Weekly Update: JW Sues for Unmasking Targeting Trump Team
FEBRUARY 16, 2018
In its final year the Obama administration may have used our nation’s spy apparatus to identify, or “unmask,” members of the Trump campaign and subsequently leaking information about them to the press.
One of the more curious details about this unlawful effort was that Obama’s U.N. ambassador was evidently engaged in unmasking and was doing so at a frenzied pace. We want to know more.
So, we have filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of State for “unmasking” and other records tied to Obama’s United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power relating to the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:18-cv-00300)).
Unmasking refers generally to the practice of political appointees obtaining the identities of American citizens referenced in intelligence surveillance of foreign nationals.
We sued the State Department after it failed to respond to our October 31, 2017, FOIA request seeking information about Power’s unusual unmasking requests, including:
- All requests for information submitted to any Intelligence Community member agency by former United States Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power concerning, regarding, or relating to the following:
Any actual or suspected effort by the Russian government or any individual acting on behalf of the Russian government to influence or otherwise interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
The alleged hacking of computer systems utilized by the Democratic National Committee and/or the Clinton presidential campaign.
Any actual or suspected communication between any member of the Trump presidential campaign or transition team and any official or employee of the Russian government or any individual acting on behalf of the Russian government.
The identities of U.S. citizens associated with the Trump presidential campaign or transition team who were identified pursuant to intelligence collection activities.
On September 20, 2017, Fox News reported that Power unmasked over 260 persons in her last year as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in an attempt to uncover associates of President Trump. She “was ‘unmasking’ at such a rapid pace in the final months of the Obama administration that she averaged more than one request for every working day in 2016,” even seeking “information in the days leading up to President Trump’s inauguration.”
On October 13, 2017, Power testified behind closed doors about this matter to the House Intelligence Committee. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, who also sits on the Intelligence Committee, stated that, “Her testimony is they [the unmasking requests] may be under my name, but I did not make those requests.”
Unmasking and then illegally leaking the names of Trump team members caught up in foreign intelligence gathering would have been an incredible, but unsurprising abuse by the Obama administration. Was the Clinton-DNC dossier also used as justification to abuse intelligence data and “unmask” American citizens to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Donald Trump? And why is the Tillerson State Department stonewalling our FOIA investigation into this potentially illegal conduct by its agency employees?
Separately, in a response to a FOIA request, we were told by the National Security Council (NSC) in May 2017 that the materials regarding the unmasking by Obama National Security Advisor Susan Rice of “the identities of any U.S. citizens associated with the Trump presidential campaign or transition team” have been removed to the Obama Library.
We filed a separate FOIA lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Security Agency (NSA) for information about Obama National Security Advisor Susan Rice’s communications with the two agencies concerning the alleged Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election, the hacking of DNC computers, the suspected communications between Russia and Trump campaign/transition officials, and the unmasking of the identities of any U.S. citizens associated with the Trump presidential campaign or transition team who were identified pursuant to intelligence collection activities (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice and National Security Administration (No. 1:17-cv-01002)).
Remember, if they can do it to Donald Trump and other political opponents, they can do it to you. This is why Judicial Watch is battling in court for answers now….
You’ve followed our coverage of the elderly veteran prosecuted for allegedly posting small American flags outside a veterans’ facility in California. This story just gets stranger the more we learn about it. Our Corruption Chronicles blog has the details:
The Secretary of Veterans Affairs was misled by his inner circle about a case involving an elderly Army veteran criminally prosecuted for displaying the American Flag at a southern California VA facility, documents obtained by Judicial Watch show. After seeing a news report about the preposterous case, VA Secretary David J. Shulkin asked his chief of staff, Vivieca Wright, to check if the story was correct, the documents show. In an electronic mail to his chief of staff, Shulkin writes that if the story is accurate “we should not be pressing charges and we should do a release saying so.” Shulkin adds: “I understand that media reports do not always tell the real story.”
Incredibly, the story is real. Robert Rosebrock was federally charged for supposedly hanging a four-by-six-inch American Flag on the outside fence of a VA facility in West Los Angeles on Memorial Day in 2016. The fence is part of the “Great Lawn Gate” and marks the entrance to the Los Angeles National Veterans Park. The public facility is part of a larger, 388-acre parcel that includes the Veterans Home of West Los Angeles. Since 2008, Rosebrock and a group of fellow veterans have assembled at the gate weekly and on Memorial Day to protest the VA’s failure to make full use of the property to benefit veterans, particularly those who are homeless.
Judicial Watch helped represent Rosebrock, who faced up to six months in jail for the ghastly offense of reportedly affixing Old Glory at a site honoring those who served their country. He was also charged with taking unauthorized photographs of both the Flag and VA police, but a judge ruled in mid-April that the charges violated the First Amendment. The Trump Department of Justice (DOJ) has appealed the dismissal of the two charges, however.
Rosebrock went to trial for the flag charges and on April 18, 2017, a California U.S. District Court ruled that he was not guilty of violating federal law for displaying the two small flags. If found guilty, he would have faced up to six months in prison. More than a month before the trial, VA Secretary Shulkin’s inner circle circulated numerous falsehoods about the case, including that Rosebrock made the choice to go to court rather than pay a fine and that he faced no jail time. Gathering information for their boss, the VA officials also asserted it was “too late” to intervene in the Rosebrock case and that it was “out of our hands” because the case was old even though the trial was weeks away.
VA Deputy Undersecretary Steve Young is included in the email exchanges, which are dated March 4 and 5, 2017. In one email, Marie Weldon, director of the VA’s western healthcare network, tells Young that Rosebrock “was issued a citation from the VA Police and if he chose not to pay the fine then he elects to take it to court which is where it is now.” This is incorrect. Rosebrock had no choice to go to court because the feds were prosecuting him. Weldon adds that Rosebrock has a history of hanging even full-size flags upside down on the fence of VA property. “This was not a first offense and Rosebrock was aware of his consequences,” Weldon, who oversees the healthcare system for 1.2 million veterans, writes to Young.
In another email addressed to Weldon, Wright and Young, the director of the West L.A. VA, Ann Brown, writes: “Forgot to add—he is facing a $25 fine with NO jail time.” Less than 20 minutes later, Wright, the VA Secretary’s chief of staff, forwards the erroneous information to a redacted email address that appears to be her boss’s. Large chunks of type are redacted under federal exemptions throughout the documents, which were provided to Judicial Watch in response to a request for records about Rosebrock. A largely redacted email from Brown to Weldon, Wright and Young discloses that she “met with DOJ about 9 months ago to resolve this and we’re told…” The rest is redacted under exemptions that allow agencies to withhold deliberative process material and protect privacy. It’s unclear how much of the information made it back to Secretary Shulkin. The fact remains however, that high-level VA officials responsible for gathering facts about a case for the agency’s secretary instead circulated serious falsehoods.
Will there ever be a serious investigation and prosecution of the Clinton cash machine? Maybe. Micah Morrison, our chief investigative reporter, has an important update in his latest Investigative Bulletin:
Rumors have been floating up from Little Rock for months now of a new investigation into the Clinton Foundation. John Solomon advanced the story recently in a January report for The Hill. FBI agents in the Arkansas capital, he wrote, “have taken the lead” in a new Justice Department inquiry “into whether the Clinton Foundation engaged in any pay-to-play politics or other illegal activities while Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state.” Solomon reports that the probe “may also examine whether any tax-exempt assets were converted for personal or political use and whether the foundation complied with applicable tax laws.”
Main Justice also is “re-examining whether there are any unresolved issues from the closed case into Clinton’s transmission of classified information through her personal email server,” Solomon notes.
Solomon is not alone. The Wall Street Journal is tracking the story. And earlier this month, investigative journalist Peter Schweizer cryptically told SiriusXM radio that federal authorities should “convene a grand jury” in Little Rock “and let the American people look at the evidence” about the Clinton Foundation.
Judicial Watch continues to turn up new evidence of Clinton pay-to-play and mishandling of classified information. In recent months, through FOIA litigation, Judicial Watch has forced the release of more than 2,600 emails and documents from Mrs. Clinton and her associates, with more to come. The emails include evidence of Clinton Foundation donors such XL Keystone lobbyist Gordon Griffin, futures brokerage firm CME Group chairman Terrence Duffy, and an associate of Shangri La Entertainment mogul Steve Bing seeking special favors from the State Department. Read more about Judicial Watch’s pay-to-play disclosures here.
Judicial Watch also revealed many previously unreported incidents of mishandling of classified information. Mrs. Clinton and her former State Department deputy chief of staff, Huma Abedin, sent and received classified information through unsecure channels. The emails and documents involved sensitive information about President Obama, the Middle East, Africa, Afghanistan, Mexico, Burma, India, intelligence-related operations and world leaders. For documents and details from Judicial Watch on the mishandling of classified information, see here, here, here and here.
Smelling a rat in Arkansas when it comes to the Clintons of course is nothing new, and the former First Couple are masters of the gray areas around pay-to-play. But mishandling of classified information is a serious matter. And the tax angle is intriguing, even if you’re not Al Capone. The tenacious financial expert Charles Ortel, who has been digging deep into Clinton finances for years, told us back in 2015 that there are “epic problems” with the entire Clinton Foundation edifice, which traces its origins back to Arkansas. He noted that independent accounting firms may have been “duped by false and materially misleading representations” made by Clinton charitable entities. Down in Arkansas, law enforcement may be finally catching up with Ortel’s insights.
Until next week …