Tag Archives: FOIA

Summer Part 2: August Agony!!! Looking Back: August 3: Mick Mollifies Big Spenders

Business Insider reported that Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney is reneging on promises to even marginally address the perilous finances of the United States.

mick mulvaney

If you can’t take the heat, give the big-government filth everything they demand and crawl home without your testicles.

While Mulvaney had previously promised he would demand spending cuts in exchange for “raising the debt ceiling” (a near-annual occurrence in which the Feds stare down our unprecedented $20,000,000,000,000 national debt, shrug, and pretend we’re solvent by simply increasing the amount of cheddar the Feds themselves may borrow–backed by taxpayers–without any significant reform in spending to even dent the $250 billion we pay in annual interest), he now advocates a “clean” increase. This just means we’ll keep spending beyond our means, but with a bipartisan consensus that our children should inherit at least one year of our GDP in financial obligations.

It’s all quite confusing, because:

The debt limit, the level of outstanding debt the federal government is allowed to carry, was technically hit in March. Since then, the Treasury Department has been using “extraordinary measures” to prevent a breach of the limit. The department has said Congress must pass a bill to increase the limit by the end of September to avoid a breach.

[our emphasis]

While Trump threw a transient bone to the fiscal conservative crowd shortly after his election by imposing a federal “hiring freeze,” that minuscule measure towards fiscal sanity was abandoned not even three months later. By…Mulvaney:

Summer Part 1: Stories We Shelved!!! April 11–Federal “Thaw”

Even more willing to live beyond our means is Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who made news for all the wrong reasons on August 21 by reportedly using a government jet to travel to Kentucky for front row seats in viewing the SOLAR ECLIPSE.

Mnuchin was delivering a scheduled speech alongside Senate Majority Leader Sellout Mitch McConnell (who actually hails from Kentucky and might be able to justify billing his citizens for a ticket out of D.C.)

Mnuchin might have gotten away with the alleged waste of taxpayer dollars, too, except his wife, Louise Linton, got on the Instagram to brag about the brands she was wearing on the excursion. Her selfie captured the jet in the background:

Watchdog requests documents about Mnuchin and wife's Ky. trip timed with eclipse

Linton responded to the haters, who were justifiably wondering why a luxurious lap in a federal jet was necessary for a famous actress estimated to be worth $300 million to view a three-minute natural phenomenon, with:

“Pretty sure the amount we sacrifice per year is a lot more than you’d be willing to sacrifice if the choice was yours. You’re adorably out of touch.”

Although she later apologized for her behavior, Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (who for some reason acronymed themselves as “CREW”) have filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for any records of Mnuchin’s government-funded travel up to and including the eclipse excursion since he took office.

In related news, USA Today noted in February that fiscal year 2016 was a boon for taxpayer-funded government travel. Congressional records estimate they spent at least $14.7 million from the little people, which would be 27% more than in f.y. 2015.

Mnuchin’s own Treasury, however, estimated it was actually nearly $20 million. Treasury got their data from the State Department, and both outfits refused to explain the increase.

Using the $20 million figure, f.y. 2016 represents the highest government travel amount ever recorded, and includes 557 trips by Congress and their staffers that cost at least $10,000 per person.

Thanks to our sources:

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/trumps-budget-director-caved-one-202231113.html

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/347713-watchdog-requests-documents-about-mnuchin-and-wifes-trip-to-ky-theres

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/27/taxpayers-fund-first-class-congressional-foreign-travel-boom-overseas/98351442/

Comey to Convocate and Cash In

Former FBI Director James Comey (below) has scored a lucrative part-time lecture position at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Former FBI Director James Comey has accepted a part-time position at Howard University this year, where he'll be delivering a series of lectures 

Comey will refund his $100,000 haul from the “Gwendolyn S. and Colbert I. King Endowed Chair in Public Policy” position to offer scholarships to students from foster homes entering the historically black university.

The first appearance for the much-maligned 2016 Trump victory architect will be the September convocation for students.

The ensuing five lecture topics “will be decided after the ex-FBI chief converses with student leaders and other campus stakeholders.”

FBI Rapes More Phones (Continued)

Meanwhile, in the longstanding tradition of Washington beneficiaries, Time reports:

Comey’s tenure at Howard University will coincide with the release of his widely anticipated book, which is expected to be published in the Spring of 2018.

*

According to Washington Examiner, Comey commanded the trust and approval of colleagues, as documented on score sheets from three years’ worth of FBI “internal memos” released to news organizations for fulfillment of FOIA requests (which the FBI, unlike the State Department, apparently honors).

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 3.81 or higher indicating success, Comey’s subordinates reportedly gave him at least a 3.81 on “nearly every item.” Grade inflation!

Comey received a score of 4.47 from employees when asked to grade the former director on the “trust and confidence” they have in him as a leader. The former FBI director received a 4.48 from subordinates on whether they would work for Comey again, and a 4.22 when asked if he is humble.

[???]

Employees gave Comey a score of 4.38 for being someone more interested in leading than being liked.

[our emphasis]

The scores reportedly dipped slightly this year compared to 2016.

Summer Part 2: August Agony!!! Looking Back: May 9: FBI Director Comey Fired

Summer Part 2: August Agony!!! Looking Back: July 9: James Comey, Rogue Agent

Christopher A Wray DOJ portrait.jpg

Comey was replaced by Christopher Wray (above) at the FBI on August 2. Five Democratic Senators voted against Wray’s confirmation, including Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY).

Al Franken (MN) missed the vote.

Thanks to our sources:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4817250/Comey-takes-position-Howard-University.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490

http://time.com/4912861/james-comey-howard-university-new-position/

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/internal-surveys-show-former-fbi-director-james-comey-enjoyed-broad-support/article/2631748

https://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=115&session=1&vote=00181#position

Summer Part 2: August Agony!!! Looking Back: May 9: FBI Director Comey Fired

You’re fired!!!

Trump unexpectedly dismissed of FBI Director James Comey.

“Today, President Donald J. Trump informed FBI Director James Comey that he has been terminated and removed from office [.] President Trump acted based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”

–White House statement

Related image

Comey.

The announcement reportedly shocked the intelligence community. Comey’s termination was read to him en route to Los Angeles for a recruitment event [as] part of the FBI’s efforts to boost diversity.

Related:

BREAKING: Comey at the Bat

According to Good Morning America, Rosenstein allege[d] that Comey was wrong to later “hold press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation.”

Typically when the FBI decides not to bring charges against someone, it normally does not discuss its decision-making. When Comey held a July 5 news conference explaining why [Hillary] Clinton would not be facing charges but at the same time criticizing her email practices, he cited “intense public interest” as the reason for the exception.

[our emphasis]

As we are all now thoroughly aware, Hillary’s 2016 loss was completely attributed to Comey’s actions,

BREAKING NEWS–PART ONE

a shocking turn of events, given his above-detailed criminal pardon of the beleaguered Secretary of State just two months earlier:

BREAKING NEWS

The Hill:

Both Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recommended Comey’s dismissal, citing “substantial damage” to the FBI’s reputation and credibility under his leadership. 

[…]

At issue, according to a May 9 memo from Rosenstein to Sessions, were Comey’s remarkable public disclosures about Clinton’s conduct. In July, he took the rostrum — without authorization from the Justice Department — to announce that he would not be recommending charges against the former secretary of State.

“I cannot defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken,” Rosenstein wrote in the memo.

[…]

The director “was wrong to usurp the Attorney General’s authority on July 5 and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution,” Rosenstein wrote, because “it is not the function of the director to make such an announcement.”

[our emphasis]

This itself is confounding, because then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch yielded to the FBI’s recommendations for prosecuting the Secret Server after Lynch’s now-infamous ambush by Hillary’s husband on the Phoenix airport tarmac, which many labeled political interference of a criminal investigation.

Rod Rosenstein US Attorney.jpg

Rosenstein (above) was nominated by Trump and confirmed by the Senate to replace Sally Yates, who had been Acting Attorney General (AAG) before her high-profile firing by Trump after 10 days on the job. Rosenstein is now Deputy Attorney General (next in line to lead Justice if Sessions dies). The 52-year-old former U.S. Attorney for Maryland, appointed by the George W. Bush administration, was one of a pair of U.S. Attorneys Trump specifically kept on board. The other was Obama appointee Dana Boente (below), 63, who served as AAG from Yates’ dismissal until Sessions’ confirmation. He has now returned to his former post of U.S. Attorney for Eastern District of Virginia.

Dana Boente.jpg

Per USA Today, Trump recently changed the Justice Department order of succession with a subtle executive order [pun alertin order to undo the executive order of Obama issued just before Trump took over the White House:

The order appears to be the first that Trump has not signed in a public ceremony. It’s dated Thursday — the same day Attorney General Jeff Sessions was sworn in — but was not posted to the White House website until Friday morning. The White House did not explain the discrepancy.

 

[…]

Seven days before he left office, President Obama changed the order of succession without explanation to remove Boente from the list. Obama’s order had listed U.S. attorneys in the District of Columbia, the Northern District of Illinois and the Central District of California.

[our emphasis]

*

U.S. Attorneys for Connecticut Deirdre Daly and Northern District of New York Richard Hartunian were granted “short term reprieves” from the mass exodus of Obama-era Justice appointees in order to “complete 20 years of service” at the Justice Department, according to Politico. This milestone determines how fat a pension check they can suck from the nation’s sapped finances until the end of their days. Both major political parties win when they can share in the spoils confiscated from the little people: it’s a bipartisan thing.

*

Burlington Free Press sued the Feds using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the resignation letters of the 44 other Obama-appointed attorneys general Trump asked to leave (according to the frantic mainstream press, he is the first president to ever do this for a transition change, or something).

USA Today noted Justice found the parting platitudes so “inherently personal” that they should be exempt from release.

But according to public records, the documents were actually withheld because they were never read by Justice.

*

Comey’s recent numbers to Congress on Hillary hack Huma Abedin‘s harried handling of the most qualified presidential candidate ever‘s Secret Server also had to be adjusted.

Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee last week that longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin forwarded “hundreds and thousands” of Clinton’s emails to her then-husband, former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), to print out for Clinton while she was secretary of State.

In fact, the bureau said in a letter sent to the Senate panel Tuesday that only a handful of the 49,000 relevant emails it uncovered on Weiner’s laptop had been forwarded manually. Most of the emails got onto the computer as a result of backups of her Blackberry.

[…]

Abedin, the FBI director testified last week, “appears to have had a regular practice of forwarding emails to [Weiner], for him I think to print out for her so she could then deliver them to the secretary of State.”

[our emphasis]

Secure!!

*

Speaking of the November election, much like Hillary refusing to face her supporters when her defeat by Trump became clear, White House press secretary Sean Spicer bumbled his “face the media” duties following the Comey termination. According to Washington Post, it did not go well:

Was Sessions involved? “That’s something you should ask the Department of Justice,” Spicer said.

Was Rosenstein’s probe part of a larger review of the FBI? “That’s, again, a question that you should ask the Department of Justice,” he said.

Did the president discuss Rosenstein’s findings with Rosenstein? “No, I don’t believe, I don’t know how that sequence went — I don’t know,” he said.

What was the president’s role? “Again, I have to get back to you [stupid phrase alert] on the tick-tock,” he said.

When’s the last time Trump and Comey spoke? “Uh, I don’t know. I don’t know. There’s some — I don’t know. I don’t know,” he said.

What were the three occasions on which the president says Comey assured him that he was not under investigation? “I don’t — we can follow — I can try, yeah,” he said.

How long did the president deliberate? “I don’t, I don’t … I can look at  [what is this guy smoking?] the tick-tock. I know that he was presented with that today. I’m not sure what time,” he said.

Why wasn’t Comey given the news in a personal phone call? “I think we delivered it by hand and by email and that was — and I get it, but you asked me a question and that’s the answer,” he said.

Did Comey’s testimony last week — which contained inaccuracies — influence the decision? “You’d have to ask the Department of Justice. They’re the ones that made the recommendation,” he said.

Why didn’t the president do this months ago? “Again, I would refer you to the Department of Justice,” he said.

Does he know about grand-jury subpoenas that have reportedly been issued in an investigation involving Michael Flynn, Trump’s previous national security adviser? “I’m not — I’m not aware of any,” he said.

Is it true that the president will meet on Wednesday with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov? “We’ll see what the schedule says. I don’t — I just — I’ve been a little tied up.”

The chronology of the Spicer charade is unclear. It sounds like he wasn’t going to make a statement, then made a statement, then [other media outlets were quite clear on this part] literally “hid in the bushes,” before agreeing to a brief interview only in the cover of darkness:

White House press secretary Sean Spicer wrapped up his brief interview with Fox Business from the White House grounds late Tuesday night and then disappeared into the shadows, huddling with his staff near a clump of bushes and then behind a tall hedge.

[…]

After Spicer spent several minutes hidden in the darkness and among the bushes near these sets, Janet Montesi, an executive assistant in the press office, emerged and told reporters that Spicer would answer some questions, as long as he was not filmed doing so. Spicer then emerged.

“Just turn the lights off. Turn the lights off,” he ordered. “We’ll take care of this. … Can you just turn that light off?”

Memes abounded.

Image result for sean spicer hedge

Thanks to our sources:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/09/politics/fbi-james-comey-fired-letter/index.html?sr=twCNN050917fbi-james-comey-fired-letter1110PMVODtopPhoto&linkId=37406591

https://www.yahoo.com/gma/fbi-director-james-comey-fired-215047657–abc-news-topstories.html

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/332613-trump-fires-comey

http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/332660-trump-bombshell-fbis-comey-fired

http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/332608-fbi-corrects-comey-testimony

http://www.politico.com/blogs/under-the-radar/2017/03/us-attorneys-dismissal-236009

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/10/trump-executive-order-obama-justice-department-succession/97752898/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/05/10/as-trump-fired-comey-his-staff-scrambled-to-explain-why/?utm_term=.f75ea0c74d14

Spring Break Blitz: Stories We Sat On!!! February 27–Justice Department and EPA

Associated Press reported that new EPA head Scott Pruitt is under scrutiny for using personal email to communicate official business while Attorney General for Oklahoma, and lying about it to Congress.

A review of Pruitt emails obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request showed a 2014 exchange where the Republican emailed a member of his staff using a personal Apple email account.

Emails released under court order last week in response to a different public records request yielded additional examples where emails were addressed to Pruitt’s private account, including a 2013 exchange with a petroleum industry lobbyist who emailed Pruitt and a lawyer on the attorney general’s staff. That suggests Pruitt made his private email address available to professional contacts outside his office.

It is not illegal in Oklahoma for public officials to use private email as long as they are retained and made available as public records. Pruitt’s use of the private account appears to directly contradict statements he made last month as part of his Senate confirmation.

Pruitt’s deception came from the forward-thinking 2020 presidential hopeful, New Jersey’s Senator Cory Booker in a written inquiry for Pruitt prior to his confirmation hearing. Cabinet nominees apparently respond to written questions for vetting because it is more efficient for the Senate panels to process nominations.

Mr. Booker apparently sought to avoid the confusion caused by both Obama’s Secretary of State and Attorney General, who used personal emails throughout their tenures to flout Freedom of Information Act lawsuits:

Hillary Updates

The FOIA avoidance is especially relevant recently, because the National Security Archive FOIA Audit released March 11 revealed that only 38 out of 99 federal agencies have updated their FOIA regulations in compliance with the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016.

This allows about 60% of our agencies are ignoring the new improvements on FOIA, which require agencies to notify citizens of their right to seek assistance with the FOIA liaison and prohibiting the charge of search or duplication fees when the agency fails to meet the notice requirements and time limits set by existing law.

Oh well.

Interestingly, Elijah Cummings said of the FOIA reform during 2016 floor debate:

“This is a simple improvement that every agency should adopt, and I look forward to working with Chairman [Jason] Chaffetz [R-Utah] in the years ahead on such commonsense [sic] reforms.”

[our emphasis]

Cummings Not Going

Let’s see if the career criminal Cummings holds his own future moves to the same standard of transparency.

The Hill:

Booker […] asked Pruitt whether he had ever conducted state business using personal email accounts. Pruitt responded: “I use only my official OAG email address and government issued phone to conduct official business.”

[…]

AP and other news organizations reported last week that 7,500 pages of emails released following a lawsuit filed by a left-leaning advocacy group showed Pruitt and his staff in Oklahoma coordinated closely on legal strategy with fossil-fuel companies and special interest groups working to undermine federal efforts to curb planet-warming carbon emissions.

The emails were released after an Oklahoma judge ruled that Pruitt had been illegally withholding his correspondence, which is public record under state law, for the last two years.

[…]

Pruitt’s use of private email was first reported earlier this month by FOX 25 television of Oklahoma City.

The Hill notes that Republicans rammed through Pruitt’s confirmation vote earlier in February prior to the release of the emails. Senator Booker joined all but two of his fellow Democrats in voting against Pruitt, who was confirmed 52-46.

FILE - In this Feb. 21, 2017 file photo Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks in Washington. Pruitt occasionally used private email to communicate with staff while serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general, despite telling Congress that he always used a state email account for government business. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Pruitt.

***

The Pruitt predicament is interesting, because it was only one month ago (January 26) that…

Outgoing DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and three other officials fought Obama-appointed US District Court Judge Randolph Moss‘s order to preserve their emails for public record.

Conservative group Judicial Watch was conducting a Freedom of Information Act investigation of Johnson and his lackeys using private emails on government computers. Judge Moss declared the emails should be copied for official record for “an abundance of caution.” Just in case Johnson wanted to delete them. Like Hillary.

Politico:

“DHS’s present understanding is that the former officials are not independently aware of how to transfer e-mails from a web-based account (i.e., Gmail) to a thumb drive and that DHS information technology staff who were consulted did not have any particular knowledge about how to transfer the e-mails, either,” Justice Department attorneys wrote.

The filing suggests the ex-officials and DHS staff are also unsure about how to copy part of the private emails archives, since the suit sought only work-related emails between certain dates in 2013 and 2015.

If Moss won’t lift his order, the Justice Department asked that he let the officials move the messages to encrypted DVDs instead of thumb drives or hard drives.

As brilliant and dedicated as our “public servants” are, moving an email to a thumb drive is apparently beyond their capabilities. But burning “Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde” on a DVD? Easy.

As we have referenced above, disgraced ex-Attorney General Eric Holder deliberately used the email alias Lew Alcindor for official government proceedings to shield his official communications from FOIA lawsuits.

*

For all the missteps and truly troubling actions of his nascent leadership, Trump appeared to actually propose meaningful conservative budget reforms this week, reducing spending for State Department and EPA in a budget draft. The Hill:

The Trump administration is proposing a 37 percent spending cut for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), according to multiple reports.

U.S. officials say the suggested decrease would likely require laying off employees, including security contractors at diplomatic facilities overseas, The Associated Press said Tuesday.

[…]

The agencies together received $50.1 billion during the current fiscal year, it added, a little more than 1 percent of the total federal budget.

Career Republicans in Washington whose careers depend on lavishing their constituents’ money (which they exhausted $20 trillion ago) were not pleased.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday said he would oppose drastic cuts to the State Department. 

“Probably not,” he said when asked if Congress could pass a 37 percent reduction at the department, according to Fox News.

The leaked EPA budget proposal suggested Trump will cut spending by 24% (a reduction of $2 billion to $6.1 billion), possibly reducing the EPA “work”force by about 20% to “only” 12,000 employees.

Pathetic presidential hopeful, carpet-bombing and corporate welfare advocate Lindsey  Graham had equally strong reservations as McConnell on the proposal.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Tuesday said Trump’s reported plans for his first budget were “dead on arrival.”

“It’s not going to happen,” he said, according to NBC News. “It would be a disaster. A budget this lean would put those who serve overseas for the State Department at risk. And it’s not going to happen.”

Ex-Im Bank Updates

The Trump budget will reportedly not touch the entitlement spending that is financially dooming everyone who does not die in the next 20 years.

Defense spending will increase by $54,000,000,000. That amount will be cut from non-defense spending.

As a reminder, the earlier full Trump budget proposal increased the national debt by $9,700,000,000,000 over the next 10 years. Rand Paul was the only Republican to vote against it.

*

Washington Free Beacon had some damning juice on the EPA this week as well.

Environmental Protection Agency employees used their government purchase cards to spend $14,985 on fitness memberships, according to an audit by the inspector general of the agency.

[…]

Three other transactions [from the audit] were made to vendors who were considered high risk[.]

[…]

Auditors also noted that this is not the first time the agency did not have adequate oversight of the purchase-card program. In March of 2014, the inspector general released a report noting that of the $152,602 in transactions that they evaluated, $79,254 went to purchases that were prohibited, improper, or erroneous.

[Less than 50% of sampled spending was allowed…that’s success, right?]

After the most recent findings, the inspector general said that the risk for the purchase-card program “is high enough to warrant an audit.”

The EPA did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

All emphasis is ours.

Thanks to our sources:

http://www.politico.com/blogs/under-the-radar/2017/01/justice-department-dhs-officials-emails-234253

http://freebeacon.com/issues/epa-purchase-card-fitness-memberships/

https://www.yahoo.com/news/records-show-epas-pruitt-used-private-email-despite-203908715–politics.html

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/321605-trump-pitches-37-percent-cut-to-state-budget-reports

http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/news/20170311-2017-FOIA-Audit-shows-3-in-5-Agencies-Failed-to-Follow-New-FOIA-Law-Instructions/

FOIA Reform Adopted after Years-Long Battle