Court Grants Judicial Watch Request, Orders Top Obama DOJ Official to Preserve Podesta Email Communications
JANUARY 18, 2017
(Washington DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan granted Judicial Watch’s Motion to Preserve emails of a U.S. Department of Justice assistant attorney general. Judge Sullivan issued a Minute Order on January 17, 2017, requiring the Justice Department to “preserve all agency records and potential agency records between the dates of December 1, 2014 and November 7, 2016 in any personal email account of Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Peter Kadzik.”
The court order came in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch against the U.S. Department of Justice on January 15, 2017, seeking access, in part, to email correspondence between Peter Kadzik, the Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs, and John Podesta, then-chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, regarding the Justice Department’s review of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:17-cv-00029)).
According to Wikileaks, on May 19, 2015, Kadzik sent Podesta an email appearing to tip off Clintons’ campaign about the Justice Department’s review of Clinton’s emails:
There is a HJC oversight hearing today where the head of our Civil Division will testify. Likely to get questions on State Department emails. Another filing in the FOIA case went in last night or will go in this am that indicates it will be awhile (2016) before the State Department posts the emails.
On November 7, 2016, Judicial Watch submitted a FOIA request to the Justice Department seeking:
- All email correspondence between Peter Kadzik on either his official Justice Department email account or firstname.lastname@example.org and any non-government employee regarding former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of non-state.gov email to conduct official government business;
- All email correspondence between Peter Kadzik on either his official Justice Department email account or email@example.com and John Podesta; and
- All email correspondence between Peter Kadzik on his official Justice Department email account or firstname.lastname@example.org and any official, officer or employee of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign.
- The timeframe for this request is December 1, 2014 to November 7, 2016.
Also on November 7, Judicial Watch submitted another FOIA request to the Justice Department seeking:
- All emails sent to or received by Peter Kadzik using the email address email@example.com in which he conducted official government business; and
- All emails copied and/or forwarded … to Peter Kadzik’s Justice Department email account from firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The timeframe for this request is January 1, 2016 to the present.
After the Justice Department failed to respond to its FOIA requests, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit on January 5, 2017 and, the next day, filed a Motion for Preservation Order on January 6, 2017 for the court to order the Justice Department to preserve the agency records “currently residing” in Kadzik’s Gmail account:
The records at issue are in the physical possession of Assistant Attorney General Kadzik. With the upcoming change in administrations on January 20, 2017, it is likely that he will leave government service on or around that date.
[Judicial Watch] is concerned that after Assistant Attorney General Kadzik leaves government employment, Defendant will no longer have control over the actions of this official.
In the Justice Department’s January 17, 2017 Opposition to Judicial Watch’s Motion for Preservation Order, the Department contended that:
It is the government’s understanding that Mr. Kadzik has located no agency records or potential agency records in his Gmail account and that, therefore, there are no such documents to preserve…Because the government has already taken the action that Judicial Watch’s motion requests, and has informed the Court of that action, Judicial Watch’s motion is moot and should be denied.
The court was not persuaded, did not find Judicial Watch’s motion moot, and issued the Preservation Order the same day.
“It is astonishing that the Obama Justice Department continues to play games on emails, especially Clinton-related emails,” said Judicial Watch President, Tom Fitton. “Judicial Watch’s lawsuit, and the court’s hard-hitting court order, should send a signal to the entire Obama administration not to destroy government records on its way out the door.”