Weekly Update: Weiner Laptop Records Uncovered
This week saw the first official meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which is under attack from leftists who want to preserve the ability to steal elections. Also this week, your Judicial Watch filed a new lawsuit that could serve to get key information about the integrity of election rolls in Maryland (one of the states “resisting” inquiries from the Advisory Commission on Election Integrity).
We filed the lawsuit simply to gain access to voter registration lists in Montgomery County, Maryland. The defendants are Montgomery County and the Maryland State Board of Elections. We filed the lawsuit to enforce our rights under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division (Judicial Watch vs. Linda H. Lamone, et al. (No. 1:17-cv-02006)).
Back in April, we sent a notice letter to Maryland election officials that explained how there were more registered voters in Montgomery County than there were citizens over the age of 18. The letter threatened a lawsuit if the problems with Montgomery County’s voter rolls were not fixed. The letter also requested access to Montgomery County voter registration lists to evaluate the efficacy of any “programs and activities conducted for the purpose of ensuring the accuracy and currency of Maryland’s official eligible voter lists during the past 2 years.” On July 7, Maryland denied us access to the list because Maryland law supposedly restricts the release of voter registration information only to Maryland registered voters.
But Section 8(i) of the NVRA provides that “[e]ach State shall maintain for at least 2 years and shall make available for public inspection and, where available, photocopying at a reasonable cost, all records concerning the implementation of programs and activities conducted for the purpose of ensuring the accuracy and currency of official lists of eligible voter.”
In our lawsuit we noted that the registration list is covered under Section 8(i) of the NVRA:
“Section 8(i) of the NVRA contains no requirement that only an individual person or a registered voter may request the documents that the statute describes. Accordingly, Section 8(i) authorizes and entitles Judicial Watch to inspect and copy the requested voter list.”
In fact, we regularly request and receive records from state and local governments pursuant to Section 8(i) of the NVRA. (The Director of Judicial Watch’s Election Integrity Project is Senior Attorney Robert Popper, who was formerly deputy chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.) In April, we sent letters to 11 states with counties in which the number of registered voters exceeds the number of voting-age citizens. The states are: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Tennessee.
Maryland needs to make this voter registration information available as federal law requires. Maryland doesn’t want us to expose its voter roll mess, and we hope the courts move quickly so we can begin the process of cleaning up the rolls. This is a national problem, and Maryland is the scene of one of many legal battles we must be prepared to fight for clean elections.
The Obama IRS scandal continues.
You won’t read about in the liberal media but on July 13 the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration issued a devastating report finding that the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) records management practice resulted in lost records and incomplete IRS responses to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and congressional inquiries. Here is the key finding:
IRS policies do not comply with certain Federal requirements that agencies must ensure that all records are retrievable and usable for as long as needed. For example, IRS e-mail retention policies are not adequate because e-mails are not automatically archived for all IRS employees. Instead, the IRS’s current policy instructs employees to take manual actions to archive e-mails by saving them permanently on computer hard drives or network shared drives. This policy has resulted in lost records when computer hard drives are destroyed or damaged. In addition, a recently instituted executive e-mail retention policy, which should have resulted in the archiving of e-mails from specific executives, was not implemented effectively because some executives did not turn on the automatic archiving feature.
For certain cases that TIGTA reviewed, IRS policies were not implemented consistently to ensure that all relevant documents were searched and produced when responding to external requests for records. TIGTA’s review of 30 completed Freedom of Information Act requests found that in more than half of the responses, the IRS did not follow its own policies that require it to document what records were searched. TIGTA also found that IRS policies for preserving records from separated employees were not adequate.
In short, records of IRS employees including top officials may have gone missing. And the IRS never told anyone about it.
We’ve been on top of this issue for years. In fact, just this past April we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the IRS to obtain records relating to the agency’s “preservation and/or retention” of the email records of officials who have left the agency since January 2010 (Judicial Watch v. Internal Revenue Service (No.1:17-cv-00596)).
Our litigation forced the IRS first to say that emails belonging to Lois Lerner, former director of the Exempt Organizations Unit, were supposedly missing and later declare to the court that the emails were on IRS back-up systems. Lerner was one of the top officials responsible for the IRS’ targeting of President Obama’s political opponents. We exposed various IRS’ record keeping problems:
- In June 2014, the IRS claimed to have “lost” responsive emails belonging to Lerner and other IRS officials.
- In July 2014 Judge Emmett Sullivan ordered the IRS to submit to the court a written declaration under oath about what happened to Lerner’s “lost” emails. The sworn declarations proved to be less than forthcoming.
- In August 2014, Department of Justice attorneys for the IRS finally admitted to Judicial Watch that Lerner’s emails, indeed all government computer records, are backed up by the federal government in case of a government-wide catastrophe. The IRS’ attorneys also disclosed that Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) was looking at several of these backup tapes.
- In November 2014, the IRS told the court it had failed to search any of the IRS standard computer systems for the “missing” emails of Lerner and other IRS officials.
- On February 26, 2015, TIGTA officials testified to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that it had received 744 backup tapes containing emails sent and received by Lerner. This testimony showed that the IRS had falsely represented to both Congress, Judge Sullivan, and Judicial Watch that Lerner’s emails were irretrievably lost. The testimony also revealed that IRS officials responsible for responding to the document requests never asked for the backup tapes and that 424 backup tapes containing Lerner’s emails had been destroyed during the pendency of Judicial Watch’s lawsuit and Congressional investigations.
- In June 2015, Judicial Watch forced the IRS to admit in a court filing that it was in possession of 6,400 “newly discovered” Lerner emails. Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered the IRS to provide answers on the status of the Lerner emails the IRS had previously declared lost. Judicial Watch raised questions about the IRS’ handling of the missing emails issue in a court filing, demanding answers about Lerner’s emails that had been recovered from the backup tapes.
- In July 2015, U.S District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan threatened to hold John Koskinen, the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, and Justice Department attorneys in contempt of court after the IRS failed to produce status reports and recovered Lerner emails, as he had ordered on July 1, 2015.
So this new report is shocking but not surprising. We have long battled the IRS in court over its obstruction in responding to FOIA requests about Obama era IRS abuses. It is a scandal that the Obama IRS did not tell Judicial Watch, the courts, or Congress about the loss of government records. Our attorneys will review this report to assess whether we should seek relief and accountability from the courts. In the meantime, President Trump should finally fire IRS Commissioner John Koskinen and direct the Justice Department to reopen its criminal inquiry into the Obama IRS abuses and cover-ups.
Judicial Watch’s team of attorneys was in federal court yesterday morning for a hearing in a major lawsuit seeking Hillary Clinton emails.
Specifically, The hearing comes in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeking former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails that were sent or received during her tenure from February 2009 to January 31, 2013 (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:15-cv-00687)). The case is before Judge James E. Boasberg.
The hearing focused on the State Department’s progress on processing the emails that Hillary Clinton deleted or otherwise failed disclose when she served as Secretary of State, some of which were emails sent by Clinton aide Huma Abedin that were found on the laptop of her estranged husband Anthony Weiner. Clinton attempted to delete 33,000 emails from her non-government server.
The State Department was ordered to produce documents to Judicial Watch, and has been processing only 500 pages per month of emails uncovered by the FBI in its investigation into Clinton’s non-government email system. The State Department has produced 17 batches of documents so far. At the current pace, the Clinton emails and other records won’t be fully available for possible release until at least 2020.
On June 15, the FBI provided a new disc of records to the State Department. It turns out this disc contains 7,000 records recovered from Weiner’s laptop which now must be reviewed for potential public release.
Our legal team pushed for all these records to be released more quickly but the Justice Department’s attorney said that her State Department agency client shouldn’t have to push more records out because of supposed diminished interest in Clinton emails “since November”! The Justice attorney also blamed President Trump’s hiring freeze as another reason the records are dribbling out. I suspect President Trump will blow a gasket when he finds out his agencies are actually slow-rolling the release of the emails that Hillary Clinton tried to delete.
Either way, we’ll keep pushing against this Deep State approach to transparency that protects Hillary Clinton and the corrupt Obama administration.
In the meantime, we’ll keep you apprised of major developments – and will push the Trump administration to stop this stonewalling.
Until next week …