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.
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