Justice Department Blacks Out Talking Points on Lynch-Clinton Tarmac Meeting
We have begun to see how the Trump administration responds over time to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) queries, especially our requests regarding shady dealings in the Obama administration. We aren’t encouraged. One must wonder if Obama holdovers at the Department of Justice (DOJ) are still calling the shots, or whether President Trump’s appointees simply don’t care about battling government corruption and enforcing the rule law.
Here are the particulars.
The DOJ has refused to disclose the talking points developed by the Obama Justice Department to respond to press inquiries about the controversial June 27, 2016, tarmac meeting between Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
The DOJ heavily redacted the documents under FOIA Exemption b (5), which allows agencies to withhold draft or deliberative process material. The blacked-out material centers on talking points drafted and used by Justice. The agency produced 417 pages of documents in response to our FOIA lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:17-cv-00421) for:
- All records and/or transcripts of a meeting held between Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton in June 2016.
- All records of communication sent to or from officials in the Office of the Attorney General regarding the meeting held between Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton in June 2016.
- All records of communication sent to or from officials in the Office of the Deputy Attorney General regarding the meeting held between Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton in June 2016.
- All references to the meeting held between Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton contained in day planners, calendars and schedules in the Office of the Attorney General.
One email exchange shows that Former Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik was brought in to assist with public relations issues on June 28, 2016, the day after the tarmac meeting. (Kadzik is a longtime friend of John Podesta and a Hillary Clinton donor, who was criticized as being conflicted when he was assigned as the Justice Department attorney to oversee the probe of Hillary Clinton’s and her aide Huma Abedin’s emails found on Anthony Wiener’s computer.)
Melanie Newman, director of the Justice Department Public Affairs Office, sent an email to Richard P. Quinn, former national security assistant special agent, and Michael P. Kortan, who is currently the assistant director for Public Affairs for the FBI, advising them she wanted to “flag a story” about “a casual, unscheduled meeting between former President Bill Clinton and the AG.” And she provides the AG’s talking points.
Lynch met privately with former President Bill Clinton on board a parked plane in Phoenix. The meeting occurred during the then-ongoing investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s email server, and only a few days before she was interviewed by the FBI. Lynch later admitted that the meeting with Bill Clinton “cast a cloud” over the Justice Department/FBI investigation.
A week after the tarmac meeting, FBI Director James Comey called Hillary Clinton’s actions “extremely careless” but did not recommend charges, and Attorney General Lynch ended the criminal investigation.
It is jaw-dropping that the Trump administration is blacking out key information about how the Obama Justice Department tried to spin Loretta Lynch’s scandalous meeting with Bill Clinton. President Trump should order the full and immediate release of these materials. In the meantime, our lawyers will work overtime to consider the option of persuading the courts to order the release of the information about this scandal.
Abedin Emails Contained Classified Information and Reveal Pay-to-Play
Can you think of a secretary of state of either party who flagrantly sold influence in the manner of Hillary Clinton?
When will those we rely upon in Washington to enforce the rule of law hold her to account?
In the meantime, thanks to your Judicial Watch, the evidence steadily accumulates and has long reached a critical mass requiring law enforcement action.
In fact, we just released 1,606 pages of documents from the U.S. Department of State revealing repeated use of unsecured communications for classified information and numerous examples of Clinton Foundation donors receiving special favors from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s staff.
The documents, containing emails from the unsecure, non-government account of Huma Abedin, Clinton’s then-deputy chief of staff, also show Clinton or her staff expressing interest in visiting Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez and North Korean dictator Kim Jung II.
The documents included 91 Clinton email exchanges not previously turned over to the State Department, bringing the known total to date to at least 530 emails that were not part of the 55,000 pages of emails that Clinton turned over to the State Department, and further contradicting a statement by Clinton that, “as far as she knew,” all of her government emails had been turned over to the State Department.
The documents were obtained in response to a court order from our May 5, 2015, lawsuit against the State Department (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:15-cv-00684)) after it failed to respond to our March 18, 2015, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for: “All emails of official State Department business received or sent by former Deputy Chief of Staff Huma Abedin from January 1, 2009 through February 1, 2013 using a non-‘state.gov’ email address.”
Several emails contain classified information:
- On March 12, 2009, Sid Blumenthal, former aide to Bill Clinton and confidant of Hillary Clinton, sent Mrs. Clinton a memo about Northern Ireland that is classified CONFIDENTIAL, and the details were withheld from release under FOIA Exemption 4 (D) (dealing with foreign relations or foreign activities).
- On February 27, 2009, Ambassador Melanne Verveer sent Clinton a briefing memo/email on discussions she held with Congolese officials, which was classified as CONFIDENTIAL and withheld under FOIA exemption B1.4(D).
- On January 22, 2010, Deputy Chief of Staff Jake Sullivan sent an email about a call to Chinese Foreign Minister Yang to several State Department officials. It contained information classified as CONFIDENTIAL by State and exempted under FOIA Exemption B1.4(D). It was forwarded to Abedin’s unsecure email account. The email had an attached memorandum of the Clinton-Yang call. State Department official Courtney Beale subsequently tells Assistant Secretary Todd Stern that she had sent that memo previously to him on the “high side” [i.e., via secure email channels].
- On August 20, 2010, State Department official Laura Lucas sent to Abedin’s unclassified email account a call sheet for Clinton with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos, which contained classified CONFIDENT
IAL information that was withheld based on B1.4(D).
A number of emails show the free flow of information and requests for favors between Clinton’s State Department and the Clinton Foundation and major Clinton donors:
- For example, Howard Buffett, Jr., grandson of Warren Buffet, sought a meeting for his father, Howard Sr., with Hillary Clinton to discuss “food security.” The Buffett family, including Warren, his son Peter, and his late wife, Susan, through the Susan Buffett Foundation, all donated heavily to the Clintons and the Clinton Foundation. On behalf of Howard Buffett Jr., Bill Clinton aide Ben Schwerin asked Abedin to get Howard Buffett Sr. a meeting with Clinton. He says, “Any chance of a brief meeting?” Abedin replies, “we will take care of this.”
- In another example, on April 12, 2009, Miguel Lausell, a Puerto Rican telecom executive who reportedly
donated $1 million to the Clinton Presidential Library and was a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, made a request of Abedin through Clinton Foundation executive Doug Band to push for the appointment of someone to become US ambassador to the Dominican Republic. Lausell concludes: “I will be in DC from the 7th to the 9th and would like if possible to say hello to hillary Please let me know.It would be just a short visit and not to ask anything from her.Just hello.” [Errors in original]
- On April 3, 2009, Kelly Craighead, who at the time was Managing Director of Democracy Alliance, a controversial left-wing fundraising organization, emailed Abedin and Capricia Marshall, former Executive Director of HillPAC and Friends of Hillary, asking them to “reach out” to someone who was an “extremely loyal supporter” and was waiting to hear about a senior position at the State Department. Marshall responds to Craighead, saying the person was “on everyone’s list/grid” and directed her aides to follow up.
A year later, in April 2010, Craighead contacted Abedin again, asking for assistance in landing a job for someone at State: “It would mean a lot to me if you could help or advise on a personnel situation for a dear friend.” Abedin replies, “We love [Redacted]. Looking into this asap.” The Washington Free Beacon described Craighead’s Democracy Alliance as “a clearinghouse that connects liberal billionaires to a select group of endorsed organizations, such as the Center for American Progress and the pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA, without threat of disclosure.” The Beacon also noted Craighead was implicated in a federal investigation of Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign fundraising scandal.
- On March 15, 2010, event planner Bryan Rafanelli, who was a 2016 Hillblazerand, according to Politico, had a company that was paying $1,200 a month rent for unused office space to Hillary Clinton’s defunct presidential campaign in 2010, got a private White House tour for friends arranged by Abedin.
Other emails show a lax attitude toward the security of communications:
- At least one senior State Department official refused to send a classified documentto Abedin’s account. Joseph E. MacManus, then-executive assistant to the secretary, told Abedin that a draft outline paper of Richard Holbrooke’s goals for a Pakistan trip “is classified so it cannot go by blackberry email.” As a result, MacManus sent the document through classified channels.
- Clinton signed the document and gave it to her communications people to transmit. But the communications team, wanting to send it by secure channels, waited till the following day to send it. That delay caused Cheryl Mills to inquire about the delay, which produced an abject apology by State Department official Daniel Smith to Mills: “I’m very sorry about what happened and that we all let the Secretary down.”
- On April 16, 2009, Clinton aide Lona Valmoro asked Abedin if Clinton wanted to skip a meeting on “cyber security” in favor of a meeting on “Global Philanthropy.” Valmoro adds: “Jen said that Rice [presumably Condoleezza] rarely went to these, FYI.”
- On April 23, 2010, Abedin tried to set up a secure call for Clinton with Dennis [last name unknown], but it didn’t connect, and Clinton said, “We’ve now tried twice to go secure and lost both calls.” After Abedin tells her she had tested the secure line, Clinton says “We finally gave up and talked in code nonsecure.”
- Billionaire J.B. Pritzker emailed Band on March 21, 2009, asking him to forward the email to Clinton “via a non-govt email account.” The email, addressed to Abedin, references President Obama’s treatment of Netanyahu and Clinton’s speech the next day at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference and warns that there is “lots of deep concern at Obama (even all the Dems here) … I know it seems obvious, but during the presentationtomorrow I suggest focusing on Iran, Iran, and Iran.” Pritzker attaches an article by Lloyd Grove entitled “Jewish Anger: Will There Be Historic Break from the Dems?” Band forwards the email to Abedin without comment.
The same night Abedin emailed Clinton, saying, “pir [Philippe Reines] mentioned that if you plan to call potus tonite or tomorrow, he wants to leak it.”
- On February 12, 2010, Abedin emailed Cooper, who helped administer Clinton’s non-government email server, about a fax she sent for Clinton with information about upcoming foreign dignitary calls. Cooper replies, “ I can just print it.” Abedin responds, “Cool. Thank you.” Cooper then says, “Still waitin on secure.” Further on in the exchange, Abedin says, “Sending now.” It appears that Cooper, who was not a State Department employee and did not possess a security clearance, according to the Washington Examiner, was helping troubleshoot a secure fax machine used to transmit government documents to the Secretary of State.
In a follow up email, Abedin tells Cooper “I HATE SECURE FAXES.” Cooper responds, “Its coming in. I cld redesign system in 5 min prob.” Abedin replies, “Uh yeah. You have no idea.”
- On April 16, 2009, State Department staffer Jennifer Davis sent a documentprepared for Clinton by National Security Advisor Tom Donilon to Clinton’s and Abedin’s BlackBerries.
Abedin was unable to read the PDF file on her BlackBerry due to the fine print so diplomat Lewis Lukens asked Davis to send the document to two other State Department officials, Paul and Courtney. Davis replies, “Already sent to Paul (on low-side) [unsecure] … Will send to plane now (on highside) for Paul and Courtney.”
- In a March 20, 2009, advisory email to Clinton, retired General Jack Keane advised her that to conquer the Afghan insurgency, the then-commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan, was “not the leader to get us there.” He concluded his message with “Please keep these scribblings for your eyes only.”
On a number of occasions Hillary Clinton’s daily schedule was shared with the Clinton Foundation:
- On February 9, 2010, Valmoro forwarded Clinton’s sensitive daily schedulefor February 10, 2010, to Clinton Foundation officials. On Feb. 22, 2010, Valmoro forwarded Hillary Clinton’s daily schedule for February 23, 2010, to foundation officials, including Band, Cooper, and Terry Krinvic. On April 4, 2010, Valmoro forwarded the daily schedule for April 5 to foundation officials. And on May 18, 2010, Valmoro again forwarded the schedule for May 19, 2010, to foundation employees.
Two emails show Secretary Clinton or her staff expressing an interest in visiting two brutal dictators.
- On April 18, 2009, Abedin told Senior Advisor Philippe Reines that Clinton had “an encounter” with Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, who “complimented wjc [Bill Clinton], said he hoped she would come to venezuela, she said she hoped so too.” Reines expressed concern, saying “Was the encounter on camera or widely seen?” Abedin responds: “Seen by a dozen people. A photog came in and took a photo at the end.” Reines replies, “Who went up to whom?”
- Veteran diplomat Wendy Sherman sent a message to State officials on February 6, 2009, advising them to send a message to North Korean dictator Kim Jung Il that Hillary Clinton “looks forward to the day when enough progress is made that she can come to NKas well.”
The emails reveal more instances of Tony Rodham seeking to leverage his influence as Clinton’s brother:
- On January 29, 2010, Confidential Assistant Monica Hanley forwarded to Abedin a request from Tony Rodham, on three issues. One involved help on a “green card renewal.” Another involved a visit by someone of which Abedin said they “wanted to regret.” A third involved a job for someone whose CV Rodham forwarded to State. It appears that Tony Rodham was seeking to help someone caught up in a criminal case involving Micheil Saakashvili, the then president of the Republic of Georgia. The Rodham friend was having difficulty getting a green card due to his arrest, which he said was political retribution by Saakashvili. Abedin told Hanley to tell him the request “has been passed to DHS.”
- On March 18, 2010, Rodham sent Hanley the resume of someone looking for a job. Monica passed to Abedin, asking: “Do you want me to call [Redacted] or pass along to WHL [White House Liaison]?” Abedin replies: “Call and find out interests.”
Other emails detail the inner workings of Clinton’s State Department:
- On Apr. 17, 2009, Abedin tells colleagues Valmoro, Andrew Shapiro, Philippe Reines, Mills and Jake Sullivan in an email with the subject line “Aipac” that, “Calls from our friends in the jewish community are now getting ugly. I don’t understand who’s taking charge here.” The reference is likely to a book that had just been released called The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earththat disclosed that the NSA had intercepted former Rep. Jane Harman on the phone about her efforts to intervene with the Bush Administration on behalf of two AIPAC officials being investigated for espionage.
- On September 11, 2010, Blumenthal forwarded an article/audio clip from Think Progress about a Republican congressman arguing that they should force a government shutdown if necessary to cut the “gangrene” out of government. Blumenthal advised Clinton that the White House “should use this on all the Sunday shows” and “Name Boehner. Force Boehner out.”
- On February 26, 2010, noting the absence of Mills and Bill Burns, Clinton tells Abedin that “the whole point” of a photo shoot that day “is to show a team that is diverse in every way. That won’t happen and I am worried about that.”
- On November 14, 2011, Abedin tells Clinton she’s going to have to stay at a “horrible Sheraton,” where President Obama would be staying, and asks if she’s open to another hotel. Clinton responds that “it would be hard not to be in same hotel as POTUS so try to get best option there.”
- On November 30, 2011, Abedin tells Clinton she’ll have to stay at a “second tier hotel” in Burma because “the nice hotel owner was problematic.” The “second tier hotel” room is a suite with “a room nearby large enough to accommodate more people.”
This may seem like a lot of material but the State Department is far from finished producing emails, so there will be more to come.
But there’s plenty already for prosecutors.
Pay-to-play, classified information mishandling, influence peddling, cover ups – these new emails show why the criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s conduct must be resumed. The Trump Justice Department and FBI need to reassure the American people they have finally stopped providing political protection to Hillary Clinton.
Judicial Watch Warns California on Dirty Voting Rolls
We’ve uncovered an election integrity crisis in California.
Judicial Watch lays it all out in a notice-of-violation letter to the state and 11 of its counties threatening to sue in federal court if they do not clean voter registration lists as mandated by the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). Both the NVRA and the federal Help America Vote Act require states to take reasonable steps to maintain accurate voting rolls. Our August 1 letter was sent on behalf of several JW California supporters and the Election Integrity Project California Inc.
In the letter, we noted that public records obtained on the Election Assistance Commission’s 2016 Election Administration Voting Survey and through verbal accounts from various county agencies show that 11 California counties have more registered voters than voting-age citizens: Imperial (102%), Lassen (102%), Los Angeles (112%), Monterey (104%), San Diego (138%), San Francisco (114%), San Mateo (111%), Santa Cruz (109%), Solano (111%), Stanislaus (102%), and Yolo (110%).
We also note that Los Angeles County officials “informed us that the total number of registered voters now stands at a number that is a whopping 144% of the total number of resident citizens of voting age.”
Federal law is clear. Under Section 8 of the NVRA, states are required to make a reasonable effort to remove the names of ineligible voters from official lists due to “the death of the registrant” or “a change in the residence of the registrant,” and requires states to ensure noncitizens are not registered to vote.
In what perhaps is an understatement, our warning letter suggests there is “strong circumstantial evidence that California municipalities are not conducting reasonable voter registration list maintenance as mandated under the NVRA.”
We referred California officials to a settlement agreement we reached with the State of Ohio in which Ohio agreed to update and maintain its voter registration lists and to keep a current voter registration list online and available for public access.
California’s voting rolls are an absolute mess that undermines the very idea of clean elections. It is urgent that California take reasonable steps to clean up its rolls. We will sue if state officials fail to act.
California is hardly unique. In April we sent notice-of-violation letters threatening to sue 11 states having 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.
On July 18 we filed a lawsuit against Montgomery County and the Maryland State Boards of Elections under the NVRA. The lawsuit was filed 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)).
Election Integrity Project California Inc. is a registered nonprofit corporation that seeks to preserve a government of, by, and for the people. To that end, Election Integrity Project California empowers citizen volunteers through education and training to protect the integrity of the electoral process in California.
The director of Judicial Watch’s own 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.
We will be sure to keep you updated on our efforts to promote clean and secure elections.