MAY 11, 2018
Justice May Provide Redacted Portions of Rosenstein Mueller “Scope” Memo
FBI Advised Comey to Consult with Mueller’s Office Prior to Testifying
Judicial Watch Scores New Victory for 76-Year-Old Veteran
Judicial Watch is number one when it comes to providing independent oversight on what your government is up to – including the out-of-control Mueller investigation.
The Justice Department has disclosed that it may soon provide us with previously withheld material from the heavily redacted August 2 memorandum in which Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein granted broad authority to Special Counsel Mueller three months after Mueller’s appointment.
The initial, highly controversial appointment memo, controversially, was written in May 2017. The Justice Department’s notice to us came almost immediately after the explosive District Court hearing in which Judge T.S. Ellis III demanded the full memorandum be made available to the court in two weeks, by May 18.
In a May 4 response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit we filed, the Justice Department revealed that it is now “processing the August 2 memo to determine if it can release additional portions that have not already been filed publicly.” The agency had previously refused to acknowledge that any such “scope” documents exist.
We filed our FOIA lawsuit against the Justice Department on October 5, 2017, after the agency failed to respond to a July 10, 2017, request (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:17-cv-02079)). Judicial Watch is seeking:
- A copy of the budget prepared and submitted by Robert S. Mueller III or his staff in his capacity as appointed “Special Counsel to oversee the previously-confirmed FBI investigation of Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and related matters.” Temporal scope of this request is from 17 May 2017 to 10 July 2017.
- A copy of all guidance memoranda and communications by which the Justice Management Division will review the Special Counsel’s Office’s “Statement of Expenditures” prior to or for the purpose of making each public. Temporal scope of this request is from 1 June 2017 to present.
- A copy of each document scoping, regulating, or governing the Special Counsel’s Office appointed under the leadership of Mueller III. Temporal scope of this request is from 17 May 2017 to present.
As you are no doubt aware, in conjunction with its opposition to Paul Manafort’s motion to dismiss his criminal indictment, the United States filed on that criminal docket a redacted version of an August 2, 2017, Memorandum regarding ‘The scope of Investigation and Definition of Authority’ conferred on the Special Counsel….
In light of the Special Counsel’s public acknowledgement of the August 2 memo, the government has been assessing whether the acknowledgment alters its prior response to Request No. 3 [for documents describing the scope of Mueller’s authority] of the FOIA request at issue in this suit, and processing the August 2 memorandum to determine if it can release additional portions that have not already been filed publicly, but needs some additional time to complete these tasks.
We are pleased, especially after Judge Ellis’s hearing, that our lawsuit is causing the Justice Department to rethink its cover-up of the “scope memo” for Mueller. We have never before seen this level of secrecy and cover-up surrounding the operation of a special or independent counsel.
In the August 2 memorandum we obtained, Rosenstein reiterated the broad authority he gave Mueller in his May order authorizing the special counsel:
[T]o conduct “the investigation confirmed my then-FBI Director James B. Comey in testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on March 20, 2017, including: (1) any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and (2) any matters that arose or may arise directly from that investigation….”
The May 17, 2017 order was worded categorically in order to permit its public release without confirming specific investigations involving specific individuals. This memorandum provides a more specific description of your authority. The following allegations were within the scope of the Investigation at the time of your appointment and are within the scope of the Order…
The Justice Department then redacted all of the “following allegations.”
The August Rosenstein memorandum also included a section providing Mueller a “more specific description of your authority,” authorizing the special counsel to expand his prosecution of former Trump advisor Paul Manafort by investigating:
Allegations that Paul Manafort:
Committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials with respect to the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election for President of the United States, in violation of United States law;
Committed a crime or crimes arising out of payments he received from the Ukrainian government before and during the tenure of President Viktor Yanukovych…
The Justice Department then redacted additional material apparently detailing the “crime or crimes” relating to Ukraine that Mueller was authorized to investigate.
We are pursuing numerous additional FOIA lawsuits related to the surveillance, unmasking, and illegal leaking targeting President Trump and his associates during the FBI’s investigation of potential Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election.
These Deep State actors have assumed great authority for themselves and we must hold them accountable. On its face, Mueller’s quest has gone off the rails. It is high time we get the DOJ back under control through transparency and accountability through the courts.
We have been asked to believe that Robert Mueller can fairly investigate matters involving his longtime friend and professional colleague James Comey. This is simply laughable, especially since we know the two of them were conferring in private, a fact we had to go to court to confirm.
We just uncovered new emails from the Department of Justice (DOJ) showing that former FBI Director James Comey was advised by FBI officials in May 2017 to consult with Special Counsel Robert Mueller prior to testifying before any congressional committees regarding Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and his firing as FBI director.
According to numerous news reports, Comey met directly with Mueller previous to his June 8, 2017, testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Sources said that Comey’s opening statement and subsequent testimony were coordinated with Mueller.
At the hearing, Comey revealed that he had intentionally leaked material from a memo allegedly documenting a meeting with President Trump in order to help assure the appointment of a special counsel.
“I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. Didn’t do it myself, for a variety of reasons. But I asked him to, because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.”
The DOJ and FBI have stated that Comey’s leaks were unauthorized and compared the disclosures to Wikileaks. The documents we obtained are the first to reveal that high-ranking FBI officials helped Comey coordinate his testimony with Mueller.
We extracted the documents in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the DOJ on January 31, 2018 (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:18-cv-00220)). The lawsuit was filed after the DOJ failed to respond to an August 14, 2017 FOIA request seeking:
- All records of communications between the FBI and Comey prior to and regarding Comey’s testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on June 8, 2017.
- All records of communications between the FBI and Comey relating to an upcoming book to be authored by Comey and published.
- All records, including but not limited to forms completed by Comey, relating to the requirement for prepublication review by the FBI of any book to be authored by Comey with the intent to be published or otherwise publicly available.
An email chain dated May 18, and 19, 2017, with the subject line “Future testimony” shows then-FBI Chief of Staff James Rybicki, then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and Assistant Director Gregory Brower, Comey and others discussing Comey’s upcoming testimony:
On May 18 at 6:30 p.m., Comey wrote to Rybicki to confirm that he had accepted the invitation to testify before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) but declined the invitations from the Senate Judiciary Committee and House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee.
Comey also writes: “Last, would you please tell OGC [Office of the General Counsel] that I would like to be able to review any documents authored by me or on which I am copied that will be produced to SSCI in connection with my testimony and would like the opportunity for that review before I testify?”
An email from a redacted sender, apparently Comey, to Rybicki dated May 19 at 11:49 am reads:
I just got off a call with Senators Burr and Warner. They would like to have a hearing next Wednesday at which I testify, first in open session and then in closed, if necessary. I asked them not to announce it until I check with FBI/DOJ to see if you want to discuss anything before they do that. I told them I had asked for guidance on any institutional prerogatives and for the opportunity to review any documents FBI has produced that relate to me. I told them I would communicate with them by the end of the day to either ask them to hold announcing the Wednesday hearing or go ahead.
On May 19 at 2:10 pm, Rybicki writes back:
Director: We just met to discuss the requests outlined in the two emails below. Before responding the General Counsel has asked me to confirm that you have discussed with the attorneys representing you, and that you are comfortable discussing these issues with us rather than communicating through your counsel.
On May 19 at 3:02 pm, a redacted sender, likely Comey, responds to Rybicki: “Yes and yes.”
Also in this chain, on May 19 at 4:11 pm, Rybicki writes to McCabe, FBI Deputy Director David L. Bowdich, former FBI General Counsel James A. Baker, Brower, Elizabeth Beers, and other redacted names:
Please see a DRAFT response to Director Comey (below). I will hold pending further direction….
In response to your emails below we have consulted with executive management here, including the General Counsel, and recommend the following:
That your counsel convey any acceptance or declinations to invitations to testify directly to the Committees.
That your counsel consult with Special Counsel Mueller to determine the timing of any such testimony and,
The Office of General Counsel stands ready to discuss with you in consultation with the Department of Justice and the Special Counsel, institutional privileges or prerogatives that may be presented by any such testimony.
These documents show that James Comey, who was fired by the president, nevertheless had easy, friendly access to the FBI as he prepped his infamous anti-Trump testimony to the Senate.
This collusion led to Comey’s attacking President Trump and misusing FBI records as part of a vendetta against the president.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has a well-earned terrible reputation. Judicial Watch hasn’t ignored the damage that agency is doing to veterans and the rule of law: case in point being our client Robert Rosebrock.
The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California has affirmed a U.S. Magistrate Judge’s April 11, 2017, dismissal of criminal charges against Mr. Rosebrock, who was prosecuted for allegedly taking “unauthorized” photographs of American Flags at an entrance to a park on the Los Angeles VA campus (United States of America v. Robert L. Rosebrock (No. 2:17-cr-00262)). (For some background on Bob’s battles, click here for a moving video).
The magistrate judge ruled in Rosebrock’s favor on First Amendment grounds. The District Court affirmed the magistrate judge’s dismissal of the charges, but held that the plain language of the regulation under which Rosebrock was prosecuted did not prohibit unauthorized “news” photography anywhere on VA property.
The charges stemmed from allegations that Rosebrock took unauthorized photographs of American Flags and unauthorized videos of VA police on Memorial Day 2016 and Sunday, June 12, 2016. In rejecting the VA photography/video charges, U.S. Magistrate Judge Steve Kim ruled that the regulation as applied to the West LA VA’s Los Angeles National Veterans Park was not reasonable under even the most lenient First Amendment standard. Rosebrock also was acquitted after trial on April 18, 2017, of a further criminal charge for allegedly displaying a napkin-sized American Flag on a fence at the park’s entrance on Memorial Day 2016.
The VA refused to accept the magistrate’s ruling and appealed to the District Court. We argued VA officials sought to retaliate against Rosebrock for his long-standing criticism of the VA for what he considers to be violations of the terms governing use of the land on which the West LA VA facility is located.
Since 2008, Rosebrock and a small group of supporters have assembled nearly every Sunday and Memorial Day at the Great Lawn Gate entrance to the Los Angeles National Veterans Park to protest the VA’s failure to make full use of the property to benefit veterans, particularly homeless veterans. For years, the VA has allowed land on the campus to be used for a variety of non-veteran related purposes, including a baseball stadium for the University of California Los Angeles baseball team, athletic fields for a private prep school, and a City of Los Angeles dog park.
Although the District Court did not address VA officials’ motives in pursuing criminal charges against Rosebrock, its ruling lends credence to the claim that Rosebrock was selectively and vindictively prosecuted for his weekly protests. Further evidence of a retaliatory motive is the recent revelation of fraud high up at the Greater Los Angeles VA facility.
It’s clear: The VA persecuted Rosebrock for his advocacy and the outrageous criminal charges against him have since been shown to lack any factual or legal basis. President Trump should ask who at the VA and DOJ is responsible for this reprehensible effort to jail our client for exercising his First Amendment rights.
Until next week…