Judicial Watch • JW Visits the Obama White House

JW Visits the Obama White House

JW Visits the Obama White House

DECEMBER 11, 2009

December 11, 2009

From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:

Judicial Watch Files Lawsuit against Obama Administration to Obtain White House Visitor Logs

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the Obama White House recently voluntarily released a select number of White House visitor logs to the public (amounting to only hundreds out of the hundreds of thousands of people who have actually visited the White House.)

In our view this partial release is not close to good enough, especially given that the few records released are incomplete and do not provide so much as a city or an organization represented for the individuals listed. Moreover, the vast majority of the White House logs continue to be withheld in defiance of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In fact the Obama administration’s position is that these records are not even subject to FOIA.

And so for this reason, we filed a lawsuit this week against the U.S. Secret Service for denying Judicial Watch’s FOIA request for access to all Obama White House visitor logs from January 20 to August 10, 2009. Here’s some coverage of our lawsuit from MSNBC:

The nonprofit conservative group Judicial Watch has sued the U.S. Secret Service after the Obama administration again denied a request for copies of the list of visitors to the White House.

The records are being sought by journalists and public interest groups to help determine who is influencing White House policy on health care, the economy and a host of other issues.

Under the Obama policy, most of the names of visitors from Inauguration Day in January through the end of September will never be released. After the Secret Service and the White House denied a request for those records, Judicial Watch filed suit on Monday in federal court in Washington.

The Obama administration, for its part, continues to advance the ridiculous claim that the visitor logs are not agency records and are therefore not subject to FOIA. As Judicial Watch noted in its complaint, this claim “has been litigated and rejected repeatedly” by federal courts:

Since [Judicial Watch] sent its…FOIA request to the Secret Service, the White House has released certain visitor records voluntarily, pursuant to its discretionary release policy. The White House’s voluntary production of a portion of the requested records, however, does not satisfy the Secret Service’s statutory obligation to produce any and all nonexempt records responsive to Judicial Watch’s request. Nor does it remedy the Secret Service’s claim, contrary to well established case law, that the requested records are not agency records subject to FOIA.

Now here’s a little bit of background regarding our battle with the Obama White House over these records that I know you’ll find interesting.

As you may recall, Judicial Watch criticized the Obama administration over its position on the White House logs in a press release on October 16. Well, the following week, a White House lawyer called Judicial Watch to set up a meeting with “senior White House officials.” Our release obviously caught their eye.

And so on October 27, my colleagues and I traveled over to the White House complex to meet with White House officials led by Norm Eisen, Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government, to discuss Judicial Watch’s pursuit of the White House visitor logs, as well as other transparency and ethics issues. (Judicial Watch’s Director of Litigation Paul Orfanedes, Director of Research and Investigations Chris Farrell and Program Manager Tegan Millspaw joined me for the visit.)

During our meeting, Obama White House officials asked Judicial Watch to scale back its request. They also wanted Judicial Watch to publicly praise the Obama administration’s commitment to transparency. However, at the same time, the White House refused to abandon its legally indefensible line of reasoning that White House visitor logs are not subject to FOIA law!

As it turned out, this White House meeting was an obvious attempt to push us to drop our criticism of and opposition to the Obama White House over their year-long pattern of secrecy and obfuscation!

But the fact that the Obama White House met with us is very important. The Obama White House understands that Judicial Watch is the nation’s top government watchdog group.

That acknowledgement by the Obama administration is a real tribute to you and our other supporters.

Meanwhile, in a November 30 follow-up letter, Mr. Eisen reiterated the Obama administration’s legal position and, citing national security concerns, requested that Judicial Watch “focus and narrow [its] request.”

Well, the Obama team’s pressure didn’t work…and you can count on us to keep fighting Obama secrecy. We filed a lawsuit instead.

As I said in press statements following the announcement of this lawsuit, the courts have affirmed that these White House visitor records are subject to release under FOIA law. And if the Obama administration is serious about transparency, they will agree to the release of these records under FOIA. If we learned anything from the recent “party crasher” scandal at the White House, there is great need for transparency under law when it comes to who visits the White House.

Stay tuned…

Baucus Nominated Girlfriend for Top Obama Post

Powerful Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) was forced to make the embarrassing admission that he personally recommended his staffer-turned-girlfriend for a top Obama Justice Department position while the two were dating.

Here’s the story according to The Wall Street Journal:

Sen. Max Baucus, one of the most powerful members of Congress and a key figure in the health overhaul debate, recommended his girlfriend to serve as the U.S. attorney for his home state of Montana, a Baucus spokesman said Saturday.

The disclosure was first made late Friday by Sen. Baucus’s office and came as other media outlets prepared to publish stories on the issue.

Baucus spokesman Tyler Matsdorf said the senator and his girlfriend, Melodee Hanes, began their relationship in mid-2008 after the senator separated from his wife. At the time, Ms. Hanes was serving as the senator’s state office director.

Haynes ultimately withdrew her nomination and is now working for the Obama Justice Department in another capacity. The Senate, meanwhile, has ignored persistent calls for an investigation of Baucus, despite this obvious and corrupt conflict of interest. And don’t expect the Senate or the White House to push for accountability given Baucus’ central role in pushing the Obama healthcare “plan.”

Nonetheless, questions still remain as to what White House officials and those responsible for vetting these candidates knew about Baucus’ relationship with Ms. Hanes. (Baucus’ former Chief of Staff, Jim Messina, is now Obama’s Deputy Chief of Staff and “would know for sure” about the relationship according to one Montana Republican official.) I’m personally of the belief that any such affair was not much of a secret in the halls of power in Congress and in the Justice Department.

And as I tweeted when the scandal broke, this new scandal should put the Bush U.S. Attorney firing “scandal” in better context for honest media. U.S. Attorney positions are too often pure patronage jobs awarded to cronies of U.S. Senators.

There has been a rash of this kind of behavior lately, with public officials conducting illicit affairs and then attempting to cover them up with hush payments and favors, an obvious abuse of their positions of power. (See Senator John Ensign, former Senator John Edwards and South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford for other recent case studies.)

As for Baucus, Fox News pointed out on Tuesday that this is not the first time Baucus has been in trouble for his “unusual romantic history.” A decade ago Baucus’ former Chief of Staff sued him, claiming she was fired after resisting Baucus’ “persistent sexual advances.” The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed.

But new questions are popping up about the pay, travel and duties of Baucus’s employee-girlfriend. Incredibly, there are no explicit “ethics” rules about members of Congress becoming romantically involved with their employees. Capitol Hill is a taxpayer-funded Peyton Place.

For his latest flap, Baucus is standing by his decision, showing no remorse, confident in the full support of his Senate Democratic (and probably his Republican) colleagues. And, given the low ethical standards of the United States Senate, why shouldn’t he be?

ABC Installs Clinton Hack Stephanopoulos in Key Network News Position — Again

Need another reason why conservatives and other fair-minded individuals distrust the so-called “mainstream” media? It’s for moves like this.

From The New York Times:

After weeks of speculation, ABC News executives will officially name George Stephanopoulos co-host of ABC’s breakfast “Good Morning America” Thursday afternoon.

Stephanopoulos, currently the moderator of the Sunday show “This Week,” will co-host “GMA” alongside Robin Roberts starting Monday morning…

…Stephanopoulos, 48, joined ABC News in 1997 as a news analyst for “This Week” after a career in politics, most notably as an advisor to President Clinton during his run for the White House and as part of the administration. He began anchoring “This Week” in 2002, and was named Chief Washington Correspondent in 2005.

And he’ll be the network’s chief political correspondent. And he’ll be the substitute anchor for ABC’s nightly newscast. And he is now set to be the anchor and face of ABC News in the future if he plays his cards right.

Here’s why this is extremely troubling. It is not necessarily because Stephanopolous is yet another arch-liberal masquerading as a down-the-middle journalist.

If you’ve followed Judicial Watch for any length of time, you’re familiar with Stephanopoulos’ key role in creating and then defending the numerous Clinton scandals. Notoriously, it was Stephanoplous who was deeply involved in the Clinton Travelgate scandal. In Travelgate, Hillary ordered the firing of long-time White House Travel Office staffers so Bill Clinton’s friends and family could get the White House travel business. In a move that would make Nixon proud, Stephanopolous reportedly pressured the FBI to back the White House in the ensuing scandal. (You may also recall that Stephanopoulos teamed with fellow Clinton campaign thug James Carville to target, smear and destroy the women sexually and otherwise abused by Bill Clinton.) Judicial Watch lawyers represented some of Stephanoplous’s victims in various litigation. So we have a better idea than most about what he is about.

But what you may not realize is just how close the new ABC Good Morning America co-anchor remains to his old friends from the Clinton White House, including current Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (a.k.a., “Rhambo”).

Politico recently reported that telephone conversations between Stephanopoulos, Emanuel, Democratic activist Paul Begala, and Carville “have been taking place, with few interruptions, every workday for nearly a generation.” Carville and Begala remain active in Democratic politics. In fact, I regularly get emails from them asking for money for the Democratic Party.

Emanuel refers to it as his “17-year-long conference call.” “You can tap into it anytime you want.”

And therein lies the trouble. How could anyone trust a news anchor to report on the Obama administration with any degree of fairness when he’s having daily chats with the President’s Chief of Staff? We don’t need a network news anchor who can be “tapped into” by an Obama official who is largely responsible for crafting the Obama administration’s public image. Who’s using whom?

But then, this charge of bias has always been a concern with Stephanopoulos.

Back in 1996, when ABC first hired Stephanopoulos, the network issued a press release indicating that the Clinton spinmaster “would serve both as a political analyst and a correspondent.” After receiving a tremendous amount of public backlash, ABC quickly backtracked.

“I don’t know how that got into the press release,” a spokeswoman said. “He will not report the news.” Network vice president Joanna Bistany said Stephanopoulos “would be a commentator…”

So much for that.

Why would someone with Stephanopoulos’ history of poor ethical judgment, of partisanship and close-knit connections to the Obama administration be allowed to anchor a network newscast? The corruption that corrodes our nation’s public life doesn’t all come from government – it comes from the media as well.

Until next week…



Tom Fitton
President


Judicial Watch is a non-partisan, educational foundation organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue code. Judicial Watch is dedicated to fighting government and judicial corruption and promoting a return to ethics and morality in our nation’s public life. To make a tax-deductible contribution in support of our efforts, click here.


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