DECEMBER 01, 2017
We Sue Office of Director of National Intelligence over Failure to Produce Legally Mandated Report on Russia’s Election Meddling
Obama Vacations, Campaigning Cost Taxpayers New Total Over $114 Million
New FBI Records Show FBI Leadership’s Conflicts of Interest on Clinton Email Investigation
We Sue Office of Director of National Intelligence over Failure to Produce Legally Mandated Report on Russia’s Election Meddling
We’re a year into the Trump Administration, and we’re still trying to get a grip on why the agencies that report to him continue to slow walk the release of information the public rightfully should have. The latest instance involves alleged Russian meddling in European elections, something we think the administration would want to be known.
We have had to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to obtain a legally mandated, unclassified report on “the funding of political parties and nongovernmental organizations in former Soviet states and countries in Europe by the Russian Security Service” (Judicial Watch v. Office of the Director of National Intelligence (No. 17-cv-02073)).
We filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia after the ODNI failed to respond to our August 4, 2017, FOIA request seeking “the intelligence community assessment required by Section 502 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016.”
We point out that Section 502 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 clearly mandates the following:
“Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Director of National Intelligence shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees an intelligence community assessment on the funding of political parties and nongovernmental organizations in former Soviet states and countries in Europe by the Russian Security Service since January 1, 2016.”
The Act also requires the intelligence community assessment be submitted in the form of an unclassified report, which, under the law, would be subject to FOIA disclosure. The Act took effect on December 18, 2015. So, it’s not as if the ODNI is unaware of its legal obligations.
This is our second lawsuit seeking unclassified reports produced by the intelligence community assessing Russia’s interference in foreign elections. On March 8, 2017, we filed a FOIA lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) seeking an unclassified report assessing Russia’s alleged interference in foreign elections (Judicial Watch v. Central Intelligence Agency (No. 1:17-cv-00414)). That lawsuit came after the CIA failed to respond to a December 14, 2016, FOIA request seeking the unclassified assessment of Russia’s meddling in foreign elections requested by Congressman Mike Turner (R-OH).
On December 13, 2016, The Wall Street Journal reported that since 2015, Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, “has been pushing for the unclassified version of a report assessing Moscow’s interference in foreign elections, particularly across Europe.” The Wall Street Journal further reported:
The White House already released a classified version of the assessment but Mr. Turner has been pushing for the unclassified version, which would be releasable to the public, he said. Mr. Turner sent the White House a letter … demanding for the unclassified version of the report.
“The fact that the administration is picking and choosing the information it releases and who they release it to ought to give everybody concern that the administration is manipulating this,” he said.
The report is critical for a better understanding of what Moscow is up to in elections overseas, he said. Mr. Turner said the Obama administration is cherry picking what it releases.
In a separate, but equally important, lawsuit, we are suing the ODNI to force the agency to conduct the required damage assessment related to Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information. The ODNI is mandated by law to conduct such an assessment. But, it has simply refused to do so.
The Obama administration’s politicized intelligence community promoted the story of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians to influence the 2016 presidential election but refuses to release any concrete evidence. And the Deep State intelligence establishment continues to be in a cover-up mode on Russia. This illegal secrecy seems designed to protect the Obama/Clinton administration and to undermine the Trump administration. President Trump may want to ask his appointees what they are hiding about Russian influence. And why they refuse to be forthcoming.
If you had the impression that President Obama enjoyed Air Force One a bit too much, you were absolutely right. It has taken a while to get the details, but we have them. And, make no mistake, we’re watching President Trump as well.
We have obtained records from the U.S. Department of the Air Force and the Secret Service in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and two FOIA lawsuits for travel expenses by the families of former President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump.
The total for Obama travel is $9,028,346.90 for this production of documents. Added to the previously released costs, the known total for travel expenses for the Obamas is now a staggering $114,691,322.17.
The total for President Trump’s travels in these documents is $2,821,367.34. Added to the previously released costs, the known travel costs are now $10,381,792.35.
We obtained the new Obama travel records from the Secret Service as the result of a May 2017 FOIA lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security (No. 1:17-cv-01007)). Our lawsuit produced the following travel records showing a total of $9,028,346.90 for Obama travel:
A pair of Obama family vacations the weekend of February 14, 2014, cost the Secret Service $272,192.91:
- Michelle Obama’s annual trip to Aspen with her daughters – where she shut down the airport for an hour – cost $6,970 in air/rail, $5,614.99 in car rentals and $76,078.30 in hotels for a total of $88,663.29
- President Obama’s annual golfing trip to Palm Springs included a meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and cost $10,951 in air/rail, $10,166.79 in car rentals and $162,411.80 in hotels for a total of $183,529.62
- Michelle Obama made two North Carolina trips in 2016 to campaign for Hillary Clinton. Air Force expenses total $40,902.40. In both trips, she took a C-40C military jet operating at $5,312 per hour.
- Michelle Obama flew to Charlottesville then to Raleigh on October 4 for 2.1 hours at a total of $11,155.20
- Michelle Obama flew round trip to Belville and then Salem on October 26 and 27 for a total of 5.6 hours at $29,747.20.
In July 2017, we filed a separate FOIA lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for the Air Force and Secret Service travel expenditures for the Trump family during April 2017 and Obama family between January 2009 and January 2017 (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Dept. of Defense and Dept. of Homeland Security (No. 1:17-cv-01341)).
Air Force and Secret Service records show President Obama’s annual trips to his former hometown of Chicago cost $7,444,780.78.
- During fiscal year 2015, Obama flew 9 hours at an operating cost of $206,337 per hour for a total of $1,857,033
- During fiscal year 2016, Obama flew 5 hours at an operating cost of $180,118 per hour for a total of $900,590
- During fiscal year 2017, Obama flew 6.2 hours at an operating cost of $142,380 per hour for a total of $882,756
- Secret Service records show a total of $3,804,401.78 in costs between 2011 and 2016 for the Chicago trips. The Secret Service spent $3,372,399.07 in hotels, $423,428.28 in car rentals and $8,574.50 in miscellaneous expenses.
Secret Service showed expenses for Obama’s post-presidency travels of $1,913,702.21 including: $936,742.56 in hotels; $159,393.40 in air/rail; $2,684.11 in car rentals; $819.70 in overtime; and $814,062.44 in miscellaneous expenses. The destinations of these trips were withheld under “privacy” and “law enforcement” exemptions.
Air Force documents showed two of President Trump’s trips to Mar-a-Lago cost $1,124,802:
- President Trump flew to Mar-a-Lago to meet with China’s President Ji Jinping between April 6-9 for 4.1 hours at an operating cost of $142,380 per hour for a total of $583,758
- President Trump flew to Mar-a-Lago to celebrate Easter between April 14-16 for 3.8 hours at an operating cost of $142,380 per hour for a total $541,044
- Judicial Watch obtained Air Force records through a FOIA request showing that President Trump’s visits to his Bedminster, NJ, golf resort and a Pennsylvania rally cost $603,107.40:President Trump flew to a rally in Harrisburg, PA on April 29 to celebrate his 100th day in office. He flew 1.1 hours at an operating cost of $142,380 for a total of $156,618;
- President Trump flew to the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ between May 5-8, where he tweeted that he was saving money by not going to New York and causing a disruption. He flew 1.5 hours at an operating cost of $142,380 and .7 hours on a C-32A military jet at $15,994 for a total of $224,765.80;
- President Trump flew to Bedminster between June 9-11 for 1.4 hours at an operating cost of $142,380 per hour for a total of $199,332 and;
- Melania Trump flew to Bedminster July 14–16 in a military C-32A jet for 1.4 hours at an operating cost of $15,994 for a total of $22,391.60.
We elect a president, not a king with a royal right to travel at taxpayers’ expense. He should travel efficiently and safely, but not unduly. And it shouldn’t require federal lawsuits to prod the Secret Service and Air Force to produce information about the costs of presidential travel. Whether the travel is necessary or not, it’s a massive amount of money. We will continue to monitor this spending while taxpayers continue to pay the bills for presidential travel.
There is a lingering stench at FBI headquarters in Washington. And the American people won’t fully trust their pre-eminent law enforcement agency until it’s dealt with.
Towards that end, we have just released 79 pages of Justice Department documents concerning ethics issues related to FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s involvement with his wife’s political campaign. The documents include an email showing Mrs. McCabe was recruited for a Virginia state senate race in February 2015 by then-Virginia Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam’s office.
What makes that date particularly significant is the news that Clinton used a private email server broke just five days later, on March 2, 2015. And five days after that, former Clinton Foundation board member and Democrat party fundraiser, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, met with the McCabes. Mrs. McCabe announced her candidacy on March 12. Soon afterward, Clinton/McAuliffe-aligned political groups donated nearly $700,000 (40% of the campaign’s total funds) to McCabe’s wife for her campaign.
We obtained the documents through a July 24, 2017, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed after the Justice Department failed to respond to our October 24, 2016, FOIA request (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:17-cv-01494)). We are seeking:
- All records of communication between FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and other FBI or Department of Justice officials regarding ethical issues concerning the involvement of Andrew McCabe and/or his wife, Dr. Jill McCabe, in political campaigns;
- All records related to ethical guidance concerning political activities provided to Deputy Director McCabe by FBI and/or DOJ officials or elements.
An October 23, 2016, email shows McCabe covering his tracks by running the response effort to a Wall Street Journal article that was published that day, entitled “Clinton Ally Aided Campaign of FBI Official’s Wife.” In the emails, McCabe provides Michael Kortan, the assistant director of Public Affairs, his version of a timeline of events surrounding the Clinton investigation and his wife’s campaign. McCabe says he contacted then-FBI Chief of Staff Chuck Roseburg about Jill McCabe’s candidacy and was told that “the D [Comey] has no issue with it.” And that may help explain why, as Judicial Watch revealed earlier this month in documents we released, McCabe failed to recuse himself from the Clinton investigation only a week before last year’s presidential election – despite “Clinton ally” connections to Jill McCabe’s campaign.
Internally, the Wall Street Journal article started a flurry of emails among Mrs. McCabe’s campaign, Kortan, Director McCabe, and the FBI’s General Counsel. Part of that exchange is an email from McCabe to someone in the General Counsel’s Office: “Sucks pretty much. Buckle in. It’s going to get rough.” The colleague responds, “I know. It’s awful. I shouldn’t be shocked by now, but I really am appalled.” McCabe also forwarded the article to Comey who responded, “Copy,” proving once again that Comey clearly knew about the possible conflict of interests.
On October 24, 2016, a memo was sent to all Special Agents in Charge, Assistant Directors, Executive Directors and the General Counsel’s Office regarding the Wall Street Journal article discussing campaign activities concerning Mrs. McCabe. Kortan suggested that questions could be referred to his office, and he attached an “Overview of Deputy Director McCabe’s Recusal Related To Dr. McCabe’s Campaign for Political Office.” The Overview itself was previously reported by Judicial Watch.
The documents also show repeated use of the official FBI email system by McCabe in connection with Mrs. McCabe’s political campaign. For example:
- On March 13, 2015, Mrs. McCabe emails to her husband’s official FBI email account a draft press release announcing her run for state Senate.
- In August 2015, McCabe uses his official FBI email account to advise a redacted recipient to visit his wife’s campaign website: “Jill has been busy as hell since she decided to run for VA state senate (long story). Check her out on Facebook as Dr. Jill McCabe for Senate.”
- On November 2, 2015, Mrs. McCabe forwards an email to her husband – then the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Office – that accuses her opponent of extorting local businessmen. The email was sent to her husband’s official FBI account.
The documents include an October 2016 letter from House Government Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz to McCabe questioning a possible conflict of interest by noting that Clinton headlined a Virginia fundraiser on June 26, 2015, for Mrs. McCabe. “A significant amount was donated after the FBI had initiated its investigation and begun meeting with Secretary Clinton’s attorneys in August 2015.” Yet, even after this, McCabe failed to recuse himself from the Clinton email investigation.
The documents also show that FBI leadership was sensitive to reports of FBI internal dissent with then-Director Comey’s handling of the Clinton investigation. On October 24, 2016, Mrs. McCabe forwarded to Director McCabe a True Pundit article titled, “FBI Director Lobbied Against Criminal Charges For Hillary After Clinton Insider Paid His Wife $700,000.” The story reported that former FBI Executive Assistant Director John Giacalone resigned in the middle of the Clinton email investigation because he saw it going “sideways” and that Jill McCabe received money from a PAC headed by McAuliffe, who was under investigation by the FBI for campaign finance law violations. McCabe forwarded the article to Comey, noting “FYI. Heavyweight source.” Comey replied to McCabe, copying Chief of Staff James Rybicki, saying, “This still reads to me like someone not involved in the investigation at all, maybe somebody who heard rumors …”
These new documents show that the FBI leadership was politicized and compromised in its handling of the Clinton email investigation. It’s well past time for the FBI to re-open the Clinton emails investigation. We need a new, honest and unfettered criminal investigation of her misconduct.
Perhaps we are making headway. The Senate Judiciary Committee and the U.S. Special Counsel have opened investigations into whether McCabe violated the Hatch Act and failed to properly disclose payments to his wife’s campaign on his ethics report. And the Justice Department’s Inspector General is examining McCabe for failing to recuse himself from the Clinton investigation due to his meeting with McAuliffe.
Yet, still today we have the incomprehensible and unseemly situation of a clearly compromised Andrew McCabe continuing to occupy his desk at the FBI — while a former FBI director named special counselor looks the other way. The cognitive dissonance is deafening.
Until next week…