What important details are missing from special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, and how are the Mueller investigation and the Hillary Clinton email scandal connected?
Epoch Times senior editor Jan Jekielek sat down with Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a watchdog group that uses Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, as well as litigation, to expose government corruption.
They discussed, among other topics, how President Donald Trump’s granting of declassification powers to Attorney General William Barr is a “historic move,” but one that doesn’t necessarily mean a trove of new public information is forthcoming.
Jan Jekielek: Let’s jump right into it. Attorney General Barr has been given broad declassification powers by the president. Why is this needed? What’s your take on this?
Tom Fitton: Well, it’s a historic move by the president that could lead to significant accountability for the American people, and it could accelerate the internal Justice Department investigations of the targeting—the elicit targeting—of candidate Trump and other Americans and obviously even the president of the United States. It’s pretty clear that Attorney General Barr got into office, saw there was something up, began investigating, and ran into internal roadblocks within the administration from other agencies and getting access to the information that could explain the Spygate targeting.
So he sought this approval, I would suggest, from President Trump to overcome the roadblocks he’s getting from the Deep State and even his colleagues in the Cabinet, in terms of getting these documents out about the targeting of President Trump. You know, when you think about the spy operation against President Trump’s campaign adviser at the time, George Papadopoulos, that had Stefan Halper and some other unnamed government operator … you had the FBI involved, you had the Justice Department involved, Halper was paid with Pentagon money, so he was a contractor for the Pentagon, and obviously, any overseas operation wouldn’t need the approval of the State Department.
So you had at least four agencies, I would suggest, and maybe five, if the CIA was involved, in targeting this one man working, associated with the Trump team for one spy operation. So if you’re trying to get a feel for what went on, the attorney general has to get all this information from all these different agencies, and I’m sure he’s been running into roadblocks, hence the historic declassification order.
Mr. Jekielek: So the attorney general has these powers. Should we be expecting something soon? Why haven’t we seen anything yet?
Mr. Fitton: We’ll see. We’re asking for documents that will be subject to declassification, so hopefully, we’ll get a signal that he’s taking a new tack here. Just because they’re declassified doesn’t mean the American people will see them, because they could be subject to secrecy under criminal-investigation exemptions, where it’s like, “This is in the middle of an investigation. It’s related to that and you can’t see them.” We hope that won’t be the case. It could lead to significant transparency, or it could lead to just more of the same.
Mr. Jekielek: Do you feel there’s [a possibility] of ongoing intelligence activities being endangered, as some are saying, by this declassification order?
Mr. Fitton: No, no, no, no. Look, I’ve been doing this job for 20 years, and in my experience, classification fights on politically sensitive matters like this have nothing to do with national security or protecting sources, methods, or lives. It’s about protecting the corruption of the agencies who don’t want you to see what they were really up to. And they use the classification excuse as a way to protect themselves from accountability and having to explain other misconduct.
Mr. Jekielek: So, [at] Judicial Watch, you’ve been encountering some roadblocks or slowdowns to your FOIA requests with the existing agencies. Can you talk a little bit about that and maybe how that’s connected with declassification?
Mr. Fitton: Well, in the State Department, we asked for the unmasking requests of Obama official Samantha Power, the U.N. ambassador who allegedly made hundreds of requests that were unusual, where American citizens’ identities were disclosed to her—arguably, improperly—Americans who were caught up in this intelligence-gathering overseas. And the response back from the State Department: “We can’t even tell you one way or another whether such requests were made, because to do so would harm national security.” So they can’t even confirm or deny.
That’s all because of the classified nature of any such requests. They can’t even confirm it one way or another. So if there’s a declassification move, maybe we can start getting answers there. On the FISA warrants, only portions of the applications used to target President Trump were released. There are other portions that those who have seen them have said, “It would be scandalous if it was already out there.” Well, that’s classified. We can’t get it, and the court [isn’t] going to let us get it until it’s declassified. So we’ve asked for the documents again, with the hopes that they’re now being declassified. We’ll see what happens.
But the attorney general needs to understand that this is more than just prosecutions or administrative review. I’m not sure what he’s doing one way or another. The American people need to be let in on the Deep State secrets.
Mr. Jekielek: The last time we talked, I think you said that this is the biggest scandal in American history—bar none. And, so let’s talk about the Steele dossier for a second. You’ve said that Christopher Steele is actually a cutout. I remember you saying that. Who is he a cutout for?
Mr. Fitton: Well, I don’t remember that specifically, but it sounds right. You know, Christopher Steele was working for the DNC. He was working for the Democratic National Committee, the Clinton campaign, and, as Judicial Watch disclosed, he was also being paid by the FBI in 2016 during the campaign, evidently for information on then-candidate Trump. So, it was a joint operation. Steele was also using Russia intel sources by their own admission, to provide to the FBI and DOJ, who used that as a pretext to target Trump.
So who was Steele working for? Was he still working for British intelligence? He was a former spy. Was he really retired? And was he a cutout for the Russians, who used him as a vehicle to try to disrupt our elections?
It’s just amazing to me that Robert Mueller is charged with investigating Russian attempts to influence our elections, and he ignores that one of the presidential campaigns was directly working with Russian intel to target President Trump. And, in fact, he used that information—Mueller did—to investigate others, targeted as a result of the dossier and the other garbage information that was being used to justify charges against Flynn, and continued harassment of President Trump.
Mr. Jekielek: So you’ve actually mentioned also that there’s a tight connection between this whole scandal and the Clinton email scandal, and that’s not necessarily obvious to folks. People will say, “Hey, why are you still talking about those Clinton emails?”
Mr. Fitton: Well, it’s pretty clear that the targeting of Trump was designed to protect Hillary Clinton from the consequences of her email misconduct. And it wasn’t just Hillary Clinton who [could have faced] consequences. It would have been the Obama administration, the Obama White House, the State Department, the FBI, the DOJ who were involved in that cover-up.
Judicial Watch just uncovered, through discovery, a big Clinton email case discovery of gathering evidence. The top FBI official managing her case admitted they found Clinton emails in the Obama White House executive office of the president. We just found new documents they had to disclose to us, involuntarily. Again, this is a court-ordered discovery where the Obama White House was guiding the FOIA responses of the State Department, which lied about the existence of the Clinton emails. So you had Clinton emails hiding out over at the Obama White House that the FBI had to go and try to recover.
And we also have the Obama White House involved in the cover-up directly of the Clinton email scandal. So you have all of that potential corruption and criminality, eventually, potentially coming to the fore in the middle of the presidential campaign. What better way than to keep the focus off of that, not only in 2016 but in 2017, once you had a new Justice Department, than to create and manufacture this false defamatory and, knowingly false, allegation that Trump colluded with Russia. So the same Justice Department that was bending over backward to protect Hillary Clinton was going full bore, the rules and the rule of law be danged, against Trump and his team. Unbelievable. No corruption scandal like it in American history—bar none.
Mr. Jekielek: So [about] the Mueller report, were there any stark omissions that you noticed from the recent work that you’ve done in the Mueller report?
Mr. Fitton: Hillary Clinton’s collusion with the Russians to target President Trump.
I don’t know how you could have an investigation into that issue without that being discussed: the dossier. To the degree, the dossier is mentioned directly, I think it’s mentioned twice—the unverified dossier. So that is, you know, kind of the big dog that didn’t bark.
Mr. Jekielek: Bizarre, right? I mean this was a central thing that allowed for the investigation in the first place.
Mr. Fitton: Mueller doesn’t talk about the circumstances of his appointment. He doesn’t talk about [former FBI Director James] Comey stealing the FBI records of President Trump and then leaking them, in order to get him appointed. Don’t you think that would be part of the obstruction investigation? You know, Mueller has been compromised. That whole special counsel operation, if you’re talking about investigating the investigators, surely the attorney general probably hasn’t had to do this, but he needs to figure out how that Mueller operation got so off-kilter.
We kind of know, because Judicial Watch just exposed, that all those Democrats that were hired by Mueller, it looks like his No. 2, Andrew Weissmann, was involved in the hiring process. And we’ve confirmed he’s an anti-Trumper, supportive of that Sally Yates that I talked about (the Obama holdover), a Hillary Clinton activist. He went to Hillary Clinton’s election night party in New York. A top-level DOJ official going to a political campaign, election-night party? Why was he anywhere near this investigation? He was doing the hirings. You want to know where all those angry Democrats came in? That’s how they came in.
Mr. Jekielek: So you feel Barr and the Justice Department and the people he’s appointed are investigating these things that you’re describing now?
Mr. Fitton: I would if I were he, but this is … we don’t rely on the attorney general to do it. We hope he does; we’re hopeful he does. We hope to be pleasantly surprised. But Judicial Watch has 50 lawsuits, both into the Mueller investigation and the Deep State targeting of President Trump. We’re not gonna rely on the Justice Department to do the right thing. We hope they do, but we’re going to take independent action. In our experience, the Justice Department has obstructed our efforts both on Hillary Clinton and the Deep State scandals. The FBI’s obstructed our efforts, State Department. And so we’ve just got to keep on pushing for accountability because, you know, Barr’s going to have his own difficulties. And so we’ve got to keep the pressure on.
Mr. Jekielek: So prior to 2016—and I am not even sure we know exactly how—but there were a bunch of private contractors that had access to some of this raw intel that was being gathered. And [former National Security Agency head] Admiral [Michael] Rogers, you know, ostensibly in 2016, cut that off. The question that’s been on a lot of people’s minds is, how much was the creation of the Steele dossier an attempt to actually cover up or hide what was happening prior to this time?
Mr. Fitton: Well, I think one way to think about it is tying it to the unmasking requests—the unusual numbers of unmasking requests that allegedly took place at the end, during the presidential campaign season. And the issue with FBI contractors before then—those were folks who were involved in the special programs that presumably were accessing intelligence about Americans gathered secretly. And so that was being done improperly, according to reports. Then, you have senior-level Obama officials requesting unmaskings directly of Americans caught up in intelligence-gathering. So Rogers is correcting the contractors, but the bosses are doing something inappropriate.
Mr. Jekielek: What do you make of all these, what was described as endless investigations? You know, the Mueller report [found] no collusion, the attorney general found no obstruction, but, hey, there’s a whole bunch of investigations that still need to be done. What do you make of that?
Mr. Fitton: It’s about harassing the president. Trying to remove him from office. Trying to jail people around him. All bets are off, in terms of the rule of law. You have the Democrats involved in the elicit targeting; they were partnering with the FBI and DOJ to do this against then-candidate Trump. Remember, Barack Obama had an unusual role in the presidential election campaign to replace him. You’d have to go back 100 years to see an incumbent president participate in an election campaign in a way that Obama did on behalf of Hillary Clinton.
He was not a disinterested party. He was much a political operative, guiding the spying. The White House wanted to know everything, the text message famously says. … And remember before, just the day or two before, James Comey went and ambushed the then-candidate or President-elect Trump with that dossier. They had a meeting about it with Barack Obama in the Oval Office, Comey did. Joe Biden was there, Susan Rice was there, all the top people were there. Obama is intimately involved in this; you must presume he’s intimately involved. He’s doing his job with this unprecedented spying on Trump world.
Mr. Jekielek: Tom, we’re going to finish up fairly shortly. I wanted to find out, you have a number of these FOIA lawsuits going on. You mentioned one of them. What else is on the table? Is there any news in any of these?
Mr. Fitton: Well, we’re always having to file new Freedom of Information Act lawsuits. The corruption continues, and the cover-up continues in these agencies. And I appreciate the president’s declassification order. We should recognize that’s the tip of the iceberg because there are other secrecy moves—illicit, mind you—by the agencies that are still going to be used to cover all of this up. For instance, the FBI, and the president retweeted my concerns about this recently.
The FBI is refusing to search their text messages under FOIA of people like Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, and Lisa Page. So you’ve got the FBI in cover-up mode for the very people who corrupted the top levels of the FBI, both in the Clinton email and Russian investigations. Christopher Wray is … he may not be the problem in terms of FBI corruption, but he certainly isn’t the solution. He needs to step up.
Mr. Jekielek: So what is the rationale behind not … clearly, I think by any standard there was—
Mr. Fitton: They think text messages are Post-it notes, equivalent to Post-it notes and shouldn’t have to be searched. The Peter Strzok–Lisa Page text messages show that’s obviously a lie. They just don’t want to search the records because they know what’s in there. And they know [that] we know what’s in there about the Clinton email scandal and the targeting of Trump.
Mr. Jekielek: Are they afraid the agency will collapse as a result of it? Isn’t this just a matter of cleaning house?
Mr. Fitton: I think Wray sees this whole issue as an existential threat to the agency, and that’s why he refuses to call [it] spying, and is a stonewaller. He’s clearly not cooperating with the attorney general. Why would he be seeking classification authority, if Wray were helping them appropriately?
Mr. Jekielek: So what do you think the next best steps are for President Trump and for the attorney general?
Mr. Fitton: Broaden the transparency effort. The attorney general should be looking to release this material publicly, as opposed to just for internal and a criminal review. The American people want to know what went on as soon as possible, and they’ve been unlawfully delayed from learning the truth about what their corrupt government’s been up to.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.