Judicial Watch: New State Department Documents Reveal Last-Minute Efforts by Obama State Department to Undermine President Trump
Emails show Hillary Clinton’s supporters’ efforts to get classified documents and raw intelligence on alleged Russia involvement in 2016 election to Capitol Hill before Trump inauguration
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch today released 90 pages of heavily redacted U.S. Department of State documents showing Obama State Department officials’ efforts to disseminate classified information to multiple U.S. Senators immediately prior to President Donald Trump’s inauguration. The information, which included raw intelligence, purported to show “malign” Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Among the senators receiving the classified documents were Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Sen. Robert Corker (R-TN).
Judicial Watch obtained the documents through a June 2018 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed against the State Department after it failed to respond to a February 2018 request seeking records of the Obama State Department’s last-minute efforts to share classified information about Russia election interference issues with Democratic Senator Ben Cardin (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:18-cv-01381)).
A January 13, 2017, email from Hera Abbasi, a former congressional advisor in the State Department’s Bureau of Legislative Affairs, suggests that the intelligence community was providing “raw intel” to Sen. Warner. Such an exchange almost certainly would have been coordinated by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI): “Yes, that is correct. Warner/raw intel stuff is going thru IC channels.” (Abbasi previously worked in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office and was a 2017 Next Generation National Security Fellow at the liberal Center for a New American Security. Abbasi donated $725 to the Clinton campaign and Act Blue during the 2016 election cycle.)
The documents uncovered by Judicial Watch show early in the process of gathering and clearing classified information – beginning a day after Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) formally asked then-Secretary of State John Kerry for “intelligence products” and “raw intelligence” on Russian involvement in the 2016 election – Assistant Secretary of State Julia Frifield brings Senior Advisor and Investigations Counsel Zachary Schram into the loop in a January 5, 2017, email chain, in which she says Schram would help “figure out the best way to get these to the Hill.” Frifield was an Obama appointee who previously served as Maryland Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski’s Chief of Staff. (Frifield contributed $2,700 to the 2016 Clinton campaign.)
On January 11, 2017, former State Department Senior Congressional Advisor Katherine Harris sends an email to Abbasi; Naz Durakoglu, who was a senior advisor to the Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs; Kathleen Kavalec, and others: “If we are not going through our standard CDP [Collection Due Process] process, others in H need to weigh in on how to move these to the Hill.”
In emails written on January 10 and 11, 2017, from Abbasi to Durakoglu and Kavalec, Abassi expresses the need to get the documents cleared “as soon as possible (ASAP).”
On January 17, 2017, three days before Trump’s inauguration, Kavalec emails Abbasi, Durakoglu and others emphasizing, again, that getting the documents to Cardin and Warner is a priority and urges the process to be sped up:
Agree this is a priority… and I don’t see why lengthy reviews are required. I would suggest we send up the things that can go immediately, and if there is any concern about specific internal documents, those be adjudicated separately and sent up as a follow-on.
In a January 18, 2017, email from Naz Durakoglu to Elizabeth Lawrence, Abbasi, Kerem Bilge, and others regarding the processing of the request, Durakoglu writes, “there is a time sensitivity to these docs.”
Shedding additional light on possible irregularities in the release process, a January 17, 2017, email reveals that ODNI, then led by James Clapper, was involved in clearing cables for release to the Hill. State Department official Cody Walsh emails Schram and Lauren Gills that the ODNI is “fine” with the State Department “sharing … cables with the Hill.”
On January 13, 2017, at 10:27 a.m., Durakoglu emails more than a dozen State Department employees, invoking the name of then-State Department Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland to reiterate the need to accelerate the process of getting materials prepared to go to the Hill: “Hi All. This is a priority for our Assistant Secretary…Is there anything we can do to better facilitate the process?”
Two minutes later, Durakoglu emails Kerem Bilge and two others: “Where are we on clearances? Do I need to ask Toria to raise with Julia? The clock is ticking. 😊” Durakoglu, at the time, was a senior adviser to Nuland. Durakoglu currently works for The Atlantic Council. She contributed $1,600 to the Clinton campaign in 2016.
The concluding, unredacted section of an otherwise heavily redacted email sent on Friday, January 13, 2017, by former Foreign Service Officer Kerem Bilge to numerous State employees indicates the intense time pressure under which State officials were operating to beat the Inauguration-Day deadline:
**** Please clear the action memo by noon TUESDAY [Jan. 17].
**** Please clear on the actual package of documents, if you have not done so already, by noon TUESDAY [Jan. 17]. [Emphasis in original]
I want to get the whole package into the EUR front office today. This means we can get it out of EUR and to M [Undersecretary for Management] on Wednesday [Jan. 18], then H can courier it to the Hill on Thursday [Jan 19].
In a January 18, 2017, email, as time was running out, Elizabeth Lawrence described getting the package of cables to Cardin and Warner as “urgent:” “This is an urgent package from EUR that they’re trying to get to the Hill ASAP. Please review so we can get it up to M.” (Lawrence is a career foreign service officer, now the Consul in New Delhi, and was previously a Foreign Policy Advisor to Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin. A D.C.-based State Department employee with her name is on record as having donated a cumulative total of $1,000 to the Clinton campaign in 2016.)
The final batch of cables was stored in Kavalec’s safe.
President Trump was inaugurated less than 24 hours later.
“These documents show how the Obama State Department, staffed by Clinton donors, improperly, and perhaps illegally, rushed classified information to their anti-Trump allies in the U.S. Senate,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The Obama State Department was central to the conspiracy to smear President Trump with Russiagate lies and innuendo. The Justice Department must expand any Spygate criminal investigation to include this agency.”
Judicial Watch previously released documents showing classified information was researched and disseminated to multiple U.S. Senators by the Obama administration immediately prior to President Donald Trump’s inauguration. The documents reveal that among those receiving the classified documents were Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Sen. Robert Corker (R-TN). A January 19, 2017, email from Durakoglu, sums it up: “We made the deadline! Thank you everyone for what was truly a Department-wide effort!”
Judicial Watch previously released an email exchange between then-Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and Special Coordinator for Libya Jonathan Winer, a close associate of dossier author Christopher Steele, discussing a “face-to-face” meeting on a “Russian matter.”
In May 2019, Judicial Watch uncovered documents showing a conversation between Kavalec and former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, discussing the targeting of Donald Trump with Steele dossier material.
In June, Judicial Watch made public documents revealing that State Department “Special Coordinator for Libya” Jonathan Winer played a key role in facilitating Steele’s access to other top government officials, prominent international business executives. Winer was even approached by a movie producer about making a movie about the Russiagate targeting of President Trump.
Judicial Watch also uncovered documents showing Nuland and Winer coordinating with then-House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer’s (D-MD) national security advisor, Daniel Silverberg to work on Russia dossier materials provided by Steele.