Clean House at Justice Department
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has resigned, bringing an end to his controversial tenure as the nation’s top law enforcement officer. He advanced some significant policy advances for the rule of law, but made a terrible mistake in recusing himself needlessly from the so-called Russia investigation. This led to the abusive, unconstitutional Mueller special counsel investigation of President Trump. Frankly, President Trump has been terribly victimized by Justice Department and FBI corruption.
And disappointingly, the Justice Department under AG Sessions was a black hole in terms of transparency. It covered up institutional misconduct and, unbelievably, went out of its way to defend misconduct by Hillary Clinton and other Obama administration officials.
I hope transparency and rooting out corruption and abuse becomes the focus of any new attorney general.
Now that President Trump has removed AG Sessions and appointed Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general, the new DOJ leadership should end the abusive Mueller investigation and finally do a serious prosecution of Clinton’s email crimes and other misconduct.
In the meantime, your Judicial Watch will continue its independent oversight of the Justice Department through its myriad Freedom of Information Act lawsuits on Deep State abuses.
Of the many bizarre corruption stories in Congress, one of the strangest was the IT scandal in the House of Representatives on the Democratic side of the aisle. This scandal is of heightened public interest now that Democrats have gained control of the House.
As is often the case when the government refuses to fully investigate itself, we have stepped in, filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Justice Department for all records of communications relating to the investigation into former Democratic information technology (IT) staffers Abid Awan, Imran Awan, Jamal Awan and Hina R. Alvi (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:18-cv-02563)).
Imran Awan and his family were banned from the House computer network in February 2017 after the House’s top law enforcement officer wrote that Imran is “an ongoing and serious risk to the House of Representatives, possibly threatening the integrity of our information systems,” and that a server containing evidence had gone “missing.” The inspector general said server logs showed “unauthorized access” and procurement records were falsified.
Imran Awan was Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s top information technology aide. Most lawmakers fired Awan in February, but Wasserman Schultz kept him on until he was arrested in July, trying to board a flight for Pakistan.
Imran Awan was allowed a plea deal. He pleaded guilty to federal bank fraud, but prosecutors found no evidence that Awan “violated federal law with respect to the House computer systems.”
Color us skeptical that DOJ conducted a full investigation.
“Frankly when it comes to crimes with a political component, I fear the Justice Department is going to fear to tread. And because of the political nature of what went on (with the Awan family) they’re not going to push the House … and I fear that the Justice Department will be fearful of raising these issues with the House for fear of embarrassing the leadership of both parties … and that’s something we need to push the Justice Department on. That they don’t under-charge or under-investigate this for fear of the consequences that will happen if they push further and find something that no one wants to find, which is a national security threat at our breast here in the House.”
That is why Judicial Watch sued after the FBI failed to respond adequately to two FOIA requests.
The FBI claimed it could neither confirm nor deny records related to the first request, filed on May 26, 2017, seeking:
- All records related to any investigations or preliminary investigations involving former congressional IT support staffers Abid Awan, Imran Awan, Jamal Awan, and Hina R. Alvi. As part of this request, searches should of records [sic] should include, but not be limited to, the FBI automated indices, its older manual indices, and its Electronic Surveillance (ELSUR) Data Management System (EDMS), as well as cross-referenced files.
- All records of communication sent to or from FBI employees, officials or contractors involving the subjects in bullet item 1.
The timeframe for the requested records is May 2015 to the present.
Further, the FBI claimed that records related to a July 3, 2018, FOIA request were located in an investigative file and exempt from disclosure. That request sought:
- All records related to any investigations or preliminary investigations involving former congressional IT support staffers Abid Awan, Imran Awan, Jamal Awan, Hina R. Alvi and Rao Abbas. As part of this request, searches of records should include, but not be limited to, the FBI automated indices, its older manual indices, and its Electronic Surveillance (ELSUR) Data Management System (EDMS), as well as cross-referenced files.
- All records of communications, including but not limited to emails (whether on .gov or non-.gov email accounts), text messages, instant chats or messages on the Lync system, sent to or from FBI employees, officials or contractors involving the Awan brothers, Ms. Alvi and Mr. Abbas. Records of communications searched should include but not be limited to those between FBI officials, employees and contractors and officials with the Capitol Police, the Office of the Inspector General of the House, and the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer of the House.
It’s time for the full truth to come out about the House Democrat IT scandal, especially with the impending change of power in the House. Let’s hope the new leadership at the DOJ will bring transparency to this case, as well as many other pending FOIA investigations.
President Trump is aware of this strange situation. On June 7, 2018, he tweeted, “Our Justice Department must not let Awan & Debbie Wasserman Schultz off the hook. The Democrat I.T. scandal is a key to much of the corruption we see today. They want to make a “plea deal” to hide what is on their Server. Where is Server? Really bad!”
“Really bad” is right and Judicial Watch aims to get more of the truth about this major congressional scandal.
Judicial Watch Sues for Docs on Influence Peddling Scandal At Energy Department
Michael Cohen was a personal lawyer for President Trump from 2006 until President Trump fired him in May 2018, a month after a federal investigation of Cohen became widely public. On August 21, 2018, Cohen pled guilty to eight counts of campaign finance violations, tax fraud, and bank fraud.
Coincidentally, we have also been looking into a questionable deal involving Cohen, the Energy Department and an investor in a nuclear plant project.
We have filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy for all records of communications relating to Michael Cohen and the application for a $5 billion federal loan guarantee for the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Energy (No. 1:18-cv-02208)). Cohen, who was reportedly offered a $10 million “success fee” and paid a monthly retainer for his efforts on behalf of the Alabama nuclear-power project, never registered as a federal lobbyist.
The suit was filed after the Department of Energy failed to respond to an August 22, 2018, FOIA request for:
- All records of communications between the Department of Energy (DOE), including oral communications, and Michael Cohen relating to the loan application for the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant.
- All records of communications between the DOE and Michael Cohen in relation to any other loan application.
- A copy of and all records related to the application of Nuclear Development, LLC for a loan application relating to the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant in Alabama.
- A full and complete copy of DOE’s response to an August 9, 2018, letter to Secretary Perry from Senator Ed Markey regarding Franklin Haney, Nuclear Development, LLC, and Michael Cohen.
On August 2, 2018, The Wall Street Journal reported that Franklin D. Haney, “a major donor to President Trump agreed to pay $10 million to the president’s then-personal attorney [Michael Cohen] if he successfully helped obtain funding for a nuclear-power project, including a $5 billion loan from the U.S. government …” The contract reportedly was given to Cohen “in early April to assist his efforts to complete a pair of unfinished nuclear reactors in Alabama, known as the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant …”
On August 10, 2018, the Washington Examiner reported:
“Cohen was also given a retainer payment for each month of lobbying on top of the $10 million ‘success fee’ for gaining final approval of a $5 billion loan guarantee from the Energy Department. Cohen had made calls in the spring to the Energy Department to see if there was any way to speed up the approval process. The agreement between Haney and Cohen was reportedly rescinded, but Markey says the issue warrants further investigation to examine the integrity of the loan guarantee program that Perry oversees.”
Mr. Cohen may have broken basic lobbying disclosure and other laws in setting up a deal to advocate for a loan guarantee from the Energy Department. It is disappointing that the Energy Department is giving us the run around on this simple request, forcing us to go to federal court.
Government Warning: Narco-Terrorism will Worsen Under New Leftist Leader
Mexico held an election this year, too – on July 1 – and the result is not good for the United States, as our Corruption Chronicles blog reports. Our border is about to get a lot more dangerous.
The overwhelming majority of illegal drugs in the United States already come from Mexico, and Mexican traffickers are the greatest criminal threat to the nation, but things are about to get worse when Mexico’s new leftwing president takes over. His name is Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known popularly as AMLO), he opposes hardline anti-drug policies and believes in amnesty for drug war criminals.
A State Department document obtained by Judicial Watch warns that Obrador, who takes over on December 1, will seek to decriminalize marijuana and poppy cultivation early in his term. He will also end Mexican military intervention in the drug war and pardon some drug offenders, according to the document which was issued recently by the agency’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security and is titled “Mexico’s Drug War & AMLO” and subtitled “Crime; Drug Trafficking; Narco-Terrorism.”
Narco-violence and cartel-associated crime is already one of most dangerous threats against U.S. private-sector interests in Mexico, according to the State Department, and Obrador’s new policies will only worsen the crisis. “The promised amnesty deal with organized criminal groups and the pledge to investigate and prosecute corrupt politicians, many of whom are in business with the cartels, prompts concern about increased impunity for violent offenders,” the new memo states.
It identifies “hot spots” for Mexican Criminal and Narco-Violence and reveals that the drug war and cartel infighting has caused severe, nationwide security repercussions. Five Mexican states (Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa, and Tamaulipas) have such high levels of violence that the U.S. government warns against travel. Common crimes include homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery. “In these states, gang activity, including gun battles, is widespread,” the State Department writes. “Criminal organizations operate freely and sometimes with impunity. Local law enforcement has limited capability to respond to violence in many parts of these states, as criminal organizations have laid territorial claim to significant portions of the region.”
In 2017, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) handled 116 kidnappings in Mexico, 81 for ransoms, and during the 2018 general elections there were 774 attacks against politicians. More than 150 politicians were killed in the attacks, the State Department reveals, and 371 non-elected officials. On election day alone, 138 assaults were reported in Mexico and seven politicians were murdered, compared to nine during the entire 2012 election season. Clearly, our neighbor to the south is a perpetually unstable, crime-infested cesspool. Intra-cartel violence remains the most prevalent type of crime much like an outlaw society taken over by thugs.
“Although Mexico employs strict gun-control laws, criminals are often armed with guns, which has resulted in the increase of homicide incidents in Mexico,” according to the State Department memo. “While most of these homicides appeared to be targeted, criminal organization assassinations, turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens. Shooting incidents injuring or killing bystanders have occurred. In some states, members of these groups frequently maintain roadblocks and may use violence towards travelers.”
It’s difficult to imagine that the Mexican crisis will worsen in a few weeks. For years a variety of government audits have documented that the overwhelming majority of illegal drugs in the U.S. come from Mexico and Mexican traffickers remain the greatest criminal threat to the country. A recent one that comes to mind is the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment proclaiming that Mexican cartels are in a class of their own, that “no other group can challenge them in the near term.” The government classifies them as Transitional Criminal Organizations (TCOs) and they smuggle in enormous quantities of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana. We’re talking about sophisticated operations that have been smuggling huge amounts of illicit drugs into the U.S. for some time.
It doesn’t end there. The DEA has confirmed that major Mexican cartels are actually operating in the United States. They include the Beltran-Leyva Organization (BLO), New Generation Jalisco Cartel (Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación or CJNG) the Los Cuinis, Gulf Cartel (Cartel del Golfo or CDG), Juarez Cartel, Michoacán Family (La Familia Michoacána or LFM), Knights Templar (Los Caballeros Templarios or LCT), Los Zetas, and the renowned Sinaloa Cartel.
Mexican drug cartels have long benefitted from our susceptible southern border and the situation is more serious than ever because traffickers have joined forces with Middle Eastern terrorists to enter the U.S. Years ago Judicial Watch broke a story detailing how smugglers (“coyotes”) working for the Juárez Cartel help move ISIS terrorists through the desert and across the border between Santa Teresa and Sunland Park, New Mexico. To the east of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, cartel-backed “coyotes” also smuggle ISIS terrorists through the porous border between Acala and Fort Hancock, Texas. Judicial Watch’s high-level government sources say these specific areas were targeted for exploitation by ISIS because of their understaffed municipal and county police forces and the relative safe-havens the areas provide for the unchecked large-scale drug smuggling that was already ongoing.
EDITORS NOTE: This column with images is republished with permission.