cut waste, fraud and taxpayer abuse.

I wish we could pass this thriftiness along to Congress.

 

This Was A Serious Mistake

The Daily Caller is reporting today on a rather serious misstep by White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. During an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’sThis Week” today, Mr. McDonough accidentally revealed the first name of an American female aid worker being held hostage by ISIS.

The article reports:

“As it relates to our hostages, we are obviously continuing to work those matters very, very aggressively,” McDonough said. “We are sparing no expense and sparing no effort, both in trying to make sure that we know where they are and make sure that we’re prepared to do anything we must to try to get them home.”

“But [redacted] family knows how strongly the president feels about this, and we will continue to work this.”

Reached for comment by Politico, National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan, said: “We don’t have anything to add, other than to request again that you not use the name of the individual.”

This is not the first time the Obama Administration has revealed information that has put Americans in danger. Let’s hope it will be the last.

I Don’t Know Why This Makes Me Crazy, But It Does

Military.com reported last Thursday that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff to review ethics training and to brainstorm on ways to steer officers away from trouble. This is the same Leon Panetta that was President Bill Clinton‘s White House Chief of Staff from 1994 to 1997. One wonders if he every made a similar recommendation for ethics training for Presidents.

The article reports:

Panetta told Dempsey to work with the chiefs of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps to review ethics training for officers to determine whether they are adequate, and to provide views on “how to better foster a culture of value-based decision-making and stewardship” among senior officers and their staffs. That is another way of saying Panetta wants a game plan for ending the string of bad behavior.

He said the initial results of the chiefs’ review, along with their recommendations, should be ready in time for Panetta to report to President Barack Obama by Dec. 1. The text of the Panetta memo, which he signed on Wednesday, was provided Thursday to reporters traveling with the Pentagon chief, who was in Bangkok for talks with senior Thai government officials in advance of Obama’s visit here this weekend.

I probably need to apologize for my cynicism, but how come the Defense Secretary, the State Department, and the CIA can’t get a report on Benghazi on the President’s desk by December 1? It would seem to me that Benghazi would have a higher priority?

The article further points out:

Panetta also told reporters he could not rule out the possibility that the Taliban in Afghanistan would try to use Petraeus’ admission of an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, for propaganda purposes. Petraeus, who resigned Friday from his post as CIA director, was Allen’s predecessor as top commander in Afghanistan, leaving in summer 2011.

I am sorry that General Petraeus and General Allen did not behave appropriately while they were in Afghanistan. However, I need someone to explain to me why the head of the CIA had to resign over an extra-marital affair and the President of America (Bill Clinton) remained in office after an extra-marital affair. I am more than a little confused.

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Beware The Spin As The President’s Budget Is Released

ABC News posted a story yesterday about a statement made by White House chief of staff Jack Lew on CNN regarding President Obama’s 2012 budget proposal. Mr. Lew stated, “You can’t pass a budget in the Senate of the United States without 60 votes and you can’t get 60 votes without bipartisan supports. So unless… unless Republicans are willing to work with Democrats in the Senate, [Majority Leader] Harry Reid is not going to be able to get a budget passed.”

That statement is simply not true. Budgets require 51 votes for passage in the Senate. The other thing that needs to be mentioned here is that President Obama’s 2011 Budget was voted on in May and defeated 97-0. I don’t think the problem was the Republicans–the problem was the budget proposal!

The article reports the spin (and then continues the spin):

White House officials did not dispute that Lew misspoke. When asked about the discrepancy, a White House official said “the chief of staff was clearly referencing the general gridlock in Congress that makes accomplishing even the most basic tasks nearly impossible given the Senate Republicans’ insistence on blocking an up or down vote on nearly every issue.”

The issue highlights the difficulty the White House is having running against an obstructionist Congress when half of that Congress is controlled by Democrats, who obstruct things for their own reasons. In this case, political observers believe Reid is reluctant to have Democrats vote on a large budget full of deficits and tax increases that Republicans can use to run against them.

Although I commend Mr. Tapper on pointing out that what Mr. Lew said was not true, I disagree with him on the characterization of Congress as obstructionist. Not every bill that goes to Congress should be passed. How come Congress is only obstructionist when it stands in the way of what Democrats want to do?

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