Judicial Watch

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)

September 09, 2019 – The Justice Department seeks McCabe’s text messages on FBI probe; former FBI agent Jeffrey Danik filed a FOIA two years ago for same communications

Jeffrey Danik and Robert Mueller (Credit: public domain)

“The Department of Justice is seeking former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s text messages and according to government sources, those will play a significant role in understanding the FBI’s probe into both President Donald Trump’s campaign and the bureaus’ handling of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server to send government emails.

Lawmakers unsuccessfully attempted to get the text messages during the litany of Congressional investigations that have culminated in Attorney General William Barr appointing Connecticut prosecutor John Durham to investigate the FBI’s handling of the election probe. Ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes, R-CA, said his committee was stymied by the FBI when they attempted to retrieve McCabe’s communications.

“The House Intelligence Committee tried to get the McCabe texts in the last Congress, but we were stonewalled,” Nunes told SaraACarter.com on Monday. “This is the kind of issue that really needs more transparency. There’s been too much unnecessary secrecy surrounding the entire Russia investigation- the American people deserve to know exactly what happened.”

The text messages between FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok and his then lover FBI attorney Lisa Page were regarded as a trove of information for congressional investigators. Page and Strzok’s text messages were turned over and for the most part – other than the details of the pairs private romantic relationship- to lawmakers during the congressional probes. The lawmakers were able to read the texts as part of the ongoing investigations either in-camera or when certain portions were declassified and made public.

(…)  Judicial Watch also sought the text messages earlier this year. The government watchdog group filed a motion in May to obtain McCabe’s text messages on behalf of FBI supervisory special agent Jeffery Danik.

Danik, who served 28 years in the FBI, filed a motion against the Department of Justice last year for refusing a Freedom of Information Act Request to turn over the texts, as well as McCabe’s FBI emails. Danik had originally filed a FOIA to obtain the communications two years ago.” (Read more: SaraACarter, 9/09/2019)

August 22, 2019 – A federal judge criticizes State and Justice departments on Clinton email cover-up; gives Clinton and Mills 30 days to oppose being deposed

(Credit: Judicial Watch)

“Judicial Watch released the transcript today from their hearing on Thursday, August 22, 2019, where U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth granted significant new discovery to Judicial Watch on the Clinton email issue (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:14-cv-01242)).

During the hearing, Judge Lamberth specifically raised concerns about a Clinton email cache recently discussed in a letter to Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and wants Judicial Watch to “shake this tree” on this issue.

[J]ust last week, the Senate’s – Senate Finance and Homeland Security Committees released documents revealing that Clinton IT aide Paul Combetta copied all but four of the missing emails to a Gmail account that does not appear to have ever been reconstructed and searched. The court thinks Judicial Watch ought to shake this tree. 

Judge Lamberth also criticized the State Department’s handling and production of Clinton’s emails in this case stating, “There is no FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] exemption for political expedience, nor is there one for bureaucratic incompetence.” 

At the beginning of their oral arguments, lawyers for the State Department wrongfully stated that Judicial Watch could no longer continue their discovery. The court stopped their arguments saying that Judicial Watch can continue to find more evidence in this case:

Judge Royce C. Lamberth (Credit: Charles Dharapak/The Associated Press)

STATE DEPARTMENT: … it is, of course, Judicial Watch’s burden to explain to Your Honor why there has been good cause to reopen discovery now that discovery has closed in this case.

THE COURT: Well, I didn’t close discovery. So your premise is wrong.

STATE DEPARTMENT: Fair enough, Your Honor. Whether you want to call it closed or not, it is still —

THE COURT: I didn’t close it. I said I would have a status after they took this initial discovery, and that’s what I’m doing today. I didn’t close discovery.

STATE DEPARTMENT: That’s right, Your Honor, but it is still Judicial Watch’s —

THE COURT: So they don’t need any good cause —

STATE DEPARTMENT: Whether

THE COURT: — Today the good cause continues from whether or not State was acting in good faith, and I’ll tell you everything they’ve discovered in this period raises serious questions about what the hell the State Department’s doing here.

The court rejected DOJ and State efforts to derail further Judicial Watch discovery. Judge Lamberth called their arguments “preposterous” and cited a prior Judicial Watch FOIA case in which he ordered U.S. Marshals to seize records from a Clinton administration official.

I’ll tell you another thing I didn’t like in your brief. I’ll tell you right now upfront. You put in your brief the most preposterous thing, I thought, in your brief was the very idea that — let me read you the line. Competitive Enterprise Institute was a case of first impression and that some District Judge bought that and the Court of Appeals reversed it. Now, that wasn’t a case of first impression at all. The first impression with me was a case I had involving Ron Brown and the travel records of whether or not, in the Commerce Department — and it was a Judicial Watch case — whether or not the Commerce Department was selling seats on trade missions, and I had a Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce who took a box of records home and then they gave a no-records response and, in the course of that, I found out he had taken the records home and they said they had no records.  I sent marshals over and they got the box at his house, and I ordered them – the marshals — to seize the records. That was the first case.

The Judge also stated that the government has mishandled this case and the discovery of information including former Secretary Clinton’s emails so poorly that Judicial Watch may have the ability to prove they acted in “bad faith,” which would entitle them to attorney’s fees.

Judge Lamberth detailed how the State Department “spent three months from November 2014 trying to make this case disappear,” and that after discovering the State Department’s actions and omissions, “Now we know more, but we have even more questions than answers. So I won’t hold it against Judicial Watch for expanding their initial discovery request now.”

Judge Lamberth stated his goal was to restore the public’s faith in their government, which may have been damaged because of the Clinton email investigation:

When I authorized discovery back in December, I described my goal: to rule out egregious government misconduct and vindicate the public’s faith in the State and Justice Departments. That’s still my goal today. This isn’t a case I relish, but it’s the case before me now, and it’s a case of the government’s making.”

The court granted Judicial Watch seven additional depositions, three interrogatories and four document requests related to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. Hillary Clinton and her former top aide and current lawyer Cheryl Mills were given 30 days to oppose being deposed by Judicial Watch.

Below is the court’s ruling from the bench granting Judicial Watch’s significant new discovery:”

(Read more: Judicial Watch, 9/06/2019)

August 21, 2019 – Judicial Watch will seek the deposition of Hillary Clinton and Cheryl Mills

“Judicial Watch announced today that a federal court ordered a hearing for Thursday, August 22, 2019, on the Clinton email issue. On December 6, 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Lamberth ordered Obama administration senior State Department officials, lawyers and Clinton aides 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 court ordered discovery into three specific areas: whether Secretary Clinton’s email use of a private email server was intended to stymie FOIA; whether the State Department’s intent to settle this case in late 2014 and early 2015 amounted to bad faith; and whether the State Department has adequately searched for records responsive to Judicial Watch’s request.

Judicial Watch deposed nearly a dozen witnesses and will seek addition[al] witnesses and documents from the court, including the deposition of Hillary Clinton and Cheryl Mills, her chief of staff at State and personal lawyer who directed the destruction of 33,000 State Department Clinton emails. Lawyers for Clinton and Mills are expected at the hearing Thursday.”

August 19, 2019 – A Federal judge issues a supplemental order for the FBI to conduct a search for Steele/FBI communications, post-dating Steele’s work for the FBI

(Credit: Judicial Watch)

“Judicial Watch announced today that U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper ordered the FBI to conduct a search within 60 days for records of communications with former British spy and dossier author Christopher Steele post-dating Steele’s service as an FBI confidential source. In ordering the supplemental search for records, Judge Cooper held:

The potential for illuminating the FBI’s activities is not too difficult to discern. Communications post-dating Steele’s time as an informant might reveal a great deal about why the FBI developed him as a CHS [confidential human source], his performance as a CHS, and why the FBI opted to terminate its relationship with him. Those records might either bolster or weaken Steele’s credibility as a source. That information, in turn, could provide a basis on which to evaluate the FBI’s performance of its law-enforcement duties, including its judgment in selecting and relying on confidential sources, especially in connection with such a politically sensitive subject. Of course, the records Judicial Watch speculates about might not even exist—and even if they do, they may not reveal anything significant about the FBI’s operations. But that they might do so makes them a matter of potential public interest.” (Read more: Judicial Watch, 8/19/2019)

August 16, 2019 – Judge orders FBI to search for additional Christopher Steele records

Judge Christopher “Casey” Cooper, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, June 6, 2016. (Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi/The National Law Journal)

“A federal judge ordered the FBI on Friday to search for records of any contacts with dossier author Christopher Steele after the bureau cut ties with him as a confidential human source in November 2016.

Judge Christopher Cooper issued the ruling in favor of Judicial Watch, which sued the FBI and Justice Department for all of its records on Steele, a former British spy who investigated the Trump campaign on behalf of the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee.

The FBI released two batches of Steele-related documents in 2018, but it resisted conducting searches for documents of any contacts that he had with the bureau after Nov. 1, 2016.

FBI officials severed a longstanding relationship with Steele after finding out that he had unauthorized contacts with members of the press.

Cooper ordered the search, saying any additional FBI-Steele documents have “the potential for illuminating the FBI’s activities” in the Trump-Russia probe.” (Read more: The Daily Caller, 8/16/2019)

August 14, 2019 – Pentagon analyst and whistleblower Adam S. Lovinger is cleared on allegations of leaking to the media and mishandling classified information

Adam Lovinger (Credit: GoFundMe)

“A confidential counterintelligence investigation cleared suspended Pentagon analyst Adam S. Lovinger on allegations of leaking data to the news media, but officials never told his defense team.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) examined Mr. Lovinger’s use of classified computer networks. In a 2018 report, the NCIS said its review “did not reveal any potential CI (counter intelligence) concerns,” according to a copy obtained by The Washington Times.

(…) Before his suspension, Mr. Lovinger complained internally that the Office of Net Assessment (ONA) was not doing its job by failing to produce reports on future threats known as “net assessments.” Instead, the office was awarding contracts for outside academic-style reports, he said.

One paid contractor was Stefan Halper, the Washington national security figure who while at Cambridge University became an FBI informant to spy on Trump campaign associates in 2016.

Federal security clearance attorney, Sean Bigley (Credit: public domain)

Here is how Mr. Bigley discovered the NCIS verdict:

Judicial Watch, a conservative investigative nonprofit run by Tom Fitton, joined the Lovinger team. It filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court to obtain the Pentagon’s file on Mr. Lovinger.

Mr. Fitton hit pay dirt. The Pentagon turned over a number of email threads. Buried in them was a passing reference to the NCIS. Nothing more.

Mr. Bigley then filed an open records request. Last month, the NCIS turned over its 2018 report.

The attorney said he was stunned. He never knew the probe even existed, but less its findings.

He also discovered the Pentagon knew his client was exonerated on the leak issue.

The NCIS report states that the investigative agency specifically informed the Office of Net Assessment.

“ONA was apprised of the status of the investigation,” the report states.

The report also shows that the requesting agency in August 2017 was the Pentagon’s Washington Headquarters Services. It is the organization that revoked Mr. Lovinger’s clearance and brought the case against him.

Mr. Bigley said that NCIS surely informed Washington Headquarters Services of its findings since it had asked for the probe.

The Washington Times submitted a query about Mr. Bigley’s complaint to the Pentagon press office, which didn’t respond.

Mr. Bigley said the administrative judge did not find Mr. Lovinger guilty of leaking to the press. But he said that is beside the point. The attorney said he spent hours preparing a defense on that charge, not knowing there was an NCIS report that already had cleared his client. Government attorneys pressed the leak case during the hearing, he said.

By not being told of the exoneration, Mr. Bigley also was denied the opportunity to present the NCIS report as evidence.

“The leaking allegation against Mr. Lovinger was by far the most serious claim brought against him by DoD,” Mr. Bigley told The Times. “We believe that the government hid this exculpatory evidence because they knew that their other allegations were a smorgasbord of nonsense that would never independently have gotten off the runway.”

Director of the Office of Net Assessment, James H. Baker (Credit: public domain)

In a May 2017 memo, Washington Headquarters Services outlined why it was suspending Mr. Lovinger’s security clearance.

There were two general categories: He mishandled a classified document and shared “sensitive” material with others.

Second, he played a role with a contractor in leaks to the Washington Free Beacon about the Office of Net Assessment’s supposed failings under Director James Baker.

The NCIS report refuted that: “An interview of former ONA contractor did not yield any information of concern.”

“According to Mr. Baker, the leak had disastrous consequences for the ONA mission,” the report added.

In his July letter to the Defense Department inspector general, Mr. Bigley said Pentagon lawyers “failed to make any mention of the NCIS findings in their case, failed to turn over the NCIS investigative report, and failed to even alert this attorney that a report existed which effectively exonerated Mr. Lovinger of the most serious allegation against him.”

That same month, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense sent Mr. Lovinger a firing memo. Since he needed a security clearance to work at ONA and his had been revoked, Mr. Lovinger was being terminated.

Mr. Bigley fired off a return letter saying the termination was premature.

“Nothing underscores ‘whistleblower reprisal’ quite like rushing to terminate a whistleblower from federal service before the Department’s own IG can complete its statutory obligation of an independent, thorough investigation,” he said.” (Read more: The Washington Times, 8/17/2019)

August 8, 2019 – Bruce Ohr 302 reports released

“Bruce Ohr is a DOJ official who was interviewed by the FBI during the DOJ/FBI collaborative effort to target president-elect Donald Trump after the 2016 election.

Mr. Ohr was interviewed on 12 different occasions between November 22nd 2016 and May 15th 2017.  Judicial Watch has finally received the copies of the FBI investigative notes, aka “302 reports.”

The last interview of Bruce Ohr (May 15th, 2017) took place two days prior to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller.  Throughout the interviews (full pdf below) Bruce Ohr was acting as the go-between delivering information from his wife Nellie Ohr at Fusion GPS and one of Fusion’s contract investigators, Christopher Steele.

The 302 reports are heavily redacted (sources and methods); however, we already know the majority of names underneath the redactions.  Here are the *302 investigative notes:

(Conservative Treehouse, 8/08/2019)

August 6, 2019 – Judicial Watch obtains records of 14 referrals of FBI employees for leaking sensitive or classified information

Text messages between FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page reveal several leaks of confidential information to former Wall St. Journal reporter, Devlin Barrett. (Credit: Conservative Treehouse)

“Judicial Watch announced today it received records of 14 referrals of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) employees to the organization’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) for the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive or classified information. The disclosure comes off the heels of Judicial Watch’s uncovering a FBI report detailing fired FBI Director James Comey kept FBI documents on President Trump at his house. Comey also admitted to leaking these documents.

Although the FBI’s OPR does not have its own website, according to the DOJ’s OPR, leak allegations may come, “from a variety of sources, including U.S. Attorney’s offices and other Department components, courts, Congress, media reports, other federal agencies, state and local government agencies, private citizens, private attorneys, criminal defendants, civil litigants, and self-referrals. OPR also regularly conducts its own searches to identify judicial findings of misconduct against Department attorneys.”

One referral obtained by Judicial Watch that appears to refer to former Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe was closed on March 20, 2018 and states as a mitigating factor that the “Employee was facing unprecedented challengers and pressures.”

(Name redacted) (DOJ/O&R)  Closed: 3/20/2018  References: 2.5, 2.6, 4.10

SES [Senior Executive Service] employee released the FBI Sensitive information to a reporter and lacked candor not under oath and under oath when questioned about it, in violation of Offense Codes 4.10 (Unauthorized Disclosure – Sensitive Information); 2.5 (Lack of Candor- No Oath); and 2.6 (Lack of Candor – Under Oath).

The proposed decision in this matter was made by the AD, OPR.  The final decision was made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. DOK retains final decision-making authority for certain high-ranking FBI officials.

MITIGATION: Employee as (redacted) years of FBI service and a remarkable performance record. Employee was facing unprecedented challengers and pressures.

AGGRAVATION: Employee held an extremely high position and was expected to comport himself with the utmost integrity. Lack of candor is incompatible with the FBI’s Core Values.

FINAL ACTION(S): OPR PROPOSED DECISION Proposed DISMISSAL

                              OPR FINAL DECISION:  DISMISSAL

McCabe was fired from the FBI on March 16, 2018, for leaking to the media and lacking “candor.”

The records show that penalties for unauthorized disclosure of sensitive and/or classified information ranged from no action (due to administrative closure) to, as in the case of McCabe, dismissal. Other FBI employees’ offenses reported in the documents list several cases in which the final action was less severe than OPR’s proposal:

  1. An unidentified employee was fired. The case was closed in July 2016.
  2. An unidentified employee was given a one-day suspension without pay. The case was closed in April 2016.
  3. The following year, an unidentified employee received a five-day suspension without pay, and the case was closed administratively in April 2017.
  4. An SES agent who “misused an FBI database, and provided sensitive information to a former FBI employee” was reported to have had as mitigation that he felt he “had the support of his Division to use his discretion.” OPR proposed a 15-day suspension, but the final decision was to give a letter of censure. This case was closed in June 2017.
  5. An unidentified employee was fired. The case was closed in May 2018.
  6. An unidentified employee was recommended for dismissal but received a 45-day suspension. The case was closed in October 2017.
  7. An unidentified employee was given a 14-day suspension. The case was closed in March 2016.
  8. An unidentified employee, who was cited for misuse of an FBI database and unauthorized disclosure of classified/law-enforcement sensitive/grand jury information, was given a 12-day suspension. The case was closed in January 2016.
  9. An unidentified employee received a letter of censure. The case was closed in August 2016.
  10. An unidentified employee was given a letter of censure. The case was closed in October 2016.
  11. An unidentified employee was accused of “Investigative deficiency – improper handling of documents or property in the care, custody or control of the government; unauthorized disclosure – classified/law enforcement sensitive/grand jury information” and “failure to report – administrative.” It was proposed that they be given a 30-calendar day suspension without pay; the final decision from OPR was that they were given a 10-calendar day suspension without pay. This case was closed in February 2018.
  12. An unidentified employee was fired. This case was closed in October 2017.
  13. An unidentified employee was given a letter of censure. It was proposed that they be fired, but the final decision was a 60-day suspension without pay. The case was closed in January 2019.

“No wonder the FBI was leaking so profusely. Collectively, these documents show lenient treatment for evident criminal activity. Only four of the 14 employees found to have made an unauthorized disclosure were dismissed from the FBI,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “And even though Andrew McCabe was fired and referred for a criminal investigation for his leak, no prosecution has taken place.” (Read more: Judicial Watch, 8/06/2019)