Judge orders DOJ to produce records relating to Clinton emails

A federal judge ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) Tuesday to produce FBI records related to the Hillary Clinton email investigation in a case brought by E. Randol Schoenberg, a prominent Holocaust-claims lawyer in Los Angeles.

Judge P. Kevin Castel of the U.S. District Court of Southern New York ordered the Department of Justice to produce the search warrant used to seize the computer of Anthony Weiner, estranged husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin, ostensibly to gain insight into Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state. Many believe Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in the presidential election was due in large part to the announcement of the investigation, which came nine days before Election Day.

Schoenberg, 50, who gained international prominence by reclaiming Jewish-owned art looted by the Nazis, filed an action Dec. 9 against the clerk at the New York court, presuming the clerk would have the search warrant because Weiner lives in New York. The judge gave a Thursday deadline to comply, according to Schoenberg. It wasn’t clear at press time whether the DOJ would comply.

“Anything can happen in these cases, but the law is very good for us,” Schoenberg told the Journal on Tuesday.

Schoenberg admits that this is not his area of expertise. A former president of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust and the leader in its revitalization, he is perhaps best known for the Maria Altmann case made famous by the 2015 film “Woman in Gold.”

“I just decided I was interested in this and nobody else was doing it and I have the ability to do it,” he said. “So why not? Somebody had to do it.”

Schoenberg first got involved in the Clinton emails case when he read a New York Times story in the waning days of the presidential campaign reporting the FBI had obtained a warrant to seize new material in the case.

“Normally you have to show probable cause. That’s what it says in the Fourth Amendment,” he told the Journal.

But beyond the Times story, he’d seen nothing reported about the FBI’s justification for the warrant, nor had the FBI been forthcoming with that information.

So he decided to wage a citizen’s campaign to uncover the documents. He got in touch with David B. Rankin, a government transparency lawyer in New York, and filed an information request with the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) on Nov. 12. The FBI has so far denied his request, saying Abedin’s privacy outweighs the public interest.

Schoenberg has filed suit to make the FBI comply with his request, but he said the other court case is more likely to yield timely results.

Schoenberg speculated one of two things happened to enable the FBI to obtain a search warrant in the first place: Either a lax judge didn’t care enough to scrutinize the warrant application, or “it could be something more nefarious.” Not unlikely, by his estimation, is that somebody provided the FBI allegedly incriminating information that turned out to be untrue.

In the course of his Holocaust-related work, Schoenberg said, he’s worked with law enforcement and U.S. attorneys, persuading them to investigate or file suit.

“You’re allowed to give them information and encourage them to start investigations or file lawsuits,” he said. “That’s totally fine as long as it’s correct. But what if it’s false?”

Part of the reason Schoenberg filed suit in New York (other than the fact that Weiner’s computer was there) is that he suspects somebody in the Manhattan orbit of then-candidate Trump might have provided a false lead to the FBI, he said.

Shortly after filing the FOIA request, he laid out in a Jewish Journal op-ed what could be at stake if incriminating information comes to light.

“This is potentially very serious, something that if traced back to Donald Trump might even lead to impeachment,” he wrote.

Two days before Election Day, FBI Director James Comey announced the FBI hadn’t found sufficient evidence to reconsider its original decision not to prosecute Clinton, based on a lack of evidence. For Schoenberg, that was only further proof there was never anything to find in the first place.

“It’s more likely something criminal happened in the obtaining of the search warrant than … Hillary Clinton did something wrong,” he said.

Is Obama George W. — or even Nixon? The secrecy factor

The Obama administration has in recent weeks suffered a 1-2-3 scandal outbreak:

– The Benghazi tragedy-as-fiasco gained legs when internal emails emerged suggesting a massaged timeline of who knew what, when;

– The IRS owned up to focusing on conservative groups in delaying approval for tax exempt status in the last election;

– The AP furiously revealed that for two months last year the Justice Department had tracked its phone calls, apparently in a bid to track down government leakers in a story about the thwarting of a Yemen-based terrorist plot.

So the emerging narrative is, is President Obama another George W. Bush or (gasp!) Richard Nixon? And will this finally lose him the liberals?

The Reform movement’s Religious Action Center is already on the record with fairly no-holds-barred outrage regarding the IRS story:

Reports that the IRS focused attention on applications for tax exempt status from groups with apparently politically conservative names and ideologies are deeply concerning. The IRS must establish neutral guidelines for its work that do not favor or disadvantage any political ideology. Abiding by these guidelines will ensure the IRS upholds the non-partisan status that is key to maintaining public trust in its work.

No individual or organization should incur extra attention from the IRS solely on the basis of political ideology and no entity should feel implicit or explicit pressure to alter its mission or actions based on fear of politically-motivated action from the IRS – or any other government agency.

We look forward to a full explanation from the IRS as to how this situation developed and how it will be prevented from occurring in the future.

Jon Stewart had fun last night with the 1-2-3 meme:

And naturally, we’re already deep into Nixon comparisons.

The Nixon years are an inverse of the old 1960s encomium: Anyone who misremembers them so badly can’t have lived through them. Nixon made rivals into enemies, tried to make enemies into criminals, and made the Constitution confetti along the way. Obama, so far, is a long way from there.

But the Bush comparisons seem to have legs, and not least because it has been Obama’s defenders who over the last couple of days have raised them. The Bush era IRS in 2004 went after the NAACP, they have noted, and the Bush administration sought New York Times and Washington Post phone records under the same terms that the Obama DOJ did the AP.

Which raises the question: How does this square with a president who campaigned on a vow not to be Bush, particularly as it related to government secrecy?

One caveat: The Bush administration sought to criminalize the gathering of information, not merely its leaking. It tried to set a precedent that ultimately would have criminalized the journalists in these cases, not just the leakers.

JTA covered the story, naturally enough — the “leakees” in this case were two former AIPAC staffers. And notably, one of Attorney General Eric Holder’s first acts was to shut the case down.