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.

Who needs Wonder Woman when there’s Hillary Clinton?

I love that her superhero costume was bridal white, the eternal symbol of her gender; recalling both the fight for women’s suffrage and the institution of marriage, that for too long was the only way to lift women out of obscurity and into society.

I love that white wears ironic on her, because her marriage has both helped and hurt her. And because, when she spoke at the convention, Hillary Clinton was no man’s bride: She was a woman of history, a promise to the passionate that even if you’ve been beaten down, you can still triumph. And she dressed fittingly – fresh, luminous, new — for her wedding to our country.

I love that she began her speech as a mother, with gratitude and acknowledgment, starting with the most important person in her life — her child. I love that she’s the kind of leader who honors others for their role in her success. And that she’s the kind of person who can say of her onetime rival, President Barack Obama, “I’m better because of his friendship.” And I love that she chose to validate her latest rival, Bernie Sanders, with powerful words of promise: “You put economic and social justice issues front and center where they belong,” she said, telling his supporters, “I’ve heard you: Your cause is our cause.”

I love that despite what anyone says, she is still — by law — a wife. And she understands her complicated relationship to her complicated husband as a “conversation.” One that started in a law library 45 years ago and which, she said, has lasted “through good times that filled us with joy, and hard times that tested us.” It doesn’t get more honest or transparent than that.

I love that when the crowd cheered for her, she held her hand to her heart and that her smile was as wide as the cheers were wild.

I love that as a candidate she offers substance, experience and intelligence in abundance; that her policy positions are so studied and meticulous, I am confident that she can handle any worldly challenge and any world leader. Hillary doesn’t just say what she’ll do; she tells you how she’ll do it.

I love that when the House Select Committee grilled her during an 11-hour marathon hearing on Benghazi last October, she turned a pressure cooker into a political parley, and was so well prepared, answering question after question with wit and wisdom, she changed the hearing intended to destroy her into a prime-time presidential platform.

I love that her scandals have become meaningless to me. I don’t care that she had a private email server or that the Clinton Foundation has received donations from Gulf States, or that she earned money from Wall Street speeches. I don’t believe her commitment to public service and working class families is tempered in any way by self-interest and ambition. People are more than one thing, and I trust her moral commitment to the underserved, overlooked and ill-treated. I love how absurd it is that no matter how much measurable good she does — whether getting healthcare to children, recourse to sexual assault survivors, or support for 9/11 responders — conspiracy theories regarding her motives abound unabated by facts.

I love how she’s accused of flip-flopping positions out of political expediency when really it demonstrates her ability to change and grow and compromise. I love that her mistakes stem from her commitment to a 40-year career that has only increased in responsibility, prestige and influence. And that the people who criticize her for every little thing fail to see that her life of public service has demanded more of her as a person and citizen than most of us would ever want or allow.   

I love that she went undercover in a segregated school to study the role of race in education – 30 years ago. And that she advocated for universal healthcare a decade before Obama was even elected to the Senate.

I love that she is fiercely smart, ultra savvy, and hyper-qualified to run for president of the United States.

I love that loving her puts me into a club with Meryl Streep and Lena Dunham.

I love that when I tried to take notes during her speech, I couldn’t stop crying. Because I know what this means to my 93-year-old grandmother, who carved her own set of cracks in that stubborn ceiling. And I know what it would have meant to my mother, who worked hard and sacrificed, but knew too well the disadvantages dealt to women, to finally see her role model and idol accept the nomination for president. I cried because I know that this nomination means – for every woman in America and around the world who has been told, “No,” who has been paid less, who has been passed over, ignored, belittled, ridiculed, humiliated, raped, shoved aside, manipulated, exploited, cheated on, disbelieved and discounted – that a woman can rise to the world’s most powerful position. That the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards equal opportunity for all.

I love that a woman has what it takes to lead our country. I love that our next president might be blonde, wear mascara and drape jewels around her neck.

I love the hope, possibility and wonder Hillary’s story inspires: “When there is no ceiling, the sky is the limit.”

Danielle Berrin is a senior writer and columnist at the Jewish Journal.

Sanders, citing email controversy, questions Clinton’s electability

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Sunday took a jab at rival Hillary Clinton's electability, pointing to the controversy surrounding her use of a private email server as evidence of potential damage to the front-runner's campaign.

“In terms of what people are going to get slapped with, look at the front pages today in terms of what Secretary Clinton is getting slapped with,” Sanders said on ABC's “This Week,” referring to Clinton's use of a private email server while secretary of state.

“There is a legal process underway right now,” he said. “And I'm not going to politicize that issue.”  

Sanders, a senator from Vermont, had previously refrained from invoking the controversy over Clinton's controversial use of a private email account on a private server. In an early Democratic presidential debate, he declared that the American people were “sick and tired” of hearing about it.

But the issue has taken on new urgency in recent days as the two fight in an increasingly tight battle for the party's nomination. On Friday, the U.S. State Department announced they would withhold seven private email chains from Clinton's server, saying they contain top-secret information. 

Throughout the dispute, Clinton has maintained that she did nothing wrong in conducting State Department business outside of an official server, arguing that it was permitted and that there was precedent for the practice. 

When asked on Sunday whether she thought the call to withhold the email exchanges was political, Clinton shied away from outwardly accusing anyone but questioned the timing of the decision, which came just before Monday's first-in-the-nation nominating contest in Iowa.

“I just have to point out that the timing and some of the leaks that have led up to it are concerning,” Clinton said on ABC's “This Week.” 

“The best way to resolve is to do what I asked months ago, release these, let the public see them and let's move on,” she added. 

In Iowa, Sanders and Clinton are locked in a statistical dead heat, with Clinton earning 45 percent support of likely caucus-goers compared with 42 percent for Sanders, according to a Des Moines Register/Bloomberg politics.

Nationwide, Clinton leads Sanders with 51 percent support to 40 percent, according to a Jan. 27 Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Hillary Clinton email trove shows concern with Netanyahu’s psyche

As U.S. secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton spent plenty of time in daunting foreign territory.

No, I’m not talking about Myanmar here. I’m speaking of the mind of Benjamin Netanyahu.

A batch of emails released this week as part of the trove related to the controversy over Clinton’s use of a personal email address while serving as secretary of state includes the solicitation of advice on how to deal not just with the Israeli prime minister’s policies, but with his personality.

Some of her interlocutors advise embracing him. Others suggest slapping him down. No one much likes him.

The advice – at least what was solicited on her personal email – comes from associates who were not in government at the time of writing, among them Sidney Blumenthal, Martin Indyk and Sandy Berger.

All three are Jewish. All three worked for President Bill Clinton when he had his own difficult relationship with Netanyahu during his first term as prime minister, from 1996 to 1999. Blumenthal was a political adviser, Berger was national security councilor and Indyk was ambassador to Israel.

All three were in the private sector or the think tank world when they sent their notes to Hillary Clinton (Indyk later returned to the State Department as an Israeli-Palestinian peace broker in 2013-14, after she left office). And all three are likely to play a role in her administration should Clinton be elected president — she is currently polling as the Democratic front-runner.

In a memo dated Sept. 30 2010, when the Obama administration was hoping to extend peace talks with the Palestinians past a period of a settlement freeze, Indyk argues for the importance of assuaging Netanyahu’s insecurities.

“The reason for dwelling on Bibi’s psychology rather than his politics is that the latter all point in favor of making a deal,” Indyk writes. One of the key obstacles to advancing the talks, according to Indyk’s email: Netanyahu “seems to lack a generosity of spirit. This combines with his legendary fear of being a ‘freier’ (sucker) in front of his people.”

His counsel: “Put your arms around Bibi: he still thinks we are out to bring him down. There is no substitute for working with him, even though he makes it such a frustrating process.”

Berger, similarly, describes the difficulties of Netanyahu’s personality and the need to coddle him in a memo dated Aug. 24, 2010, when direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians resumed for a short period.

Arab interlocutors are difficult, Berger says, but at least make clear what they will and will not accept. Netanyahu, he says, “either does not know himself or is not prepared to share.”

Again, while Berger says that Clinton at times will have to be “tough” and push back against Netanyahu’s “most extreme demands,” he sees value in cultivating Netanyahu as a friend and confidante.

“You are ideally suited to begin a series of in-depth conversations aimed at understanding his key concerns, how they can be met, what he would need from us and others,” Berger writes.

Blumenthal peppers Clinton with advice frequently throughout her 2009-13 term as secretary of state, much of it examining polls. One from March 23, 2010 includes two polls of Israelis and American Jews on how each regards Obama.

“The institutional U.S. Jewish position backing Bibi and against the administration does not have majority support among Jews,” he says, referring to a poll by the liberal pro-Israel Middle East lobby group J Street.

Blumenthal plumbs the media for evidence of Netanyahu’s duplicity, sending along a July 15, 2010 Tablet Magazine account of a 2001 video in which Netanyahu boasts to a group of settlers of his first-term maneuvers contra Bill Clinton: “America is a thing you can move very easily.”

In a March 21, 2010 memo, Blumenthal refers Clinton to an article by left-wing journalist Uri Avnery that praises the U.S. administration – Clinton included – for dealing toughly with Netanyahu after the fiasco involving the announcement of new building in eastern Jerusalem during a visit to Israel by Vice President Joe Biden.

Clinton apparently contemplated using some of Avnery’s arguments in a speech she was about to deliver to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference.

“How – and should – I use this?” she asks Blumenthal, referring to her AIPAC address the next day. He promises her a follow-up memo, and she nudges him as evening approaches: “Are you sending?” He promises yes, in 15 minutes. Whether Blumenthal sent a memo is not clear. Clinton did not directly cite Avnery in her speech. But Netanyahu’s psyche was never far from her mind.

On May 31, 2010, after the Israeli commando raid on a Turkish ship attempting to breach Israel’s Gaza Strip blockade resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish nationals and a severe rupture in Turkey-Israel relations, she forwards Blumenthal’s thoughts to Jake Sullivan, the State Department’s director of policy planning.

“Bibi’s Entebbe in reverse,” Blumenthal muses, referring to the triumphant 1976 Israeli commando raid on a plane held hostage in Uganda that killed Netanyahu’s older brother, Yoni.

“The father, Benzion, 100 years old, secretary to [Revisionist Zionist pioneer Zeev] Jabotinsky, and denounced as too radical by [Jabotinsky heir and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem] Begin, adored his son Yoni, heroically killed at Entebbe,” Blumenthal writes. “Benjamin has never measured up.”

Clinton has two notes to Sullivan: “FYI”– for your information – and “ITYS,” I told you so.

Hillary Clinton to hand over private email server to Justice Dept.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has instructed her attorney to give the U.S. Justice Department her private email server and a thumb drive of work-related emails from her tenure as secretary of state, CNN reported on Tuesday, quoting a campaign spokeswoman.

Clinton's use of her private email for her work as America's top diplomat came to light in March and drew fire from political opponents who accused her of sidestepping transparency and record-keeping laws. The private account was linked to a server in her New York home.

Spokesmen for Clinton did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A Justice Department spokeswoman said she did not have any information at this time to share with reporters.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently began looking into the security of the federal records and classified information contained among Clinton's emails. The U.S. government considers federal records to be government property.

The Justice Department has said the FBI began investigating after the inspector general who oversees the U.S. intelligence agencies, I. Charles McCullough III, formally notified them of his concern that there was classified information not in the government's control.

While secretary of state under President Barack Obama, Clinton eschewed an official state.gov email address in favor of a private clintonemail.com email account connected to a computer server in her New York home. At least one senior aide, Huma Abedin, also used the server for some work email. Clinton said the unusual arrangement broke no rules that were in force at the time.

Last December, she provided what she said were copies of all the work emails she had in her possession, nearly two years after she stepped down as secretary of state.

Clinton handed over about 30,000 emails she sent and received, although her staff have since acknowledged without explanation that some work emails are missing. She did not hand over another 30,000 emails from this period that she deemed personal and said she chose “not to keep.”

The State Department has been steadily releasing the emails to the public in keeping with Clinton's request after redacting parts of them to remove sensitive or classified information.

State Dept advised parts of two emails should be top-secret

The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday that the intelligence community recommended that parts of unreleased emails from Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state should be upgraded to the top-secret level.

“Department employees circulated these emails on unclassified systems in 2009 and 2011 and ultimately some were forwarded to Secretary Clinton. They were not marked as classified,” State Department John Kirby said in a statement.

“These emails have not been released to the public,” the statement added. “While we work with the Director of National Intelligence to resolve whether, in fact, this material is actually classified, we are taking steps to ensure the information is protected and stored appropriately.”

Hillary Clinton urges State Department to release emails

U.S. Democrat Hillary Clinton on Wednesday broke her silence over a budding controversy involving her use of personal email for work when she was secretary of state, saying she wanted the U.S. State Department to release them swiftly.

Clinton's statement was aimed at cooling a political firestorm over allegations that she inappropriately used her personal email for work while secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.

“I want the public to see my email,” the potential 2016 presidential candidate said in a tweet. “I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible.”

The controversy has suddenly put Clinton into trouble just as she is planning to launch a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. It has prompted some Democrats to wonder whether someone else should be their candidate to succeed President Barack Obama.

The State Department said it will review the emails provided by Clinton “using a normal process that guides such releases.”

“We will undertake this review as quickly as possible. Given the sheer volume of the document set, this review will take some time to complete,” spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

Clinton's tweeted statement came hours after a congressional committee investigating the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, issued subpoenas for her emails.

The U.S. House of Representatives' Select Committee on Benghazi demanded all communications from Clinton related to the incident, in which a U.S. ambassador was killed.

The panel also sent letters to Internet companies telling them to protect any documents relevant to the ongoing investigation, Jamal Ware, communications director for the Benghazi committee, said in a statement.

Representative Trey Gowdy, the Republican chairman of the Benghazi panel, told reporters that within two weeks, he must either have the documents or a “really good explanation” for why not.

Republicans have been scrutinizing Clinton's actions and communications surrounding the Benghazi attack, when Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others were killed during an assault on a U.S. facility. Republican lawmakers believe she did not do enough to ensure the safety of Americans in Libya.

Representative Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the Benghazi committee, said the Republicans' actions have led him to believe they simply want to attack Clinton. He noted that Colin Powell, the secretary of state under former President George W. Bush, a Republican, had used personal emails.

The email controversy appears to have caught the Clinton camp off guard when it erupted.

In an appearance in Washington on Tuesday night, Clinton avoided the topic altogether in a 30-minute speech at a gala dinner for the Emily's List political organization.

The State Department has defended Clinton, saying that at the time there was no prohibition on using a personal email account for official business as long as it was preserved.

But experts have called her use of personal email highly unusual and that her practise possibly left her communications open to hacking.

The State Department said Clinton last year turned over emails from the period after a records request and that 300 of these were sent to the Benghazi committee.

A total of 55,000 pages of material covering the time she was in office were turned over, the agency said.

Jason R. Baron, a lawyer at Drinker Biddle & Reath who is a former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration, said he believed “the sole use of a private email account by a high-level official to transact government business is plainly inconsistent with the Federal Records Act and longstanding policies of the National Archives.”