Judicial Watch Goes to Court On Clinton Testimony
JULY 22, 2016
Hillary Clinton sent three lawyers to federal court this past Monday in an effort to convince a judge that she shouldn’t have to provide testimony under oath to your Judicial Watch about why she set up and used a non-state.gov email account to conduct official business as secretary of state.
As you will recall, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan had granted “discovery” to Judicial Watch into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email system. Sullivan had noted at the time that “based on information learned during discovery, the deposition of Mrs. Clinton may be necessary.” The discovery arises in a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit that seeks records about the controversial employment status of Huma Abedin, former deputy chief of staff to Clinton. The lawsuit, which seeks records regarding the authorization for Abedin to engage in outside employment while employed by the Department of State, was reopened because of revelations about the clintonemail.com system (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:13-cv-01363)).
JW sought Hillary Clinton’s testimony a few weeks ago after my attorney colleagues deposed seven former Clinton top aides and current State Department officials, including top Clinton aides Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin. Judicial Watch’s legal team also took the testimony of IT official Brian Pagliano, who asserted his Fifth Amendment right not to testify during the Judicial Watch deposition.
Judge Sullivan ordered Monday’s hearing after requiring the State Department’s and Hillary Clinton’s lawyers to respond to our request for permission to depose Clinton; the Director of Office of Correspondence and Records of the Executive Secretariat (“S/ES-CRM”) Clarence Finney; and the former Director of Information Resource Management of the Executive Secretariat (“S/ES-IRM”) John Bentel.
In the oral arguments before Judge Sullivan, Judicial Watch attorney Michael Bekesha repeatedly put the issue in perspective:
Prior to Mrs. Clinton becoming Secretary of State, she never had FOIA obligations or federal record-keeping obligations when she was a senator, so that changed. Her legal obligations changed. And the question is: When those legal obligations changed, why did she not recognize those obligations and then change her normal course of business because of these new legal obligations that applied when she became Secretary of State?
The question is: Why did she not change using the system?
Mr. [Steven D.] Mull [Executive Secretary of the State Department] … reminded Ms. Abedin, her deputy chief of staff, that such e-mail would be subject to FOIA. The head of the IRM [Information Resource Management] unit, Mr. Bentel, around the same hour, identified to other staff that it would be subject to FOIA. And then for some reason, Mrs. Clinton decided not to use a State Department e-mail account and a State Department BlackBerry.
And the question hasn’t been answered: Why did she reverse course on her decision?
Why – at one point we have the email where Mrs. Clinton said – she said, “This isn’t a good system.” And then later on she said, “I don’t want the personal being accessible.” And the questions: What does that mean? Did she decide not to use a State Department BlackBerry, a State Department email account, because she didn’t want the personal accessible?
Now, you could read it one way, that she didn’t want personal emails accessible, but the question then is, as Mrs. Clinton would know, personal emails are not subject to FOIA requests, so her – even if she used the State Department system, she would not – her personal e-mail would not be turned over to the public, and so that doesn’t really seem to be a concern.
Another way you could read that e-mail is that she didn’t want the personal system to be accessible. And so the question then is: What was she hiding on the system?
Previous to last week’s hearing, we submitted reply briefs (available here and here) to Judge Sullivan in response to the State Department’s and Secretary Clinton’s oppositions to our request for permission to depose Clinton and two other witnesses.
In our briefs we argued, among other things, that:
Secretary Clinton’s deposition is necessary to complete the record. Although certain information has become available through investigations by the Benghazi Select Committee, the FBI, and the State Department Inspector General, as well as through Plaintiff’s narrowly tailored discovery to date, significant gaps in the evidence remain. Only Secretary Clinton can fill these gaps, and she does not argue otherwise.
To [Judicial Watch’s] knowledge, Secretary Clinton has never testified under oath why she created and used the clintonemail.com system to conduct official government business. Her only public statements on the issue are unsworn.
Judge Sullivan began the hearing with a statement about the Freedom of Information Act:
The Court takes extremely seriously the public’s right to know about the details of why Mrs. Clinton used a private server for official government business. Indeed, FOIA was designed by Congress to, “pierce the veil of administrative secrecy and to open agency action to the light of public scrutiny.”
Hillary Clinton’s lawyer David Kendall tried to convince the court that his client would have nothing new to say and that, evidently, we should be satisfied with the FBI’s secret interview and the incompetent questioning of Clinton by Congress. Incredibly, Mr. Kendall referred to Clinton campaign’s website as having the necessary information on her email system.
You can review the entire hearing transcript here.
After the nearly three-hour hearing, Judge Sullivan announced he would rule on the issues as soon as possible. Stay tuned.
As the media focuses on the political conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia, the big election news may be taking place in courtrooms across America.
For example, your Judicial Watch joined with the Allied Educational Foundation (AEF) in filing an amici curiae brief with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in the case NAACP v. McCrory (No. 16-1468). You may not recognize the case, but it could be the key to the future of clean elections in America. More specifically, our brief argues in support of a lower court ruling that the 2013 North Carolina election-integrity law, which includes, among other provisions, a requirement that voters show a photo identification card before casting a ballot, is valid.
(The Allied Educational Foundation is a charitable and educational foundation dedicated to improving quality of life through education. AEF has frequently partnered with Judicial Watch to fight government and judicial corruption and to promote a return to ethics and morality in the nation’s public life.)
We filed our joint brief in support of North Carolina Governor Patrick L. McCrory, who is asking the court to sustain the decision of U.S. District Court Judge Thomas D. Schroeder upholding the North Carolina voter law.
The case concerns North Carolina’s adoption of common-sense election integrity measures requiring voter ID, eliminating “same-day” voter registration, reducing the early voting period, and prohibiting voters from casting provisional ballots outside of their voting precincts. The Obama Justice Department and other groups represented by the NAACP and the League of Women Voters filed suit, alleging this law was racially discriminatory against black voters in violation of Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act (“VRA”).
In our brief, JW and AEF explain that the Justice Department is just wrong. First, Section 2 of the VRA only prohibits state laws that directly cause increased difficulty for voters to exercise their right to vote “because of” or “on account of” their race. The North Carolina law causes no such injury to minority voters.
Voting laws are not illegal under the VRA just because plaintiffs show a statistical “disparate impact” of the law on racial groups, but rather the law must actually deny people an equal opportunity to participate based upon their race. North Carolina’s requirement that voters show identification does not deny opportunities to vote based upon race.
Finally, JW and AEF explain that the Department of Justice is wrongly trying to resuscitate Section 5 of the VRA, which imposed more stringent limits on states’ election laws, but was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 in Shelby County v. Holder. Judicial Watch and AEF cite statistical evidence showing that not only has African-American voter registration and voting not declined since enactment of the North Carolina law; it has actually increased:
Elections since the enactment of SL 2013-381 [the North Carolina election integrity law] have provided real life proof that the challenged provisions of SL 2013-381 do not cause any discernible disadvantage to minority voters. Rather, both black and white voters adapt to the new rules and continue to turn out to vote at rates higher than under the former voting rules changed by SL 2013-381.
The Judicial Watch/AEF amici brief concludes:
In its well-reasoned opinion, the District Court carefully examined the pertinent questions regarding trade-offs, alternatives, and mitigating factors – as is necessary under a totality of circumstances analysis – in its determination that the changes to North Carolina’s voting laws imposed by SL 2013-381 do not cause racial minorities to be deprived of the opportunity to participate equally in the political process. There is, accordingly, no sound basis for disturbing the District Court’s opinion.
It is shameful how the Obama Justice Department and its leftist allies are pursuing a dishonest legal effort to undermine clean elections in the United States. Whether it is voter ID or other sensible measures, America needs more election integrity reforms like those in North Carolina.
This week we released previously undisclosed documents from the St. Lucie County, Florida, Sheriff’s Department revealing that the FBI informed the sheriff’s office in late 2013 that Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people in a nightclub in Orlando, was “NOT” a terrorist and was no threat to “go postal.” [Emphasis in original] Remember this the next time you hear the media or a DC politician heap praise on the supposed expertise of the FBI.
The email from the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Department details that the FBI remarks were made during a phone conversation with Randall Glass, the Florida regional resident in charge for the FBI. Other documents show Mateen admitted to initially lying to the FBI about past statements tying him to the Boston Marathon bombers, the Fort Hood terrorist, and al Qaeda terrorists in Kenya.
We obtained the document as result of our June 14, 2016, public records request seeking the following:
Any and all records regarding, concerning, or related to a deceased individual named Omar Mateen, a/k/a Omar Mir Seddique. … This request includes, but is not limited to, any and all records of communications between any official, employee, or representative of the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Department and any other individual or entity regarding, concerning, or related to Mr. Mateen.
Included among the documents obtained by Judicial Watch is a September 27, 2013, email memo from former St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Department Major Michael Graves to Sheriff’s Department Director of Detention Patrick Tighe.
FBI concluded a several month long thorough investigation of one of our G4S employees, Omar Mateen, who works at the courthouse. Last night, I spoke with FBI SAC [Special Agent in Charge] Rand Glass who informed me they believe this individual has been making comments about his capabilities via his alleged middle eastern [sic] terrorist contacts as a form of tit for tat – who is the biggest and baddest rhetoric. Reportedly, Mateem [sic] told FBI he did this because a deputy who no longer works at the courthouse kept calling him a “towel head.” Mateen denied saying some of the things the FBI knows he did say. If he were smart he should not lie to them about any portion of the investigation (federal offense). They plan to speak to him again regarding his discrepancy.
Rand told me “We do NOT believe he is a terrorist.” Yesterday, the FBI spoke with him in person and reportedly Mateen became very upset that someone contacted the FBI. Regarding this demeanor, Rand said, “I don’t believe he will go postal or anything like that.”
At the time of the FBI interview, Mateen was employed by the security company G4S and served as a security guard at the St. Lucie County courthouse in 2013. Shortly after the email memo from Graves to Tighe, the Sheriff’s Department demanded that G4S remove Mateen from his position. In addition to its work in St. Lucie, G4S is a major contractor with the Department of Homeland Security, providing security at America’s ports and along the Mexican border.
The new documents also include a report from Michael Hogsten, Deputy General Counsel for G4S, in which he detailed his November 6, 2013, interview with Mateen regarding the terrorist’s earlier questioning by the FBI:
- Was alone with FBI – were very respectful and courteous. Not rough or disrespectful at all. Asked if related to Ft. hood [sic] shooter, or Boston bomber, asked if Obama was a Muslim – asked if Obama was citizen – were about conspiracy things at work.
A.) After Boston bombing occurred – everyone got really nasty – I said – know what I’m related to Boston bomber is my first cousin and matter of fate – related to ft hood [sic] shooter – I know Kenya mall shooters – said so they would leave me alone.
B.) Explained to FBI – that I said this to get them off my back…
C.) Initially he denied – saying things; however, one agent said – they have it on recording – and then he admitted making statements.
The Palm Beach Post summarized our find:
The FBI interviewed Mateen twice. Graves said after talking with the FBI agent he decided not to reassign Mateen.
“However, if he continues with the stupid terrorist talk even just once in the future, maintains an angry, unacceptable attitude as a result of the FBI inquiry, his work performance … suffers, we will not hesitate to ask G4S to promptly replace him,” Graves wrote.
Eighteen minutes later, Tighe replied, saying he disagreed with Graves’ decision to keep Mateen at the courthouse: “Sufficient reasonable belief has been established that there is a probability for security to be compromised at his current location.”
Sheriff officers watched Mateen at the courthouse on Oct. 2 and found his behavior “not conducive to the court atmosphere.”
In particular, they cited Mateen’s “aggressive posturing, raising his voice, and seemingly attempting to incite his co-workers.” G4S took Mateen off courthouse duty and reassigned him to the security gate at a Palm City community.
No wonder the FBI reportedly tried to stop Florida law enforcement from responding to freedom of information requests about the Orlando massacre.
These documents show that the FBI blew it. The agency let Mateen off the hook even though he threatened his co-worker and tried to lie to the FBI agents questioning him about terrorist ties.
Until next week…
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