How Judicial Watch became Trump’s favorite Mueller attack dog
Tom Fitton, the head of conservative group Judicial Watch, has made a career of suing the federal government over suspected bureaucratic corruption, irritating every president since Bill Clinton.
But in Donald Trump, Fitton has found an enthusiastic booster — a president who, rather than bristling at Judicial Watch’s frequent accusations of malfeasance throughout the government he oversees, welcomes the group’s efforts to hold the “deep state” accountable.
The broadsides that have come to define Trump’s presidency — from his attacks on Hillary Clinton’s email habits to his assertion that the Mueller investigation is a “rigged witch hunt” controlled by a pack of angry Democrats — have been shaped at least in part by documents obtained by Judicial Watch and blasted into the conservative media sphere.
At nearly every stage, Trump — often indirectly, and sometimes very directly — amplifies Judicial Watch’s work. Trump gave full credit to Judicial Watch for forcing the Department of Justice to release documents related to the surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page — and neglected to mention that his favorite punching bag, The New York Times, and other outlets also sued for them under freedom of information laws. “Congratulations to @JudicialWatch and @TomFitton on being successful in getting the Carter Page FISA documents,” Trump wrote on Twitter last month.
During the presidential campaign, Trump benefited from Judicial Watch’s relentless pursuit of information about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, with the group’s lawsuits keeping the story alive and providing fodder for a ravenous press. Since Trump took office, Judicial Watch — with an annual budget of about $40 million and a 50-person strong staff packed with experienced FOIA experts — has increasingly focused on the Mueller investigation, forcing the government to fork over emails, text messages and other documents.
Tom Fitton takes credit for being one of the first public figures to criticize the Mueller investigation as corrupt and unconstitutional, a line of attack that is now commonplace on Fox News and conservative talk radio. “We’ve been virtually alone in criticizing Mueller from the beginning,” he said. “Our view is he needs to be held accountable, the office itself is unconstitutional and it’s been run in an abusive way. It’s been compromised from the beginning and corruptly formed.”