Justice Cover Up!
Judicial Watch Seeks Release of Sally Yates Records on Her Refusal to Defend President Trump’s Travel Ban
It should surprise no one that on Joe Biden’s short list for attorney general was former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, an Obama holdover “who shot to national prominence after President Donald Trump fired her, making her one of the first heroes of the #Resistance.”
President Trump fired her after she refused in early 2017 to enforce his travel ban executive order. We filed an appeal with the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit in order to gain the release of Department of Justice records about Yates’ gross insubordination. We argue that the documents are not shielded from disclosure, as they are evidence of government misconduct by Yates.
At issue are four records described as “working drafts” of a January 30, 2017 statement by Yates instructing DOJ officials not to defend the executive order issued by then-President Trump. Trump fired Yates after she issued the one-page statement.
The appeal concerns a May 2017 FOIA lawsuit we filed after the Justice Department failed to respond to a February FOIA request seeking Yates’ emails from her government account (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:17-cv-00832)) for the time period she served as Acting Attorney General for President Trump. We recently filed the brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch vs. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 20-5304)).
The lower court ruled that the Justice Department could withhold the records under FOIA’s Exemption 5 “deliberative process privilege,” which is used to keep secret “pre-decisional” agency records.
We argue that the court has recognized “that government misconduct may overcome the
deliberative process privilege.”
“[W]here there is reason to believe the documents sought may shed light on government misconduct, the privilege is routinely denied, on the grounds that shielding internal government deliberations in this context does not serve the public’s interest in honest, effective government.”
Insubordination, especially by an acting attorney general seeking to defy an executive order issued by the President, is a “serious breach of the responsibilities of representative government.” The records at issue relate directly to Yates’ defiance of the President and breach of the duties she owed the President, which resulted in her being fired. The records reflect, or at least are purported to reflect, the thought process by which Yates chose to direct her subordinates to defy the President by not defending the President’s executive order. They are, in effect, deliberations on Yates’ decision to commit insubordination. They do not warrant protection under the deliberative process privilege and should be made public.
The “working drafts” were sent as attachments in a chain of emails sent without messages between Yates and her deputy Matthew Axelrod.
We also highlight how the Justice Department is undermining the FOIA reforms the Congress passed into law under the FOIA Improvements Act (FIA) in 2016 that “established a new, heightened standard of proof that agencies must meet when making discretionary withholdings of records requested under FOIA. Congress intended the FIA to shore up FOIA, not preserve a years-long, unsatisfactory status quo of ‘withhold-it-because-you-want-to’ exemptions and ‘knee-jerk secrecy.’”
In an act of seditious and unethical conduct, Obama holdover Sally Yates sought to subvert then-President Trump by interfering with his lawful travel ban. That the Justice Department would try to cover up the details of this lawlessness is yet another scandal.
As an indication of the pandemic of lawlessness in the Justice Department, we obtained records in this case in 2017 that show strong support by Robert Mueller Deputy Andrew Weissmann and other top DOJ officials for Yates’ refusal to enforce President Trump’s travel ban. In one email Weissmann writes: “I am so proud. And in awe. Thank you so much. All my deepest respects.”
Professor Charged with Stealing $1.75 Million in Research for China
We are closely watching the growing threat China poses to the United States, not the least of which is its wholesale, systematic theft of scientific and medical research. A recent criminal indictment, reported in our Corruption Chronicles blog, illustrates how this theft is too often enabled with your tax dollars:
Communist China has long benefitted from American-funded research stolen by Chinese academics who infiltrate colleges throughout the United States. This month a criminal indictment sheds light on a recent scheme allegedly masterminded by a Chinese professor at one of the nation’s top-ranked public universities. His name is Lin Yang, a 43-year-old member of the Thousand Talents Program (TTP) operated by the Chinese government to transfer original ideas, technology and intellectual property from foreign institutions, especially American colleges. TTP rewards Chinese scientists for stealing propriety information, usually funded by Uncle Sam.
In this case Yang, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Florida (UF), fraudulently obtained a $1.75 million federal grant to conduct research that he stole for China, according to a federal indictment. The money came from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. government’s handsomely funded medical research agency, which has an immense $41.7 billion annual budget. The research involved developing an imaging informatics tool for muscles known as “MuscleMiner.” Federal prosecutors say that between 2014 and 2019 Yang served as the principal investigator for the NIH grant at UF, a top-ranked public research institution in Gainesville. That means he was responsible for conducting and administering the money in compliance with applicable federal law and institutional policies. “Among other things, Yang was required to disclose his foreign research support and financial conflicts of interest, including his ownership of, or interest in, a foreign company,” according to a Department of Justice (DOJ) announcement.
Instead, Yang established a business in China known as “Deep Informatics” that he promoted by disclosing that its products were the result of years of research supported by millions of dollars of U.S. government funding. To maintain employment at UF and continue receiving NIH grant money, Yang intentionally concealed his conflicts of interest, including his Chinese business, participation in the TTP and affiliation with a Chinese research university. “On multiple occasions, Yang submitted disclosures to NIH containing false statements and material omissions concerning his affiliations and research endeavors with a foreign government and company,” the DOJ reveals. Additionally, in January 2019, UF’s College of Engineering required all faculty to provide, in writing, updated disclosures concerning activities with foreign entities in China and two other countries. Yang provided UF with a written response falsely stating he had no affiliation with any business, entity, or university in China, the indictment states. Yang fled to China in August 2019. He has been charged with six counts of wire fraud and four counts of making false statements to an agency of the United States.
This is hardly an isolated case. The U.S. government has long permitted communists working in the U.S. to steal billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded research. Many of them work at public universities throughout the country or at government agencies such as the NIH, National Science Foundation (NSF) or national laboratories affiliated with the Department of Energy (DOE). For decades many of the institutions have been deeply impacted by Chinese infiltrators stealing highly valuable intellectual property. A U.S. Senate investigation determined that not only has American-funded research long been stolen by China, but that the work is helping the communist nation meet its goal of becoming a world leader in science and technology. China uses hundreds of government-funded talent recruitment plans, such as TTP, to incentivize individuals engaged in research and development in the U.S to transmit information in exchange for salaries, research funding, lab space and other perks. The communists then use the American research for their own economic and military gain.
The Trump administration addressed the problem by having the NIH fire dozens of scientists last summer over their secret financial ties to communist China. It is not clear how long they went undetected or how much taxpayer-funded research they stole, but at the time some 54 scientists got booted for failing to disclose a troubling financial arrangement with a foreign government. In the overwhelming majority of cases—93%—the cash came from China, according to an NIH investigation that started more than two years ago. Also, in most of the probes the targets were Asian men in their 50s. The bulk of the ousted researchers received generous grants from the NIH, which annually invests tens of billions of dollars in medical research by giving around 50,000 grants to more than 300,000 researchers at more than 2,500 universities, medical schools and other institutions throughout the country. Only 10% of the agency’s budget supports projects conducted by scientists in its own lab in Bethesda, Maryland.
Until next week,