FOIA lawsuit

January 14, 2020 – Federal Court orders snap hearing on Awans congressional Democratic IT scandal, after DOJ files document under seal

Judge Amit Mehta (Credit: National Law Journal)

“Judicial Watch announced today that a federal court yesterday ordered a snap hearing after the Justice Department submitted information under seal on Friday following the court’s demand for an explanation of why no records have been produced in the ongoing legal battle for documents about the Congressional Democrat IT (information technology) scandal involving the Awan brothers. The hearing is set for tomorrow, January 15, at 10 am.

In a joint status report filed on December 5, 2019, Judicial Watch reported to the court that the DOJ claimed in a phone call that it was now unable to produce any records to either of the FOIA requests “because the agency was waiting for some unspecified action by Judge [Tanya S.] Chutkan in some other matter so as to avoid having to produce records in this case.” In that same report the DOJ told the court that Judge Chutkan is “presiding over a related sealed criminal matter” that prohibits the government from releasing the requested FOIA information.

In a hearing last month, U.S. District Court Judge Amit P. Mehta expressed frustration and ordered the Justice Department to explain its failure to produce records by January 10 and to provide Judicial Watch some details about the delay. Instead, the Justice Department made its filing under seal and has yet to provide Judicial Watch with any details about its failure to produce records as promised to the court.

“The cover-up of the Awan Brothers Democratic IT scandal shows the FBI and DOJ’s penchant for dishonesty isn’t just limited to FISA abuse,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The DOJ’s handling of the Awan Brothers case has long been an issue of concern and now we are expected to believe some secret investigation prevents the public from knowing the full truth about this scandal. We are skeptical.” (Read more: Judicial Watch, 1/14/2020)  (Archive)

December 26, 2019 – Judicial Watch sues the CIA and DOJ for the communications of Eric Ciaramella

Eric Ciaramella’s name appears in William Taylor’s transcript and is mistakenly released by the House Intelligence Committee.

“Judicial Watch announced today that it filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits against both the DOJ and CIA for communications of CIA employee Eric Ciaramella, who reportedly worked on Ukraine issues while on detail to both the Obama and Trump White Houses.

The lawsuit against the DOJ was filed after it failed to respond to November 2019 FOIA requests seeking communications between Ciaramella and former FBI agent Peter Strzok, former FBI Attorney Lisa Page, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, and/or the Special Counsel’s Office (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:19-cv-03809)).

Judicial Watch filed suit against the CIA after it failed to respond to  FOIA requests seeking all of Ciaramella’s emails from June 1, 2016, to November 12, 2019 (Judicial Watch v. Central Intelligence Agency (No. 1:19-cv-03807)).

Ciaramella’s name appears in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the 2016 presidential election, in reference to two emails Ciaramella sent to then-Chief of Staff John Kelly and other officials, describing a meeting between President Trump, Russian foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Foreign Minister Sergey Kislyak:

In the morning on May 10, 2017, President Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office.468 

###

468… (5/9/17 White House Document, “Working Visit with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov of Russia”) … (5/10/17 Email, Ciaramella to Kelly et al.). The meeting had been planned on May 2, 2017, during a telephone call between the President and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the meeting date was confirmed on May 5, 2017, the same day the President dictated ideas for the Comey termination letter to Stephen Miller…. (5/10/17 Email, Ciaramella to Kelly et al.).

Information about this phone call was subsequently leaked to The New York Times.

Ciaramella is widely reported as the person who filed the whistleblower complaint that triggered the impeachment proceedings. His name reportedly was “raised privately in impeachment depositions, according to officials with direct knowledge of the proceedings, as well as in at least one open hearing held by a House committee not involved in the impeachment inquiry.”

“There is significant public interest, thanks to the Obama Spygate scandal and the related abusive impeachment of President Trump, in what Eric Ciaramella was up to,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “CIA operative Ciaramella is documented to be involved in the Russia collusion investigation and was a key CIA operative on Ukraine in the both the Obama and Trump White Houses. Our lawsuits are designed to break through the unprecedented cover-up of his activities.” (Read more: Judicial Watch, 12/26/2019)  (Archive)

December 20, 2019 – Judicial Watch sues Rep. Schiff and the House Intelligence Committee for phone subpoenas targeting Trump and his associates

“Judicial Watch announced it today filed a lawsuit against Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and the House Intelligence Committee for the controversial subpoenas issued for phone records, including those of Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s lawyer. The phone records led to the publication of the private phone records of Giuliani, Congressman Devon Nunes, journalist John Solomon, Trump attorney Jay Sekulow, attorney Victoria Toensing, and other American citizens.

Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit under the public’s common-law right of public access to examine government records after it received no response to a December 6, 2019, records request (Judicial Watch v Adam Schiff and U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (No. 1:19-cv-03790)):

  1. All subpoenas issued by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on or about September 30, 2019, to any telecommunications provider, including but not limited to AT&T, Inc., for records of telephone calls of any individuals;
  2. All responses received to the above-referenced subpoenas.

Schiff is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, currently serving as Chairman of the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Schiff is being sued in his capacity as Chairman of that committee. The new lawsuit states:

The records are of critical public importance as the subpoenas were issued without any lawful basis and violated the rights of numerous private citizens.

Disclosure of the requested records would serve the public interest by providing information about the unlawful issuance of the subpoenas. (Read more: Judicial Watch, 12/20/2019)  (Archive)

December 5, 2019 – The DOJ can’t release Awan documents in a Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit because they are related to an ongoing “sealed criminal matter”

Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Imran Awan (Credit: public domain)

“The Department of Justice said this month that it could not release records on Democrat technology aide Imran Awan due to “technical difficulties,” but later admitted in court documents that it could not release records on him because there is a secret ongoing case related to the matter.

“Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit Nov. 7, 2018, for 7,000 pages of Capitol Police records related to the cybersecurity investigation, and Aug. 2, the DOJ agreed to begin producing records by Nov. 5,” Daily Caller News Foundation investigative reporter Luke Rosiak reported. “That deadline came and went with no records being produced; on a Nov. 13 phone call, the DOJ said ‘technical difficulties’ had resulted in a delay, Judicial Watch stated in a court filing.”

In a newly released court filing, the Department of Justice wrote:

Pursuant to an Order issued by the Honorable Tanya S. Chutkan, who is presiding over a related sealed criminal matter the Government is prohibited from disclosing certain information pursuant to formal and informal information request in this matter. The Government advised Judge Chutkan of the instant FOIA matter and sought clarification from Judge Chutkan concerning the Government’s permissible response in light of her Order in the sealed matter. Defendant received the clarification December 5, 2019, the date of this filing, that permitted Defendant to say the following: The Government is prohibited from disclosing any information pursuant to an Order issued by the Honorable Tanya S. Chutkan. …

…The “difficulties” in providing responsive material was due to the unexpected and unique set of facts described above that was out of the control of the Defendant. Defendant’s only motivation was to maintain the integrity of the sealed matter as much as possible, until the issuing Court provided guidance.”

(The Daily Wire, 12/13/2019)  (Archive)

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)

August 18, 2019 – FBI Agents: McCabe apologizes for changing his story on a leak to the Wall Street Journal

Andrew McCabe (Credit: Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

“Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe faced scorching criticism and potential criminal prosecution for changing his story about a conversation he had with a Wall Street Journal reporter. Now newly released interview transcripts show McCabe expressed remorse to internal FBI investigators when they pressed him on the about-face.

The FBI released the documents in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). They provide fresh details about the investigation into a leak to the Journal, McCabe’s role in it, and the reaction of agents who investigated it.

In the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign, the Journal broke news about an FBI investigation involving then-candidate Hillary Clinton, describing internal discussions among senior FBI officials.

The apparent leak drew scrutiny from the bureau’s internal investigation team, which interviewed McCabe on May 9, 2017, the day President Donald Trump fired James Comey from his post as FBI director. The agents interviewed him as part of an investigation regarding a different media leak to the online publication Circa and also asked him about the Journal story.

In that interview, McCabe said he did not know how the Journal story came to be. But a few months later, his story changed after he reviewed his answer.

On Aug. 18, FBI officials met with McCabe in an attempt to work through what they said was “conflicting information” they had gathered about the possible leak to the Journal.

“I need to know from you,” an agent said he told McCabe in a sit-down meeting, “did you authorize this article? Were you aware of it? Did you authorize it?”

McCabe then looked at the story he had reviewed months earlier.

The FBI investigator described his response this way: “And as nice as could be, he said, yep. Yep I did.”

The investigator then said that “things had suddenly changed 180 degrees with this.” The interviewers stopped taking notes on what McCabe was saying, and the agent indicated their view of McCabe had changed: He was no longer a witness or victim. “In our business, we stop and say, look, now we’re getting into an area for due process,” the agent said.” (Read more: The Daily Beast, 12/31/2019)  (Archive)

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)