DOJ Records: Mueller Team Repeatedly, ‘Accidentally’ Wiped Phones

Perhaps you will recall Rudy Giuliani suggesting nearly two years ago that Robert Mueller’s gang should be investigated for destroying evidence, in particular text messages.

Now we have more proof that these witch hunters did not want anyone looking into their activities.

We have received 87 pages of records from the Justice Department that show senior members of Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel’s Office repeatedly and “accidentally” wiped phones assigned to them.

We received the records in response to our September 2019 FOIA lawsuit against the Justice Department and FBI over December 17, 2018, FOIA requests (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:19-cv-02693)) for:All records related to the hardware, software and contents of mobile phones issued to FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page for their use while they served on the investigative team of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.All records of communication (whether on government or non-.gov email accounts and whether using real names or aliases), with FBI officials relating to the hardware, software and contents of mobile phones issued to FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page for their use while they served on the investigative team of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.In a table that appears to be a tabulation of Special Counsel’s Office reviews of phones used by Robert Mueller’s team for records-preservation purposes, 27 phones were reported wiped clean of all data prior to the review having taken place:  20 phones were reported wiped of data due to “accidental wipe” (usually from entering the password too many times);2 phones were reported wiped after placed in airplane mode from which they could not be unlocked because password was forgotten, including the phones of Andrew Weissmann (2 phones) and two deputies of Mueller, Kyle Freeny and Rush Atkinson.1 phone was wiped clean without explanation. There are no records of Robert Mueller’s phone’s ever being reviewed.The review of Lisa Page’s phone reads as follows: “Phone not found, phone found and with DOJ OIG, but according to AMZ on 9/19/18 conversation, the phone was restored to factory settings. Per email from DOJ OIG contact [redacted] on 10/17/18, the phone was restored to factory settings when they received it.”  

The review of Strzok’s phone reads as follows: “No substantive texts, notes or reminders.”  

In December 2018, the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General issued a report regarding the recovery of “thousands of text messages.” The IG “initiated this investigation upon being notified of a gap in text message data collection for the period December 15, 2016, through May 17, 2017, from Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) mobile devices assigned to FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.”  Because of the content of many of the text messages between Strzok and Page, the IG also asked Mueller’s office for the DOJ-issued iPhones that had been assigned to Strzok and Page. The phone assigned to Strzok had been “reset to factory settings” and “reconfigured for the new user to whom the device was issued.” Page’s iPhone had been reset but had not been reassigned. The IG also said that as the date of its report, the FBI wasn’t reliably collecting text messages of all its employees.

The newly released records include a log of all mobile phones issued to the Mueller team that reveals a total of 25 names, including Robert Mueller himself, along with Strzok, Page and Andrew Weissmann. Eight of the 25 names are redacted under FOIA’s “personal privacy” exemptions.  

Forms and emails at the time Lisa Page was leaving the Special Counsel’s Office reveal all she had to do was fill out the government forms and return all equipment issued to her but did not need to go through security and ethics debriefs. In an email from Special Counsel administrative official “LFW” to colleague “SLL,” with subject line, “Employee Exit Form and Certification Checklist,” LFW says: “She has a laptop (which may already be in [redacted] area), a DOJ cell phone & charger, and, perhaps a PIV badge. Since she is not actually leaving employment, the security and ethics debriefs will not have to happen.”

A redacted person in the Special Counsel’s Office (SCO) identified as “PPS1” emails Peter Strzok separation forms on August 9, 2018, with subject line, “SCO Exit Certification Checklist.pdf; ATT00001.htm” for him to fill out before he left the Special Counsel team. A record of the completed forms dated August 11 reveals Strzok had not returned “All non-record material removed from electronic and paper files; location of official paper and electronic records identified; and reference material.

On September 13, 2018, there begins a series of emails running through December 27 seeking to find and review Lisa Page’s mobile phone. On October 17, 2018, at 7:44 am, a redacted records officer in the Special Counsel’s office emails someone named Alicia: “Hope you’re well. I was hoping you could confirm for me that when you all received Lisa Page’s phone that it had been restored to the factory settings and therefore all data was wiped from the device.” A redacted sender responds: “Yes that’s correct, the device had been reset to factory settings.”

On October 22, 2018, at 12:33 pm, a redacted senior special agent in the Justice Department Cyber Investigations Office emails a redacted recipient after learning Lisa Page’s phone had been wiped of all content: “I need to give you a call for a few follow up questions regarding the Strzok/Page phone matter. I have included a snapshot of the narrative included in our memorandum of our meeting on January 26, 2018.”
 
The following report was attached to the email:
[Redacted] provided the following information regarding this matter. On September 6, 2017, she reviewed Peter Strzok’s phone before turning it over to IT staff for it to be wiped and reissued. She did not find substantive texts, notes, or reminders. She cannot remember if there were no texts on the device or if they were innocuous, but thinks there were none. She explained that if there is such content on the device, she would take screen shots and email them to herself for review and preservation. [Redacted] provided a copy of the spreadsheet she keeps reflecting out-processing iPhone data review. This spreadsheet has been included as Attachment 2. Strzok out-processed on August 10, 2017.
After reviewing Strzok’s phone, she turned it in to either [Redacted] or [Redacted] to wipe and repurpose the phone.
[Redacted] said that she did not receive Page’s phone for review.
On September 20, 2018, Aaron Zebley asks Beth McGarry, “If possible, can I get the dates on which cell phones were assigned to Pete Strzok and Lisa Page? I think the latter is May 28. Thanks.” McGarry forwards the request to Chris Greer asking, “Can you pull this info?” Greer replies, “I am working on it. I asked the team to contact Verizon to see if they can tell us when the phones were provisioned. I verified they both logged into their laptops on May 31, 2017 and I assume the phones were the same day, but am trying to verify.” Further on, Greer adds, “Our airwatch logs may only go back 1 year, so if true, they won’t help. Still waiting to hear if Verizon can help.”

On December 27, 2018, there begins a series of emails discussing Rudy Giuliani’s remarks to reporters that the Special Counsel’s Office should be investigated for “destruction of evidence,” in which Zebley writes:
FYI: The determination that Pete Strzok’s phone had no SCO-era text messages was made by the IG in the course of its investigation of text messages. Also, the IG report notes on pp 1-21 that the OIG asked us for Pete’s phone six months after his assignments had ended and, on the bottom of page 10, the report reads:
Upon review of a draft of this report, the Office of the Deputy Attorney General told the OIG that the Department routinely resets mobile devices to factory settings when the device is returned from a user to enable that device to be issued to another user in the future.
On September 21, 2018, at 11:48 am, Zebley (AMZ) in the Special Counsel’s Office sends information for a draft report to redacted recipient who confirms it as accurate:
As part of an office records retention procedure, an SCO Records Officer reviewed text message on Strzok’s DOJ issued iPhone after he returned it to the SCO and determined it contained no substantive text messages.
[Redacted]
Strozk completed his Exit Clearance Certification and returned his DOJ issued iPhone in early August 2017.
As part of an office records retention procedure, an SCO Records Officer reviewed text message on Strzok’s DOJ issued iPhone after it was returned. [fn] The SCO Records Officer noted in her records log about Strzok’s phone: “No substantive texts, notes or reminders.” [Redacted]
[Redacted]
 Zebley adds a “new sentence” which is also affirmed: “The SCO Records Officer does not recall there being any texts on Strzok’s phone, and she made an identical log entry for another phone reviewed on the same day that she specifically recalls having no text messages.” 

On January 26, 2018, at 5:39 pm, JMD’s Christopher Greer emails a redacted person in the Special Counsel Administrative Office, asking: “Do you know where Lisa Page’s iPhone is? I know the SCO policy was to reuse them and not hold, but wanted to check with you first. The asset tag is T66438.” The administrator replies: “Yes, I know it is missing. We discovered that first. It is not in UAPM [Unified Asset & Property Management] and doesn’t appear to be anywhere at PP1.

At 7:06 pm, Greer responds: “OIG wants to speak with me about it Monday. Beth [McGarry, executive officer of Mueller’s special counsel team] sent them my way. Should I redirect to you or move forward with speaking with them?” The SOC administrator replies: “Move forward with them. I was going to reach out to you about searching RFK [Main Justice], but Beth asked me to hold off.”  

On January 31, 2019, LFW sends an email to SLL with subject line “Cell Phone Numbers,” writing: “One last number that will need to be canceled, but not until after we consult with OIG. Pete Strzok [redacted] number was never canceled [redacted]. We have not yet received the phone back, either.”

The pandemic of ‘wiped’ phones among the Mueller team requires a criminal investigation of this destruction of evidence and potential obstruction of justice and other crimes. The DOJ and FBI hid these records for nearly two years – which only adds to appearance of a cover-up.

           
Did Mueller Lie to the House Judiciary Committee?

Robert Mueller denied that President Trump interviewed him for consideration as Director of the FBI just one day before he was appointed to lead the Russia collusion investigation. New evidence coming to light disputes this.

We have received 47 pages of documents from the Department of Justice that include a May 17, 2017, email documenting that Robert Mueller informed the Attorney General’s office he was withdrawing from consideration for director of the FBI.

This recently released email raises new questions about Mueller’s testimony to the House Judiciary Committee on July 24, 2019, where he said a May 16, 2017 interview with President Donald Trump was “not about me applying for the job” as FBI director.

The emails were produced in our February 2, 2019, FOIA lawsuit against the Department of Justice for all records of communications of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein between May 8 and May 17, 2017 (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:19-cv-00481)).

In the May 17, 2017, email Rosenstein writes to then-Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt with the subject line: “Mueller” and states: “Withdrew from consideration for FBI director.”

Hunt responds: “[redacted] called this morning and also withdrew his name from consideration.”

On the same day, Rosenstein appointed Mueller special counsel for the Russia investigation.

On July 24, 2019, Mueller, testified about whether he was interviewed for the FBI Director position in an exchange with Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL):
STEUBE: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Mueller, over here. Mr. Mueller did you indeed interview for the FBI director job one day before you were appointed as Special Counsel?

MUELLER: My understanding I was not applying for that job, I was asked to give my input on what it would take to do the job, which triggered the interview you’re talking about.
STEUBE: So you don’t recall on May 16th, 2017 that you interviewed with the president regarding the FBI director job?
MUELLER: I interviewed with the president and it was about…
STEUBE: Regarding the FBI director job?
MUELLER: …it was about the job and not about me applying for the job.
STEUBE: So your statement here today is that you didn’t interview to apply for the FBI director job?
MUELLER: That’s correct.
STEUBE: So it – did you tell the vice president that the FBI director position would be the one job that you would come back to – for?
MUELLER: I don’t recall that one.
STEUBE: You don’t recall that?
MUELLER: No.
 President Trump said that Mueller did indeed “apply and interview” for the FBI director job and that claims otherwise presented a conflict of interest that should have kept him out of the Russia investigation.

The president tweeted on July 24, 2019, the day of Mueller’s House testimony: “It has been reported that Robert Mueller is saying that he did not apply and interview for the job of FBI Director (and get turned down) the day before he was wrongfully appointed Special Counsel. Hope he doesn’t say that under oath in that we have numerous witnesses to the interview, including the Vice President of the United States!”

The latest production of documents from the DOJ also includes a letter dated May 19, 2017, from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to President Trump in which the senator recommends Deputy Director Andrew McCabe for the director’s position at the bureau.

Feinstein writes that McCabe “has demonstrated leadership and excellence while engaged in some of the most high-profile and complex cases.”

Feinstein goes on to conclude: “During my time on both the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee, I have been impressed by Mr. McCabe and believe him to be a man of honor. He is exactly the kind of person we need leading the FBI right now, and I hope you give him strong consideration.”

DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a report in 2018 detailing multiple instances in which McCabe “lacked candor” with FBI Director James Comey, FBI investigators, and inspector general investigators about his authorization to leak sensitive information to the Wall Street Journal that revealed the existence of an FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation.

On March 16, 2018, McCabe was fired by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

After stonewalling on our FOIA requests for years, the FBI in late July agreed to release McCabe’s text messages, though have yet to release any of them.

The corrupted Justice Department and FBI inexcusably hid these and other smoking gun records about Mueller and Rosenstein for nearly three years. It is well past time for a serious independent investigation of Mueller and his abusive special counsel operation.

In February 2020, we uncovered Rosenstein’s communications with former Obama officials, such as Eric Holder, as well as information sharing with the media in the days immediately surrounding the inception of the Mueller investigation.

In October 2019, through this same lawsuit, we uncovered Rosenstein’s communications from this lawsuit that included a one-line email Mueller stating: “The boss and his staff do not know about our discussions,” as well as “off the record” emails with major media outlets around the date of Mueller’s appointment.

In September 2019, through a separate lawsuit, we uncovered records from the Department of Justice showing officials’ efforts in responding to media inquiries about DOJ/FBI talks allegedly invoking the 25th Amendment to “remove” President Donald Trump from office and Rosenstein offering to wear a “wire” to record his conversations with the president. Later that month, we uncovered a two-page memo, dated May 16, 2017, by then-Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe detailing how Rosenstein proposed wearing a wire into the Oval Office “to collect additional evidence on the president’s true intentions.” McCabe wrote that Rosenstein said he thought it was possible because “he was not searched when he entered the White House.”

We’ve laid bare the multiple conspiracies at Justice and the FBI and it well past time that the DOJ or some other federal law enforcement agency do something about it.


Judicial Watch Court Battle for Joe Biden’s Senate Records at the University of Delaware

What does Joe Biden not want the American people to see in his Senate records hidden away at the University of Delaware? A sexual assault complaint? Notes on conversations with Putin?

We intend to find out.

We just filed a new brief in our lawsuit for access to former Vice President Joe Biden’s Senate records at the University of Delaware. This court filing comes in the lawsuit we filed with the Daily Caller News Foundation after a Delaware Attorney General’s opinion denied us access to the records, which are housed at the university’s library (Daily Caller News Foundation v. University of Delaware (No. N20A-07-001)).

We filed this Delaware FOIA lawsuit in the Superior Court of the State of Delaware on July 2, 2020. Judicial Watch and the Daily Caller News Foundation are being represented by Delaware lawyers Ted Kittila and Bill Green of Halloran Farkas + Kittila LLP.

The lawsuit is challenging a state attorney general opinion that the Biden records are not “public records” because, the opinion concludes without evidence, no public funds are used to support the Biden records project at the University of Delaware.

We responded in court that it is impossible for the Biden Senate documents, which are housed in the University of Delaware’s Library, to not be supported by public funds. We note that the University admitted that “[t]he State of Delaware provides the University with approximately $120 million each year through an appropriation in the state budget,” but never shows how public funds are not used to support the papers.

We further point out that “archival storage space and professional staff members’ time are things of value that it can be inferred are paid for with public funds,” and notes that the requests even listed the, “University personnel who maintain the Senatorial Papers whose salaries, it can be inferred, are paid with State funds.” We’re requesting that the Court order the University to search for and produce the requested records.

“Anyone running for public office, especially our highest office, should expect public scrutiny of their record, especially of their public record,” said Daily Caller News Foundation President Neil Patel. “It’s amazing that Joe Biden’s public papers are still sealed and nobody else in the press seems to care. We care and we are going to fight to get these records opened up as they should be.”

I would add that Delaware is hiding, in violation of law, Joe Biden’s Senate records. It is time for the University of Delaware to stop protecting Joe Biden and follow Delaware law, which requires them to provide public access to these public records.

We filed our FOIA lawsuit after the University denied our April 30, 2020, FOIA request for:All records regarding the proposed release of the records pertaining to former Vice President Joe Biden’s tenure as a Senator that have been housed at the University of Delaware Library since 2012. This request includes all related records of communication between the University of Delaware and any other records created pertaining to any meeting of the Board of Trustees during which the proposed release of the records was discussed.All records of communication between any representative of the University of Delaware and former Vice President Biden or any other individual acting on his behalf between January 1, 2018 and the present.On April 30, the Daily Caller News Foundation submitted its FOIA request to the University for:All agreements concerning the storage of more than 1,850 boxes of archival records and 415 gigabytes of electronic records from Joe Biden’s senate career from 1973 through 2009.Communications between the staff of the University of Delaware Library and Joe Biden or his senatorial, vice-presidential or political campaign staff, or for anyone representing any of those entities between 2010 [April 30,2020] about Joe Biden’s senate records.Any logs or sign-in sheets recording any individuals who have visited the special-collections department where records from Joe Biden’s senate career are stored between 2010 to the date of this request.All records from Joe Biden’s Senate career that have been submitted to the University of Delaware Library.Tara Reade, who accused Biden of sexually assaulting her in 1993 when she worked as a staff assistant to the then-senator, has said that she believes a workplace discrimination and harassment complaint she filed against Biden at the time may be in the records housed at the University of Delaware. Biden also admitted to communicating with Vladimir Putin and other foreign leaders when he was a United State Senator.


We Must Never Forget

I was on the tarmac set to take off from Dulles Airport to travel to LA to tape an appearance on Bill Maher’s show nineteen years ago on 9/11/01. My plane never took off. Conservative activist and lawyer Barbara Olson was also flying out of Dulles for Maher’s show, but her plane, AA #77, had just taken off and was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon. What a horrible day that was…

Judicial Watch sprung into action and through diligent and persistent investigation uncovered revelation after revelation about the failures and cover-ups tied to the 9/11 conspiracy. In fact, we still have lawsuits pending connected to the 9/11 terror attacks.

And let’s not forget today is the anniversary of the Benghazi attack, which occurred on 9/11/12. Judicial Watch’s investigation of this egregious scandal stands as the most important non-governmental investigation in American history – as it resulted of the Benghazi Select Committee and the uncovering of the Clinton email scandal.

We won’t forget and, with your support, Judicial Watch keep pushing where we can on accountability on the attacks and on terrorism generally.

Until next week …

 
  

President Trump signs order on safe policing

The White House – June 16th, 2020

Moments after he met with families who have lost loved ones to violence—many involving deadly interactions with the police—President Trump took historic action today to deliver safety and security for Americans of every race and background. 

“We are one nation—we grieve together, and we heal together,” he said.

Today’s executive order pursues common-sense reforms to public safety while rejecting fringe, anti-police demands. “I strongly oppose the radical and dangerous effort to defund, dismantle, and dissolve our police departments–especially now when we’ve achieved the lowest recorded crime rates in recent history,” the President said.

🎬 President Trump: Restoring, renewing, and rebuilding our communities

“Many of the same politicians now presenting themselves as the solution are the same ones who have failed for decades on schools, jobs, justice, and crime. They’re all often, unfortunately, the same politicians running the cities and states where help is most needed.”

Americans both support the brave men and women in blue and believe we must improve accountability, increase transparency, and invest more in law enforcement training. President Trump’s actions today recognize and build on these goals:

  1. Certification: The Justice Department will now allocate certain funding only to law enforcement agencies that meet high standards for use-of-force and de-escalation, as credentialed by reputable independent bodies. As part of this new credentialing, chokeholds will be banned except if an officer’s life is at risk.
  2. Information sharing: The Attorney General will create a database for federal, state, and local law enforcement to track terminations, criminal convictions, and civil judgments against law enforcement officers for excessive use-of-force.
  3. Mental health: To protect both officers and our most vulnerable populations, the Administration will prioritize training for police and social workers who respond to incidents involving the mentally ill, addicted, and homeless.
  4. Legislative action: The Administration will develop and propose new legislation to Congress to build on these policies and boost community engagement.
Reducing crime and raising police standards are not opposing goals, President Trump said. Today’s executive order protects decent, law-abiding officers while holding those who abuse their badge accountable for their actions.
 
🎬 President Trump: We will reduce crime AND raise standards!
 
Safer communities mean safer work for our law enforcement officers, too. Last year alone, 89 officers were killed in the line of duty. In recent days, two members of law enforcement were killed amid riots and looting. Hundreds more were injured.
 
“The vast majority of police officers are selfless and courageous public servants,” President Trump said. “When others run away from danger, police run straight into harm’s way, often putting their lives at stake to protect someone who they don’t know or never even met.”
 
Violent crime in America is falling under President Trump, and we have brave law enforcement officers to thank for it. In 2018, police arrested nearly 12,000 people for murder and manslaughter, about 25,000 for rape, and nearly 1.5 million for assault.
 
In many cases, local law enforcement is underfunded, understaffed, and under-supported. The last thing our country needs to do is to make the jobs of good, decent police officers more difficult. The far-left’s radical agenda proposes doing just that.
 
President Trump’s executive order today brings law enforcement and their communities closer together. Calls to defund policing will only drive them further apart.

See President Trump’s executive order on safe policing
 
WATCHPresident Trump’s full remarks from the Rose Garden

Photo of the Day

President Trump signs an executive order on safe policing for safe communities | June 16, 2020

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The White House · 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW · Washington, DC 20500 · USA · 202-456-1111

Five Stories President Trump Doesn’t Want You to Miss

The White House – June 6th, 2020
May Sees Biggest Jobs Increase Ever of 2.5 Million as Economy Starts to Recover from Coronavirus
-CNBC
“Employment stunningly rose by 2.5 million in May and the jobless rate declined to 13.3%, according to data Friday from the Labor Department that was far better than economists had been expecting and indicated that an economic turnaround could be close at hand,” Jeff Cox reports.
 
🎬 President Trump: The world’s greatest economy is roaring back!

15 People Died in the Protests and Riots Following George Floyd’s Death. Here’s Who They Are
The Daily Caller
“Some have downplayed the looting and violence. Politicians, along with sympathetic members of the national media, lined up to apologize or justify the destruction,” Marlo Safi writes. “But the violence didn’t end with buildings reduced to ashes or broken windows. Lives can’t be replaced.”

🎬 President TrumpEvery American must receive equal treatment under the law

The Media Are Lying To You About Everything, Including The Riots
The Federalist
“In recent days we’ve heard a steady drumbeat of lies, distortions, and disingenuousness from the mainstream media about almost every aspect of the unrest now gripping American cities. The deceit is almost too pervasive and amorphous to describe,” John Daniel Davidson writes.
 
MORE: “The lying about Donald Trump is now completely out of control”

Trump, HBCUs and Progress
Townhall
“As both of us can attest, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU) provide a vital path for young African-Americans to reach the true heights of their potential,” Ken Blackwell and Herman Cain write. “The scale and duration of President Trump’s commitment to HBCUs is a story often ignored in the popular press, but it fits neatly within the framework of his governing philosophy.”
 
🎬 Scott Turner: We must stand together in unity

How Financial Institutions Can Help America Heal
The Wall Street Journal
“I am all too familiar with the heartbreak and pain that so many in the black community experience as they see such events play out repeatedly,” writes Rodney Hood. “President Trump appointed me the first African-American to lead a federal banking regulatory agency, the National Credit Union Administration . . . Since I assumed the chairmanship last year, much of my focus has been on building and reinforcing places that have fallen behind.”

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The White House · 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW · Washington, DC 20500 · USA · 202-456-1111

Protect Clean Elections!

WEEKLY UPDATE

Judicial Watch Testifies to Congress: Secure the Vote!

I was pleased to represent you in providing testimony to the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties during a hearing titled “Protecting the Right to Vote During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

I reminded the committee that Judicial Watch has “been involved for almost a decade in ensuring the honesty and integrity of our electoral processes” and “is now the nation’s premier enforcer, public or private, of the election integrity provisions of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA).”

“The American people see what they conclude are disingenuous fights over electoral procedures and lose faith in the honesty of our elections,” I said. “With this background in mind I turn to measures proposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the more common suggestions now is to require greater reliance on mail-in ballots. For example, last month Governor Newsom issued an executive order requiring that county elections officials transmit mail ballots to every registered voter in the State. I view this as a real threat to the integrity of American elections.

“It is now about five months until election day, and the pandemic’s infection curve has flattened. Insisting now on all-mail ballot elections seems less like a response to a health crisis and more like a partisan application of the immortal words of Rahm Emanuel: ‘Never allow a good crisis to go to waste.'”

For more than 25 years, Judicial Watch has been known for its aggressive, leading edge use of public records laws and lawsuits, as well as taxpayer, civil rights, and whistleblower protection litigation to fight government corruption. In 2012, we launched a nationwide effort to promote voting integrity and protect voting rights. As part of this effort, we assembled a team of highly experienced voting rights attorneys who have fought gerrymandering in Maryland, stopped discriminatory elections in Hawaii, and cleaned up voter rolls in Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky, among other achievements.

In 2018, California settled a federal lawsuit with Judicial Watch and began the process of removing up to 1.6 million inactive names from Los Angeles County’s voter rolls. In April, Judicial Watch sued North Carolina and Pennsylvania to force them to clean up their voter rolls. We also just filed a lawsuit to stop the special, statewide vote-by-mail mandate issued by California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Other participants in the hearing included:Stacey Abrams, Chair, Fair Fight ActionJ. Christian Adams, President and General Counsel, Public Interest Legal FoundationBarbara Arnwine, President, Transformational Justice CoalitionJocelyn Benson, Secretary of State, State of MichiganMichelle Bishop, Disability Advocacy Specialist for Voting Rights, National Disability Rights NetworkDale Ho, Director, Voting Rights Project, American Civil Liberties UnionMyrna Pérez, Director, Voting Rights and Elections Program, Brennan Center for JusticeI suspect the Left wasn’t terribly happy with my testimony, as I called them out for using coronavirus to scare Americans from voting in person. This is the real voter suppression.

Thank you to Subcommittee Chairman Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Ranking Member Congressman Mike Johnson (R-LA) for running the hearing and allowing Judicial Watch the opportunity to make our case for more secure elections.
 
My written testimony is available here. Video from the hearing is available here.


Court Rules Cash Payments to Illegal Aliens Likely Violate Federal Law

A federal court just ruled that a Montgomery County, MD, program that provides $10 million in cash payments to illegal aliens likely violates federal law and irreparably harms county taxpayers.

The court ordered the county to hold back 25% of any unspent funds until the court can fully consider the merits of our taxpayer lawsuit (Bauer, et al, v. Elrich, et al. (No. 20-cv-01212)). However, the court denied our request for a temporary restraining order.
 
This action comes in our lawsuit on behalf of Montgomery County taxpayers Sharon Bauer and Richard Jurgena, originally filed on May 13 in Montgomery County Circuit Court, which Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and Raymond Crowel, director of the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, subsequently removed to federal court. The lawsuit seeks to permanently enjoin Elrich and Crowel from expending taxpayer money on the cash-benefits program known as the “Emergency Assistance Relief Payment Program” (EARP). Payments under EARP would amount to $500 per single adult, $1,000 per family with one child and $150 per additional child, up to a maximum of $1,450 per family.
 
Under federal law, certain categories of aliens, including unlawfully present aliens, are ineligible for state or local public benefits. Such benefits include direct, cash payments. If a state chooses to provide such benefits to unlawfully present aliens, it must enact a state law affirmatively providing for such eligibility.
 
We argue that EARP violates federal law because the Maryland State Legislature has not authorized Montgomery County to provide these benefits to unlawfully present aliens. Therefore, Elrich and the County Council overstepped their authority when they created the program. The Montgomery County DHHS has stated that “unlawfully present aliens are eligible to apply for and receive cash payments.”
 
The court agreed with us, ruling that:
 Based on an analysis of the federal statute alone, the Court concludes that Plaintiffs have demonstrated a strong likelihood of success on the merits. 
Although the court denied a request for a temporary restraining order, it did order that county retain at least 25% of any unspent funds until the court could fully consider the merits of the case.
 
This ruling pushes back on the abuse by county officials who want to send taxpayer coronavirus money to illegal aliens in violation of federal law. The coronavirus challenge doesn’t give politicians a pass to violate the law. If politicians want to use tax money from law-abiding taxpayers and send cash payments to illegal aliens, they must be accountable and transparent, and, as federal law requires, pass a state law to do so.
 

Appeals Court Weighs Whether We Can Depose Hillary Clinton

We participated in an appeals court hearing this week by teleconference regarding former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s efforts to avoid testifying, under oath, about her emails. Clinton’s former Chief of Staff, Cheryl Mills, also seeks to avoid giving testimony.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is considering Clinton and Mills’ extraordinary request, known as a “petition for writ of mandamus,” to overturn an order issued by U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth requiring them to testify. 

Hillary Clinton is essentially saying: “What difference does it make!” She argues that she shouldn’t have to testify because she is a former, high level government official and that the case is moot because the FBI already tried to recover her emails from various sources when it investigated allegations that classified information was improperly stored or transmitted on the personal e-mail server she used at State.

Our position is that neither Clinton nor Mills has demonstrated that they should not have to follow ordinary appellate rules to challenge the District Court’s order and that the case is not moot. We argue that the FBI’s effort was not exhaustive, as demonstrated by the discovery of some 30 additional Clinton emails late last year, among other developments, and that other emails may be recovered if State is required to look for them.

This hearing came in our FOIA lawsuit that seeks records concerning “talking points or updates on the Benghazi attack” (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:14-cv-01242)). In 2014, we uncovered “talking points” created by the Obama White House showing that statements about the attack made on the eve of the 2012 elections by then-National Security Advisor Susan Rice were misleading, if not false. This FOIA lawsuit led directly to the disclosure of the Clinton email system in 2015. 

On March 2, 2020, Judge Lamberth granted us discovery that includes taking testimony from Clinton and Mills, under oath, regarding Clinton’s emails and the existence of records about the Benghazi attack. In April, we and the State Department, which is represented by Justice Department lawyers, filed responses opposing Clinton’s and Mills’ request to overturn the order requiring their testimony. The lower court found that Clinton’s testimony was necessary and that it was time to hear directly from Secretary Clinton.

In December 2018, Judge Lamberth ordered discovery into whether Clinton’s use of a private email server was intended to avoid 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 our request. The lower court also authorized discovery into whether the Benghazi controversy motivated the cover-up of Clinton’s email. It ruled that the Clinton email system was “one of the gravest modern offenses to government transparency.”

Judicial Watch senior attorney Ramona Cotca did a fantastic job this week against Mrs. Clinton’s lawyer and some tough questioning by the court.

The issue is now fully submitted and we await the panel’s ruling. You can listen to the hearing here.


Facebook Censorship Board Has Ties to Leftwing Billionaire George Soros

Social media has assumed a primary role in how Americans talk to eachother and learn what is going on. And so, the censorship that is choking the major platforms is a serious threat to online conservative voices including, as we saw with Twitter’s recent censorship, the President of the United States.

Consider the hard Left make-up of Facebook’s censorship board — our Corruption Chronicles blog has the details.
The recently appointed Facebook oversight board that will decide which posts get blocked from the world’s most popular social networking website is stacked with leftists, including a close friend of leftwing billionaire George Soros who served on the board of directors of his Open Society Foundations (OSF). Judicial Watch conducted a deep dive into the new panel that will make content rulings for the technology company that was slammed last year with a $5 billion fine for privacy violations. The information uncovered by Judicial Watch shows that the group of 20 is overwhelmingly leftist and likely to restrict conservative views. More than half of the members have ties to Soros, the philanthropist who dedicates huge sums to spreading a radical left agenda that includes targeting conservative politicians. Other Facebook oversight board members have publicly expressed their disdain for President Donald Trump or made political contributions to top Democrats such as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren. As one New York newspaper editorial determined this month, the new Facebook board is a “recipe for left-wing censorship.”
Among the standouts is András Sajó, the founding Dean of Legal Studies at Soros’ Central European University. Sajó was a judge at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for nearly a decade. He also served on the board of directors of OSF’s Justice Initiative. Sajó was one of the ECHR judges in an Italian case (Latusi v. Italy) that ruled unanimously that the display of a crucifix in public schools in Italy violates the European Convention on Human Rights. The decision was subsequently overturned. Sajó’s deep ties to Soros are also concerning. Through his OSF Soros funds a multitude of projects worldwide aimed at spreading a leftist agenda by, among other things, destabilizing legitimate governments, erasing national borders and identities, financing civil unrest and orchestrating refugee crises for political gain.  Incredibly, there is a financial and staffing nexus between the U.S. government and Soros’ OSF. Read about it in a Judicial Watch special report documenting how Soros advances his leftist agenda at U.S. taxpayer expense.
At least 10 other members of the Facebook oversight board are connected to leftist groups tied to Soros that have benefitted from his generous donations, according to Judicial Watch’s research. Alan Rusbridger, a former British newspaper editor and principal at Oxford University, serves on the board of directors of the Committee to Protect Journalists, which received $750,000 from OSF in 2018. Rusbridger also served as a governor at a global thinktank, Ditchley Foundation, that co-hosted a conference with OSF on change in the Middle East and North Africa as well as understanding political Islam. Afia Asantewaa Sariyev, a human rights attorney, is the program manager at Soros’ Open Society Initiative for West Africa. Her research includes critical race feminism and socio-economic rights of the poor. Sudhir Krishnaswamy, an Indian lawyer and civil society activist, runs a progressive nonprofit called Centre for Law and Policy Research that focuses on transgender rights, gender equality and public health. The group is a grantee of a justice foundation that received $1.4 million from OSF between 2016 and 2018. Krishnaswamy’s Centre also received money from a radical pro-abortion group, Center for Reproductive Rights, generously funded by the OSF.
The list of Facebook judges connected to Soros and the organized left continues. Julie Owono is the executive director of a Paris-based nonprofit, Internet Sans Frontieres, that advocates for privacy and freedom of expression online. In 2018, Internet Sans Frontieres became a member of the Global Network Initiative, an internet oversight and policy consortium handsomely funded by Soros. Nighat Dad is a Pakistani attorney and the founder of the Digital Rights Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Pakistan that has received $114,000 in grants from OSF. Dad’s group also gets funding from Facebook Ireland. Ronaldo Lemos, a Brazilian law professor, served on the board of directors of the Mozilla Foundation, which collected $350,000 from OSF in 2016 and was also a board member at another group, Access Now, that also got thousands of dollars from Soros. Tawakkol Karman, a journalist and civil rights activist, sits on the advisory board of Transparency International, which gets significant funding from Soros’ OSF.
Rounding out the Soros-affiliated field on the new Facebook censorship board are Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Catalina Botero-Marino and Maina Kiai. Thorning-Schmidt, Denmark’s former prime minister, sits on the board of the European Council of Foreign Relations, which took in more $3.6 million from OSF in 2016 and 2017. She is also a trustee at the International Crisis Group which has collected over $8.2 million from OSF and includes George and Alexander Soros on its board. The former Danish prime minister is also a member of the Atlantic Council’s International Advisory Board, which received approximately $325,000 from OSF in the last few years and the European Advisory Board of the Center for Global Development, which got north of half a million dollars from OSF in 2018. Botero-Marino is the dean of a Colombian law school called Universidad de Los Andes that obtained more than $1.3 million from OSF between 2016 and 2018, the records obtained by Judicial Watch show. Botero-Marino also sits on the panel of experts at Columbia University’s Global Freedom Expression Project, which gets funding from OSF, and she was a board member at Article 19, a group that got about $1.7 million from OSF between 2016 and 2018. Kiai is the director of the Global Alliances and Partnerships at Human Rights Watch, which accepted $275,000 from OSF in 2018. He is also a member of OSF’s Human Rights Initiative advisory board and was the founding executive director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission, which got $615,000 from Soros in the last two years.
Others on the Facebook board have slandered President Trump in social media posts and donated money to high-profile Democrats. Taiwanese communications professor Katherine Chen’s Twitter account includes retweets of numerous anti-Trump and pro-Obama posts and articles. Nicolas Suzor, a law professor in Australia, retweeted a column implicitly comparing Trump to Hitler and Columbia University law professor Jamal Greene has made campaign contributions to Obama, Hillary Clinton and Warren. Pro-Trump impeachment Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan, who took a cheap shot at President Trump’s teenage son during the Brett Kavanaugh impeachment hearings, has also contributed money to Obama, Hillary Clinton and Warren. The new board has only a few token conservatives such as Stanford law professor Michael McConnell, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. The overwhelming majority of those making Facebook’s “final and binding decisions on whether specific content should be allowed or removed,” are leftists. They represent a new model of content moderation that will uphold “freedom of expression within the framework of international norms of human rights.” Facebook’s economic, political or reputational interests will not interfere in the process, the company writes in its introduction to the new board. Eventually the board, which will begin hearing cases later this year, will double in size. “The cases we choose to hear may be contentious, and we will not please everyone with our decisions,” Facebook warns.

Virus Update: Data Wars Rage Over Trump-Boosted Drug

It’s a sign of the times: medical advice has now been politicized. How can ordinary people get to the truth when seemingly trusted sources of information so blatantly spout untruths?

Our senior investigative reporter, Micah Morrison, continues to follow the best-known example in his Investigative Bulletin. The latest:
Scientific fisticuffs are flying over hydroxychloroquine (HC), the anti-malaria drug enthusiastically promoted by President Trump in the war against the coronavirus. The president—backed by an array of global reports, anecdotal evidence, and outside advisers—thinks HC could be an effective preventative, a weapon for frontline medical personnel, and helpful when administered in the early stage of the virus. On May 18, Trump doubled down and made it personal, announcing that he himself had been taking HC. Trump’s critics are aghast at this exercise of the presidential bully pulpit, warning that HC has serious side effects and possibly zero effectiveness in fighting the virus.
But the president has had an impact. Medical studies are moving at warp speed. Yesterday, the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine published a University of Minnesota study that concluded HC did not work as a preventative for the disease. The study, with more than 800 participants, “had an unusual design,” noted NPR in a report on the findings.
“It was all web-based,” a leader of the project told NPR. “People would go to our website if they were interested in enrolling.”
To qualify for the study, NPR reported, “people had to be within a few days of their encounter with a Covid-19 patient and not have any symptoms of the disease themselves. ‘Encounters’ meant being within six feet of a sick person for more than ten minutes while wearing neither a face mask nor an eye shield, or while wearing a face mask but no face shield. The volunteers received either a five-day supply of hydroxychloroquine, or a placebo.” The study concluded that HC was not effective in preventing healthy people from getting the disease. Read more about it here.
Meanwhile, an influential study published May 22 in another high-profile medical journal, The Lancet, has come under fire. The study, based on a more than 90,000 patient records from a little-known hospital data company, concluded that patients taking HC were more likely to develop abnormal heart rhythms and more likely to die.
The reaction to the Lancet report was swift. Trump was denounced. France, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the World Health Organization put holds on clinical trials investigating HC.
But questions soon emerged about the Lancet report. How much was known about Surgisphere, the hospital database company behind the study?
Within a week, more than 100 scientists published an open letter to the Lancet raising questions about Surgisphere’s methods and the integrity of its data. Yesterday, the WHO reversed course on HC and resumed clinical studies.
Judicial Watch readers have questions of their own about the Lancet study.
“I really hate to go down this path,” writes one emergency responder, requesting anonymity due to concerns about career repercussions, “but we know damn well this whole thing has been sucked into the blender of U.S. politics. This study almost seems written by design to play into that.”
This reader notes that the Lancet report indicates that patients in the study already were “very, very sick,” because only the very sick in the past months have been admitted to U.S. hospitals. “So… the patient is already fragile” and has “classically negative co-morbidities and contra-indications for use.” The patient is then given a heavy dose of drugs, which “by design, are toxic. Fragile + over-dosed toxin = bad outcome.” And what do the authors of the study do? “Blame the drug.”
Epidemiologist Andrew Bostom writes us to say that there are two “truly enormous” HC-related studies getting underway, but won’t be completed until year’s end. Meanwhile, Dr. Bostom suggests, the Trump approach to HC is appropriate and compassionate.
“Above all, do no harm,” Dr. Bostom writes. “Both chloroquine (CQ) and hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), given short-term, are safe and effective for malaria prophylaxis and treatment (ongoing, barring areas of parasite resistance). HCQ, in particular, is also remarkably safe for chronic treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus (‘Lupus’) and other rheumatic (‘inflammatory’) diseases.  Accordingly, it was completely appropriate to try them as compassionate-use drugs to treat even late-stage Covid-19…. The fact that such patients might begin to experience ‘toxicities’ when they are severely ill with Covid-19, often with multi-organ system failure grossly impairing the ability to metabolize HCQ or CQ normally—or many other drugs for that matter—is hardly a revelation!”
Hastily published studies, Dr. Bostom suggests, leave us groping in the dark. It’s a situation, he says, “made uniquely worse by the anti-Trump Left, including the ‘academic’ Left, with their vicious politicization of what should have been a purely investigative clinical-science issue.”
Read more about the Lancet controversy here.
Is something rotten at Surgisphere? Read about it here.
 Since this piece was published, the researchers behind the Lancet study used to attack President Trump on hydroxychloroquine was officially retracted!

Until next week,



 

Fighting for honest elections

Judicial Watch

Judicial Watch – June 4th, 2020

Dear Mr. Ramos,

Judicial Watch has long been the national leader fighting to enforce federal laws designed to protect the honesty of our elections, and to challenge efforts to weaken those safeguards and make it easier for ineligible individuals, including illegal aliens, to vote.

In fact, we recently filed a lawsuit against Pennsylvania and three of its largest counties (Bucks, Chester and Delaware) over their failure to follow National Voter Registration Act and clean their voter rolls. 

This Pennsylvania action follows closely on the heels of a similar lawsuit we filed against North Carolina and two of its largest counties (Guilford and Mecklenburg) for failing to clean their voter rolls as required by federal law. North Carolina, we allege, has more than 1,000,000 inactive voters on their rolls!

Dirty voting rolls can mean dirty elections!

And now, calls from the Left for out of control mail-in voting makes the need for clean voter rolls even more essential!

No organization in the country (including the U.S. Department of Justice) is as effective as Judicial Watch holding states and counties accountable under federal election law!

That’s why we’re in Pennsylvania and North Carolinaand why we may file more lawsuits against states and counties we previously warned about their failure to maintain clean voter rolls. 

And this is why I hope you will support our efforts with your best contribution today to Judicial Watch.

The fight over honest elections is in full swing across America. The organized Left (funded in large part by George Soros) is pulling out all the stops to weaken election safeguards, permit illegal aliens to vote…and illicitly tilt the electoral playing field in their favor for years to come.

And our dogged and persistent litigation to see that existing federal election laws are enforced (as we have successfully already done in states including California,OhioIndiana and Kentucky) are the single most effective means to thwart the Left’s unconscionable drive to corrupt and degrade the integrity of our elections and undermine the very foundations of our Republic.

That’s why I hope you will join our fight by making your best contribution to Judicial Watch right now. Your support will help us continue to fight through the courts and the legal system for ballot integrity, while keeping us on track with all our other investigations and litigation. Thank you!
Sincerely,
Thomas Fitton
President

P.S. Under the guise of the corona virus crisis, the Left is calling for out of control mail-in voting which makes the need for clean voter rolls even more essential. That’s why our work today is even more important and why your best gift now will help tremendously
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