Judicial Watch: CIA, DOJ Refuse to Confirm or Deny Existence of Eric Ciaramella Records
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today it received letters from both the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) stating they will neither confirm nor deny the existence of emails and other communications related to CIA official Eric Ciaramella, who reportedly worked on Ukraine issues while on detail to both the Obama and Trump White Houses.
These letters were received in response to two December 2019 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits filed after the CIA and DOJ failed to respond to November 2019 requests for communications between Ciaramella and former FBI agent Peter Strzok, former FBI Attorney Lisa Page, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, and/or the Special Counsel’s Office (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:19-cv-03809)) and all of Ciaramella’s emails from June 1, 2016, to November 12, 2019 (Judicial Watch v. Central Intelligence Agency (No. 1:19-cv-03807)).
Ciaramella is widely reported as the person who filed the whistleblower complaint that triggered the impeachment proceedings. His name reportedly was “raised privately in impeachment depositions, according to officials with direct knowledge of the proceedings, as well as in at least one open hearing held by a House committee not involved in the impeachment inquiry.”
The CIA letter stated:
In accordance with section 3.6(a) of Executive Order 13526, the CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records responsive to the requests. The fact of the existence or nonexistence of such records is itself exempt from FO IA under exemption (b )(3) and Section 6 of the CIA Act of I 949, 50 U.S.C. § 3507, and, to the extent your request could relate to CIA intelligence sources and methods information, the fact of the existence or nonexistence of such records is exempt from FOIA under exemption (b)( I) and exemption (b)(3) in conjunction with Section 102A(i)(l) of the National Security Act of 1947, 50 U.S.C § 3024(i)( I).
This completes our response to the above referenced cases.
The Justice Department also refused to confirm or deny the existence of responsive records, citing, among other justifications, the personal privacy of Ciaramella.
Ciaramella’s name appears in a footnote in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the 2016 presidential election. It concerns a May 2017 meeting between President Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office:
(5/9/17 White House Document, “Working Visit with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov of Russia”) … (5/10/17 Email, Ciaramella to Kelly et al.). [Emphasis added] The meeting had been planned on May 2, 2017, during a telephone call between the President and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the meeting date was confirmed on May 5, 2017, the same day the President dictated ideas for the Comey termination letter to Stephen Miller…. (5/10/17 Email, Ciaramella to Kelly et al.). [Emphasis added]
Information about this meeting was subsequently leaked to The New York Times.
“The CIA and Justice Department are covering up information about the alleged whistleblower behind the abusive impeachment of President Trump,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “CIA operative Ciaramella is documented to be involved in the Russia collusion investigation and was a key CIA operative on Ukraine in the both the Obama and Trump White Houses. The incredible secrecy about his activities shows that the DOJ and CIA are trying to cover-up rather than expose any agency abuses that led to unprecedented attacks on President Trump.”
Judicial Watch recently filed two lawsuits against the State Department relating to Burisma Holdings. The first lawsuit seeks records of communications from the US Embassy in Kyiv related to Burisma. The second lawsuit seeks records related to a January 19, 2016 meeting at the White House that included Ukrainian prosecutors, embassy officials and CIA employee Eric Ciaramella, who reportedly worked on Ukraine issues while on detail to both the Obama and Trump White Houses (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:20-cv-000229)) and (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:20-cv-000239))