AUGUST 21, 2015
Leadership Summit to Focus Attention on Corruption of Obama Administration
Judicial Watch Files Suit to Obtain Records on Justice Department’s Legal Reversal on Internet Gambling and Expose Eric Holder’s Conflicts of Interest
Michelle Obama’s Taxpayer-Funded Travel Junket to U.K., Italy Costs $240,497.67 in Flight Expenses
State Department Did Not Provide Hillary Clinton With Secure Blackberry, Court Filing Says
At a time when America’s open records laws face an unprecedented assault, Judicial Watch’s inaugural Leadership Summit will focus attention on the corruption inside the Obama administration. This event is scheduled for Monday, September 14 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Capitol Hill. Please join us for a full day of panel discussions and a special luncheon featuring a well-known keynote speaker. The Leadership Summit on Washington Corruption and the Transparency Crisis will highlight the actions of figures like Hillary Clinton who pose a serious threat to our country’s future. Speakers will include Fox News analyst Andy McCarthy, conservative Congressman Rep. Louie Gohmert, former federal prosecutor Joe diGenova, and author and National Review Editor John Fund. You won’t want to miss it!
Under President Obama’s watch, the U.S. Justice Department has moved decisively to reverse a decades-long ban on all forms of online gambling. A key turning point came in December 2011 when the department’s legal counsel, operating at the behest of requests from New York and Illinois announced it was removing legal obstacles for states that viewed online gambling as an opportunity to alleviate budget deficits. The ruling, which reinterpreted key provisions of the Wire Act of 1961, ostensibly dealt with lottery tickets, but made it possible for states to allow Internet poker and other forms of online betting that do not involve sports.
The Wire Act was initially enacted by Congress as an anti-racketeering law to prohibit the use of wire communications for the interstate transfer of bets or wagers. When the Internet emerged years later, the law was naturally applied to online gambling and U.S. courts, as well as the Department of Justice’s own Criminal Division, agreed with the application in the absence of legislation specifically aimed at Internet gambling.
The 2011 Justice Department ruling changed all of that by asserting that the Wire Act only prohibited wagers on sporting events or contests, thereby lifting the long-standing federal ban on Internet bets placed on non-sporting events. The reversal also contradicts a 2006 law called the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) passed by Congress, which allows states to decide if they want to offer online gambling.
But here’s the real kicker: A federal audit found that then-Attorney General Eric Holder had close ties with businesses that have raked in profits as a result of the Justice Department’s decision to now permit Internet gambling. The news story on the audit highlights the peculiar connections that exist between Holder and the companies’ profits based on the Justice Department’s decision. The story goes into specific numbers, including peculiar increases in stock prices after the feds permitted online gambling.
Clearly then, there is a need to flush out the Justice Department’s legal maneuverings and to expose ongoing conflicts of interest. That’s why your JW has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking documents regarding the Justice Department’s 2011 ruling that the Wire Act of 1961 and other laws prohibiting online gambling, such as the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, only prohibit wagers on sporting events or contests.
Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request October 27, 2014, seeking:
Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to the December 23, 2011 ruling to legalize non-sports betting over the internet, including but not limited to any records on the legal basis for the ruling under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.
The Justice Department was required to provide a response to Judicial Watch by February 18, 2015, but failed to do so.
Judicial Watch alleges in its complaint that:
As of the date of this complaint, July 15, the Justice Department has failed to determine whether to comply with the FOIA request; notify Judicial Watch of any such determination; advise Judicial Watch of the right to appeal any adverse determination; produce the requested records or otherwise demonstrate that the requested records are exempt from production.
It is difficult to overstate how much the Justice Department’s reversal on Internet gambling has damaged law enforcement efforts. In fact, up until the age of Eric Holder, the Justice Department went after offshore-based online poker companies operating in the U.S. The feds slammed them with serious criminal charges like wire fraud, money laundering and bank fraud. The agency’s cases were strengthened by the 2006 UIGEA. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which is part of the Justice Department, even issued a warning reminding everyone that it is illegal to gamble online in the United States. That means no cyber-bets on sporting events or in virtual card games; no transferring money electronically for gambling and no wagers in offshore internet casinos if you live in the U.S., according to the FBI bulletin. But now UIGEA has been completely uprooted.
There are all kinds of interlocking relationships that call out for further investigation. But the Illinois connection is of particular interest here. The Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel that actually wrote the Justice Department reversal, Virginia Seitz, was a partner at a Chicago law firm where Michelle and Barack Obama met and worked until they married. After two years as one of the president’s top legal advisors, Seitz returned to her old law firm, Sidley Austin LLP, in mid-September. The firm has more than 1,800 attorneys in 18 locations worldwide, and at this time Seitz is working in the Washington, D.C., office located just blocks from the White House.
When the Justice Department reverses its own interpretation of a federal statute so quickly and so completely, the American people have a right to know why. And given that the Justice Department is willing to violate federal records law rather than disclose information, Americans can presume corruption behind its decision to unilaterally legalize widespread Internet gambling.
We all know the rules are a little different for the political class. But Michelle Obama’s recent trips overseas hardly qualify as official business. They are lavish, extravagant and excessive by any reasonable metric. Moreover, these latest revelations are hardly isolated. They are part of continuum reaching back across to the earliest days of the Obama administration. Earlier this month, we obtained flight expense records from the U.S. Department of the Air Force revealing that Michelle Obama’s June 2015 trip to the United Kingdom and Italy, accompanied by her daughters and mother, cost the taxpayers $240,495.67 in flight expenses alone.
The records were released in response to a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request filed on June 22, 2015. The flights to London, England; and Milan, Venice, and Vicenza, Italy, for the June 15 – 21, 2015, trip totaled 20:35 hours at the cost of $11,684 per hour, bringing the flight expense total to $240,495.67, according to the Air Force documents. The Obama White House, true to form, tried spin the trip as a public service that was part of Michelle Obama’s campaign to push her “Let Girls Learn” initiative and “Let’s Move” anti-obesity campaign. Good grief. Everyone should deny themselves and streamline their lifestyles except for the Obamas.
Press reports make it evident the Obama entourage set aside substantial time for tourism. In London, Michelle Obama joined Prince Harry for afternoon tea at Kensington Palace. And the White House press office conceded that, while in Italy, “The First Lady will also visit cultural sites in Venice before returning to Washington, D.C.”
The U.S. Secret Service has not yet responded to the request for attendant costs for personnel, accommodations, meals, rental cars, and related expenses.
Judicial Watch released records revealing significant taxpayer-funded travel expenses for a Michelle Obama trip in July. Those records from the U.S. Department of the Air Force showed that Michelle Obama’s 2014 trip to China cost American taxpayers $362,523.53 in travel expenses alone. Mrs. Obama, her daughters, and her mother spent March 19 – 26 in China, in a trip highlighted by extended visits to some of the country’s most popular tourist sites.
Apparently, the Obama family continues to bill the taxpayers for costly tourism jaunts thinly disguised as humanitarian crusades. If Michelle Obama wants to take tea with Prince Harry or enthuse over Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, she is certainly entitled to do so, but not at taxpayer expense.
Since the beginning of Barack Obama’s administration, the Obamas have become increasingly notorious for unnecessary, luxurious travel, under the guise of official business. According to records obtained by Judicial Watch through FOIA requests and subsequent lawsuits, the Obamas and Bidens have spent millions of taxpayer dollars on trips, beginning with the Obamas’ much-publicized New York City “date night” in 2009 up through the president’s most frequent golf outings and the first lady’s Aspen ski jaunts.
Judicial Watch uncovered an expensive combination of trips by the Obamas to Africa and Honolulu, which cost taxpayers $15,885,585.30 in flight expenses alone. The single largest prior known expense for accommodations was for Michelle Obama’s side-trip to Dublin, Ireland, during the 2013 G-8 conference in Belfast, when she and her entourage booked 30 rooms at the five-star Shelbourne Hotel, and where she stayed in the 1500 square-foot Princess Grace suite at a cost of $3,500 a night. The total cost to taxpayers for the Obamas’ Ireland trip was $7,921,638.66. To date, the known beyond-first-class travel expenses of the Obamas and Vice President Joe Biden exceed $57 million.
We said this is part of a continuum. In February, Michelle Obama took a weekend trip to Aspen, Colorado that cost taxpayers a pretty penny; $57,068.80 in travel expenses alone for the 7.4 hour-round trip flight, according to U.S. Air Force records. As we previously reported, this Aspen trip occurred in tandem with President Obama’s trip to California to play golf, speak at a cyber-security summit, and headline a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee. The First Lady and her daughters spent Valentine’s Day weekend skiing in Aspen, returning to the White House on February 16.
The next time the First Family travels – hold on to your wallet!!
Hillary Clinton doesn’t like to answer tough questions. In fact, she doesn’t like to be questioned at all about anything. For many years a compliant news media has allowed her to escape scrutiny. But times are a changing thanks to the efforts of your Judicial Watch. Let’s not lose sight of the basic fact that it was a JW Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit that forced Mrs. Clinton to do what no other congressional committee, FBI or Justice Department investigation has been able to do – submit information, under penalty of perjury, about her email system.
Others are running with what JW has uncovered. At a press conference earlier this week, Ed Henry of Fox News, asked Mrs. Clinton about her private email server and how it affected her official work during her time as secretary of state. She didn’t like it.
Here’s a snipped from the exchange:
Henry: “Isn’t leadership about taking responsibility?”
Clinton: “Look, I take responsibility,” Clinton said. “This didn’t turn out to be convenient at all and I regret that this has become such a cause celebre. But this does not change the facts and no matter what anybody tries to say, the facts are stubborn …” What I did was legally permitted.”
Let’s all remember she said this.
It was over four months ago, on March 2, 2015, that The New York Times reported then-Secretary Clinton used at least one non-“state.gov” email account to conduct official government business during her entire tenure as the secretary of state. It also was reported that Secretary Clinton stored these records on a non-U.S. government-issued server at her home in Chappaqua, New York.
Now there’s another new twist.
At a hearing yesterday, the State Department admitted to Judge Emmet G. Sullivan that it had made no efforts to coordinate with the FBI in the obvious task of asking for information responsive to inquiries by the court and Judicial Watch. After some pointed questioning from the judge, the State Department conceded to the court that it has an affirmative obligation to produce records from the devices currently in the custody of the FBI. The judge then ordered the State Department to do so.
For the reasons stated by the Court at the August 20, 2015 status hearing, and as agreed to by Defendant’s counsel, the State Department is hereby ordered to request that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) inform it about any information recovered from Mrs. Clinton’s server and the related thumb drive that is: (a) potentially relevant to the FOIA request at issue in this case; and (b) not already in the State Department’s possession. The State Department shall file a status report, no later than Monday, September 21, 2015 at 12:00 p.m., informing the Court of the following: (1) the process agreed upon between the FBI and the State Department for the sharing of information relevant to this lawsuit; (2) the status of the Inspector General of the State Department’s report regarding Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private server; and (3) a timetable for the completion of any ongoing searches related to this lawsuit. Signed by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on August 20, 2015. (lcegs4)
I wholeheartedly agreed with Judge Sullivan when he stated: “We wouldn’t be here today if the employee [former Secretary Clinton] had followed government policy.”
The State Department had asserted in its most recent filing with the court that the State Department did not issue personal computing devices to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and possibly destroyed the Blackberries of her aides Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills:
[The State Department] does not believe that any personal computing device was issued by the Department to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and has not located any such device at the Department. [The State Department] believes that Ms. Mills and Ms. Abedin were each issued BlackBerry devices. [The State Department] has not located any such device at the Department … Because the devices issued to Ms. Mills and Ms. Abedin would have been outdated models, in accordance with standard operating procedures those devices would have been destroyed or excessed.
State did identify the “state.gov” email accounts of Mills, Abedin and two other former officials, but stated that Clinton “did not use a state.gov account.”
The filing follows the recent court order granting Judicial Watch’s request for a hearing this week, on Thursday, August 20, 2015 at 12:00 p.m., which had previously been scheduled for September. State recently sought a one-week extension from the court, and the judge denied it (the court changed the time of the hearing to 1 p.m.)
The questions just keep popping up. Every time the State Department tries to justify its stonewalling, one more bit of information arises. If the State Department was not providing secure email devices to Mrs. Clinton, who was? Best Buy? Target? Mrs. Clinton clearly did whatever she wanted, without regard to national security or federal records keeping laws. We have arrived at a key turning point where the Obama administration’s obstruction of the courts and our Freedom of Information Act litigation must end. The court and the American people are weary of their legal gamesmanship. We are fighting for the public’s right to know what Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin and others were sending and receiving during their 4 years running the State Department.
These developments come in response to a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit that seeks records about the controversial employment status of Huma Abedin, the former Deputy Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The lawsuit was reopened because of revelations about Hillary Clinton’s email records.