Did Obama Ambassador Order Monitoring of Journalists, Trump Allies?
Was President Obama’s Ambassador to Ukraine unlawfully tracking articles, reports, and social media postings of conservatives? Our Corruption Chronicles blog has the story.
Judicial Watch is investigating if prominent conservative figures, journalists and persons with ties to President Donald Trump were unlawfully monitored by the State Department in Ukraine at the request of ousted U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, an Obama appointee. Yovanovitch testified “in secret” to the House impeachment inquiry against Trump on Friday, October 11, 2019. Her “secret” testimony was leaked to the New York Times during the hearing.
Judicial Watch has obtained information indicating Yovanovitch may have violated laws and government regulations by ordering subordinates to target certain U.S. persons using State Department resources. Yovanovitch reportedly ordered monitoring keyed to the following search terms: Biden, Giuliani, Soros and Yovanovitch. Judicial Watch has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the State Department and will continue gathering facts from government sources.
Prior to being recalled as ambassador to Ukraine in the spring Yovanovitch reportedly created a list of individuals who were to be monitored via social media and other means. Ukraine embassy staff made the request to the Washington D.C. headquarters office of the department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. After several days, Yovanovitch’s staff was informed that the request was illegal and the monitoring either ceased or was concealed via the State Department Global Engagement Center, which has looser restrictions on collecting information.
“This is not an obscure rule; everyone in public diplomacy or public affairs knows they can’t make lists and monitor U.S. citizens unless there is a major national security reason,” according to a senior State Department official. If the illicit operation occurred, it seems to indicate a clear political bias against the president and his supporters. Yovanovitch, a career diplomat who has also led American embassies in Kyrgyzstan and Armenia, was appointed ambassador to Ukraine by Obama in 2016. She was recalled by the State Department in May and remains a State Department employee in Washington D.C.
In the public records request to the State Department, Judicial Watch asks for any and all records regarding, concerning, or related to the monitoring of any U.S.-based journalist, reporter, or media commentator by any employee or office of the Department of State between January 1, 2019 and the present. That includes all records pertaining to the scope of the monitoring to be conducted and individuals subject to it as well as records documenting the information collected pursuant to the monitoring. The FOIA request also asks for all records of communication between any official, employee or representative of the State Department and any other individual or entity.
The prominent conservative figures — journalists and persons with ties to President Donald Trump — allegedly unlawfully monitored by the State Department in Ukraine at the request of ousted U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch include:
Donald Trump Jr.
Michael McFaul (Obama’s ambassador to Russia)
Judicial Watch continues its investigation of these matters and will update its reporting as the situation unfolds.
We need a new accounting for our public universities, whose use of taxpayer dollars so often seems to defy the best interests of the taxpayers. Take the University of Arizona. It receives substantial funding from the State of Arizona, as well as federal grants.
Our Corruption Chronicles blog reveals a few ways your tax and tuition money is being spent.
In the midst of a human rights crisis and violent pro-democracy manifestations in China, Judicial Watch has obtained records that expose a troubling partnership between a public American university and the Chinese Communists at the heart of the abuses. The records show that the University of Arizona (UA), a taxpayer-funded institution with an enrollment of about 44,000, paid $100,000 to launch a Confucius Institute on its Tucson campus more than a decade ago and subsequently dedicated nearly $2 million and other public resources to keep it going. Confucius Institutes were founded by the Chinese government and are managed by China’s Ministry of Education to spread Communist ideas. FBI Director Christopher Wray has warned in congressional testimony that Confucius Institutes provide a platform to disseminate Chinese Communist Party propaganda, encourage censorship and restrict academic freedom.
Yet dozens of universities throughout the U.S. have erected Confucius Institutes in the last few years, though many have closed over national security concerns and pressure from the Trump administration. This year the U.S. government finally upped the ante, threatening to withhold generous Department of Defense (DOD) language program funding to schools with Confucius Institutes. UA is among the campuses that reportedly will shut down its Confucius Institute at the end of the year to keep its DOD money, but the school’s longtime support for the Communist program cannot be erased from the ledgers. The campus allocated $100,000 in “initial start-up funds” to launch a Confucius Institute in 2007, according to a document obtained by Judicial Watch through an Arizona Public Records request. In the following years, UA dedicated at least $1.9 million to the Communist installation through various campus clubs and organizations, the records show. The figure is likely much higher because school officials claim they did not keep records of Confucius Institute funding or activities prior to 2012. Therefore, UA provided Judicial Watch with “the most complete records available beginning January 2012 to September 2019.”
Written in Chinese and English, the original agreement is between the Arizona Board of Regents and the People’s Republic of China. It is signed by former UA President Robert N. Shelton on behalf of the board and Lin Xu, identified in the document as chief executive of the Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban), People’s Republic of China. The contract allots UA employees paid positions within the Confucius Institute and provides the Chinese establishment with offices, classrooms, equipment, operating supplies and funding, instructors, guest lecturers, administrative services and other assorted resources. It also provides the Confucius Institute with exclusive rights to intellectual concepts, trademarks and inventions. A continuation agreement signed in 2013 is marked “confidential” and renews automatically unless the parties want out. Under threat of losing DOD funding, UA reluctantly decided to close its Confucius Institute at the end of the year, according to university sources contacted by Judicial Watch. Nevertheless, from 2012 to 2019 the records show that there were more than 400 university approved events and classes with the Confucius Institute.
The longtime partnership between a public U.S. institution of higher learning and Chinese Communists is outrageous, especially considering the myriad of threats—military, economic and human rights—posed by China. Lately human rights have been at the forefront of global media coverage with violent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Chinese President Xi Jinping recently said that any attempts to cause division in China “will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones.” Though the human rights crisis is receiving a lot of attention, China’s economic threat to the U.S. is not to be minimized. The FBI routinely investigates the theft of intellectual property and trade secrets by the People’s Republic of China from the United States. The crimes include but are not limited to medical devices, computer intrusions, false statements and transportation software. More recently, the Trump administration killed a decades-long contract between the Obama administration and China that allowed the Communists to control the second-busiest container port in the U.S.
Earlier this year, Judicial Watch filed suit, seeking information about potential influence by the Qatar government’s funding of certain Texas A&M University programs and a Texas A&M campus in Education City, Al Rayyan, Qatar (Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development v. Ken Paxton, Texas Attorney General (No. D-1-GN-18-006240)).
Watching our universities is turning out to be quite the eye opener!
Until next week …