MARCH 20, 2015
Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration may want the Clinton email scandal to go away. The liberal media may comply, but Judicial Watch is independent and is increasing its pressure with new court action.
On March 2, 2015, 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 server at her home in Chappaqua, New York.
There are at least 18 lawsuits, 10 of which are active in federal court, and about 160 Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that could be affected by Mrs. Clinton and her staff’s use of secret email accounts to conduct official government business.
Since the story broke, there have been some new developments. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is finally asking some hard questions of the U.S. State Department. Politico first reported this week on a letter sent to the State Department by Paul Wester, the chief records officer for the U.S. government:
“NARA is concerned that Federal records may have been alienated from the Department of State’s official recordkeeping systems,” Wester wrote to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Margaret Grafeld. “If federal records have been alienated, please describe all measures the Department has taken, or expects to take, to retrieve the alienated records. Please also include a description of all safeguards established to prevent records alienation incidents from happening in the future.”
One can fairly translate “alienated” as “stolen” in this context. Wester is giving State a month to respond to his letter, which was sent the day after The New York Times first broke the scandal.
In December, Clinton supposedly turned over about 30,000 emails (totaling 55,000 pages) to State Department officials. But earlier this month, Clinton also admitted that she “chose not to keep her private, personal emails that were not federal records,” which means there may be 32,000 other messages.
As Congress hopes someone in the Obama administration will do its job and enforce the law, Judicial Watch is getting to work. Since March 2, we filed a new FOIA lawsuit, 18 new FOIA requests about the scandal, and a motion in federal court to reopen a lawsuit because of “fraud, misrepresentation, and misconduct,” including misconduct by Mrs. Clinton.
This week, we opened a new front in federal court. We are asking another a federal court to schedule a status conference with the State Department to discuss the production of records relevant to an ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit about Hillary Clinton’s involvement in the Benghazi scandal. Our legal team is asking the court to set a “status conference in this matter as soon as possible to avoid further undue delays, prejudice and potential spoliation.” The request for a status conference was made to U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth.
The timing here is key. A production of documents is due as required in the July 2014 FOIA lawsuit we filed against the U.S. State Department seeking:
Copies of any updates and/or talking points given to Ambassador Rice by the White House or any federal agency concerning, regarding, or related to the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Any and all records or communications concerning, regarding, or relating to talking points or updates on the Benghazi attack given to Ambassador Rice by the White House or any federal agency.
In its Motion for Status Conference Judicial Watch argues:
Because Secretary Clinton was at the center of the State Department’s official statement blaming the online video for the attack in Benghazi, her emails and those of her staff within the Office of the Secretary about the talking points given to Ambassador Rice are clearly responsive to Judicial Watch’s request.
Our litigation almost certainly forced the State Department to publicly disclose Hillary Clinton’s secret email accounts. In our motion we point out:
On November 12, 2014, the State Department released its production of responsive, non-exempt, records that Judicial Watch understood to be complete. In its letter, the Department stated that it located four (4) documents as a result of its search of the Office of the Secretary…On December 5, 2014, the State Department produced its draft Vaughn index pursuant to the Court’s September 15, 2014 Order…In both instances, the State Department omitted that its search did not include Secretary Clinton’s emails in the Office of the Secretary. More egregiously, the State Department omitted that Secretary Clinton had apparently just turned over 55,000 pages of her agency emails that had not been searched or included in the Department’s draft Vaughn index…These omissions are material and were apparently made in the process of settlement discussions to induce dismissal.
A supplemental search and document production is due April 2, 2015 solely because Judicial Watch requested search affidavits, surprised that that the State Department located only four responsive records – none of which are Secretary Clinton’s emails and all of which were previously produced in another litigation…Judicial Watch has no reason to believe that the State Department would have ever disclosed that its search was compromised had Judicial Watch not asked for search affidavits when it reviewed the draft Vaughn index and limited production.
A statement by the State Department in a February 2, 2015, status report was the first notice to the public and the court that other records had not been searched: “[The State Department] has discovered that additional searches for documents potentially responsive to the FOIA must be conducted.”
So it’s clear that we played a special role in the email revelations now coming to light. It was this FOIA lawsuit that forced the disclosure of Clinton’s secret email. It’s also now clear that Clinton, the State Department, and the Justice Department misled and gamed both us and a federal court.
You can also be sure that Team Obama will resist our efforts. The Associated Press has just released the results of its latest analysis of federal data. It shows that the administration is censoring data and denying access to data that should be available under the FOIA law. AP has also sued the State Department to obtain Clinton’s email records. It’s encouraging to know we are not alone and our work seems to inspire others to pursue open government.
AP reports that citizens, journalists, businesses and other entities made a record 714,231 requests for information. The government responded to 647,142 requests, which is a 4 percent decrease over the previous year.
The American people have more questions, but are getting fewer answers from the Obama administration. “The government more than ever censored materials it turned over or fully denied access to them, in 250,581 cases or 39 percent of all requests,” the AP report says. “Sometimes, the government censored only a few words or an employee’s phone number, but other times it completely marked out nearly every paragraph on pages.” This is not news to us, as we’ve been forced to file hundreds of lawsuits under FOIA, most of which are just to get the Obama administration to merely answer our requests as the law requires.
Now the Obama White House, despite it being government Sunshine Week, made a mockery of concerns about transparency caused by the email scandal by trying to kill FOIA for the White House Office of Administration (OA), the agency one would ask about how Mr. Obama’s emails are being managed! USA Today broke the story:
Unlike other offices within the White House, which were always exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, the Office of Administration responded to FOIA requests for 30 years. Until the Obama administration, watchdog groups on the left and the right used records from the office to shed light on how the White House works.
“This is an office that operated under the FOIA for 30 years, and when it became politically inconvenient, they decided they weren’t subject to the Freedom of Information Act any more,” said Tom Fitton of the conservative Judicial Watch.
Using the excuse of just one appellate court ruling from 2009 that exempts the OA from FOIA, the White House suddenly, issued a notice, in Orwellian fashion, that walls off the agency from any possible scrutiny. USA Today notes that the “White House did not explain why it waited nearly six years to formally acknowledge the court ruling in its regulations.”
You probably share my belief in what is behind this sudden move. US News reported JW’s take:
Tom Fitton, president of the conservative transparency group Judicial Watch, tells U.S. News he doubts the move is merely long-overdue housekeeping.
“I have no doubt this move is to try to cut off any public inquiry into Barack Obama’s emails,” Fitton says. “We won’t be put off and are taking steps to find out what the White House wants to hide about the president’s emails.”
So not only we will push to shake loose the secreted State Department records of Hillary Clinton, but we are pushing for more information on the records of President Obama, her co-conspirator in violating the American’s people “right to know.”
Our goal – one that should be shared by Democrats, Republicans, liberals, and conservatives – is to recover and secure records that the public is entitled to under the law.
Through Judicial Watch’s groundbreaking reporting on the narco-terrorists apparently freely crossing our borders, we released the disturbing records from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) that indicate an al Qaeda terrorist who helped plan several U.S. attacks—including plots to bomb Oprah Winfrey’s studios and detonate nuclear devices in multiple American cities—was a confidential source for the government (via our Corruption Chronicles blog):
His name is Adnan G. El Shukrijumah (also known as “Javier Robles”) and for years he appeared on the FBI’s most wanted list. In December JW reported that, despite being sought by the FBI, Shukrijumah crossed back and forth into the United States from Mexico to meet fellow militant Islamists in Texas. In fact, he piloted an aircraft into the Cielo Dorado airfield in Anthony, New Mexico, according to JW’s law enforcement sources. In early December Shukrijumah was killed by the Pakistan Army in an intelligence-borne operation in South Waziristan.
But many questions remain about the U.S. government’s relationship with the Al Qaeda operative while he was still alive and months ago JW launched an investigation to uncover the details. As part of the ongoing probe JW requested FDLE records because Shukrijumah lived in South Florida’s Broward County and graduated from Broward Community College with a degree in computer engineering. Four months before the 9/11 terrorist attacks Shukrijumah fled the U.S. He was one of the suspected actors in a number of planned terror attacks in the U.S., including a plot to simultaneously detonate nuclear devices in several U.S. cities. Convicted terrorist Jose Padilla claimed to have trained with Shukrijumah to blow up U.S. apartment buildings using natural gas explosions.
In 2010 Shukrijumah was indicted in the Eastern District of New York for his role in a terrorist plot to attack targets in the United States—including New York City’s subway system—and the United Kingdom, according the FBI. The plot against New York City’s subway system was directed by senior Al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan, the FBI says, and was directly related to a scheme by Al Qaeda plotters in Pakistan to use Western operatives to attack a target in the United States.
A year earlier Shukrijumah helped plan a terrorist truck-bomb targeting Winfrey’s Harpo Studios in Chicago as well as the iconic Sears Tower. Two of his fellow conspirators—Emad Karakrah and Hector Pedroza Huerta—were arrested last year for unrelated state crimes in different parts of the country. Karakrah got busted in Chicago on charges of making a false car bomb threat after leading police on a high-speed chase with an ISIS flag waving from his vehicle. Huerta, an illegal alien twice convicted for driving intoxicated, got nabbed in El Paso for drunk driving.
The men formed part of a sophisticated narco-terror ring, exposed in a JW investigative series last year, with connections running from El Paso to Chicago to New York City. The operation includes an all-star lineup of logistics and transportation operatives for militant Islamists in the United State, drug and weapons smugglers for the Juarez drug cartel in Mexico, an FBI confidential informant gone rogue and two of the FBI’s most wanted terrorists. Shukrijumah was one of them and, though he’s dead, he is an important part of the puzzle and extremely relevant when connecting the dots in the narco-terror ring.
The FDLE records recently obtained by JW include source debriefing reports from 2003-2004 with redacted information and references to an unnamed “source” believed to be Shukrijumah. It’s not entirely clear which government or law enforcement agency he may have been a Confidential Source/Informant for but JW also has record requests pending with several federal agencies. Additionally, JW’s law enforcement sources confirm that in late 2003 Shukrijumah was using a restricted database that typically requires proof of legitimate business—such as a law enforcement agency, licensed private investigator or law firm—for subscription. Asked to confirm if the “source” listed in the recently disclosed records is in fact Shukrijumah, a spokesman for the FDLE told JW that the agency can’t disclose the identities of confidential informants or sources.
You may remember our earlier report about the narco-terror conspirator named Emad Karakrah, who was also a member of the terrorist cell behind the attempted 2009 bombing of Oprah Winfrey’s Chicago studios and the Sears Tower building. It was your Judicial Watch that reported that he is back on the loose after being incarcerated, compliments of the Federal Bureau of Investigation! As our borders remain open, you can count on JW to do its part to protect our national security by exposing the border terror threat that the rest of DC would ignore.
You remember Jonathan Gruber.
Gruber is the Obamacare architect who made it clear that the administration was banking on the stupidity of the American voter to force through Congress the Obamacare federal takeover of our nation’s health care industry. Back before he became notorious for telling the truth about Obama’s lies, the Obama White House put him front-and-center. The New York Times called him “Mr. Mandate” in recognition of the key role he played in crafting the Obamacare law, which is formally titled the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act:
After Mr. Gruber helped the administration put together the basic principles of the proposal, the White House lent him to Capitol Hill to help Congressional staff members draft the specifics of the legislation.
It was during a January 18, 2012, presentation at a conference sponsored by Noblis (a non-profit government contractor) that Gruber, the controversial Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist and Obamacare architect, let loose Team Obama’s sleight of hand. In what he termed an effort to “squeeze the states,” Gruber confirmed that if states did not set up their own exchanges, the federal government would not give their health care applicants income tax subsidies. But Gruber’s comments didn’t receive wide notice until late 2014 when a group called American Commitment posted videos of Gruber talking about how the “lack of transparency is a huge political advantage” in taking advantage of “the stupidity of the American voter” in passing Obamacare over the objections of a resistant electorate. Gruber also talked about how the “Cadillac tax” was sold as tax on insurance companies when it’s really a tax on the middle class.
This, of course, cuts to the heart of the King v. Burwell litigation now before the U.S. Supreme Court. Your Judicial Watch filed an amicus brief to support the plaintiffs who are seeking to prevent the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from providing refundable tax credits to individuals who purchase health care coverage through a federal rather than a state exchange.
Under Section 36B of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA” or Obamacare), tax subsidies are restricted to individuals who purchase health insurance “through an Exchange established by the State under 1311 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” Similar wording occurs in eight other locations throughout the ACA. In establishing the regulations governing the tax subsidies, however, the Obama administration declared that the phrase “Exchange established by the State” refers to state exchanges, regional exchanges, subsidiary exchanges, and a federally-facilitated exchange.
But the Obama administration ignored the law and gave subsidies to all participants, arguing that the law was never intended to prohibit subsidies for those purchasing insurance through exchanges set up by the federal government. That’s why Mr. Gruber is such a problem for the Obama gang. Because, in another video, Gruber admitted that Obamacare’s subsidies were limited to state-run exchanges only. In what he termed an effort to “squeeze the states,” Gruber confirmed that if states did not set up their own exchanges, the federal government would not give their health care applicants income tax subsidies. Gruber told a questioner:
I think partly because they want to sort of squeeze the states to do it. I think what’s important to remember politically about this, is if you’re a state and you don’t set up an Exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits. But your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill. So you’re essentially saying to your citizens, you’re going to pay all the taxes to help all the other states in the country. I hope that’s a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at stake here in setting up these Exchanges, and that they’ll do it.
After Gruber’s remarks were widely publicized, U.S. District Court Judge Ronald A. White, citing Gruber’s remarks, also ruled against the Obama administration in Oklahoma v. Burwell. Judge White noted that the Obama administration’s legal position “leads us down a path toward Alice’s Wonderland, where up is down and down is up, and words mean anything.”
Given his comments about lying to the “stupid” American people and his confirmation that those challenging illegal subsidies for some Obamacare participants are correct, you can see why it is that the Obama administration might want to distance itself from Gruber by violating the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in keeping secret the information about his role as the Obamacare architect.
Turns out Mr. Gruber had been paid a pretty penny for a sole-source solicitation contract from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); nearly $400,000.
Par for the course, we have to go to federal court to corroborate the preferential treatment Gruber received from HHS. We filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against HHS in February seeking records concerning contracts and consultancy agreements between Gruber and the agency.
In a February 2009 posting, justifying the sole source “Technical Assistance” agreement on FedBizOpps.com, Clint D. Druk, of the HHS Program Support Center, wrote:
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), intends to negotiate with Jonathan Gruber, Ph.D. on a sole source basis for technical assistance in evaluating options for national healthcare reform. The basis for restricting competition is the authority 13.106-1(b) because only one source is reasonably available to satisfy agency requirements. The anticipated contract period will be for one year …
Dr. Gruber’s ongoing advisory role with the Office of Health Reform strongly positions him to meet HHS’ requirements most efficiently, which is a key requirement in order for well-developed legislative proposals to be put forth for Congressional consideration as soon as possible.
In a “Fact Checker” article about the Gruber “Technical Assistance” contract with HHS, the Washington Post reported:
The first four months of the contract could not be found on the FedBizOpp.gov Web site, but in June 2009, HHS renewed the contract for eight months, with a value of $297,600. Gruber in an e-mail confirmed that the first part of the contract was for $95,000.
That adds up to $392,600 — or “almost $400,000.”
According to the Daily Caller, Gruber earned “at least” $5.9 million after being recruited by the Obama administration to help craft its health care law. According to the Caller’s Chuck Ross, “The federal government has paid Jonathan Gruber at least $4 million since the year 2000, for his work as an expert witness, a legal consultant and for his consultation on Obamacare. That comes on top of at least $1.6 million the MIT economist has been paid by several states to consult on their health care bills.”
To be clear, President Obama’s knowing lies about how Americans could keep their doctors and insurance under Obamacare show he is no better than Gruber in his contempt for “stupid” American voters. (Ironically, it was one citizen offended by Obama’s lies – and who lost his insurance – who uncovered the Gruber videos.)
It is now evident that Obama’s HHS is flouting the FOIA law to keep the truth about Gruber, not just from the American public, but also the U.S. Supreme Court. Here’s why: HHS doesn’t want to disclose Gruber’s key role in Obamacare because his statements could be used by the High Court to upend Obama’s illegal tax subsidies. Why else would HHS go into full cover-up mode about contracts with one man? From its inception, its passage, its implementation, and its enforcement, “lack of transparency” has been essential to keeping Obamacare alive.