FOIA lawsuit

October 29, 2019 – Judicial Watch obtains emails between Bruce Ohr, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page —DOJ is still withholding a majority of these communications

(Graphic Credit: Truthfeed)

“Judicial Watch announced today it received through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit 13 pages out of 42 responsive pages of communications between former FBI official Peter Strzok and DOJ official Bruce Ohr that the DOJ claimed previously it could not find.

(…) In the lawsuit, Judicial Watch challenged the DOJ’s extraordinary claim that there were no records of communications between Strzok and Ohr in light of the preeminent role both individuals played in the anti-Trump collusion investigation. In addition, Ohr himself testified before Congress that he did, in fact, meet and communicate with Strzok.

The documents show contact between Ohr and Strzok in the weeks after the 2016 presidential election, during the presidential transition, and in the days following President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page arranges a November 21, 2016, meeting from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at FBI headquarters. “Required attendees” include Ohr, Strzok, and FBI Deputy Assistant Director for Counterintelligence Jonathan Moffa.

On November 29, 2016, Ohr attempts to arrange a meeting between Strzok, Page, himself, and Deputy Assistant Attorney General (Criminal Division) Bruce Swartz.

Ohr writes to Strzok and Page under the subject Meeting with Bruce Swartz: “Thanks again for taking the time to chat today. As I mentioned, I would like to set up a short meeting for us with Bruce Swartz. Would next Monday at 5:30 p.m. work? Also, is there any chance you guys could come over to our building?”

Page responds: “Unfortunately, Pete is briefing HPSCI [House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence] from 5-6:30 on Monday. Just about any other time that day would work. And we’re happy to come to you (especially because Bruce S. always has good snacks…)” [smile emoticon]

Ohr responds to Page: “No problem – is 6:30 (or later) that day too late? Otherwise we may be into the next week. I will ensure the snacks are up to snuff!”

Page writes to Ohr at 5:46 p.m.: “Unfortunately, it is. Have a flight later that night. Sorry about that.”

Ohr responds at 6:32 p.m.: “Got it. I’ll find a few dates/times for the week after and shoot them to you.”

A meeting with importance classified as “high” is scheduled for December 5, 2016. Strzok, Ohr and Swartz are scheduled to meet from 5:30 to 6 p.m. at Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) 2213, and later is canceled.

On January 4, 2017, a Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) official in the Office of Special Measures [a unit within FinCEN set up to sanction foreign and domestic financial institutions] forwards to Ohr an unclassified but fully redacted FinCEN document, which Ohr then forwards to Strzok on February 1, 2017.

Ohr writes to Strzok: “Pete – As we discussed. I will forward the classified document as well, as well as one more unclassified document.”

January 30, 2017, FinCEN sent protected information and its password to [Redacted].

On February 1, 2017, at 2:11 pm Lisa Holtyn, Ohr’s assistant, sends to members of Bruce Ohr’s former team at Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) password protected information from FinCEN, saying “I’ll send the password separately.” Minutes later, she sends the same email to Bruce Ohr. Seconds after that, Ohr forwards the email to Strzok, followed by the password.

“Ohr and Strzok clearly were working regularly with each other during the time the illicit Spygate operation heated up against President Trump,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “It speaks volumes that Judicial Watch was forced to drag the DOJ and FBI into court in order to force the agency to admit to documents they’ve obviously had all along.” (Read more: Judicial Watch, 10/29/2019)  (Archive)

Sarah Carter writes in August 2018:

(…) “Ohr stated during his hours-long testimony that the FBI failed to disclose this pertinent information to the nation’s secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) when it sought an application to spy on Page. The FBI also failed to disclose that when it sought the application, it was using senior Justice Department official, Bruce Ohr as a cut-out for a source the bureau had terminated.

Ohr had also communicated with senior members of the FBI, including former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, FBI attorney Lisa Page, and former FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok, at the bureau but stated that his superiors at the Justice Department were not aware that he was being used as a source for the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign, according to sources who spoke to SaraACarter.com.” (Read more: Sarah Carter, 8/31/2018)

October 3, 2019 – Judicial Watch files a FOIA lawsuit for records about the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor at VP Biden’s insistence

“Judicial Watch announced today it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit for records about the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor after then-Vice President Joe Biden threatened to withhold aid. The lawsuit was filed yesterday against the U.S. Department of State (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:19-cv-02893)).

The suit was filed after the State Department failed to respond to a May 7, 2019, FOIA request seeking access to the following records:

1.       Any and all records regarding, concerning, or related to Viktor Shokin’s investigation of Mykola Zolchevsky and Shokin’s resignation at Ukraine’s Prosecutor General.

2.       Any and all records of communication between any official, employee, or representative of the Department of State and any official, employee, or representative of the Office of the Vice President regarding Viktor Shokin.

In a widely distributed video, Joe Biden confirmed that he successfully pressured, under threat of withholding $1 billion in U.S. government aid, the Ukrainian government to fire Shokin, who had allegedly launched an investigation into Burisma, which had purportedly paid Biden’s son Hunter $50,000 a month.

“The latest assault on President Trump is an obvious attempt to protect Joe Biden from the corruption scandals involving his son,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Judicial Watch’s latest lawsuit will be the first of many to try to get to the bottom of this influence-peddling scandal.”

(Judicial Watch, 10/03/2019)

September 18, 2019 – Judicial Watch files a FOIA lawsuit for the records of FBI Special Agent Michael Gaeta

Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Justice (DOJ) for records about FBI Special Agent Michael Gaeta, who was the Legal Attaché in Rome who helped circulate the Steele dossier (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:19-cv-02722)).

The suit was filed after the Justice Department and FBI failed to respond to an August 10, 2018, FOIA requests seeking:

  • All records of communications, including emails (using [his or her] own name or aliases), text messages, instant chats and encrypted messages, sent to and from former FBI Legal Attaché in Rome, Special Agent Michael Gaeta, mentioning the terms “Trump”, “Clinton”, “Republican”, “Democrat”, and/or “conservatives.”
  • All SF50s and SF52s of SA Michael Gaeta.
  • All expense reports and travel vouchers submitted for SA Michael Gaeta.

On August 28, 2018, Bruce Ohr testified before a joint task force of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees that Christopher Steele, author of the Clinton funded dossier, gave two reports from the dossier to Gaeta.

In the July 30 meeting, Chris Steele also mentioned something about the doping — you know, one of the doping scandals. And he also mentioned, I believe — and, again, this is based on my review of my notes — that he had provided Mr. Gaeta with two reports…”

The only thing I recall him mentioning is that he had provided two of his reports to Special Agent Gaeta.

Gaeta reportedly was authorized by then Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland to meet with Steele at his office in London to receive reports from the dossier

The purpose of the London visit was clear. Steele was personally handing the first memo in his dossier to Gaeta for ultimate transmission back to the FBI and the State Department.

For this visit, the FBI sought permission from the office of Nuland, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. Nuland, who had been the recipient of many of Steele’s reports, gave permission for the more formal meeting. On July 5, 2016, Gaeta traveled to London and met with Steele at the offices of Steele’s firm, Orbis.

“The FBI is covering up its role in the Russiagate hoax,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Judicial Watch has had to fight the FBI ‘tooth and nail’ for every scrap of information about the illicit targeting of President Trump.” (Read more: September 18, 2019)

August 23, 2019 – Unsealed documents prove former Trump associate, Felix Sater, was an informant for the FBI, CIA and DIA

Felix Sater (Credit: Stephen Voss/Redux)

“A former Trump business associate and witness in the special counsel’s probe provided “extensive” cooperation to U.S. spy agencies in numerous terrorism and mafia-related investigations, according to a court filing unsealed Friday.

Felix Sater provided the FBI, CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency with intelligence on a broad range of topics over the course of more than a decade, Benton J. Campbell, the then-U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in an Aug. 27, 2009 court filing.

(…) Sater, an American citizen born in Russia, formally began cooperating with the U.S. government on Dec. 10, 1998, as part of an agreement that required him to plead guilty to racketeering and money laundering charges related to a $40 million stock scheme.

Over the course of the next decade, Sater obtained intelligence regarding mafia activities in New York, Russian organized crime schemes in Cyprus, and al-Qaeda activities in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Sater was credited with obtaining Osama bin Laden’s satellite phone numbers and with providing information about an assassination attempt against President George W. Bush.

Sater’s lawyers said in an Oct. 19, 2009 filing also unsealed Friday that he worked with U.S. military intelligence to covertly obtain details about a Russian anti-missile system.

The court filings, which were unsealed in response to a lawsuit media companies filed, confirm details of BuzzFeed News’ reporting in March 2018 on Sater’s expansive resume. Sater disclosed his informant work to BuzzFeed in an effort to push back on the media narrative that he was linked to Russian intelligence and Russian organized crime.” (Read more: The Daily Caller, 8/23/2019) (Wall Street Journal, 8/23/2019)

July 29, 2019 – Former acting AG Matt Whitaker says U.S. Attorney Huber is reviewing “anything related to Comey’s memos and the like”

“Former acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker appeared on Fox News to discuss the replacement of Dan Coats with John Ratcliffe as head of the ODNI, and the current status of AG Bill Barr’s ongoing reviews into prior DOJ and FBI (mis)conduct.

(…) Then comes the BOMBSHELL…. (@01:26 below) while seemingly not realizing what he just said, Whitaker outlines U.S. Attorney John Huber as reviewing “anything related to Comey’s memos and the like.”  Boom… There it is.

THAT finally explains why the DOJ is fighting the release of the David Archey declarations in the FOIA lawsuit by CNN.  [Listen carefully at 01:26 of the interview]

Until that obscure comment, likely a slip that not many would catch, there has been no valid explanation by the DOJ about any investigation of the Comey memos, which would also encompass the “Archey Declarations”.

If U.S. Attorney John Huber is indeed looking at those Comey memos, that would explain why the DOJ is fighting the release of the Archey Declarations in the DC Circuit Court with Judge James E Boasberg.  Now it makes sense.  That little obscure comment by Whitaker is a big effen’ deal.

(…) BACKSTORY – In the background of what was The Mueller Investigation, there was a FOIA case where the FBI was fighting to stop the release of the Comey memos.

Within that courtroom fight Mueller’s lead FBI agent David Archey wrote a series of declarations to the court describing the content of the memos and arguing why they should be kept classified.

The FOIA fight shifted.

The plaintiff, CNN, argued for public release of the content of the FBI agent’s descriptions, now known as the “Archey Declarations”.

After a lengthy back-and-forth legal contest, on June 7th Judge James E Boasberg agreed to allow the FBI to keep the Comey memo content hidden, but instructed the DOJ/FBI to release the content of the Archey Declarations.

On July 5th, the U.S. Department of Justice -under Attorney General Bill Barr- while waiting until the last minute (28 days since court order), filed a motion [full pdf below] to block the release of the Archey Declarations, despite the June 7th judicial order.

On July 19th, CNN filed a motion against the FBI and DOJ to force the release of the Archey Declarations (full pdf below), and enforce the order.

On July 25th, the DOJ filed a response requesting more time to reply. The DOJ is currently asking for more time, a delay until August 2nd, to file a response to a supportive motion from CNN that would force the DOJ to release the “Archey Declarations” (detailed explanations of what’s inside the Comey Memos).

The DOJ wants these declarations hidden.  Now we know why.

Here’s the last motion from CNN which demands the DOJ and FBI to comply with the prior ruling of June 7th, (embed pdf  – cloud pdf link here):

The DOJ is requesting more time, August 2nd, 2019, to respond to the CNN motion.

CNN wants the June 7th ruling enforced and the Archey Declarations, which describe the content of the Comey memos, released.

David Archey was the FBI lead agent on Robert Mueller’s team. Archey replaced Peter Strzok when Strzok was removed. Yes, Archey’s declarations might possibly describe material evidence the DOJ are using in ongoing matters. However, THIS IS IMPORTANT– the DOJ and FBI have never made that assertion in their court arguments.

Despite the original media FOIA lawsuit coming from CNN -vs- DOJ, there is no-one in the MSM covering this story. Here is the July 5th DOJ filing:

Here’s the background on the June 7th, 2019, ruling as we shared at the time:

Judge Boasberg was deciding what could be publicly released, meaning current redactions removed, based on two connected events: (#1) The content of the Comey Memos; and (#2) the declarations of lead FBI agent for Robert Mueller’s special counsel, David Archey, in describing those memos. CNN had filed a lawsuit to gain full access.

(Note: the descriptions of the Comey memos by FBI agent David Archey are known as the “Archey Declarations” – Read Here.)

For those who may not be aware, there are so many memos (dozens) when assembled they seem to make up an actual diary of moment-by-moment events, during the FBI investigation of Donald Trump, as documented by FBI Director James Comey.

♦ In the issue of the redactions within the Comey Memos, the judge doesn’t remove them. Some are ordered to be removed, some are approved to stay in place. The Comey memo aspect, and the redaction decision, is basically a splitting of the baby 50/50. It will be interesting, but meh, maybe not too much detail. – CNN ARTICLE

The issues argued by the FBI lawyers to keep the Comey memos hidden surround sources and methods. The judge generally agreed to the potential for compromise, but also outlined several sections of redactions within the Comey memos where that argument doesn’t hold up. (The judge has read the fully unredacted memo content.)

♦ However, on the issue of the Archey Declarations there’s an opportunity for some very interesting information to surface. Here’s an example of currently existing redactions within the Archey Declarations:

(Read more: Conservative Treehouse, 7/29/2019)

July 10, 2019 – FBI’s Chris Wray is going to court to fight against the release of State Dept. official Kathleen Kavalec’s memos

Christopher Wray (r) tells NBC’s Lester Holt at an Aspen Security Forum in July, 2018 that he considered resigning as FBI director. (Credit: NBC News)

“The FBI is going to court to fight the public release of a small number of documents the State Department sent to agents from Christopher Steele, the British intelligence operative and Hillary Clinton-paid political muckraker, during the 2016 election.

Normally, such Freedom of Information Act cases don’t merit public attention. This one does.

To hear the FBI tell it, the release of former Deputy Assistant Secretary Kathleen Kavalec’s documents is tantamount to giving up the keys to President Trump’s nuclear briefcase, aiding the enemy or assisting terrorists.

“We know that terrorist organizations and other hostile or foreign intelligence groups have the capacity and ability to gather information from myriad sources, analyze it and deduce means and methods from disparate details to defeat the U.S. government’s collection efforts,” an FBI assistant section chief swore in an affidavit supporting the request to keep the documents secret.

The FBI can’t afford to “jeopardize the fragile relationships that exist between the United States and certain foreign governments,” the FBI official declared in another dramatic argument against the conservative group Citizens United’s request to release the memos.

And if that wasn’t enough, the bureau actually claimed that “FBI special agents have privacy interests from unnecessary, unofficial questioning as to the conduct of investigations and other FBI business.”

In other words, agents don’t want to have to answer to the public, which pays their salary, when questions arise about the investigative work, as has happened in the Russia case.

The FBI’s July 10 court filing speaks volumes about Director Christopher Wray’s efforts to thwart the public understanding of what really happened in the FBI’s now-debunked Russia collusion probe.

Steele’s contacts at State can’t possibly be equated to the nation’s most sensitive secrets. The same research he provided to State and the FBI in fall 2016 was being provided to Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, and to the media. (Read more: The Hill, 7/30/2019)

June 25, 2019 – Judicial Watch Sues CIA for Inspector General’s report on Mena, Arkansas, airport drug, arms smuggling allegations

Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport (Credit: Michael Cate/Catemedia)

Judicial Watch announced today it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the CIA seeking the CIA Inspector General’s November 1996 report related to a drug-running, arms smuggling and intelligence operation involving Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport in Arkansas.

The airfield in Mena was alleged to have been used in the 1980s by the CIA during the Reagan administration to smuggle arms to rebels in Nicaragua. A central figure in the operation was Barry Seal, a pilot and drug smuggler for Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel who became an undercover agent and informant for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

In November 1996, then-CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz absolved the CIA of involvement in the operation.

Hitz at the time said that “no evidence has been found to indicate that the CIA or anyone acting on its behalf participated in, or otherwise had knowledge of, any illegal or improper activities in Mena, Arkansas or the area north of Mena known as Nella, Arkansas.”

Judicial Watch chief investigative reporter Micah Morrison has written extensively on the activities surrounding the Mena airport. In an October 18, 1994, editorial feature for The Wall Street Journal titled “The Mena Coverup” Morrison wrote: “What do Bill Clinton and Oliver North have in common, along with the Arkansas State Police and the Central Intelligence Agency? All probably wish they had never heard of Mena.”

Morrison noted that Seal, who by 1984 was a DEA informant, “flew at least one sting operation to Nicaragua for the CIA.” Seal was murdered in 1986 by Colombian hitmen in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“The CIA has for over 20 years stonewalled the release of information now sought by Judicial Watch on the Mena Airport controversy,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.” (Read more: Judicial Watch, 6/25/2019)

May 06, 2019 – Former Asst. Sec. of State for Diplomatic Security testifies under oath that he warned Hillary Clinton twice about unsecure BlackBerrys and personal emails

Eric Boswell (Credit: CSpan)

Judicial Watch released the deposition transcript of Eric Boswell, the former Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, in which he reveals that Hillary Clinton was warned twice against using unsecure BlackBerrys and personal emails to transmit classified material. A full transcript of the deposition is available here.

Boswell, who was responsible for securing classified and national security information, stated that Clinton and her staff were “wedded to their BlackBerrys.” Additionally, he stated that he and other former State Department employees “were surprised” that Clinton used clintonemail.com to conduct official government business.

In his deposition, Ambassador Boswell stated:

  • Hillary Clinton and other Senior State Department officials were warned in 2009 that “any unclassified Blackberry is highly vulnerable in any setting to remotely and covertly monitoring conversations, retrieving emails and exploiting calendars.”
  • Clinton was warned again in 2011 that “We also urge Department users to minimize the use of personal web email for business, as some compromised home systems have been reconfigured by these actors to automatically forward copies of all composed emails to an undisclosed recipient.”
  • Clinton assured him that she “gets it” when he informed her about dangers of Blackberries.
  • Clinton and her staff were “wedded to their blackberries” and wanted to continue using them in secure areas even after warning because it was a “convenience issue” to them.
  • He and other former State Department employees “were surprised” to learn that Clinton used clintonemail.com to conduct official government business.  Boswell claimed that they were not aware of such activity while still employed by the government.

Boswell was deposed as part of the discovery granted to Judicial Watch by U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth in response to its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit involving former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s unsecured, non-government email system (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:14-cv-01242)). (Read more: Judicial Watch, 5/29/2019)

April 23, 2019 – FBI official, Bill Priestap, admits Hillary Clinton’s emails were found in Obama White House

Bill Priestap (Credit: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images)

Judicial Watch announced today that a senior FBI official 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. The FBI also admitted nearly 49,000 Clinton server emails were reviewed as result of a search warrant for her material on the laptop of Anthony Weiner.

E.W. (Bill) Priestap, assistant director of the FBI Counterintelligence Division, made the disclosure to Judicial Watch as part of court-ordered discovery into the Clinton email issue.

Priestap was asked by Judicial Watch to identify representatives of Hillary Clinton, her former staff, and government agencies from which “email repositories were obtained.” Priestap responded with the following non-exhaustive list:

  • Bryan Pagliano
  • Cheryl Mills
  • Executive Office of the President [Emphasis added]
  • Heather Samuelson
  • Jacob Sullivan
  • Justin Cooper
  • United States Department of State
  • United States Secret Service
  • Williams & Connolly LLP

Priestap also testifies that 48,982 emails were reviewed as a result of a warrant for Clinton email account information from the laptop of Anthony Weiner, who had been married to top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

A complete copy of Priestap’s interrogatory responses is available here. Priestap, is serving as assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division and helped oversee both the Clinton email and the 2016 presidential campaign investigations. Priestap testified in a separate lawsuit that Clinton was the subject of a grand jury investigation related to her BlackBerry email accounts.

“This astonishing confirmation, made under oath by the FBI, shows that the Obama FBI had to go to President Obama’s White House office to find emails that Hillary Clinton tried to destroy or hide from the American people.” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “No wonder Hillary Clinton has thus far skated – Barack Obama is implicated in her email scheme.”

Priestap was ordered to answer the written questions by United States District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth when he ruled in January that Judicial Watch’s discovery could begin in Hillary Clinton’s email scandal. This action came in Judicial Watch’s July 2014 FOIA lawsuit for:

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. (Read more: Judicial Watch, 4/23/2019)

April 16, 2019 – Judicial watch files a FOIA lawsuit against the DOJ for records of communications and payments between the FBI and Christopher Steele

(Judicial Watch logo)

“Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice for records of communications and payments between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele and his private firm, Orbis Business Intelligence.

(…) The time frame for this request is March 9, 2017, to September 27, 2018.

Former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr testified to Congress that “at some point during 2017, Chris Steele did speak with somebody from the FBI, but I don’t know who.”

This is the latest Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit in an extensive investigation into the Clinton-funded, anti-Trump dossier and its use to obtain FISA warrants in order to spy on the Trump campaign.

In a case seeking information between January 1, 2016, and March 8, 2017, Judicial Watch previously released FBI records showing that Steele was cut off as a “Confidential Human Source” in November 2016 after he disclosed his relationship to the FBI to a third party. The documents show that there were at least 11 FBI payments to Steele in 2016.

Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm hired by the Clinton campaign and the DNC, reportedly paid $168,000 in 2016 to Steele’s company, Orbis Business Intelligence.

In a related case, Judicial Watch recently released 339 pages of heavily redacted records from the DOJ revealing Bruce Ohr remained in regular contact with Steele after Steele was terminated by the FBI.

“How and why did the FBI pay Christopher Steele, who was already being funded by the Clinton campaign and DNC through Fusion GPS?” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “That we had to sue for this basic information shows the FBI may have something more to hide.” (Judicial Watch, 4/16/2019)