Federal Judge Orders FBI to Search for Steele Documents
We are grateful for judges unafraid to tell the Deep State and its powerful agencies to reveal their secrets, especially when bureaucrats are digging in their heels.
In the latest example, U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper ordered the FBI to conduct a search within 60 days for records of communications with former British spy and dossier author Christopher Steele post-dating Steele’s service as an FBI confidential source.
In ordering the supplemental search, Judge Cooper held:
[T]he potential for illuminating the FBI’s activities is not too difficult to discern. Communications post-dating Steele’s time as an informant might reveal a great deal about why the FBI developed him as a CHS [confidential human source], his performance as a CHS, and why the FBI opted to terminate its relationship with him. Those records might either bolster or weaken Steele’s credibility as a source. That information, in turn, could provide a basis on which to evaluate the FBI’s performance of its law-enforcement duties, including its judgment in selecting and relying on confidential sources, especially in connection with such a politically sensitive subject. Of course, the records Judicial Watch speculates about might not even exist—and even if they do, they may not reveal anything significant about the FBI’s operations. But that they might do so makes them a matter of potential public interest.
The court ruling came in our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for records of communications and payments between the FBI, Christopher Steele and his private firm, Orbis Business Intelligence (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice) (No. 1:17-cv-00916)).
The court initially ruled in favor of a DOJ “Glomar” response to our March 8, 2017, FOIA request stating that it could “neither confirm nor deny the existence of records responsive to [Judicial Watch’s] request.” On March 26, 2018, subsequent to the declassification of records revealing Steele’s role as an FBI informant and his firing by the FBI in November 2016, the court reopened the case at our request. The FBI, however, continued refusing to search for records post-dating Steele’s dismissal, contending that any records discovered would be exempt from disclosure on privacy grounds.
In his ruling, Judge Cooper held that, on balance, any privacy interests Steele may have in keeping the documents secret are outweighed by the public’s interest in disclosure:
Steele’s privacy interests are far different from those courts usually consider under Exemption 7(C), where disclosure would make public for the first time an individual’s affiliation with law enforcement, whether as agent, cooperator, or target … The balance therefore tilts in favor of disclosure. Accordingly, the Court will order the FBI to conduct a search for records post-dating Steele’s service as a confidential source.
The court was right to turn aside the FBI’s fake concerns for Clinton spy Christopher Steele’s privacy and order the agency to search for more records on its use of Steele and his dossier to target President Trump. That the FBI is still protecting Christopher Steele, and the existence of a Clinton spy ring at Fusion GPS should tell you there is much more corruption to be exposed in the coup efforts against President Trump.
Here is some background.
Documents previously produced in this lawsuit show that the FBI paid Steele at least 11 times during the 2016 presidential campaign and then fired him for leaking.
We also uncovered smoking gun documents showing that former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr remained in regular contact with Steele after Steele was terminated by the FBI in November 2016 for revealing to the media his position as an FBI confidential informant.
Through another FOIA lawsuit, we obtained emails of Bruce Ohr discussing information obtained through his wife Nellie, which he passed on to the FBI. The information contained anti-Trump dossier materials, including a spreadsheet that tries to link President Trump to dozens of Russians. These Justice Department documents also contain Russia-related emails sent from Nellie Ohr to high-ranking DOJ official Lisa Holtyn during the period Ohr worked with anti-Trump firm Fusion GPS, which contracted with Steele to create the Trump Dossier. Holtyn at the time was a top aide to Bruce Ohr.
We later acquired FBI 302 interview forms of Bruce Ohr’s reporting information he received from Steele to his FBI handlers.
We additionally uncovered documents from the U.S. Department of State revealing that State Department “Special Coordinator for Libya” Jonathan Winer played a key role in facilitating Steele’s access to other top government officials and prominent international business executives.
To watch Judicial Watch Director of Research and Investigations Chris Farrell’s interview on this, click here.
Last week, I spoke on Lou Dobbs’ show regarding documents we uncovered containing Russia-related emails sent from Nellie Ohr to high-ranking DOJ official Lisa Holtyn. At the time, Nellie Ohr worked with the anti-Trump dossier firm Fusion GPS. Holtyn, at the time, was a top aide to Nellie’s husband, former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr.
As you can see, we are at the forefront of exposing the Deep State coup attempt, and we are nowhere near finished.
Congressional Democrats have gone off the rails. They have thrown decorum and even the law out of the window in pursuit of their leftist goals.
The latest miscreant is U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat and a member of the Rhode Island bar. He audaciously filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of four clients while maintaining inactive status as a lawyer.
We have filed a complaint with the Rhode Island Supreme Court over his behavior.
We argue to the court’s Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee: “The brief Senator Whitehouse filed was unbecoming of the legal profession as it is nothing more than an attack on the federal judiciary and an open threat to the U.S. Supreme Court.” The complaint contains a copy of the Whitehouse brief.
At issue in the Supreme Court case in which Senator Whitehouse submitted the brief (NY State Rifle & Pistol Assoc. v. City of New York (18-280)) is whether New York City’s ban on transporting a licensed, locked and unloaded handgun to a home or shooting range outside city limits is consistent with the Second Amendment, the commerce clause and the constitutional right to travel.
Here is our complaint:
August 19, 2019
Via Certified Mail and Electronic Mail ([email protected])
Thomas W. Madonna, Chair
Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee
c/o Rhode Island Supreme Court Clerk’s Office
250 Benefit Street
Providence, RI 02903
Re: U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse Unauthorized Practice of Law Complaint
Dear Chair Madonna:
Judicial Watch files this unauthorized practice of law complaint against Rhode Island bar member U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse for filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of four clients while maintaining inactive status. In addition, the brief Senator Whitehouse filed was unbecoming of the legal profession as it is nothing more than an attack on the federal judiciary and an open threat to the U.S. Supreme Court.
According to the Rhode Island Judiciary website, Senator Whitehouse maintains inactive status. As an inactive member of the Rhode Island bar, Senator Whitehouse cannot practice law in Rhode Island. However, on August 12, 2019, Senator Whitehouse did just that. He filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Senators Mazie Hirono, Richard Blumenthal, Richard Durbin, and Kirsten Gillibrand. The filing of a brief — let alone all that is required to file a brief — on behalf of clients is indisputably the practice of law.
To be clear, Senator Whitehouse may not have spoken to his clients, researched the law, or written the brief in Rhode Island. However, he provided a Providence, Rhode Island address to the Rhode Island Judiciary. In addition, there is no dispute that Senator Whitehouse is a Rhode Island resident and spends a substantial amount of his time in Rhode Island. If Senator Whitehouse is practicing law in another jurisdiction, it is merely incidental or temporary. Under the rules, Senator Whitehouse was practicing law in Rhode Island.
In addition, to Judicial Watch’s knowledge, Senator Whitehouse is not authorized to practice law in another jurisdiction. Senator Whitehouse lists a Washington, D.C. address on the brief; yet, according to the District of Columbia Bar website, Senator Whitehouse is not a member of the DC Bar. Therefore, if Senator Whitehouse claims he was not practicing law in Rhode Island but in Washington, D.C., he violated the “Unauthorized Practice of Law” rule of D.C.
Besides practicing law without the proper authorization, Senator Whitehouse also violated the Rhode Island Rules of Professional Conduct by attacking the federal judiciary and openly threatening the U.S. Supreme Court. The brief concludes:
The Supreme Court is not well. And the people know it. Perhaps the Court can heal itself before the public demands it to be “restructured in order to reduce the influence of politics.” Particularly on the urgent issue of gun control, a nation desperately needs it to heal.
In other words, if the U.S. Supreme Court does not rule the way Senator Whitehouse and his clients prefer, they will use their power as Senators to restructure the Court.
Such a threat violates the spirit if not the letter of Rhode Island’s Rules of Professional Conduct. As the preamble explains:
- “A lawyer should use the law’s procedures only for legitimate purposes and not to harass or intimidate others.”
- “A lawyer should demonstrate respect for the legal system and for those who serve it, including judges.”
- “A lawyer should further the public’s understanding of and confidence in the rule of law and the justice system.”
- A lawyer should “maintain a professional, courteous and civil attitude toward all persons involved in the legal system.”
Attacking the federal judiciary and openly threatening the U.S. Supreme Court is unbecoming for a member of the legal profession as well as a sitting U.S. Senator. Senator Whitehouse’s assertion, without basis, that the Court does not rule on the merits of cases but rather on partisan beliefs undermines confidence in the legal system. It is one thing for a politician to make such a claim on the campaign trail, it is another for a lawyer to make such a charge as part of a legal proceeding. In doing so, Senator Whitehouse has violated the rules of professional conduct.
The misconduct of Senator Whitehouse noted above appears obvious on its face. Senator Whitehouse either violated Rhode Island’s or D.C.’s rules, or both. Senator Whitehouse’s filing of a brief on behalf of clients without an active law license anywhere in the country is inexcusable. Senator Whitehouse’s attack on the federal judiciary and open threat to the U.S. Supreme Court raises substantial questions about his character and fitness to practice law. His actions warrant a full investigation by the Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee.
Senator Whitehouse is violating basic legal ethics in threatening the Supreme Court while engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. He should be held accountable.
Garry McFadden, a flamboyant former homicide detective and reality TV show star, was elected sheriff on a promise to stop cooperating with federal immigration officers. Sometimes referred to as the “Sanctuary Sheriff,” he is an example of a cop who does the opposite of what the people expect of a public safety official. Our Corruption Chronicles blog has the story:
The elected official in charge of enforcing the law in North Carolina’s largest county has kept his campaign promise to protect illegal immigrants by releasing from custody numerous violent offenders rather than turn them over to federal authorities for removal. Among them is a previously deported Honduran charged with rape and child sex offenses. Because Mecklenburg County offers illegal aliens sanctuary, the perpetrator, 33-year-old Oscar Pacheco-Leonardo, was freed by the county sheriff despite his violent history. Thankfully, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently arrested him during a targeted enforcement operation.
The federal agency blasts officials in the North Carolina county of about 1 million, writing in a statement that by discharging a previously deported alien facing serious criminal charges, Mecklenburg County chose to release a serious public safety threat onto the streets of Charlotte where he was free to potentially harm others for nearly two months until his capture by ICE. “This is yet another example of a clear public safety threat being released onto the streets of Mecklenburg County rather than into ICE custody due to the current sheriff’s policy on ICE non-cooperation,” the agency’s regional director said. “The Mecklenburg County sheriff’s decision to restrict cooperation with ICE serves as an open invitation to aliens who commit criminal offenses that Mecklenburg County is a safe haven for persons seeking to evade federal authorities, and residents of Mecklenburg County are less safe today than last year due these policies.”
When Garry McFadden got elected sheriff in 2018, he immediately ended a program known as 287(g) that notified ICE of jail inmates in the country illegally. The program enhances the safety and security of communities by creating partnerships with state and local law enforcement agencies to identify and remove aliens who are amenable to removal from the United States. It is a mutually beneficial agreement, ICE says, that identifies, arrests and serves warrants and detainers of incarcerated foreign-born criminals. The program has identified and removed from the U.S. gang members, sex offenders and murderers and has reduced the number of criminal offenders that are released back into communities. “Federal, state and local officers working together provide a tremendous benefit to public safety through increased law enforcement communication and overall community policing effectiveness,” according to ICE.
Nevertheless, a growing number of local municipalities offer illegal immigrants sanctuary and refuse to cooperate with federal authorities. The day after getting elected Sherriff, McFadden stopped cooperating with federal authorities as per his campaign promise. Pacheco-Leonardo is only one of many violent offenders who have been released recently from Mecklenburg County custody. More than 20 others have been discharged by McFadden’s agency, including rapists, child molesters, kidnappers, burglars, and those charged with gun-related and drug crimes. Most of the illegal immigrants are from Central America and Mexico, but a few are from India, Afghanistan, Liberia and Sri Lanka. All of them are men in the U.S. illegally and protected by the North Carolina county’s sanctuary policies which forces ICE to increase enforcement in those areas. “When law enforcement agencies don’t honor ICE detainers, these individuals, who often have significant criminal histories, are released onto the street, presenting a potential public safety threat,” the agency statement says. “When ICE Fugitive Operations officers have to go out into the community to proactively locate these criminal aliens, regardless of the precautions they take, it needlessly puts our personnel and potentially innocent bystanders in harm’s way.”
Just a few weeks ago Judicial Watch reported that various California law enforcement agencies released 16 illegal immigrants with criminal records during a three-month period. Some were arrested and released multiple times by the same local law enforcement agency after committing felonies. In all of the cases, ICE issued detainers but local police ignored the federal agency to protect the illegal alien from deportation, instead freeing the perpetrator back into the community. Offenders include Mexican, Honduran and Salvadoran nationals charged with murder, rape, assault with a deadly weapon, spousal abuse, driving under the influence of alcohol, possession of illegal drugs and other serious crimes. One 23-year-old Honduran man was booked and released in San Francisco ten times in less than a year for crimes ranging from burglary, vehicle theft and driving without a license. In each of the arrests, ICE issued a detainer but the San Francisco Police Department disregarded it and let the man go.
Do we individually get to choose which laws we will obey?
Until next week …