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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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DOJ Asks to Keep Special Council Jack Smith’s Top Staffers Names Secret

The staff that is targeting former President Donald Trump and other Americans.

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Judicial Watch announced today that the U.S. Department of Justice is asking a federal court to allow the agency to keep secret the names of top staffers working in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s office that is targeting former President Donald Trump and other Americans. Image Sources: Justice.gov and X
Judicial Watch announced today that the U.S. Department of Justice is asking a federal court to allow the agency to keep secret the names of top staffers working in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s office that is targeting former President Donald Trump and other Americans. Image Sources: Justice.gov and X

Judicial Watch

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WASHINGTON, DC – Judicial Watch announced today that the U.S. Department of Justice is asking a federal court to allow the agency to keep secret the names of top staffers working in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s office that is targeting former President Donald Trump and other Americans.

Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit in May 2023 after the Justice Department rejected a December 9, 2022, FOIA request for ”staff rosters, phone lists, or similar records depicting all employees hired by or detailed to office of Special Counsel Jack Smith” (Judicial Watch Inc. v U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:23-cv-01485)).

After months of delay, the Biden Justice Department finally acknowledged on April 12, 2023, that it possessed two staff rosters responsive to Judicial Watch’s request, but, citing a supposed “dearth of FOIA public interest,” was withholding the rosters under privacy and law enforcement exemptions. Judicial Watch explained in its motion that it was only seeking the names of top-level staffers – those at the GS-14 level and above – and did not seek email addresses or phone numbers.

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In its motion, Judicial Watch quotes President Joe Biden’s remarks at a November 9, 2022, White House press conference and provides the background and justification for the FOIA request:

“Well, we just have to demonstrate that [Donald Trump] will not take power – if we – if he does run. I’m making sure he, under legitimate efforts of our Constitution, does not become the next President again.” – President Joe Biden

On November 18, 2022, [three days after Trump announced he would run for president again in 2024], Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Special Counsel Jack Smith to investigate potential criminal wrongdoing by former President Donald J. Trump. The appointment came nine days after President Biden announced his effort to “mak[e] sure” Trump did not become president again. The unprecedented investigation – and now prosecutions – by an incumbent president of his immediate predecessor, opponent in the last election, and leading opponent in the upcoming election raises numerous questions about who Special Counsel Smith chose to assist him in this highly charged endeavor. Are these persons opponents or supporters of the former president, aligned with one of the two major political parties, or otherwise biased or conflicted, or are they unbiased, nonpartisan professionals?

Further, the Judicial Watch cites the Fani Willis and the other anti-Trump investigator scandals in explaining the public interest in knowing who is involved in this unprecedented prosecution:

Two recent examples highlight the importance of knowing the identities of the SCO’s staffers. Notorious FBI employees Peter Stzrok and Lisa Page were both members of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of then-President Trump…. Stzrok was the lead FBI investigator assigned to the probe, and Page was a “general attorney” on Special Counsel Mueller’s staff…. During the investigation, it was discovered that Strzok and Page, had exchanged voluminous texts disparaging then-candidate Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, commenting that “we’ll stop” Trump from becoming president, and citing having an “insurance policy” in case he did…. A subsequent report by the U.S. Department of Justice Inspector General was highly critical of the exchanges, noting with respect to the “we’ll stop it” text in particular:

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[W]hen one senior FBI official, Strzok, who was helping to lead the Russia investigation at the time, conveys in a text message to another senior FBI official, Page, “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it” in response to her question “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!”, it is not only indicative of a biased state of mind but, even more seriously, implies a willingness to take official action to impact the presidential candidate’s electoral prospects. This is antithetical to the core values of the FBI and the Department of Justice.

Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis, who also has brought criminal charges against the former president, is now reportedly under investigation herself for allegedly choosing her paramour, Nathan Wade, to lead the prosecution…. Although Wade’s identity was already known, it led to the discovery of new, previously unknown information that bears on the public perception of the prosecution. It helps the public to know “what their government is up to.” This case is no different.

In its motion, Judicial Watch further explains:

Defendant’s argument that disclosing the more-than-one-year-old rosters could reasonably be expected to interfere with the SCO’s work because it could lead to the SCO’s staff being threatened and harassed is entirely conclusory, little more than speculation, and lacks meaningful evidentiary support. It also ignores the fact that the names of at least 23 SCO staffers are readily available from public sources, yet the public availability of these names and in some instances email addresses and a cell phone number does not seem to have had any discernable impact on the functioning of the SCO…. Its prosecution of the former president and the two other individuals certainly appears to be proceeding apace, and Defendant has neither claimed nor demonstrated otherwise.

Judicial Watch concludes that the government’s exemption claims fail and that the Justice Department’s request to close the case is “plainly insufficient to satisfy its burden of proving that its withholdings are lawful.”

The Judicial Watch motion includes a declaration that lists 23 individuals working for Special Counsel Smith who were identified using publicly available court filings, an additional four names were located in media reports.

“Special Counsel Jack Smith isn’t above the law, and the American people have the right to know about just who is working on his unprecedented and politicized anti-Trump investigation,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Given the scandalous revelations about the Fani Willis prosecution team targeting Trump, it is especially urgent Americans know just who the top people on Jack Smith’s staff are.”

Through the New York Freedom of Information Law, in July 2023, Judicial Watch received the engagement letter showing New York County District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg paid $900 per hour for partners and $500 per hour for associates to the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher law firm for the purpose of suing Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) in an effort to shut down the House Judiciary Committee’s oversight investigation into Bragg’s unprecedented indictment of former President Donald Trump.

Through FOIA, Judicial Watch uncovered information about Special Counsel’s Mueller’s budget and staff. Judicial Watch also sued for and obtained records for the budget of Special Counsel John Durham. A Judicial Watch lawsuit also uncovered calendar entries of Mueller special counsel prosecutor Andrew Weissmann showed he led the hiring effort for the investigation that targeted President Trump.

In January 2024, Judicial Watch filed lawsuit against Fulton County, Georgia for records regarding the hiring of Nathan Wade as a special prosecutor by District Attorney Fani Willis. Wade was hired to pursue unprecedented criminal investigations and prosecutions against former President Trump and others over the 2020 election disputes.

Before his appointment to investigate and prosecute Trump, Jack Smith previously was at the center of several other controversial issues, the IRS scandal among them.

In 2014, a Judicial Watch investigation revealed that top IRS officials had been in communication with Jack Smith’s then-Public Integrity Section about a plan to launch criminal investigations into conservative tax-exempt groups. Government officials were looking to step up a probe into requests for tax-exemption from organizations with conservative sounding names like “Tea Party” and other “political sounding names,” according to a later report by the Treasury Department’s inspector general. Jack Smith appears to have been a key player in this attempt to silence conservative voices.

According to the documents obtained by Judicial Watch, Jack Smith directed the head of the Justice Department’s Election Crimes Branch, Richard Pilger, to meet with the director of the IRS’s Tax-Exempt Organizations division, Lois Lerner. In one email obtained by Judicial Watch, Lerner discusses an idea that the Justice Department could build “false-statement cases” against tax-exempt conservative groups.

Judicial Watch later obtained additional documents detailing a planning meeting between Justice Department, FBI and IRS officials about possible criminal prosecutions. Thanks to Judicial Watch disclosures, House investigators discovered that the IRS improperly turned over confidential tax records of nonprofit organizations to the FBI—sparking a public uproar and forcing the return of the records to the IRS. Read more about the case here.

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