In a mind-boggling example of how the government blows—or perhaps steals—our tax dollars, billions vanished from the U.S. State Department mostly while Hillary Clinton ran it, according to a new alert issued by the agency’s inspector general.
Could the former Secretary of State be using the cash to fund an upcoming presidential campaign? In all, $6 billion are missing and it’s highly unlikely any of the money will ever be recovered. The cash was supposed to be used to pay contractors but it just disappeared and documents that could help track the dough cannot be located. How convenient! The paper trail, which federal law says must be maintained in the case of government contracts, has been destroyed or was never created to begin with.
How could this possibly happen? Like a lot of government agencies, outside contracts are a free-for-all at the State Department with virtually no oversight. Hundreds of millions of dollars are doled out annually for a variety of services and no one bothers to follow up on the deals. This “exposes the department to significant financial risk,” according to the State Department Inspector General, which issued a special management alert this month outlining the lost $6 billion. The watchdog further writes that “it creates conditions conducive to fraud, as corrupt individuals may attempt to conceal evidence of illicit behavior by omitting key documents from the contract file.”
Among the examples listed in the memo is a recent investigation of the closeout process for contracts involving the U.S. mission in Iraq. Investigators could not locate 33 of the 115 contract files totaling approximately $2.1 billion. Even of the files they found, more than half contained insufficient documents required by federal law. In one billion-dollar deal involving the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement in Afghanistan, the actual contract was determined to be “incomplete.”
In one alarming case a contract file conveniently omitted that a $52 million deal was awarded to a company owned by the spouse of another State Department contractor employee performing as a specialist. In other cited cases a contracting officer actually falsified government technical review information in a $100 million deal and a contracting officer’s representative allowed nearly $800,000 to be paid on a deal with no official documents to support the payment. It’s the free-flow of public funds under extremely suspicious circumstances.
At the very least the State Department is violating its own policy, according to the inspector general, which divulges that it’s found “repeated examples of poor contract file administration over the years.” The watchdog confirms that “it is the Department’s policy that all contracts, regardless of dollar value, be properly documented so as to provide complete record of: pre-solicitation activities; the solicitation, evaluation, and award process; and [sic] the administration of the contract through closeout.”
This unbelievable report documenting the mysterious disappearance of $6 billion from the coffers of a major government agency brings to mind a similar and equally enraging story reported by Judicial Watch a few years ago. The Pentagon somehow lost $6.6 billion sent to Iraq for post-invasion “reconstruction.”
The money was bundled in chunks of $100 bills and transported in turboprop military cargo planes known as C-130 Hercules. About $2.4 billion fit in each aircraft and 21 flights made trips, transporting a total of $12 billion in American currency to Iraq. More than half the money has never been recovered, according to the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.
A year later nearly half a billion dollars in oil destined for the Afghan National Army vanished. We will never know what happened because the Pentagon improperly shredded records that could have solved the mystery, according to a federal audit that exposed the fraud. The oil was part of a $1 billion fuel program largely funded by the U.S. government, which of course, means it was mostly Americans who saw their tax dollars blown in yet another government corruption scheme.
Waste and fraud are par for the course in most bloated government agencies and JW has exposed a number of alarming examples over the years, both domestically and internationally. They involve practically all agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) scandal-plagued food-stamp program, Medicare and Medicaid, the famously corrupt U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and President Obama’s fraud-infested $787 billion stimulus boondoggle, to name a few.
John Podesta gets a hug from Hillary at a 2011 CAP forum in Washington, DC.
Source: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America
By Micah Morrison
“They [the White House] need to focus on executive action given that they are facing a second term against a cult worthy of Jonestown in charge of one of the houses of Congress.”
So spoke John Podesta in an interview last fall with Politico, shortly before being named White House counselor. Podesta quickly apologized for the Jonestown jibe and his return to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, where he previously served President Clinton, was greeted with deferential nods from the press. “Well respected in political circles both as a strategist and policy thinker,” noted the AP. “One of the Democratic Party’s most seasoned political and policy operatives,” declared the Washington Post.
In 2003, Podesta founded the Center for American Progress. By all accounts, it has been a roaring success, serving as a left-wing answer to the Heritage Foundation and a government-in-waiting during the Bush darkness. According to recent data, CAP’s assets top $44 million; its advocacy unit, the CAP Action Fund, holds about $6 million. Podesta also is a co-founder with his brother, Tony, of the lobbying firm now known as the Podesta Group; started in 1988, the Podesta Group in 20l3 reported over $27 million in lobbying fees.
In 2005, the New York Times noted that Podesta was one of a “tight-knit group of advisers” forming Hillary Clinton’s inner circle as she pondered a presidential run. He supported Mrs. Clinton in the 2008 primary season, but soon was on board with Barack Obama, directing his presidential transition team. In 2011, Podesta resigned as president of CAP and was replaced by Neera Tanden, a longtime Hillary Clinton aide. According to the Post, Podesta remains “an influential voice in the Clinton political orbit, informally advising Hillary Rodham Clinton in the year since she stepped down as secretary of state.” In his current White House position, Podesta is reported to be focusing on environmental issues, particularly climate change, and particularly policies that can be put in place by executive action, without Congressional approval.
The Podesta biography also includes a long history of scandal-management and cover-up for the Clintons. Podesta now says he will serve only a year as counselor to President Obama, but if the going gets tough, expect an extended tenure. Slamming House Republicans as “a cult worthy of Jonestown” is a signal that Podesta will not go quietly into the night.
Podesta played a role in managing many of the scandals that surrounded the Clintons, including Mrs. Clinton’s amazing profits trading cattle futures, Whitewater, Monica Lewinsky, impeachment, and perhaps most tellingly, the Travel Office affair. In May 1993, a senior administration official, David Watkins, fired all seven members of the White House Travel Office to make way for Arkansas cronies of the Clintons. A picaresque enterprise with lucrative connections to the airline charter business, the Travel Office handled travel arrangements for the White House press corps—it operated literally on the fly and ran its business in much the same way.
President Clinton simply could have asked for the resignations of the Travel Office employees. Instead, in actions directed in part by Mrs. Clinton, the employees were driven from office, cashiered as crooks and lowlifes. Travel Office Director Billy Dale’s experience was especially harrowing: indicted on embezzlement charges, he faced up to 20 years in prison. His career in ruins, he twisted in the wind for more than two years until a jury cleared him of all charges, returning a verdict after deliberating less than two hours.
White House officials had unleashed “the full powers of the federal government against the seven former workers,” the Republican-led House Government Reform and Oversight Committee concluded after a lengthy inquiry. “The extraordinary might of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Justice—not to mention the prestige of the White House itself—were brought to bear.” In a detailed final report, the committee rebuked the White House for conducting “an enormous and elaborate cover-up” of the Travel Office affair.
In 1993, Podesta served as Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary. As concerns over abuse of power in the Travel Office affair mounted and the White House fought a public-relations nightmare, Podesta was appointed to conduct an internal inquiry that became known as the White House Management Review. Podesta’s report would become the White House’s first line of defense in the Travel Office affair. It depicted Mrs. Clinton as little more than a bystander in the Travel Office events.
Others had a different view. “The much-heralded White House Management Review proved to be nothing more than a whitewash,” noted the Oversight Committee. It “minimized Mrs. Clinton’s role in the Travel Office firings and omitted testimony of witnesses indicating a larger role by Mrs. Clinton. It also failed to note that senior White House aides had initially withheld information about Mrs. Clinton’s involvement in the firings.”
The Oversight Committee reported that a “pattern developed throughout the course of the review: information unflattering to the Travel Office employees was included in the report, exculpatory information was not.
Podesta went digging for dirt in confidential personnel files. “In seeking derogatory information on the Travel Office employees, Podesta reviewed their personnel files,” the Oversight Committee reported. The files “circulated around the White House for several weeks” until a senior official in the personnel office “made an urgent call for them to be returned.”
Concerns over the Podesta-led inquiry protecting Mrs. Clinton were not entirely a partisan matter. Podesta’s own deputy, Todd Stern, wrote in notes later obtained by investigators, “if you give answers that aren’t fully honest (e.g., nothing re HRC) you risk hugely compounding the problem by getting caught in half-truths. You run risk of turning this into a ‘cover-up.’”
Deputy White House Counsel Vincent Foster, a close Clinton associate and former law firm partner of Mrs. Clinton, was deeply involved in the Travel Office affair. His goal: protect the First Lady. “Defend management decision, thereby defend HRC role whatever it is, was in fact or might have been misperceived to be,” Foster wrote in a note to himself shortly before he committed suicide, pitching the White House into another crisis.
Numerous reports have detailed Foster’s mounting concerns over Whitewater and the Travel Office. “At the time of his death,” noted the final report of the Senate Special Committee on Whitewater, “Vincent Foster was intimately involved in two brewing scandals—Travelgate and Whitewater—touching on President and Mrs. Clinton. Mr. Foster played a central role in both the firing of the Travel Office staff and subsequent attempts to conceal Mrs. Clinton’s true role in the firings.”
Mrs. Clinton denied playing a role in the Travel Office firings. In a sworn statement, she told the Government Accountability Office that she “did not know the origin of the decision to remove the White House Travel Office employees” and that she had “no role in the decision to terminate the employees.” She repeated the denials in testimony before Congress and an independent counsel inquiry.
In 1996, the case took a new twist when a self-described “soul cleansing” draft memo surfaced from Arkansas insider David Watkins, the White House official who had fired the Travel Office employees. The memo, not dated and marked “Confidential,” apparently was written for then-White House Chief of Staff Thomas “Mack” McLarty. It noted that Foster “regularly informed me that the First Lady was concerned and desired action—the action desired was the firing of the Travel Office staff.”
Watkins—who himself was dismissed from his White House post in 1994 for improper use of a government helicopter—wrote that he had directly spoken to Mrs. Clinton about the Travel Office. She expressed “her desire for swift and clear action to resolve the situation,” Watkins noted in the memo.
“We both knew that there would be hell to pay,” Watkins wrote, if “we failed to take swift and decisive action in conformity with the First Lady’s wishes.”
With the Watkins memo, the ante went up on the Travel Office affair. Had Mrs. Clinton lied under oath?
In 2000, a report by Independent Counsel Robert Ray concluded that Mrs. Clinton had given “factually false” testimony about the Travel Office firings. In other words, she had lied. Contrary to her statements, and contrary to the Podesta review, she had played a central role in the Travel Office firings. But Ray declined prosecution, saying that the evidence did not prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Mrs. Clinton’s statements had been made with the requisite criminal intent.
Questioned by congressional investigators about the Clintons’ role in the Travel Office firings, Podesta suffered a severe bout of memory loss. The Oversight Committee report noted that “Mr. Podesta recalls nothing of the interview with the President, whether he discussed the President’s knowledge of the firings, or whether he asked about the President’s complicity.” The report cited 264 instances when Podesta “had difficulty recalling key events under oath.”
The cover-up had succeeded. For Podesta, it was a defining moment. Before, he was just another obscure White House aide. After, he was a made man in Clintonland: he had upheld the omerta surrounding the Clintons, protected the First Lady, fended off Congress and the press.
Soon he would be given an even more important task: Whitewater. Congress, the press and prosecutors were digging into the Clintons’ Arkansas land deals amid allegations of widespread fraud, corruption and cover-up. According to a December 1994 memo known as the White House “Task List,” Podesta would be assigned a key role in Whitewater. Under the heading “White House Whitewater response effort,” is the notation, “Podesta damage control effort.”
In 1997, Podesta was promoted to White House deputy chief of staff. In 1998, he was appointed chief of staff. He presided over the tumultuous final years of the Clinton presidency, a tenure marked by the Lewinsky debacle, impeachment, and a scandal over presidential pardons. Back in the White House now, Podesta is a bellwether for the final Obama years, a political street fighter steeped in scandal management and a loyalist serving two masters—the man who is president, and the woman who would succeed him.
National Archives withheld documents for seven years. Original Freedom of Information Act request to National Archives filed on April 4, 2006; FOIA lawsuit filed in 2007
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that on October 17, 2013, thanks to Judicial Watch litigation, the public gained access to more than 57,000 pages of previously withheld documents from the Clinton Presidential Library related to the National Taskforce on Health Care Reform, a “cabinet-level” taskforce chaired by former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton during the first term of the Bill Clinton presidency.
The release of records came more than seven years after Judicial Watch filed an April 4, 2006, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request asking for “any and all” records pertaining to the Taskforce on Health Care Reform. On November 2, 2007, Judicial Watch was forced to file a FOIA lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration to obtain the records (Judicial Watch, Inc. v U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (No: 1:07-cv-07-1987)).
In a letter sent to Judicial Watch on October 17, the Supervisor Archivist of the Clinton Presidential Library said, “We have completed processing, according to the provisions of FOIA, the approximately 57,234 pages of Clinton presidential records responsive to … your FOIA request ….” In previous correspondence with Judicial Watch, the National Archives admitted that there are approximately 3,022,030 textual records, 2,884 pages of electronic records, 1,021 photographs, 3 videotapes and 3 audiotapes related to the Judicial Watch’s April 4, 2006, FOIA request. Judicial Watch subsequently agreed to limit its FOIA request to the universe of 1 million responsive documents which include the Task Force staff files and internal documents.
According to Clinton Presidential Library records, “The cabinet-level Task Force, chaired by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, was given primary responsibility for providing advice and making recommendations to the President regarding the national health care reform package.” A small category of Health Care Task Force-related documents had previously been released by the Clinton Presidential Library, but the records of the Health Care Task Force itself had not been disclosed.
The release of the actual Task Force records marked another milestone in a nearly decade-long battle by Judicial Watch to obtain the information, dating back to its original 2006 FOIA request. Following its 2007 FOIA lawsuit, Judicial Watch, in February 2008 asked the federal court to deny a National Archives motion to delay the release of any records indefinitely. In May 2008, the court granted the Archives motion, prompting Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton to say, “The Archives processed requests for information about UFOs, while refusing to process requests for important information about a presidential candidate and U.S. Senator. This delay benefits no one but bureaucrats who refuse to do their jobs and politicians running for office.”
In September 2008, U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman ruled against the National Archives, refusing to dismiss Judicial Watch’s lawsuit to obtain the Health Care Task Force records. In his ruling, the judge declared, “[The National Archives] argues that [Judicial Watch's] request is inadequate because it is overbroad…otherwise valid FOIA requests are not overbroad or unreasonable simply because they seek a very large number of documents,” while noting that the Archives “should have been better prepared” to process open records requests related to the Clinton Presidential Library.
In January 2008, Judicial Watch released an earlier batch of records obtained from the Clinton Presidential Library related to the National Taskforce on Health Care Reform revealing:
- A June 18, 1993, internal memorandum containing the startling admission from a staff member: “… I have trouble coming up with a precedent in our peacetime history for such broad and centralized control over a sector of the economy… “
- A “Confidential” May 26, 1993, memorandum from Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) to Hillary Clinton entitled, ‘Health Care Reform Communications,” criticizing the Task Force as a “secret cabal of Washington policy ‘wonks’” that has engaged in “choking off information” from the public regarding health care reform.
- A February 5, 1993, draft memorandum noting the development of an “interest group data base” detailing which organizations” support(ed) us in the election” and tracking personal information about organization leaders, such as their home phone numbers, addresses, “biographies, analysis of credibility in the media, and known relationships with Congress people.”
“We are pleased that the National Archives and Clinton Presidential Library have finally seen fit to stop stonewalling the American people and turn over the records the public should have had access to more than seven years ago,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The Clintons could have expedited the release of these records, but for some reason they chose not to. Over the course of the next several weeks, we may find out what those ‘some reasons’ actually were.”
Judicial Watch Continues to Expose Lois Lerner’s Political Witch Hunt
If there is any single name that has become synonymous with Barack Obama’s corruption of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), it is Lois Lerner. Few can forget her stern visage as the then-IRS top official took the Fifth Amendment before California Congressman Darrell Issa’s House Oversight Committee on May 22 in order to cover up her key role in targeting conservative groups for IRS harassment.
A week earlier, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) had released a report revealing that, under Lerner’s leadership, the IRS Exempt Organizations Division had singled out groups with conservative-sounding terms such as “patriot” and “Tea Party” in their titles in applications for tax-exempt status. The TIGTA probe determined that “Early in Calendar Year 2010, the IRS began using inappropriate criteria to identify organizations applying for tax-exempt status (e.g., lists of past and future donors).” The illegal IRS reviews continued for more than 18 months and “delayed processing of targeted groups’ applications” preparing for the 2012 presidential election.
Judicial Watch immediately filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the IRS for records of all communications relating to the review process for organizations seeking 501(c)(4) nonprofit status since January 1, 2010. And we followed that with a second request specifically seeking all records of communications by Lois Lerner concerning the controversial review and approval process. As I said at the time, the Obama IRS suppressed the entire Tea Party movement just in time to help Obama win reelection. And one of the most pressing questions is “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” The IRS, as expected, has stonewalled that FOIA request, which forced us on October 9 to file a FOIA lawsuit against the agency in the District Court for the District of Columbia. We’ll keep you posted on that critical lawsuit.
Eventually, of course, long after Lerner’s disastrous congressional testimony, the IRS finally admitted that while Lerner was in charge, its agents had, indeed, improperly targeted Tea Party groups. At which point, they promptly rewarded her by putting her on paid leave and allowing her to spend several months relaxing at home. Lerner then retired from the IRS on September 23 with full benefits, even after an internal investigation found she was guilty of “neglect of duties” and was preparing to call for her firing, according to news reports. And that, folks, is how Washington works.
But, I am pleased to tell you that the story doesn’t end there – because Judicial Watch is now hot on the trail of yet another Lerner-IRS scandal, this one involving her collusion with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to carry out her vendetta against conservative groups.
Last week, Judicial Watch obtained 176 pages of email exchanges between Lerner and enforcement attorneys at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) indicating that she had provided detailed, confidential information concerning the tax exempt application status and returns of conservative groups to the FEC in violation of federal law.
The emails came from the FEC in response to an August 9, 2013, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking access to the following for the timeframe January 1, 2009, to the present (we sent a FOIA request to the IRS seeking the same information, but they are still stonewalling):
- Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to the FEC’s coordination with the IRS regarding the political activities of 501(c) (4) non-profit organizations;
- Any and all communications between the FEC and the IRS regarding the political activities of non-profit organizations.
The revealing email chain obtained by Judicial Watch begins with a February 3, 2009, email from an FEC attorney (whose name is redacted) asking Lerner if the IRS had issued an exemption letter for American Future Fund (AFF). The writer of the letter notes, “When we spoke last July, you told us that the American Future Fund had not received an exemption letter from the IRS.” In the same email, the FEC attorney asked Lerner if she could also advise him if the IRS had granted an exemption letter to American Issues Project (AIP) as well as to AIP’s predecessor organizations, Citizens for the Republic and Avenger, Inc.
In her response sent ten minutes later from her irs.gov email address, Lerner indicated that she would require her staff to cooperate fully, saying, “I have sent your email out to some of my staff. Will get back to you as soon as I have heard from them.”
The bulk of the records Judicial Watch obtained consists of extensive materials from the IRS’ files sent from Lerner to the FEC containing detailed, confidential information about the organizations. These include annual tax returns (Form 990) and request for exempt recognition forms (Form 1024), Articles of Organization and other corporate documents, and legal correspondence between the non-profit organizations and the IRS. Under Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code, it is a felony for an IRS official to disclose either “return information” or “taxpayer return information,” even to another government agency.
Initial news reports, when word of some of these IRS-FEC emails first surfaced in August 2013, raised a variety of legal issues. One was the fact that Lerner was supplying confidential information concerning the tax exempt application status of conservative organizations. Another was the fact that the inquiries regarding AFF made by the FEC attorneys in February 2009 to Lerner occurred before the FEC commissioners had voted on whether to investigate AFF (the FEC later voted not to investigate AFF). And a third was the clearly collusion between government agencies with an apparently anti-conservative bias.
It should be noted that Lois Lerner has a long track record of using her position to go after targets of interest for the Left. During the Clinton administration, when she was head of the FEC’s enforcement division previous to joining the IRS, she oversaw an onerous investigation of the Christian Coalition, ultimately costing the organization hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless hours in lost work. Though the Coalition was thoroughly exonerated, Lerner had taken her toll.
These new documents show that the suppression of the Tea Party and conservatives wasn’t necessarily limited to the IRS. Any criminal and congressional investigations need to be expanded beyond the IRS to the FEC. I have the feeling that these documents are just the beginning.
The Ravens Need to Go to the Video
This coming week, when the Baltimore Ravens sit down to review game tapes, they might want to include the C-SPAN video of Health and Human Services Secretary Katherine Sebelius’ stilted, stultifying, cynical, and deceptive attempt to defend the (Un)affordable Health Care Act (aka: Obamacare) before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on October 30. In so doing, they may quickly learn that when they decided to join team Obama in order to help promote his now thoroughly discredited government health care takeover, they handcuffed themselves to a loser.
The reigning Super Bowl champion has tarnished its name by helping Barack Obama and his minions impose Obamacare on the American people. According to documents obtained by Judicial Watch this past week, the Ravens organization is getting $130,000 from taxpayers to wave the Obamacare banner.
The deal was secured on September 9 between the Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League (NFL) and Maryland state Obamacare officials. The White House has tried recruiting professional sports leagues—especially the NFL and the National Basketball Association (NBA)—to help promote the president’s healthcare law, but they have declined.
In fact, the NFL confirmed months ago that it would not participate in the Obamacare public relations campaign, offering the media this written statement: “We have responded to the letters we received from members of Congress to inform them we currently have no plans to engage in this area and have had no substantive contact with the administration about [the health-care law’s] implementation.” Washington D.C.’s mainstream newspaper called it a “blow to the administration.”
But Maryland officials evidently appealed directly to the home team, announcing in early September that the Ravens would help market the state’s Obamacare exchange known as Maryland Health Connection. Both parties refused to offer specifics when the deal was initiated, and Judicial Watch filed a Maryland Public Information Act request for details.
In a “Sponsorship Agreement” between the Maryland Health Connection and the Ravens, the state will pay the Super Bowl champs $130,000 to push Obamacare on television, radio, the team’s official website, its newsletter and in social media. This includes the Ravens Report Show on cable TV and a number of pre and post-game radio segments, as well as Facebook and Twitter plugs.
Taxpayers and football fans alike should be outraged by this propaganda deal. The Super Bowl champion Ravens have enough problems this season, and allowing their name to be linked with the Obamacare debacle is going to further disappoint many fans. Sure enough, the Maryland Obamacare exchange is a massive failure. And this shows why Obamacare is a failure, as the government seemed more interested in spending money on ads rather than making it work. As a longtime Ravens fan, I still have hope that Ravens can recover this season – which is more than I can say for Obamacare.
The truth is, before continuing with their outrageous sell-out to the Maryland’s political powers that be, the Ravens really should take just a few minutes to watch Secretary Sebelius’ performance before Congress. Icily indifferent to the devastating impact of the program she helped cobble together and now oversees, at one point she went so far as to respond to one congressman’s serious questions by shrugging her shoulders, staring vacantly, and simply replying, “Whatever.”
While Sebelius at one point offered a perfunctory mea culpa for the massive failures of the Obamacare website, she very tellingly showed a deep-seated misunderstanding of the program she is charged with administering. When asked by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) about the provisions of Obamacare covering abortions, Sebelius appeared clueless. Here was the exchange:
Rep. Shimkus: “… Another transparency issue: Um, if someone – a constituent of mine or someone in this country has strongly held pro-life views, can you commit to us to make sure that the federal exchanges that offer that is clearly identified, and so people can understand if they’re going to buy a policy that has abortion coverage or not? Because right now, you cannot make that determination.”
Sec. Sebelius: “Sir, I – I don’t know… I – I know exactly the, the, uh, um issue that you are talking about, I will check and make sure…”
Later, Sebelius showed an even deeper misunderstanding of the law she administers when she wrongly informed Rep. Billy Long (R-MO) that she is ineligible to enroll in Obamacare. As the online publication Mediaite reported:
Health and Human Services Sec. Kathleen Sebelius engaged in a heated exchange with a Republican representative about whether or not she plans to enroll in the insurance exchanges associated with the Affordable Care Act like the members of Congress have done. Sebelius said that she already had health insurance and insisted that she believed it was illegal for her to enter the exchanges.
As even the Obamacare-supporting Washington Post was forced to admit, according to HealthCare.gov, Sebelius is legally allowed to get insurance on the exchange. She would simply not receive her employer’s contribution to her premiums. As Business Insider observed, “This is a kind of shocking oversight from the top official overseeing implementation of Obamacare. It’s not a minor technical point; one of the key issues in the law’s design is how to deal with workers who might choose exchange coverage over their offers of work-based coverage.”
The bottom line on all of this is that America is in deep trouble over the Obama administration’s insistence upon forcing a mortally flawed government health care contrivance on the American people that even its own top lieutenants don’t understand and can’t defend. It goes far beyond disastrous bugs in the program’s website; it goes to the very heart of a free people’s right to protect their lives, limbs, and liberty.
As many as seven million Americans may lose their health care coverage because of Obamacare. The program will increase health care spending by more than $7,000 per year for a typical family of four. And, according to Gallup, 41 percent of businesses already have frozen hiring because of the health care law. Unlike the Baltimore Ravens, Americans aren’t going to “take a knee” in the face of the destructive Obamacare law.
Judicial Watch Obtains 57,000 Pages of Records Relating to Hillary Clinton’s Health Care Reform Task Force
Regular readers of the Weekly Update will recall that Judicial Watch has long been on the trail of the corruption and deceit that were part and parcel of former First Lady Hillary Clinton’s National Taskforce on Health Care Reform. I’m pleased to report to you that this past week we scored another breakthrough, pulling back more the veil of secrecy in which the Clintons have long shrouded their most famous policy failure.
On October 17, 2013, thanks to Judicial Watch litigation, the public gained access to more than 57,000 pages of previously withheld documents from the Clinton Presidential Library related to the “cabinet-level” taskforce chaired by former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton during the first term of the Bill Clinton presidency. The release of records came more than seven years after Judicial Watch filed an April 4, 2006, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request asking for “any and all” records pertaining to the Taskforce on Health Care Reform. On November 2, 2007, Judicial Watch was forced to file a FOIA lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration to obtain the records (Judicial Watch, Inc. v U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (No: 1:07-cv-07-1987)).
And finally, on October 17, after nearly a decade, the Supervisor Architect of the Clinton Presidential Library sent a letter to Judicial Watch conceding, “We have completed processing, according to the provisions of FOIA, the approximately 57,234 pages of Clinton Presidential records responsive to … your FOIA request ….”
One thing we already know for certain is that Hillary Clinton was the power behind the throne, given unbridled authority to direct and dictate the entire effort. According to Clinton Presidential Library records, “The cabinet-level Task Force, chaired by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, was given primary responsibility for providing advice and making recommendations to the President regarding the national health care reform package,” which everyone knew as Hillarycare.
The release of the Task Force records marks another milestone in our long and relentless effort to obtain the information, dating back to the original 2006 FOIA request. Following the 2007 FOIA lawsuit, in February 2008 we asked the federal court to deny a National Archives motion to delay the release of any records indefinitely. In May 2008, the court granted the Archives motion, prompting us to note at the time, “The Archives processed requests for information about UFOs, while refusing to process requests for important information about a presidential candidate and U.S. Senator. This delay benefits no one but bureaucrats who refuse to do their jobs and politicians running for office.”
In September 2008, U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman ruled against the National Archives and refused their motion to dismiss our lawsuit. In his ruling, the judged declared, “[The National Archives] argues that [Judicial Watch's] request is inadequate because it is overbroad…otherwise valid FOIA requests are not overbroad or unreasonable simply because they seek a very large number of documents,” while noting that the Archives “should have been better prepared” to process open records requests related to the Clinton Presidential Library. And now, five years later, the National Archives has finally acceded to the law of the land.
What will Judicial Watch attorneys find as they dig into the stacks of previously withheld documents? Well, if the past is prologue, the revelations could be interesting. In January 2008, as our lawsuit against the National Archives was proceeding, we obtained an earlier batch of records from the Clinton Presidential Library that were stunning in their revelations. Among the highlights of those documents were the following:
- A June 18, 1993, internal Memorandum entitled, “A Critique of Our Plan,” authored by someone with the initials “P.S.,” makes the startling admission that critics of Hillary’s health care reform plan were correct: “I can think of parallels in wartime, but I have trouble coming up with a precedent in our peacetime history for such broad and centralized control over a sector of the economy…Is the public really ready for this?… none of us knows whether we can make it work well or at all…”
- A “Confidential” May 26, 1993, memorandum from Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) to Hillary Clinton entitled, “Health Care Reform Communications,” which criticizes the Task Force as a “secret cabal of Washington policy ‘wonks’” that has engaged in “choking off information” from the public regarding health care reform. The memorandum suggests that Hillary Clinton “use classic opposition research” to attack those who were excluded by the Clinton Administration from Task Force deliberations and to “expose lifestyles, tactics and motives of lobbyists” in order to deflect criticism. Senator Rockefeller also suggested news organizations “are anxious and willing to receive guidance [from the Clinton Administration] on how to time and shape their [news] coverage.”
- A February 5, 1993, draft memorandum from Alexis Herman and Mike Lux details the Office of Public Liaison’s plan for the health care reform campaign. The memorandum notes the development of an “interest group database” detailing whether organizations “support(ed) us in the election.” The database would also track personal information about interest group leaders, such as their home phone numbers, addresses, “biographies, analysis of credibility in the media, and known relationships with Congresspeople.”
You can see how things haven’t changed much in DC! The concerns and machinations over Hillarycare are virtually no different for the ongoing Obamacare disaster. Our investigators are preparing to fly down to Little Rock to review the new Hillarycare documents, and I’ll be sure to keep you posted as to what they find.
Judicial Watch Asks Supreme Court to Review JW Lawsuit Over bin Laden Death Images
As I said in this space when we began the battle to obtain photos and videos of the raid that led to bin Laden’s capture and killing, we would not stop until we exhausted every single legal remedy available to us. Last stop: the United States Supreme Court.
This week we filed a certiorari petition with the Supreme Court of the United States to review a 2013 appellate ruling preventing the American people from accessing these images. We are trying to force the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to release more than 50 photographs and video recordings of Osama bin Laden taken during and after the U.S. raid upon the terrorist leader’s compound in Pakistan on May 1, 2011.
But before we get to Judicial Watch’s High Court petition and arguments, I want to address the question of “why” these records are so vital and why it is so important that JW emerge victorious in this effort.
If the lower court ruling is allowed to stand, terrorists would be allowed to dictate our laws. After all, it was Barack Obama himself who gave the justification for keeping this information secret, claiming it would be unwise to “spike the football” over bin Laden’s killing as it might be offensive to al Qaeda and its allies.
But there is no provision of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that allows documents to be kept secret because their release might offend our terrorist enemies. And we certainly do not want to start that precedent! Therefore, at stake in our battle to obtain these images is the fundamental right of the American people to access government information.
I’ll say it again here – as we’ve said in court: We’re not after any information that has any relevance to national security. We just want to complete the public record on one of the most significant victories in United States military history.
But the Obama administration says the American people have no right to this information. And thus far the courts have acquiesced, which raises significant separation of powers issues addressed by JW in its cert. petition.
This case, we argue “is the poster child of the almost blind deference being provided to the Executive Branch” by the courts in recent years in cases involving the withholding of materials labeled as classified. The petition asks the Supreme Court to mandate the lower courts to “conduct meaningful review” of Executive Branch decisions to withhold classified materials or the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) will “continue as less of a disclosure than a withholding statute.”
Now, with a Supreme Court cert. petition, the petitioning party must always indicate the “Question Presented” to the Court. Here’s ours:
Whether 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(1), [known as ‘Exemption 1’] which allows the Executive Branch to withhold information “specifically authorized under criteria established by an Executive order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or foreign policy and [is] in fact properly classified pursuant to Executive order,” limits courts to provide almost blind deference to the Executive Branch’s classification determinations or whether it mandates that courts conduct meaningful review of those determinations.
And here are our “Reasons for Granting the Petition,” which centers on five key points:
I. The FOIA Is a Disclosure Statute – As this Court has recently reiterated, the FOIA was enacted to overhaul an earlier public records provision that had become more of “a withholding statute than a disclosure statute.” Milner, 131 S. Ct. at 1262 (quoting Mink, 410 U.S. at 79). For the FOIA to escape this same fate, the nine exemptions contained therein must be interpreted narrowly.
II. Exemption 1 Indisputably Requires All Withheld Material to Be Classified in Accordance with the Procedural Criteria As Well As Its Substantive Terms – Congress carefully crafted Exemption 1 to allow only the withholding of material that is “specifically authorized under criteria established by an Executive order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or foreign policy and [is] in fact properly classified pursuant to Executive order ” … The DC Circuit failed to follow this well-established, indisputable standard.
III. The D.C. Circuit Blindly Approved the CIA’s Withholding of the Requested Images Even Though the Records Were Not Properly Classified – [T]he two courts collectively concluded that the CIA provided no evidence to demonstrate that the images were properly classified.
IV. The D.C. Circuit Blindly Approved the CIA’s Claim That the Release of the Images Reasonably Could Be Expected to Cause Exceptionally Grave Damage to National Security – [T]he court seems to suggest that the result of such violence and attacks [possibly triggered by the release of the photos and videos] is equivalent to exceptionally grave damage to national security. Prior to this ruling, no court had ever held that speculative, unspecific violence harms the national defense of the United States.
V. The Courts’ Almost Blind Deference Eviscerates the FOIA as a Disclosure Statute – By providing almost blind deference to the Executive Branch, it is foreseeable that the Executive Branch will abuse its seemingly unreviewable authority.
One thing that strikes me as I review our attorneys’ legal arguments is that this FOIA case is yet another facet of the president’s illicit assertion of executive power. In this case, President Obama personally orchestrated the withholding of documents simply because he didn’t want to be seen as “spiking the football.” Time and time again, this president thinks that his personal whims have the force of law. We hope the Supreme Court schools him otherwise.
This case also demonstrates why we have to be persistent in fighting Obama secrecy – because it is always a long ball game. On May 4, 2011, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA request with the DOD seeking “all photographs and/or video recordings of Osama (Usama) bin Laden taken during and/or after the U.S. military operation in Pakistan on or about May 1, 2011.” An identical request had been filed on May 3, 2011, with the CIA. When neither the DOD nor the CIA complied with the FOIA requests within the 20 business days as required by law, Judicial Watch, in June 2011, filed its FOIA lawsuits against both agencies.
On April 26, 2012, U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg ruled that the images could remain secret while conceding: “Indeed, it makes sense that the more significant an event is to our nation – and the end of bin Laden’s reign of terror certainly ranks high – the more need the public has for full disclosure.” On May 21, 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed the District Court decision while conceding that the documents may not have been properly classified.
Folks, this is a landmark case that is about much more than 50 photographs and videos. It could determine whether President Obama, with the blind deference of the judicial branch, can unilaterally rewrite the Freedom of Information Act at the expense of the American people’s right to know what its government is up to. The idea that our government would put the sensibilities of terrorists above the rule of law ought to concern every American. It certainly concerns JW, which depends upon FOIA to investigate and root out government corruption.
Judicial Watch Sues DOJ for LGBT Bar Association’s 2012 Lavender Law Conference & Career Fair Documents
Two weeks ago, I told you about some very interesting information Judicial Watch uncovered regarding Attorney General Eric Holder’s travels, which cost the American people over $4 million, including $600,000-plus for personal junkets.
While the personal trips appear to be a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars, it is the “business” trips which have especially caught JW’s attention. The records we uncovered documented “business trips” by Holder to Al Sharpton’s National Action Network as well as conferences hosted by La Raza (“The Race”) and the NAACP. As I pointed out in this space previously, many of these trips took place during presidential election season, once again blurring the lines between the Obama administration and the Obama campaign.
And this brings me to yet another highly questionable trip by Holder – this time to serve as a keynote speaker at the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) “Lavender Law Conference & Career Fair” held on August 23, 2012.
After hitting another Obama stonewall, JW is now in court seeking access to records detailing this trip, filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ).
And why did this speech in particular pique the interest of our investigations team? Because it is yet another shocking example of this Justice Department’s willingness to do the bidding of radical leftist special interest groups.
In his keynote address at the LGBT Lavender Law Conference Holder congratulated “the tireless work of advocates and attorneys in and far beyond this room” who advanced the LGBT agenda, and called for the passion of its members to continue the “momentum.” Holder also reminded the audience that the Obama DOJ was refusing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, though at the time, it was still prevailing law of the land.
This was the second high profile speech where Holder pandered to homosexual activists in a very short period of time. One month previous to his LGBT Lavender Conference appearance, Holder led a group of DOJ employees in honoring Anoka-Hennepin School District of Minnesota students involved in a lawsuit to force the district to endorse homosexual conduct.
Five of the students received an award at DOJ’s annual LGBT Pride Month program in the Great Hall of the Main Justice Building. We want records detailing this event, as well. In March 2013, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Obama DOJ and Education (DOE) on behalf of the Family Research Council (FRC) for records regarding their involvement in the Anoka-Hennepin suit.
The response to requests for records regarding the Lavender Conference has been typically Obamaesque.
By a letter dated September 26, 2012, the DOJ’s Office of Information Policy (OIP) acknowledged that it had received the Judicial Watch FOIA request. The agency responded by saying that the request fell within the “unusual circumstances” of the Act, but failed to provide “a date on which determination is expected to be dispatched,” as required by law.
After OIP failed to provide any further communications, Judicial Watch, on March 18, 2013, contacted OIP asking that the records be provided without further delay.
On March 19, 2013, Judicial Watch received a letter from OIP saying that the search of the Office of the Attorney General had been completed and that OIP was now reviewing the records that had been located. The letter also stated that because the records contained information of interest to other DOJ offices, OIP could respond only after consulting those offices. No information was provided as to the status of searches for records with other offices.
On March 22, 2013, Judicial Watch filed an administrative appeal seeking compliance with the original FOIA request. OIP acknowledged receiving the appeal on the same day and was required to make a determination on the appeal within 20 working days. To date, OIP has failed to provide any further information concerning the FOIA request or the subsequent appeal. All of this bureaucratic double-speak and delay further proves the Big Lie that the Obama administration is the most transparent in history.
Per usual, this runaround is all about one thing – concealing the truth. The Obama administration has some more secrets they don’t want you to know.
Holder’s DOJ is increasingly home to a bevy of leftist activists pursuing narrow ideological agendas at the expense of the public interest. And DOJ officials want to keep this all a secret, which is why we had to file a FOIA lawsuit to get basic information about the Attorney General’s collusion with homosexual activists/government employees.
Kerry Reinstates Officials on Leave over Benghazigate – to Protect Clinton?
Here are the Benghazi numbers: Four Americans dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Zero honest answers from the administration. And zero accountability. And now, even the tepid actions taken last December to place a few State Department officials on administrative leave over Benghazi, has been completely undone by Secretary of State John Kerry.
As reported by Fox News:
The four State Department officials put on administrative leave following the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in Benghazi have been allowed back on the job after being cleared by Secretary of State John Kerry to return, in a move one lawmaker decried as a “game of musical chairs.”…
Last December, the officials were removed from their posts after an independent panel criticized the security and “lack of proactive leadership” at the U.S. diplomatic compound. The stinging State report also called out officials in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and said they “showed a lack of ownership of Benghazi’s security issues.”
Kerry reportedly made the move after a “thorough” internal investigation. And here is the “official” State Department’s justification for the reinstatement of the employees, per an unnamed agency official:
“In order to implement the (Benghazi report) and to continue to turn the page and shift the paradigm inside the Department, the four employees who were put on administrative leave last December pending further review will be reassigned inside the State Department…”
Frankly, this all sounds like a variation of the Hillary scream, “What difference does it make!”
Shift the paradigm? Why kind of paradigm shift in the reformation of the State Department following Benghazi is going to take place as a result of reinstating these officials?
If the Obama administration had wanted a “paradigm shift” after Benghazi, they would have told the truth from the beginning instead of instructing (allowing?) UN Ambassador Rice and Hillary Clinton to spew lies. They would have turned over all records to congressional investigators. And they would not have intimidated and/or kept hidden potential witnesses. Then they would have gone about the business of making sure it did not happen again.
The Obama administration obviously went another direction.
Fox News further reported that the State Department’s internal inquiry indicated that none of these officials “breached their duty,” while also noting that none of them would be returning to their previous positions.
So here’s the key question: If these officials did not “breach their duty” then who did? Four Americans are dead following a terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya. Surely the Obama administration cannot contend that everyone within the State Department (and other involved agencies) performed their duties with professionalism and competence and are blameless.
Yes they can! – So says conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer in an interview with Fox News – and for political gain.
“This is the definition of how to conduct a stonewall,” Krauthammer, a syndicated columnist and Fox News contributor, said of Secretary of State John Kerry’s decision to put the officials back to work.
“The new Secretary of State looks at this and says, essentially, these people were not responsible, or they don’t really carry any accountability – they are back on the job, as you say, without ever missing a paycheck, and no one is held responsible.”
Krauthammer added, “whatever the intent was, it surely is a Clinton protection operation, in effect.”
In summary: Placing the officials on leave – a publicity stunt. Bringing them back – a political play. All of it intended to protect the Democratic nominee-in-waiting, Hillary Clinton. (Perhaps THIS is the “paradigm” shift the State Department truly seeks.)
Here’s my take. Maybe these four officials had nothing to do with the massive screw-up inside the Obama administration that resulted in the deaths of four Americans. Maybe they had nothing to do with the lying that took place immediately thereafter. And maybe they should never have been put on administrative leave in the first place.
But someone inside the Obama administration is surely responsible for Benghazi. And we intend to get to the bottom of it. (See here for information on our Benghazi investigative and legal activities, which is one of our most significant projects at this time.)
This has been one of the most significant scandals and cover-ups in modern United States history. And the political gamesmanship, obfuscation and outright lying by the Obama administration is shameless – and it must be stopped.
We’re coming up on the one year anniversary of the attack. And the only American citizen who has been held to “account” was the poor sap who made the Internet video that was falsely portrayed as inciting the Benghazi attack. (The Obama administration put him in jail for supposedly violating the terms of parole for other crimes.)
And it is not just the Obama gang that is complicit in this cover-up. Most of the congressional Republican leadership is actively opposing efforts to ramp up investigations into the Benghazi scandal.
I suggest you do a few things over few weeks (besides directly supporting our work!). Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper demanding accountability. Get the word out also on social media. Contact your members of Congress to express your views on Benghazi. We can’t rely on the politicians for leadership. Working together, we can provide the leadership and vindicate those fine Americans slain on September 11, 2012.
Until next week…
Hillary Clinton confidant Huma Abedin is making headlines lately for standing by her disgraced husband through a sexting scandal, but she’s also embroiled in her own controversy and months ago Judicial Watch launched an independent investigation with the State Department.
It involves Abedin raking in lucrative “consulting fees” while also working as a top Clinton aide at the State Department. The deadline for the State Department to provide the records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has expired and Judicial Watch is preparing lawsuit since it’s unlikely the agency will provide the files without litigation. In correspondence dated June 5, 2013 the State Department acknowledged receiving JW’s FOIA request and the agency claims it’s processing it and has assigned it a case control number.
But, like most government agencies, the State Department is laying the groundwork to avoid providing the information. “Unusual circumstances (including the number and location of Department components involved in responding to your request, the volume of requested records, etc.) may arise that would require additional time to process your request,” the agency writes in its letter to JW.
Yesterday a U.S. Senator, who requested information about Abedin’s questionable arrangement weeks after JW filed its FOIA, revealed that the State Department has also blown him off. “So far, the State Department and Ms. Abedin haven’t provided a single document that I requested,” according to Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who, like JW wants answers about the “Special Government Employee” status that allowed Abedin to make money as a private consultant while Uncle Sam paid her salary. “Putting up a stone wall raises a lot more questions about how the program is being used than it answers,” Grassley said.
The veteran lawmaker provides the laughable response that he received this month from the State Department regarding Abedin’s cushy little arrangement in her final months at the agency. It says that Abedin voluntarily ended her full-time employment at the State Department on June 3, 2012 and was retained as a “senior adviser/expert, for which she was compensated at and hourly rate” and designated as a “Special Government Employee (SGE).”
Senator Grassley also received a letter from Abedin, dated July 5, 2013, further explaining her deal. Abedin claims that she wanted to live in New York after the birth of her son in December 2013, so she became a consultant/SGE through the remaining six months of Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State. She pats herself on the back for “voluntarily” disclosing six-figure income that she and her beloved hubby earned as “a result of consulting work.”
Details of Abedin’s arrangement are important for a variety of reasons. Among them is that one of the private clients she consulted while still at the State Department is Teneo Holdings, a firm run by a close Clinton pal. Senator Grassley believes Teneo may have been paying Abedin to gather information from government sources to help clients with investment decisions. This raises questions about whether her dual role was adequately disclosed to government officials, Grassley points out in his June letter to Secretary of State John Kerry.
More than a decade after being shamefully ousted as a top federal prosecutor for orchestrating the pardon of a big-time drug dealer, President Obama’s pick as the No. 2 official at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is embroiled in another scandal involving the Clintons.
Alejandro Mayorkas, Obama’s director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), is under fire for reportedly abusing his power to obtain U.S. visas for shady Chinese investors in a company run by none other than Hillary Clinton’s brother. Mayorkas intervened after his own agency denied the application and rejected an appeal, according to news reports.
The scandal broke because Obama recently picked Mayorkas to be second-in-command at DHS and the media obtained documents confirming that Mayorkas is named by the DHS Inspector General’s Office as a target in a probe involving the foreign investor program, known as EB-5, run by USCIS. Making matters worse, one of the visas sought by Hillary’s brother (Anthony Rodham) was for the vice president of a Chinese telecommunications firm that’s been investigated by Congress for its ties to China’s intelligence agencies.
The entire plot is atrocious enough, but if Mayorkas helped this particular Chinese telecom guru—no doubt a communist—obtain a U.S. visa, elevating him to be in charge of national security would be downright obscene. Not surprisingly, the White House and DHS, which oversees USCIS, have refused to comment. However, the news outlet that originally broke the story predicts the scandal “has the potential to become a political headache” for Hillary Clinton.
Mayorkas and the Clintons go back years. Mayorkas served as Bill Clinton’s U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California from 1998 to 2001 and resigned in shame after orchestrating the pardon of a major league drug trafficker. As U.S. Attorney Mayorkas was largely responsible for freeing the drug dealer serving a 15-year prison sentence for operating sophisticated cocaine rings that stretched from California to Minnesota.
The convicted drug dealer, Carlos Vignali, is the son of a wealthy political donor (Horacio Vignali) who convinced influential community leaders—mostly recipients of his generous contributions—to advocate for his son’s pardon. Mayorkas’ intervention was the most crucial and by far carried the most weight, Clinton officials later revealed. It also outraged federal prosecutors in Minneapolis, where Vignali was convicted for trying to sell 800 pounds of cocaine. After receiving numerous inquiries from Mayorkas about the case, the Minneapolis federal prosecutors wrote the Justice Department strongly opposing Vignali’s commutation but they were ignored.
A congressional investigation into Clinton’s last-minute pardons blasts Mayorkas for intervening on behalf of Vignali, pointing out that senior law enforcement and political officials should have been precluded from supporting a commutation for such a criminal. Mayorkas resigned in disgrace and went into private practice at a big Los Angeles law firm until Obama named him USCIS director in 2009. The White House announcement conveniently omits his role in freeing a convicted drug dealer, instead touting Mayorkas as a prosecutor of public corruption, organized crime and civil rights violations.
(Washington, D.C.) – Judicial Watch, the organization that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of State to obtain documents pertaining to possible conflicts of interest between the actions taken by Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and Bill Clinton’s activities. The lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Dept. of State (13-772)) was filed on May 28, 2013.
The Judicial Watch lawsuit was filed after two years of the State Department refusing to comply with a May 2, 2011, FOIA request for responsive documents. By law, “all federal agencies are required to respond to a FOIA request within 20 business days.”
The Judicial Watch FOIA request filed with DOJ on May 2, 2011, seeks the following records:
- Any and all SF-50s for Mrs. [Hillary Rodham] Clinton;
- Any and all SF-85s and/or 85Ps for Mrs. Clinton;
- Any and all SF-86s for Mrs. Clinton;
- Any and all SF-450s for Mrs. Clinton;
- Any and all certificates of divestiture for Mrs. Clinton;
- Any and all individual waivers issues to or for Mrs. Clinton pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 208 (b)(1) and 5 C.F.R. §2640.301 or any other applicable ethics statues, regulations, guidelines or agreements;
- Any and all communications and records of communications – including but not limited to phone logs – related to Mr. Clinton’s speech schedule; and,
- Any and all communications and records of communications – including but not limited to e-mails, fax reports, and phone logs – related to former Mr. Clinton’s personal or charitable financial relationships with foreign leaders and governments.
The Department of State acknowledged receiving the Judicial Watch FOIA request on May 17, 2011, and was required by law to respond by June 8, 2011, at the latest. As of the date of Judicial Watch’s lawsuit, DOS had failed to produce any records responsive to the request, indicate when any responsive records will be produced, or demonstrated that responsive records are exempt from production.
The potential for conflicts of interest between Hillary Clinton’s role as Secretary of State and Bill Clinton’s international ventures grew increasingly controversial in late 2008 when the former president released a list of donors to his library and foundation in what he termed “a deal between” Obama “and Hillary.” According to an AP wire story, “Saudi Arabia gave $10 million to $25 million to the foundation. Other government donors include Norway, Kuwait, Qatar, Brunei, Oman …” CNN at the time warned that Clinton’s “complicated global business interests could present future conflicts of interest that result in unneeded headaches for the incoming commander-in-chief.”
The controversy deepened further when it was revealed that among those vetting Mrs. Clinton for the job of Secretary of State was Bill Clinton’s former deputy White House counsel Cheryl Mills, a longtime Clinton family confidant, who, the Washington Post wrote in 1999 “endeared herself to the Clintons with her never-back-down, share-nothing, don’t-give-an-inch approach …” After clearing Mrs. Clinton for the DOS job, Mills was named the incoming Secretary’s Chief of Staff. Ms. Mills was a featured speaker at Bill Clinton’s 2012 Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting.
In response to ethics concerns, reports detailed there would be a thorough process at the Obama State Department for vetting potential conflicts caused by Bill Clinton’s activities in the private sector.
“Given the Benghazi lies and recent reports on pervasive misconduct by State Department officials, our lawsuit is focused like a laser on the issue of Hillary Clinton’s personal ethical standards,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The fact that after two years of State Department stonewalling, we now have to go to court to obtain records concerning Bill Clinton’s personal deal-making and Hillary Clinton’s ethics suggests that there is something to hide.”