Judicial Watch Sues Biden Justice Department for Refusing to Reveal Names of Special Counsel Jack Smith’s Staff
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for records disclosing the names of staffers working in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s office on two investigations targeting former President Donald Trump and other Americans (Judicial Watch Inc. v U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:23-cv-01485)).
Judicial Watch filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia after the Justice Department rejected a December 9, 2022, FOIA request for staff rosters or similar records that would identify the names of employees in the Office of Special Counsel Jack Smith.
The Justice Department responded on April 12, stating that records responsive to Judicial Watch’s request have been located, but are being withheld “pursuant to Exemptions 6 and 7(A)” of FOIA:
Exemption 6 pertains to information the release of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. Exemption 7(A) pertains to records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, the release of which could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings.
Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Smith in November to take over two investigations involving Trump, who is running for president in 2024.
The first investigation involves Trump’s handling of classified documents he retained at his Mar-a-Lago, Florida, residence after leaving the White House in January 2021.
The second investigation regards Trump’s challenge of the 2020 presidential election results, which allegedly included a plan to submit separate slates of electors to block Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.
Garland named Smith to the position three days after Trump announced he would run for president again in 2024. Smith previously was at the center of several controversial issues, the IRS scandal among them.
“Given the overwhelming evidence of anti-Trump bias disclosed in the Durham Report, it is urgent that Americans be able to find out who is again investigating Trump from the Garland Justice Department and his appointee Jack Smith,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said. “Special Prosecutor Jack Smith isn’t above the law, and the American people have the right to know about just who is working on his unprecedented and politicized anti-Trump investigation.”
Through FOIA, Judicial Watch uncovered information about Special Counsel’s Mueller’s budget and staff. Judicial Watch also sued for and obtained records for the budget of Special Counsel John Durham. A Judicial Watch lawsuit also uncovered calendar entries of Mueller special counsel prosecutor Andrew Weissmann showed he led the hiring effort for the investigation that targeted President Trump.
(In 2014, a Judicial Watch investigation revealed that top IRS officials had been in communication with Smith’s then-Public Integrity Section about a plan to launch criminal investigations into conservative tax-exempt groups. Government officials were looking to step up a probe into requests for tax-exemption from organizations with conservative sounding names like “Tea Party” and other “political sounding names,” according to a later report by the Treasury Department’s inspector general. Smith appears to have been a key player in this attempt to silence conservative voices.
(According to the documents obtained by Judicial Watch, Smith directed the head of the Justice Department’s Election Crimes Branch, Richard Pilger, to meet with the director of the IRS’s Tax-Exempt Organizations division, Lois Lerner. In one email obtained by Judicial Watch, Lerner discusses an idea that the Justice Department could build “false-statement cases” against tax-exempt conservative groups.
(Judicial Watch later obtained additional documents detailing a planning meeting between Justice Department, FBI and IRS officials about possible criminal prosecutions. Thanks to Judicial Watch disclosures, House investigators discovered that the IRS improperly turned over confidential tax records of non-profit organizations to the FBI—sparking a public uproar and forcing the return of the records to the IRS. Read more about the case here.)