Major Court Ruling on Clinton Emails
APRIL 01, 2016
A Second Federal Court Grants Discovery in Clinton Email Case
Judicial Watch Finds Hillary Clinton Email Withheld from State Department
The Obamas’ Honolulu Vacation Cost Taxpayers $3.6 million in Flight Expenses
Last month we reported to you that U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan granted our motion for discovery into whether the State Department and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton deliberately thwarted the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for six years.
This week we’re pleased to tell you about another blockbuster court ruling – a second federal judge granted us “limited discovery” into the Clinton email matter. U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that “where there is evidence of government wrong-doing and bad faith, as here, limited discovery is appropriate, even though it is exceedingly rare in FOIA cases.”
The context for this ruling is our July 2014 Freedom of Information (FOIA) lawsuit seeking records related to the drafting and use of the Benghazi talking points that falsely blamed the Benghazi attack on a video (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:14-cv-01242)). This lawsuit seeks records specifically from Hillary Clinton and her top State Department staff, specifically:
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.
Judge Lamberth ruled:
An understanding of the facts and circumstances surrounding Secretary Clinton’s extraordinary and exclusive use of her “clintonemail.com” account to conduct official government business, as well as other officials’ use of this account and their own personal e-mail accounts to conduct official government business is required before the Court can determine whether the search conducted here reasonably produced all responsive documents. Plaintiff is certainly entitled to dispute the State Department’s position that it has no obligation to produce these documents because it did not “possess” or “control” them at the time the FOIA request was made. The State Department’s willingness to now search documents voluntarily turned over to the Department by Secretary Clinton and other officials hardly transforms such a search into an “adequate” or “reasonable” one.
Plaintiff is not relying on “speculation” or “surmise” as the State Department claims. Plaintiff is relying on constantly shifting admissions by the Government and the former government officials. Whether the State Department’s actions will ultimately be determined by the Court to not be “acting in good faith” remains to be seen at this time, but plaintiff is clearly entitled to discovery and a record before this Court rules on that issue.
The Court must observe that the Government argues in its opposition memorandum that “the fact that State did not note that it had not searched Secretary Clinton’s e-mails when it responded to Plaintiffs FOIA request … was neither a misrepresentation nor material omission, because these documents were not in its possession and control when the original search was completed.” The Government argues that this does not show a lack of good faith, but that is what remains to be seen, and the factual record must be developed appropriately in order for this Court to make that determination.
Judge Lamberth’s ruling refers to Judge Sullivan’s previous decision to grant us discovery in the Clinton email matter in separate litigation:
Briefing is ongoing before Judge Sullivan. When Judge Sullivan issues a discovery order, the plaintiff shall — within ten days thereafter –- file its specific proposed order detailing what additional proposed discovery, tailored to this case, it seeks to have this Court order. Defendant shall respond ten days after plaintiff’s submission.
Judge Sullivan is expected to rule on Judicial Watch’s discovery plan after April 15. Judicial Watch’s discovery plan seeks the testimony of eight current and former State Department officials, including top State Department official Patrick Kennedy, former State IT employee Bryan Pagliano, and Clinton’s two top aides at the State Department, Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin.
This decision is remarkable. It will allow us to explore the shifting stories and misrepresentations made by the Obama State Department and its current and former employees.
Our Benghazi litigation first uncovered the Clinton email scandal, so it is good to have discovery in this lawsuit, which may help the American people find out why our efforts to get Benghazi answers were thwarted by Clinton’s email games.
Judge Lamberth’s decision rocked Washington, garnering headlines such as Hillary Clinton email stories ‘constantly shifting,’ judge says; Federal judge allows further digging in Clinton email lawsuit; and Plaintiffs In Hillary Clinton Records Case Get a New Boost.
JW was featured yesterday on the Fox Business Network to talk about the developments – you can view that video here.
On Tuesday of next week, the Obama State Department’s response to our proposed discovery plan is due. Our plan is now before Judge Sullivan, who will then rule on our plan sometime after April 15. So no matter what the FBI and Obama Justice Department do, your Judicial Watch, through our independent litigation is set to finally get some key answers about the Clinton email scandal.
Judicial Watch Finds Hillary Clinton Email Withheld from State Department
Judge Lamberth’s reference to “constantly shifting admissions by the Government and the former government officials” certainly describes the challenge to our effort to get to the bottom of the scandal.
But it is a challenge we’re meeting.
In another recent development, we obtained State Department documents from February 2009 containing emails that appear to contradict statements by Clinton that, “as far as she knew,” all of her government emails were turned over to the State Department and that she did not use her clintonemail.com email system until March 2009.
The emails also contain more evidence of the battle between security officials in the State Department, National Security Administration, Clinton and her staff over attempts to obtain secure Blackberrys.
The documents were obtained in response to a court order in an April 28, 2015, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:15-cv-00646)), filed after the Department of State failed to comply with a March 10, 2015, FOIA request seeking:
Any and all records of requests by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton or her staff to the State Department Office Security Technology seeking approval for the use of an iPad or iPhone for official government business; and
Any and all communications within or between the Office of the Secretary of State, the Executive Secretariat, and the Office of the Secretary and the Office of Security Technology concerning, regarding, or related to the use of unauthorized electronic devices for official government business.
On February 13, 2009, Cheryl Mills (Clinton’s then-chief of staff) sent Clinton an email describing efforts by the National Security Agency to address demands for a secure Blackberry:
In meeting with the NSA person today ([Redacted] NSA’s rep to DOS) – she indicated they could address our BB so that BB could work in the SCIFF [Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility] and be secure based upon some modifications that could be done to each BB (more below).
Mills attaches an email from an unnamed NSA official that reports:
Debbie Plunkett, D/Chief of our Information Assurance Directorate, is personally assembling a knowledgeable team to work with you and other members of your staff to move forward on your Blackberry requirement. She will engage State’s CIO and DS/comms security folks to ensure everyone is aware of the art of the possible … I am confident we can get to YES on this! [Emphasis in original]
That same day, on February 13 at 12:33 p.m. Clinton, using her unsecured email@example.com account responds, “That’s good news.”
As we have reported, National Security Agency personnel had denied Clinton’s requests for secure Blackberry devices, telling Clinton staff to “shut up and color.”
The new documents include another February 13, 2009, email, written after the Mills-Clinton exchange, showing that State and NSA security officials were shocked and surprised by Clinton’s Blackberry demands.
For instance, responding to details of the Clinton Blackberry requirements, an unnamed NSA employee simply writes “Amazing…” in a February 13, 2009, email to Patrick Donovan, then-Director, Diplomatic Security Service and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, and Greg Starr, then-Director of the Diplomatic Security Service. (The documents have many redactions under Exemption 7(c), which is for “information compiled for law enforcement purposes that would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”)
The new emails show that despite prior concerns about security and cost, the NSA and State Department officials came up with a plan to modify six Blackberry devices for Clinton and her staff. A February 20, 2009 State Department email states:
Pat Donovan [head of Bureau of Diplomatic Security] tasked us with a memo that he wanted by today and that we finished last night and that it outlines the vulnerabilities and risks of BB use inside and outside a SCIF (because they’re essentially the same) and concludes with our collaboration with NSA to seek an acceptable solution for their desired BB use.
Despite this warning about using Blackberry “outside a SCIF,” Mrs. Clinton and her staff continued to use unsecured Blackberrys. The documents suggest a continued push for secure Blackberrys in late March 2009, but the documents are heavily redacted.
Hillary Clinton has repeatedly stated that the 55,000 pages of documents she turned over to the State Department in December 2014 included all of her work-related emails. In response to a court order in other Judicial Watch litigation, she declared under penalty of perjury that she had “directed that all my emails on clintonemail.com in my custody that were or are potentially federal records be provided to the Department of State, and on information and belief, this has been done.”
Now we know that, contrary to her statement under oath suggesting otherwise, Hillary Clinton did not turn over all her government emails.
We also know why Hillary Clinton falsely suggests she didn’t use clintonemail.com account prior to March, 18, 2009 – because she didn’t want Americans to know about her February 13, 2009, email that shows that she knew her Blackberry and email use was not secure.
That Judicial Watch was able to make this astonishing find is a testament to excellent work by our tenacious and expert staff. The Washington Post did a piece on us this week titled “Judicial Watch, pursuing the Clintons like Inspector Javert for two decades, scores again.” I’m not too enamored by the Inspector Javert comparison, but the writer grudgingly compliments our work:
When it comes to the Clintons, with thousands of FOIA requests and related lawsuits, Judicial Watch hardly needs the National Archives. It’s got its own.
On Feb. 26, after Sullivan’s decision, Clinton dismissed it as nothing to worry about. It was just the work of “right-wing outfits,” she said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “I’m not concerned about them.”
But she should be concerned, very concerned.
The piece highlights the work of our “band of expert Freedom of Information Act lawyers — and make no mistake, they are good.”
So with that “endorsement,” I encourage you to join our “band” of members who want the truth about what our government is up to and believe no politician is above the law.
The Obamas’ Honolulu Vacation Cost Taxpayers $3.6 million in Flight Expenses
Given all his professed concern about the 1 percent and income inequalities, President Obama’s pleasure in the trappings of his office certainly calls attention to itself. Like most socialists, he is interested in distributing other people’s wealth, while using taxpayer wealth appropriated by the government to live like a king.
For example, as part of ongoing monitoring of the Obama travel abuses, we just obtained records from the Air Force revealing that the Obama family’s vacation to Honolulu, Hawaii, this past Christmas cost the taxpayers $3,590,313.60 in flight expenses alone.
According to the Air Force records, the Obamas used both Air Force One and a Boeing C-32A, the military equivalent of a Boeing 757, which was apparently used to transport the First Lady. (This seems to be a recurring outrage. The Obamas also took two planes to Argentina, the second for family sightseeing.)
Judicial Watch also extracted records from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security revealing that President Obama’s trips to New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Palm City, Florida, in 2014 and 2015 cost taxpayers at least $286,416.64 for Secret Service travel and accommodations. The trips to New York and Los Angeles were solely for fundraising events. In Chicago, the president campaigned for Rahm Emanuel. The Palm City trip was a golf outing with no official activities.
Here’s a breakdown of the 2015 Christmas vacation in Honolulu:
- Air Force One, at $180,118 per hour for 18.2 hours – totaling $3,278,147.60
- A Boeing C-32A, at $15,846 per hour for 19.7 hours – totaling $312,166
The C-32A is a specially configured upscale version of the Boeing 757 used for the vice president, the first lady, members of the cabinet and Congress. According the U.S. Air Force factsheet, the C-32A features, among other luxuries, “a fully-enclosed stateroom for the use of the primary passenger. It includes a changing area, private lavatory, separate entertainment system, two first-class swivel seats and a convertible divan that seats three and folds out to a bed.”
The new documents add to the previous totals and show the following Secret Service expenses for Obama’s New York, Chicago, Las Angeles, and Palm City travel:
- Obama’s July 17, 2014, fundraising trip to New York City cost taxpayers $242 for car rentals and $74,264.25 for hotels, for a total of $74,506.25.
- Obama’s February 19, 2015, trip to Chicago cost taxpayers $1,623.40 for car rentals and $22,597.28 for hotels, for a total of $24,220.68.
- Obama’s March 12-13, 2015, trip to Los Angeles for a TV appearance and fundraiser cost taxpayers $3,307.98 on car rentals and $84,453.05 on hotels, for a total of $87,760.99.
- Obama’s March 28-29, 2015, trip to Palm City, Florida, cost taxpayers $9,960.06 on car rentals and $91,968.72 for hotels, for a total of $101,928.72.
Obama’s July 2014 trip to New York City was solely to headline a gala lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee. According to The Associated Press: “The White House says Obama will raise money for the Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic group that takes unlimited donations. Obama’s appearance will complete his gradual acceptance of the big-money groups he once opposed.”
The Obama’s March 2015 trip to California was exclusively to raise money for the Democratic National Committee. His visit to Los Angeles began with an appearance on ABC’s late night comedy program “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” after which he appeared at a “roundtable discussion” fundraiser hosted at the Santa Monica home of ICM Partners cofounder Chris Silbermann and his wife Julia Franz. Guests paid up to $33,400 per couple for attendance.
Obama’s February 2015 trip to Chicago was billed by the White House as a non-political event to declare the Pullman Historic District a national monument. But, press reports indicated that the trip was heavily political. A CNN story is titled, “Obama gives Emanuel re-election boost.”
In Palm City, Florida, Obama played golf at the “spectacular” Floridian National Golf Club, where members pay a $50,000 initiation fee and $15,000 in annual dues. According to the resort’s website, “This stunning, yet formidable par 71 will certainly impress. At 7,114 yards, the 18-hole course offers perfectly manicured rolling fairways and greens, demanding hazards, breathtaking views of the St. Lucie River, and is surrounded by natural preserve and native wildlife.” No official activities were included on Obama’s Palm City itinerary.
The American people have every right to be appalled that Barack Obama wastes their precious tax dollars on an endless stream of golf vacations, political fundraisers, and exorbitant vacations.
The Obama travel issue is about abuse of office, abuse of the taxpayer, and contempt for the rule of law.
Consider this: To date, the known travel expenses for the Obamas and Vice President Joe Biden have exceeded $78,003,292.44!
Until next week…