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Judicial Watch, Inc. is a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, which promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law.

Judicial Watch, Inc. is a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, which promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law.

Because no one
is above the law!


Tom Fitton's Judicial Watch Weekly Update

Weekly Update: JW Sues Over Clinton Foundation Cover-Up

Judicial Watch Sues for Documents on Obama DOJ Effort to Shut Down Clinton Foundation Investigation
Judicial Watch Files Supreme Court Brief against Government Abuse
Judicial Watch Fights for Rule of Law in Battle with Anti-Trump Politicians
Not Forgotten – Judicial Watch Sues for Vietnam POW-MIA Docs
Is Maxine Waters Fit to Chair House Financial Services Committee?

Judicial Watch Sues for Documents on Obama DOJ Effort to Shut Down Clinton Foundation Investigation

A major scandal, largely uninvestigated, is the Obama Justice Department’s protection of Hillary Clinton.

As per usual, Judicial Watch is taking the lead on this issue. We just filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice for all records of communications involving any investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) into the Clinton Foundation (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:18-cv-02536).

We sued after the agency failed to respond to our May 4, 2018, FOIA request for:

All records of communication, including but not limited to e-mails (whether sent or received on .gov or e-mail accounts), text messages, or instant chats, sent between officials in the offices of the FBI Director, Deputy Director and General Counsel on the one hand, and officials in the offices of the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General and or Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General on the other hand, regarding the closure or possible closure of an investigation into the Clinton Foundation.

Remember that it was our FOIA lawsuit that led directly to the disclosure of the illicit Clinton email system in 2015.

Then in August 2016, a related Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit broke open the email story and began making conflict of interest documents public, revealing Clinton’s shadowy pay-to-play schemes.

This lawsuit showed the sleazy details. For example, in April 2009 controversial Clinton Foundation official Doug Band pushed for a job for an associate. In the email Band tells Hillary Clinton’s former aides at the State Department Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin that it is “important to take care of [Redacted]. Band is reassured by Abedin that “Personnel has been sending him options.” Band was co-founder of Teneo Strategy with Bill Clinton and a top official of the Clinton Foundation, including its Clinton Global Initiative.

Included in the documents we received as a result of the lawsuit was a 2009 email in which Band, directs Abedin and Mills to put Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire and Clinton Foundation donor Gilbert Chagoury in touch with the State Department’s “substance person” on Lebanon. Band notes that Chagoury is “key guy there [Lebanon] and to us,” and insists that Abedin call Amb. Jeffrey Feltman to connect him to Chagoury.

We have since uncovered many other instances of seeming pay-to-play and favoritism for the Clinton Foundation at the Clinton State Department.

In January 2016, the FBI reportedly began investigating the Clinton Foundation, as it expanded from the email probe. In October 2016, FBI agents were told they did not have “enough evidence to move forward” with their investigation of the Foundation.

Earlier this year, a DOJ Inspector General report detailed evidence that the Obama DOJ sought to shut down the FBI investigation of Clinton Foundation:

McCabe [who was fired as deputy director of the FBI] told the OIG that on August 12, 2016, he received a telephone call from PADAG [Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General, likely Matthew Axelrod] regarding the FBI’s handling of the CF [Clinton Foundation] Investigation (the “PADAG call”). McCabe said that PADAG expressed concerns about FBI agents taking overt steps in the CF Investigation during the presidential campaign. According to McCabe, he pushed back, asking “are you telling me that I need to shut down a validly predicated investigation?” McCabe told us that the conversation was “very dramatic” and he never had a similar confrontation like the PADAG call with a high-level Department official in his entire FBI career.

Reportedly, senior DOJ officials refused FBI requests to issue subpoenas on Clinton Foundation issues in 2016.

In January 2018, information surfaced that the FBI reportedly launched a new investigation into potential Clinton Foundation pay-to-play, but there has been no indication it is proceeding.

In October 18, 2018, Representative Bob Goodlatte, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced the release of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s disciplinary file, which “reminds us how the Obama Justice Department sought to shut down the Clinton Foundation investigation during the 2016 presidential election.” [Emphasis added]

The record shows the Obama Justice Department suppressed a public corruption investigation. It’s time to stop shielding the Clintons and produce records on this miscarriage of justice.

(This is only part of our investigation into the Clinton Foundation’s pay-to-play politics, which involves multiple FOIA lawsuits seeking documents from Hillary Clinton’s illicit email system, as well as records related to the intersection of the State Department and the Clinton Foundation. Our work served as a basis for the breakthrough book “Clinton Cash.”)


Judicial Watch Files Supreme Court Brief against Government Abuse

The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is essential in curbing government abuse:

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

We have joined with Allied Educational Foundation (AEF) in filing an amicus curiae brief in the United States Supreme Court supporting petitioner Tyson Timbs against the State of Indiana, which we contend abused its power in a civil asset forfeiture case (Tyson Timbs, et. al. v. State of Indiana (No. 17-1091)) The case was heard by the Supreme Court this week.

Here’s the background. In May of 2013, Tyson Timbs was arrested and pled guilty to a charge of drug dealing and conspiracy. He received a six-year sentence (with five years suspended) and a $1,200 fine.

Earlier in the year, Timbs had received a $70,000 life-insurance payment after his father passed away. He used $42,000 of it to purchase a Land Rover car. Timbs used the Land Rover to deliver $225 worth of drugs, the report said. The state seized the car under a state policy that allows private lawyers to sue for a forfeiture in order to receive a cut.

The car was worth four times the amount of the maximum possible fine ($10,000) in the Timbs case. Lower courts in Indiana ruled the penalty was grossly disproportional under the Eighth Amendment. The Indiana State Supreme Court reversed the lower courts’ ruling.

In our brief, we express concern that “the Indiana Supreme Court’s ruling, if allowed to stand, will allow state and local government abuses of forfeiture laws to continue,” adding that “freedom from unlawful conversion of property is an inherent individual liberty right which the Constitution must secure for all citizens.”

We also noted that, “The Eighth Amendment ‘excessive fines’ clause must serve as a check against state forfeiture laws. Many state and local governments abuse their powers to seize citizens’ property on the barest of pretense to raise revenue without having to raise taxes. When the amount the government can take is limited only by the size of a citizen’s bank account, the Courts must apply special scrutiny to prevent corrupt practices. The Eighth Amendment was designed to limit these kinds of easily-abused punitive laws, and it applies to the states via the Privileges or Immunities clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

National Review reported an abundance of “abusive seizures justified under civil forfeiture. One family had its home taken because the son was caught with $40 of drugs. In Texas, a family that drove for too long in the left lane of the highway was told by a county district attorney that their children would be put in foster care, the parents would be put in jail, and their car would be seized unless they handed over all of their cash, in which case they would be free to go. The town where that occurred, Tenaha, prides itself on this tactic, which ensures a steady flow of cash and goods from out-of-town drivers.”

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has long spoken out on the practice of civil forfeiture. In a case last year, Leonard v. Texas, which the Supreme Court refused to hear, Thomas wrote in a dissenting opinion: “This system  – where police can seize property with limited judicial oversight and retain it for their own use – has led to egregious and well-chronicled abuses…. These forfeiture operations frequently target the poor and other groups least able to defend their interests in forfeiture proceedings. Perversely, these same groups are often the most burdened by forfeiture. They are more likely to use cash than alternative forms of payment, like credit cards, which may be less susceptible to forfeiture. And they are more likely to suffer in their daily lives while they litigate for the return of a critical item of property, such as a car or a home.”

As we and AEF contend, “Occasionally, the abuse takes the form of governments using forfeiture laws to fill their coffers instead of raising taxes.”

We pointed to the December 9, 2014, testimony I gave before the New York State Assembly:

The New York Police Department has broad authority to seize currency and property whenever an arrest is made. Because seized assets are used to fund the NYPD’s pension fund and other law enforcement purposes, the system creates a perverse incentive. According to a recent analysis, in 85 percent of NYPD forfeiture cases, the owner of the seized property is never charged with a crime.

We also cited Lee v. Minner (2006): “The inherent right of U.S. citizens to be free from excessive financial penalties is not one held exclusively against the federal government. It is therefore proper that the Eighth Amendment be applied to state and local governments, because the ability to live free or unjust government financial penalties both ‘plays an important role in furthering a vital national economy’ as well as ‘vindicates individual and societal rights.’”

The Allied Educational Foundation is a charitable and educational foundation dedicated to improving the quality of life through education. It has engaged in a number of projects, which include educational and health conferences domestically and abroad. AEF has partnered frequently with us to fight government and judicial corruption and to promote a return to ethics and morality in the nation’s public life. We’re always pleased to have them join us in major amicus filings.

This is major. The Supreme Court should stop an egregious abuse of civil forfeiture laws in which state and local governments fill their coffers by seizing the property of citizens.


Judicial Watch Fights for Rule of Law in Battle with Anti-Trump Politicians

Brian Frosh, the attorney general of Maryland, known as one of the Trump administration’s chief antagonists, is once again misusing the courts to advance his leftist agenda.

Less than a week after President Trump appointed Matthew Whitaker, then chief of staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as acting attorney general, Frosh, on behalf of the State of Maryland, filed a motion asking the court to prohibit the simple administrative substitution of Whitaker to replace former Attorney General Jeff Sessions as one of nine defendants in a pending lawsuit.

We think that’s wrong, and we have submitted an amicus curiae brief to the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland in support of President Trump’s November 7 appointment (State of Maryland v. United States of America, et al(No. 1:18-cv-02849)).

We argue that the “State of Maryland’s naked attempt to wage a political battle in the courts should be denied” and its motion both misstates the law and is fatally flawed on procedural grounds.

And the he appointment is valid, as acts performed by a person acting under the color of official title are valid “even though it is later discovered that the legality of that person’s appointment or election to office is deficient.” We contend that “Supreme Court precedent suggests the de facto officer doctrine would apply” and precludes issuance of an injunction in this case.

The doctrine “springs from the fear of chaos that would result from multiple and repetitious suits challenging every action taken by every official whose claim to office could be open to question and seeks to protect the public by insuring the orderly functioning of the government despite technical defects in title to office.”

Quite simply, the Maryland attorney general misstates the law in claiming that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should assume the top position of attorney general. In attempting to support his claim that Trump’s appointment of Whitaker violates the Attorney General Succession Act, Frosh contends:

Congress … adopted the Attorney General Succession Act to specify the acting head of that office [attorney general] in particular. Without exception, the statutes have required that the Department of Justice’s second-in-command serve as Acting Attorney General, never allowing the President to override that rule. [Emphasis added]

Our brief responds in rebuttal:

Contrary to the State of Maryland’s assertion, the Attorney General Succession Act in no way mandates that the Deputy Attorney General becomes the Acting Attorney General.  The statute says “may….” To the extent the Vacancies Reform Act is constitutional – and the State of Maryland does not argue otherwise – the Attorney General Succession Act does not prohibit the VRA’s [Federal Vacancies Reform Act] application in this case.

The State of Maryland’s motion for an injunction also fails procedurally because its lawsuit is against Attorney General Sessions, in his official capacity as attorney general, an office he no longer holds. We argue:

[The lawsuit] is not against him in his personal capacity. There is nothing for the Court to do. Substitution is automatic.

Frosh revealed his political and ideological motives in filing the suit when he said, “[T]his guy, Mr. Whitaker, has extreme views and that’s dangerous in itself.” A coalition of attorneys general from 14 states and Washington, D.C. also have weighed in by filing an amici curiae brief supporting the State of Maryland. D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine, who is leading the coalition of amici called Trump’s appointment of Whitaker “illegal, unconstitutional, and runs counter to the rule of law.”

Pointing to numerous partisan legal challenges and separate moves by Maryland’s own lawyer to litigate a similar case before the Supreme Court, we also filed a Public Information Act request with the Maryland Attorney General about its efforts to challenge the Whitaker appointment.

Anti-Trump politicians shouldn’t be allowed to abuse the courts to achieve their political goals. The court should deny Maryland’s naked attempt to wage a political battle in the courts.


Not Forgotten – Judicial Watch Sues for Vietnam POW-MIA Docs

The Vietnam POW-MIA issue still haunts the families of our missing servicepeople. Judicial Watch hopes to get more information about this key issue in a new lawsuit we filed against the Defense Department for records from 1973 to the present regarding U.S. soldiers who were prisoners of war or missing in action in Vietnam and Laos (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Defense (No. 1:18-cv-02276)).

We filed the lawsuit after the Pentagon failed to respond to two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

A May 21, 2018, request sought:

  1. Any and all lists of American prisoners of war/missing in action (“POWs/MlAs”) provided to North Vietnam as part of the Paris Peace Accords process seeking the return of those
  2. All materials used to brief President Nixon in 1973 about remaining American POWs/MIAs in North Vietnam and Laos.

A May 22, 2018 request sought:

  1. All live sighting reports of American POWs in Vietnam and Laos from January 27, 1973 to the present.
  2. All data and reports derived from data collected from the program known as PAVE SPIKE from January 27, 1973 to the present.
  3. All satellite photographs of possible or suspected rescue symbols seen in the territories of Vietnam and/or Laos from January 27, 1973 to the present.
  4. All electronic messages containing individual code numbers issued to US airmen transmitted from the ground in Vietnam and/or Laos from January 27, 1973 to the present.

The Vietnam MIA-POW issue is a sore spot for many veterans and concerned Americans. Why is the Pentagon stonewalling our attempts to obtain information that is clearly in the public interest?


Is Maxine Waters Fit to Chair House Financial Services Committee?

Maxine Waters is a controversial congressman from California and will have new power with Democrats gaining control of the House of Representatives.  Our Corruption Chronicles blog takes a look at why that ought to be concerning:

Considering her record and documented history of poor ethical and moral fitness, it’s outrageous that Maxine Waters is up for chair of the ultra-powerful House Financial Services Committee, which has jurisdiction over the country’s banking system, economy, housing, and insurance. With Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives, come January the 14-term California congresswoman is expected to head the committee, which also has jurisdiction over monetary policy, international finance, and efforts to combat terrorist financing.

Throughout her storied political career, Waters has been embroiled in numerous controversies, including abusing her power to enrich family members, getting a communist dictator to harbor a cop-murdering Black Panther fugitive still wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and accusing the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of selling crack cocaine in black neighborhoods. A few months ago, the 80-year-old Democrat from Los Angeles encouraged violence against Trump administration cabinet members. “If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them and you tell them they are not welcome anymore, anywhere,” Waters said at a summer rally in Los Angeles. Judicial Watch filed a House ethics complaint against Waters for encouraging violence against Trump Cabinet members.

Among her most corrupt acts as a federal legislator is steering millions of federal bailout dollars to her husband’s failing bank, OneUnited. Waters allocated $12 million to the Massachusetts bank in which she and her board member husband held shares. OneUnited ended up stiffing American taxpayers and will probably never repay the bailout money. Judicial Watch investigated the scandal and obtained documents from the U.S. Treasury related to the controversial bailout. The famously remiss House Ethics Committee, which is charged with investigating and punishing corrupt lawmakers like Waters, found that she committed no wrongdoing. The panel bought Waters’ absurd story that she allocated the money as part of her longtime work to promote opportunity for minority-owned businesses and lending in underserved communities even though her husband’s bank was located thousands of miles away from the south Los Angeles neighborhoods she represents in Congress.

The reality is that without intervention by Waters OneUnited was an extremely unlikely candidate for a government bailout through the disastrous Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). The Treasury Department warned that it would only provide bailout funds to healthy banks to jump-start lending and OneUnited clearly didn’t meet that criteria. Documents uncovered by Judicial Watch detail the deplorable financial condition of OneUnited at the time of the government cash infusion. The records also show that, prior to the bailout, the bank received a “less than satisfactory rating.” Incredibly, after that scandal Waters was chosen by her colleagues to hold a ranking position on the House Financial Services Committee she will soon chair. The only consequence for blowing $12 million on her husband’s failing bank was a slap on the hand to Waters’ chief of staff (her grandson) for violating House standards of conduct to help OneUnited.

Waters, who represents some of Los Angeles’ poorest inner-city neighborhoods, has also helped family members make more than $1 million through business ventures with companies and causes that she has helped, according to her hometown newspaper. While she and her relatives get richer (she lives in a $4.5 million Los Angeles mansion), her constituents get poorer. The congresswoman was also embroiled in a fundraising scandal for skirting federal election rules with a shady gimmick that allows unlimited donations from certain contributors. Instead of raising most of her campaign funds from individuals or political action committees, Waters sells her endorsement to other politicians and political causes for as much as $45,000 a pop.

It wouldn’t be right to part without also noting some of Waters’ international accolades. She has made worldwide headlines for her frequent trips to communist Cuba to visit her convicted cop-assassin friend, Joanne Chesimard, who appears on the FBI’s most wanted list and is also known by her Black Panther name of Assata Shakur. Chesimard was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted by a jury of the 1979 murder of a New Jersey State Trooper. With the help of fellow cult members, she escaped from jail and fled to Cuba. Outraged U.S. lawmakers insisted she be extradited but Waters always stood by her side, likening the cop-assassin to civil rights leader Martin Luther King. In fact, Waters wrote Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro a letter to assure him that she was not part of the group of U.S. legislators who voted for a resolution to extradite the cop murderer. Waters told Castro that she opposed extradition because Chesimard was “politically persecuted” in the U.S. and simply seeking political asylum in Havana, where she still lives.

In the 1980s Waters accused the CIA of selling crack cocaine to blacks in her south-central Los Angeles district to raise millions of dollars to support clandestine operations in Latin America, including a guerrilla army. During the infamous 1992 Los Angeles riots the congresswoman repeatedly excused the violent behavior that ironically destroyed the areas she represents in the House. She dismissed the severe beating of a white truck driver by saying the anger in her district was righteous. She also excused looters who stole from stores by saying they were simply mothers capitalizing on an opportunity to take some milk, bread, and shoes.

Should this ethically and morally challenged individual, who has repeatedly displayed behavior unbecoming of a federal lawmaker, be at the helm of an influential congressional committee that oversees the financial sector?


Until next week …