Posts Tagged ‘perjury’

Did Facebook lawyers lie to Congress?

May 8, 2018

We all remember Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony in front of Congress last month. Or, if we do not remember everything he said, we certainly recall the fact that he was grilled for hours on end about his company’s issues with privacy and other matters.

What you likely do not recall is testimony Facebook’s lawyer gave to the Senate Judiciary Committee back in October of 2017. No, most probably skipped over what Colin Stretch had to say because, well, he’s not Zuckerberg.

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But looking back, it is apparent that Stretch may not have been entirely honest with his October 31st testimony. Given that he was under oath at the time, this is kind of a big deal.

Not surprisingly, privacy is the issue

Back then, Facebook, Google and Twitter executives were tasked with talking about foreign interference in our elections.

Representing Facebook, Stretch was tasked with explaining what his company was capable of. What could get him into trouble is a string of answers he gave when being grilled by Louisiana Senator John Kennedy. The Republican was inquiring about Facebook’s ability to profile users, to which Stretch answered that the site did away with the ability for Facebook employees to do exactly that.

Essentially, Kennedy wanted to know if Facebook employees had the ability to take the data the site has on people and churn out an accurate and detailed profile of the person. After dodging the specifics of the question for a bit by saying there are rules in place to prevent that, Stretch finally had to answer the actual question.

Does Facebook have the ability to do it?

“We have designed our systems to prevent exactly that, to protect the privacy of our users,” Stretch said. Furthermore, the lawyer was steadfast in his testimony that there is no way for Facebook employees to get around those systems to discover the identity of its users.

Yeah, about that…

A report by the Wall Street Journal revealed that a small group of Facebook employees can, in fact, access digital profiles. More than that, any time a Facebook employee’s profile is viewed, the person gets a notification that it happened.

Related image

Sen. John Kennedy — says maybe Facebook lied to Congress….

It’s known as a “Sauron alert” (based on the all-seeing eye in the “Lord of the Rings” story), and it is something that does not happen for regular Facebook users like us.

To summarize: Facebook employees actually can access the data in profiles. That may not be much of a surprise, given what we’ve already learned about Facebook.

However, that them checking out a colleague’s data sounds the alarm bells for the person whose information is being read really makes you realize that it’s not a good thing for us. If it’s not really a big deal, why would Facebook’s employees get an alert about it?

If it is a big deal, why don’t we?

So, what’s next?

It will be interesting to see how Facebook responds to this becoming public. In a time where they are struggling to make people believe their platform cares about privacy, news like this is sure to cast even more doubt.

As for Stretch, giving false testimony while under oath amounts to perjury, which can lead to prison time.


Since people are now concerned about such matters, tools are being produced to help us. One of them comes courtesy of Mozilla, who is the company behind the web browser Firefox. Click here to learn more about how they are helping.


Trump Team Takes a More Aggressive Stance on Mueller Probe

May 7, 2018

Posture could further delay an investigation already facing a time crunch from midterm election

Special counsel Robert Mueller has work left to do in the probe into Russian election meddling—but if he can’t complete it before the midterm election season, he could have to put it on hold, under federal guidelines.
Special counsel Robert Mueller has work left to do in the probe into Russian election meddling—but if he can’t complete it before the midterm election season, he could have to put it on hold, under federal guidelines. PHOTO: YURI GRIPAS/REUTERS

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump’s legal team is striking a more combative tone with Robert Mueller, suggesting publicly that the president may decline to cooperate with the special counsel’s prosecutors.

That tougher stance comes as the Mueller probe already faces a time crunch because of the approaching midterm elections.

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who recently joined the president’s defense team, said Sunday he was reluctant to have Mr. Trump agree to an interview with the prosecutors or testify before a grand jury for fear that what he called a “trap” could lead the president to commit perjury under oath.

A decision to not comply with a grand jury subpoena likely would set off a legal battle that would be decided by the Supreme Court.

“We don’t have to,” Mr. Giuliani said about complying with a subpoena, speaking Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “I’m gonna walk him into a prosecution for perjury, like Martha Stewart did?”

Mr. Giuliani also left open the possibility the president could invoke his Fifth Amendment right to refuse to testify.

Mr. Giuliani is one of several lawyers to join Mr. Trump’s team in recent weeks. With those attorneys still reviewing documents, no decision is imminent on whether to have the president sit for an interview with Mr. Mueller, said a person familiar with the legal team’s deliberations.

For Mr. Mueller, the clock is ticking. With six months until November’s midterm elections, the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign will soon run into a dead zone of sorts, in which former prosecutors say they expect Mr. Mueller either to wrap up or lie low and take no visible steps until after November.

Though Mr. Mueller doesn’t face any specific legal deadline, the fall midterms amount to a political one, according to experts and prosecutors. He will reach a point this summer when Justice Department habits dictate he would have to go dark so he doesn’t appear to be trying to sway voters’ decisions, which would be at odds with Justice Department guidelines for prosecutors.

Many Democrats said then-Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey didn’t properly observe those guidelines when he disclosed less than two weeks before the 2016 election that the FBI had reopened an investigation into then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s email use.

Any action by Mr. Mueller that implicates or exonerates Mr. Trump and his associates in working with Russia or obstructing justice could play into whether Democrats take control of one or both houses of Congress.

Democrats have promised extra scrutiny of the Trump administration if voters pull the lever for their party in November, while Republican candidates have largely sided with Mr. Trump, and some have echoed the president’s message that the prosecution is a “witch hunt.”

Mr. Mueller has a lot still to do—prepare several reports, bring expected charges against alleged Russian hackers behind the breach of the Democratic National Committee and make decisions on whether to prosecute other cases. Perhaps the most politically sensitive issue he has yet to resolve is whether the special counsel’s office will demand an interview with Mr. Trump.

If he can’t get all those things done in the next few months, his probe is likely to stretch into 2019.

On Friday, Mr. Trump said he wants to agree to an interview with Mr. Mueller but that his lawyers have counseled him otherwise.

Agreeing to a voluntary interview would allow Mr. Trump’s lawyers to set conditions, including the length of the talk, the topics raised and whether Mr. Trump could be accompanied by counsel. If he refused and was subpoenaed, the interview conditions would be much less favorable to Mr. Trump.

“When you volunteer, at least maybe you can constrain the questions. When you’re subpoenaed, a subpoena is broad. Your lawyer isn’t present. This is a tough decision for the president’s team to make,” Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who has defended Mr. Trump in television appearances, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Mr. Mueller raised the possibility of issuing a grand jury subpoena in a March interview with the president’s previous attorneys, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

The probe to date has produced five public guilty pleas—largely for lying to investigators or for conduct unrelated to the 2016 campaign. A sixth defendant, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, is scheduled to face trial on bank and tax-fraud charges stemming from alleged misconduct that largely predated the presidential election. Mr. Mueller has also charged 13 Russians with election interference.

But Mr. Mueller has begun to refer some new matters to other U.S. attorneys’ offices, including the investigation into the president’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, suggesting the special counsel’s office is trying to avoid taking on new matters that could prolong its primary investigation.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is recused from the Mueller investigation, said in late April that he understood Mr. Trump’s unhappiness with how long Mr. Mueller’s investigations seems to be taking. “This thing needs to conclude,” Mr. Sessions told a House budget hearing.

According to the handbook for federal prosecutors, the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual, Justice Department employees are barred from using their official authority “to interfere with or affect the result of an election.”

The rules aren’t explicit, but a March 2012 memo from then-Attorney General Eric Holder also instructed Justice Department employees to be “particularly sensitive to safeguarding the Department’s reputation for fairness, neutrality, and nonpartisanship.” Specifically, he told law-enforcement officers and prosecutors to never time investigative steps or criminal charges “for the purpose of affecting any election” or to give “an advantage or disadvantage to any candidate or political party.”

Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said if an investigation becomes public during a politically sensitive time, prosecutors should seek to resolve it as quickly as they responsibly can.

“I think it is the obligation of every reasonable prosecutor to minimize the duration of that cloud or cause lightning to strike as quickly as possible,” Mr. Bharara said.

Mr. Comey weighed those considerations and opted to alert Congress 11 days before the 2016 election about the bureau’s look at newly discovered Clinton emails. Two days before polls closed, Mr. Comey told Congress the agency had reviewed the new evidence and found no reason to change its earlier recommendation that Mrs. Clinton face no charges related to her email practices, but many Democrats blamed Mr. Comey’s initial disclosure for Mrs. Clinton’s loss.

In a recent onstage interview with the website Axios, Mr. Comey was asked about whether he would have any advice to Mr. Mueller about “coming out and saying something.”

“It’s worked well for me,” Mr. Comey deadpanned.

“There aren’t any rules around how we act in the run-up to an election…there’s a norm, you avoid any action in the run-up to an election that might have an impact, if you can,” Mr. Comey said, adding that he was “sure” Mr. Mueller would “operate with that norm in mind.”

When Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey in May 2017, he initially cited a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein criticizing Mr. Comey’s public actions around the Clinton investigation as a “textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do.”

The problem isn’t unique to presidential elections. The Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office investigated New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2016, and that summer people close to the mayor asked prosecutors if they could wrap up the probe or bring any charges by the fall, so the investigation wouldn’t spill over into his re-election campaign in 2017. Prosecutors didn’t announce until March 2017 that they had decided against charging Mr. de Blasio or his aides or allies. Mr. de Blasio won re-election that November.

Write to Aruna Viswanatha at, Erica Orden at and Byron Tau at

Appeared in the May 7, 2018, print edition as ‘Trump’s Lawyers Harden Tone on Mueller.’

South Korean court sentences Samsung heir to 5 years prison

August 25, 2017

Lee Jae-yong

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A South Korean court has sentenced the billionaire Samsung heir to five years in prison for bribery and other crimes that fed public anger leading to the ouster of Park Geun-hye as South Korea’s president.

The Seoul Central District Court said Friday that Lee Jae-yong, 49, was guilty of offering bribes to the former president and her close friend to get government support for efforts to cement his control over the Samsung empire.

A panel of three judges also found him guilty of embezzling Samsung funds, hiding assets overseas, concealing profit from criminal acts and perjury. Prosecutors had sought a 12-year prison term.

The verdict is a stunning downfall for a princeling of South Korea’s richest family that controls one of the world’s largest consumer electronics companies.

Lee was accused of offering $38 million in bribes to four entities controlled by Choi Soon-sil, a friend of Park, in exchange for government help with a merger that strengthened Lee’s control over Samsung at a crucial time.

Samsung has not denied transferring corporate funds. But Lee, vice chairman at Samsung Electronics and the Samsung founder’s grandson, claimed innocence during the court hearing. He said he was unaware of the foundations or the donations, which were overseen by other executives.

The closely-watched verdict is the latest convulsion in a political scandal that prompted millions of South Koreans to protest last fall, culminating in the ouster and arrest of Park as well as the arrests of Choi and Lee, one of South Korea’s most powerful tycoons,

Park, who was embroiled in a tumultuous series of scandals, was removed from office in March. She and Choi are both currently on trial.

The ruling in Lee’s case can be appealed twice.

Other former Samsung executives charged with Lee were also found guilty.

Choi Gee-sung, a mentor of Lee, and Chang Choong-ki were sentenced to four years in prison. Two other former executives received suspended prison terms.

Pakistan Court Is Set to Rule on Political Fate of PM Sharif

July 28, 2017

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s Supreme Court is set to announce its much-awaited decision on the political fate of beleaguered Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after weighing whether adequate evidence existed to dismiss him from office on allegations of corruption against his family.

Fawad Chaudhry, a lawyer for petitioner Imran Khan, said Friday they will accept any decision by the court.

Sharif has been under pressure to resign since 2016 when leaked documents from a Panama-based law firm disclosed his family’s offshore accounts. In April, the court acting on petitions from the opposition set up a six-member team to probe the allegations.

The investigation concluded a “significant disparity” existed between Sharif family’s declared wealth and its known sources of income.

Under Pakistani law, the Supreme Court has the authority to dismiss the prime minister.


Opposition Hopes To Remove Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif — Forensic experts close in

July 16, 2017

LAHORE, Pakistan — Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is facing increasingly loud calls to resign as an official investigation into allegations of corruption by him and his family continues to unfold.

And now, the fate of the political dominance of the Sharif family may hinge on a Microsoft font: Calibri.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court set up a five-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in April to investigate allegations of financial corruption that surfaced following the release of the infamous Panama Papers.

Image: Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Shari
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif speaks to media after appearing before an anti-corruption commission in Islamabad on June 15, 2017. Aamir Qureshi / AFP – Getty Images

Sharif was not named in the Panama Papers leak, but his three adult children were linked to numerous offshore accounts that also owned luxury apartments in London’s exclusive Mayfair area. In a months long trial, opposition leaders alleged that the money used to buy the real estate was earned through corruption.

The JIT finally presented their scathing 275-page report looking into the allegations to the Supreme Court on July 10. It charged that Sharif, his sons and daughter had engaged in irregular finances, forgery and perjury.

“There exists a significant disparity between the wealth declared by the respondents and the means through which the respondents had generated income from known or declared sources,” the report said, according to a partial copy released to reporters.

Related: Panama Papers: Offshore Assets of World Leaders Revealed by Leak

It also recommended to the court the Sharifs be tried for corruption through Pakistan’s anti-graft authority. The Supreme Court will take up the case on Monday.

As parts of the massive report slowly leaked to the press, the stock market tanked by more than 4 percent, the military declared its intention to stand by the country’s courts and Pakistan’s raucous media went into hyperdrive — predicting the end for Sharif, who is serving his third term as prime minister.

The opposition has seized on the allegations with Imran Khan, the cricket-legend-turned- opposition leader calling on Sharif to “immediately step down.” Other mainstream political parties have backed Khan’s demands for Sharif’s resignation and fresh elections.

Sharif explicitly dismissed the report for the first time on Thursday.

“The JIT report about our family businesses is the sum of hypotheses, accusations and slander,” Sharif said in a statement after meeting his cabinet meeting.

Image: Maryam Nawaz
Maryam Nawaz, daughter of the prime minister, arrives to appear before an anti-corruption commission in Islamabad on July 5, 2017. Aamir Qureshi / AFP – Getty Images

The extremely detailed report was drafted by five investigators, including representatives from the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) and the Corps of Military Intelligence (MI), with the support of foreign lawyers, forensic experts and international financial authorities.

Pakistan’s rowdy social media was particularly galvanized by the findings against Sharif’s daughter, Maryam, who is reportedly being groomed to take over Pakistan’s largest political party.

In an attempt to establish a complicated money trail to show that she is not real owner of the London real estate, but rather just a “trustee” of the properties, Maryam submitted a document dated 2006. The document was typed in Microsoft’s Calibri font.

The problem is, as the investigators noted in their lengthy report, forensic experts and even the creator of Calibri font say it was not commercially available as part of Microsoft Office until 2007.

Congressional Oversight Committee States The Case For Perjury Against Hillary Clinton To U.S. Attorney — Spin Is Not Appropriate as Testimony Under Oath

August 16, 2016

In a letter from House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) to U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Channing Phillips, the two top House Republicans made their case that Clinton committed perjury.

Chaffetz and Goodlatte wrote to Phillips:

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On August 2, 2016, Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik confirmed that you received the Committees’ request for an investigation regarding certain statements made by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her testimony before Congress and will ‘take appropriate action as necessary. To assist the investigation, this letter identifies several pieces of Secretary Clinton’s testimony that appear to implicate 18 U.S.C. §§1621 and 1001 the criminal statutes that prohibit perjury and false statements, respectively. The evidence collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) during its investigation of Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal email system during her time as Secretary of State appears to directly contradict several aspects of her sworn testimony, which are described in greater detail below.

Before detailing at least four specific instances in which Clinton allegedly committed perjury, the House Republicans explained the matter a bit further:

During a House Select Committee on Benghazi hearing on October 22, 2015, Secretary Clinton testified with respect to (1) whether she sent or received emails that were marked classified at the time; (2) whether her attorneys reviewed each of the emails on her personal email system; (3) whether there was one, or more servers that stored work-related emails during her time as Secretary of State; and (4) whether she provided all her work-related emails to the Department of State. Although there may be other aspects of Secretary Clinton’s sworn testimony that are at odds with the FBI’s findings, her testimony in those four areas bears specific scrutiny in light of the facts and evidence FBI Director James Comey described in his public statement on July 5, 2016 and in testimony before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on July 7, 2016.

The first of four main areas where Hillary Clinton allegedly perjured herself before the U.S. Congress was with her claim in sworn testimony that she never sent or received emails on her illicit home-brew email server—which was in violation of State Department guidelines, and according to FBI director James Comey “extremely careless.”

“With respect to whether she sent or received emails that were marked classified at the time, Secretary Clinton testified under oath to the Select Committee that she did not,” Chaffetz and Goodlatte wrote to the U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C. “Specifically, during questioning by Rep. Jim Jordan, Secretary Clinton stated ‘there was nothing marked classified on my emails, either sent or received.’”

Chaffetz and Goodlatte further quoted from Clinton’s testimony by including this quote:

[M]any Americans have no idea how the classification process works.  And therefore I wanted to make it clear that there is a system within our government, certainly within the State Department . . . where material that is thought to be classified is marked such, so that people have the opportunity to know how they are supposed to be handling those materials . . . and that’s why it became clearer, I believe, to say that nothing was marked classified at the time I sent or received it.

The two House Committee chairmen detail in the letter to the U.S. Attorney for D.C. that Clinton, according to the FBI Director, was not telling the truth in that testimony before Congress:

The FBI, however, found several of Secretary Clinton’s emails did in fact contain markings that identified classified information therein. In Director Comey’s public statement on July 5, 2016, he said, ‘a very small number of the emails containing classified information bore the markings indicating the presence of classified information.’ When Director Comey testified on July 7, 2016, he specifically addressed this issue. Rep. Trey Gowdy asked, ‘Secretary Clinton said there was nothing marked classified either sent or received.  Was it true?’ He said it was not. Director Comey also stated, ‘There was classified material emailed.’ Specifically, he stated that three documents on Secretary Clinton’s private server contained classified information clearly marked ‘Confidential.’ He further testified, ‘In the one involving ‘top secret’ information, Secretary Clinton not only received but also sent emails that talked about the same subject.’

The second claim on which Hillary Clinton appears to have been caught perjuring herself according to the two top House Republicans was with regard to her statements that her lawyers read all of her emails.

“With respect to whether her attorneys reviewed each of the emails on her personal email system, Secretary Clinton testified that her attorneys used search terms and reviewed every single email to identify any that were work-related and should therefore be returned to the Department of State,” Chaffetz and Goodlatte wrote, before quoting directly from Clinton’s transcript from when she testified under oath:

Rep. Jordan:    But I’m asking how — I’m asking how it was done. Was

— did someone physically look at the 62,000 e-mails, or did you use search terms, date parameters? I want to know the specifics.

Mrs. Clinton:   They did all of that, and I did not look over their shoulders, because I thought it would be appropriate for them to conduct that search, and they did.

Rep. Jordan:    Will you provide this committee — or can you answer today, what were the search terms?

Mrs. Clinton:   The search terms were everything you could imagine that might be related to anything, but they also went through every single e-mail.

“The FBI found, however, that Secretary Clinton’s lawyers did not in fact read all of her emails—they relied exclusively on a set of search terms to identify work-related messages,” Chaffetz and Goodlatte wrote, before quoting from Comey’s July 5 testimony:

The lawyers doing the sorting for Secretary Clinton in 2014 did not individually read the content of all of her e-mails, as we did for those available to us; instead, they relied on header information and used search terms to try to find all work-related e-mails among the reportedly more than 60,000 total e-mails remaining on Secretary Clinton’s personal system in 2014. It is highly likely their search terms missed some work-related e-mails, and that we later found them, for example, in the mailboxes of other officials or in the slack space of a server.  It is also likely that there are other work-related e-mails that they did not produce to State and that we did not find elsewhere, and that are now gone because they deleted all e-mails they did not return to State, and the lawyers cleaned their devices in such a way as to preclude complete forensic recovery.

The third area where Hillary Clinton seems to have perjured herself according to the two House Committee chairmen is when she testified that she only used one server or device.

“With respect to whether there was one, or more servers that stored work-related emails during her time as Secretary of State, Secretary Clinton testified there was only one server,” Goodlatte and Chaffetz wrote to the D.C. U.S. Attorney, before pulling another transcript of congressional testimony:

Rep. Jordan: In March, you also said this: your server was physically located on your property, which is protected by the Secret Service. I’m having a hard time figuring this out, because this story’s been all over the place.  But — there was one server on your property in New York, and a second server hosted by a Colorado company in — housed in New Jersey. Is that right? There were two servers?

Mrs. Clinton:   No.

Rep. Jordan:    OK.

Mrs. Clinton:   There was a — there was a server…

Rep. Jordan:    Just one?

Mrs. Clinton: . . . that was already being used by my husband’s team. An existing system in our home that I used, and then later, again, my husband’s office decided that they wanted to change their arrangements, and that’s when they contracted with the company in Colorado.

Rep. Jordan:    And so there’s only one server? Is that what you’re telling me? And it’s the one server that the FBI has?

Mrs. Clinton: The FBI has the server that was used during the tenure of my State Department service.

Goodlatte and Chaffetz also wrote:

The FBI, however, found Secretary Clinton stored work-related emails on several servers. In Director Comey’s public statement, he said, ‘Secretary Clinton used several different servers and administrators of those servers during her four years at the State Department, and used numerous mobile devices to view and send e-mail on that personal domain.’ In Director Comey’s testimony on July 7, 2016, he stated that Secretary Clinton used several devices to send and receive work-related emails during her tenure as Secretary of State. He testified, ‘She used multiple devices during her four years as secretary of state.’

The fourth and final area where Clinton seems to have, according to Chaffetz and Goodlatte, perjured herself while under oath was during her claim that she provided all of her work-related emails to the Department of State.

“Finally, with respect to whether she provided all her work-related emails to the Department of State, Secretary Clinton testified to the Select Committee that she had,” Chaffetz and Goodlatte wrote, before again pulling a transcript of Clinton’s testimony before Congress.

Mrs. Clinton: Well, Congressman, I have said repeatedly that I take responsibility for my use of personal e-mail. I’ve said it was a mistake. I’ve said that it was allowed, but it was not a good choice.  When I got to the department, we were faced with a global financial crisis, major troop decisions on Afghanistan, the imperative to rebuild our alliances in Europe and Asia, an ongoing war in Iraq, and so much else.  E-mail was not my primary means of communication, as I have said earlier. I did not have a computer on my desk. I’ve described how I did work: in meetings, secure and unsecured phone calls, reviewing many, many pages of materials every day, attending . . .

Rep. Jordan:    I — I — I appreciate (inaudible).

Mrs. Clinton: . . . a great deal of meetings, and I provided the department, which has been providing you, with all of my work-related e-mails, all that I had. Approximately 55,000 pages. And they are being publicly released.

Chaffetz and Goodlatte wrote:

The FBI found, however, ‘several thousand work-related e-mails that were not in the group of 30,000 that were returned by Secretary Clinton to State in 2014.’ In the course of its investigation, the FBI recovered ‘still others . . . from the laborious review of the millions of e-mail fragments dumped into the slack space of the server decommissioned in 2013.’ When Director Comey appeared before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on July 7, 2016, he confirmed that Secretary Clinton did not turn over all work-related emails to the FBI. He stated, ‘We found work-related emails, thousands, that were not returned.’

Chaffetz and Goodlatte wrapped their letter to the U.S. Attorney for D.C. by noting that the FBI’s findings prove Hillary Clinton was not telling the truth when she testified under oath before Congress.

“The four pieces of sworn testimony by Secretary Clinton described herein are incompatible with the FBI’s findings,” Chaffetz and Goodlatte wrote.

Limiting Obama’s authority

June 21, 2014


Associated Press

The Republican-led House on Friday overwhelmingly approved a $570 billion defense bill that halts any Guantanamo transfers for a year in the furor over the American-for-Taliban swap and pulls back government spying.

The vote was 340-73 for the legislation that provides money for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, personnel, ships and aircraft. An unusual coalition of libertarian Republicans and liberal Democrats pushed through new limits on National Security Agency surveillance as the year-old revelations of bulk collection of millions of Americans’ phone records still roil the debate of security vs. privacy.

The White House has objected to the legislation, which must be reconciled with a still-to-be written version from the Democratic-led Senate.

Pushing through the bill over three days, Republicans railed against President Barack Obama’s decision last month to swap five Taliban leaders who had been held at Guantanamo for more than a decade for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a captive for five years in Afghanistan. The Taliban were transferred to Qatar, where they must remain for a year.

Republicans said Obama broke the law, failing to notify Congress within 30 days, and increased the terrorism risk to the United States with the exchange.

Obama has defended the deal to spare Bergdahl as the administration has tried to reduce the population of Guantanamo, where 149 are being held.

The House added a provision to the bill that would bar funds for transfers, imposing a one-year moratorium on moving Guantanamo detainees to a foreign country. It also voted to bar funds for transferring Guantanamo detainees to Yemen.

The bill already bars 85 percent of the funds in the account for overseas conflicts until Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reassures Congress that congressional notification on Guantanamo transfers will be respected.

Earlier this year, the House overwhelmingly passed the USA Freedom Act that would codify a proposal made in January by Obama, who said he wanted to end the National Security Agency’s practice of collecting and storing the “to and from” records of nearly every American landline telephone call under a program that searched the data for connections to terrorist plots abroad.

Several Republicans and Democrats said the legislation fell short in curbing NSA surveillance. They joined forces and scored a decisive win late Thursday on new limits on the agency over the objections of leaders of the Judiciary and Intelligence committees.

The bill would prohibit the agency from searching for the communications of specific American accounts within the vast trove of Internet data it has collected while targeting foreigners. Critics say that tactic amounts to improper “backdoor” searches because it is conducted without warrants.

Government officials argue that since the information was acquired legally, there should be no reason they can’t use it for intelligence purposes or even in criminal investigations.

The NSA obtains the Internet data both through court orders on tech companies such as Google and Facebook and also by secretly tapping fiber optic cables abroad. Though the collection targets foreigners, U.S. officials acknowledge it sweeps in significant numbers of Americans’ communications.

The bill also would bar the NSA from mandating or requesting that tech companies build secret flaws — so-called trap doors — in hardware, software or devices that would facilitate government surveillance.

Despite the clamor to cut the deficit and Pentagon pleas for cost-saving reductions, lawmakers voted to spare military bases, the A-10 Warthog close air support plane and an aircraft carrier.

The White House has objected to the legislation, which must be reconciled with a still-to-be written version from the Democratic-led Senate.

The bill would provide $490 billion for core defense spending and $79 billion for overseas operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflicts. The $79 billion is a placeholder as Congress awaits a more detailed proposal from the administration.


Associated Press writer Ken Dilanian contributed to this report.


Stopping a Lawless President

By George F. Will
The Washington Post

What philosopher Harvey Mansfield calls “taming the prince” — making executive power compatible with democracy’s abhorrence of arbitrary power — has been a perennial problem of modern politics. It is now more urgent in the United States than at any time since the Founders, having rebelled against George III’s unfettered exercise of “royal prerogative,” stipulated that presidents “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

Serious as are the policy disagreements roiling Washington, none is as important as the structural distortion threatening constitutional equilibrium. Institutional derangement driven by unchecked presidential aggrandizement did not begin with Barack Obama, but his offenses against the separation of powers have been egregious in quantity and qualitatively different.

Regarding immigration, health care, welfare, education, drug policy and more, Obama has suspended, waived and rewritten laws, including the Affordable Care Act. It required the employer mandate to begin this year. But Obama wrote a new law, giving to companies of a certain size a delay until 2016 and stipulating that other employers must certify they will not drop employees to avoid the mandate. Doing so would trigger criminal perjury charges; so he created a new crime, that of adopting a business practice he opposes.

Presidents must exercise some discretion in interpreting laws, must have some latitude in allocating finite resources to the enforcement of laws and must have some freedom to act in the absence of law. Obama, however, has perpetrated more than 40 suspensions of laws. Were presidents the sole judges of the limits of their latitude, they would effectively have plenary power to vitiate the separation of powers, the Founders’ bulwark against despotism.

Congress cannot reverse egregious executive aggressions such as Obama’s without robust judicial assistance. It is, however, difficult to satisfy the criteria that the Constitution and case law require for Congress to establish “standing” to seek judicial redress for executive usurpations injurious to the legislative institution .

Courts, understandably fearful of being inundated by lawsuits from small factions of disgruntled legislators, have been wary of granting legislative standing. However, David Rivkin, a Washington lawyer, and Elizabeth Price Foley of Florida International University have studied the case law and believe that standing can be obtained conditional on four things:

That a majority of one congressional chamber explicitly authorizes a lawsuit. That the lawsuit concern the president’s “benevolent” suspension of an unambiguous provision of law that, by pleasing a private faction, precludes the appearance of a private plaintiff. That Congress cannot administer political self-help by remedying the presidential action by simply repealing the law. And that the injury amounts to nullification of Congress’s power.

Hence the significance of a House lawsuit, advocated by Rivkin and Foley, that would unify fractious Republicans while dramatizing Obama’s lawlessness. The House would bring a civil suit seeking a judicial declaration that Obama has violated the separation of powers by effectively nullifying a specific provision of a law, thereby diminishing Congress’s power. Authorization of this lawsuit by the House would give Congress “standing” to sue.

Congress’s authorization, which would affirm an institutional injury rather than some legislators’ personal grievances, satisfies the first criterion. Obama’s actions have fulfilled the rest by nullifying laws and thereby rendering the Constitution’s enumeration of Congress’s power meaningless.

The House has passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) that would guarantee expedited consideration by federal courts of House resolutions initiating lawsuits to force presidents to “faithfully execute” laws. But as a bill, it is impotent unless and until Republicans control the Senate and a Republican holds the president’s signing pen.

Some say the judicial branch should not intervene because if Americans are so supine that they tolerate representatives who tolerate such executive excesses, they deserve to forfeit constitutional government. This abstract doctrine may appeal to moralists lacking responsibilities. For the judiciary, it would be dereliction of the duty to protect the government’s constitutional structure. It would be perverse for courts to adhere to a doctrine of congressional standing so strict that it precludes judicial defense of the separation of powers.

Advocates of extreme judicial quietism to punish the supine people leave the people’s representatives no recourse short of the extreme and disproportionate “self help” of impeachment. Surely courts should not encourage this. The cumbersome and divisive blunderbuss process of impeachment should be a rare recourse. Furthermore, it would punish a president for anti-constitutional behavior but would not correct the injury done to the rule of law.

Surely the Republican House majority would authorize a lawsuit. And doing so would establish Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) as the legislature’s vindicator.

Read more from George F. Will’s archive or follow him on Facebook.

Did Eric Holder Lie Under Oath? An Early Investigation of an Investigation

May 29, 2013

The House Judiciary Committee is investigating whether or not Attorney General Eric Holder lied under oath during his testimony to them two weeks ago, as reported by The Hill. If the committee determines that he did, Holder could face five years in prison. It very well may. He almost certainly won’t.

RELATED: What to Expect When Eric Holder’s Expecting a Contempt Vote

The Atlantic Wire

By Philip Bump | The Atlantic Wire 

There are four considerations that go into determining whether or not Holder lied under oath: What he said, how that might differ from the truth, what the related charge is, and how Holder has responded to the criticism.

RELATED: Obama Allows Holder to Assert Executive Privilege on Fast and Furious

What did Holder say under oath?

The Committee’s questioning on May 15 focused on the Department of Justice’s seizure of phone records from the Associated Press. The crucial exchange came while Holder was being questioned by Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia. Johnson asked Holder if Justice could subpoena the media, and about the rules articulated about seizing that information. The answer is yes; the rules for subpoenaing the press mandate the Attorney General to expressly authorize the seizure of phone records if the media organization won’t hand them over, among other things.

RELATED: Boehner Was Afraid Issa Would Go Full Pumpkin-Shooter on His Holder Probe

Johnson then continued, focusing specifically on one piece of legislation. The section in bold is the crux of the critique of Holder.

REP. JOHNSON: Well, I would argue that the Espionage Act of 1917 would authorize the prosecution of anyone who disclosed classified information. And perhaps that’s another area that we may need to take action on here in this Congress.

Now, I’ll note that in this Congress, we’ve been — we’ve had a lot of bills, the most famous of which, in my mind, was the — was the helium legislation. And we wanted to ensure that we had enough helium to keep everything moving forward here in America. But we certainly need to protect the privacy of individuals, and we need to protect the ability of the first — of the press to engage in its First Amendment responsibilities to be free and to give us information about our government so as to keep the people informed. And I think it’s a shame that we get caught up in so-called scandals and oversight of unimportant matters when we should be here addressing these real problems that things like the AP scandal illustrate for us.

I’ll yield the balance of my time to you.

ATTY GEN. HOLDER: Well, I would say this. With regard to the potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material, that is not something that I’ve ever been involved in, heard of or would think would be a wise policy. In fact, my view is quite the opposite, that what I proposed during my confirmation, what the Obama administration supported during 2009 — and I understand — I think Senator Schumer is now introducing a bill that we are going to support as well that the press should be — have — should have — there should be a shield law with regard to the press’s ability to gather information and to disseminate it.

(We’ve discussed that shield law in the past.)

RELATED: James O’Keefe’s Latest Target: Eric Holder’s Ballot

What did Holder do that seems to be in conflict?

On Thursday, NBC News reported on Holder’s involvement in another prominent investigation of a media outlet. Following a 2009 leak of classified information, the Justice Department acquired a search warrant for emails from Fox News reporter James Rosen. In the warrant, the Department indicates that there is “probable cause to believe that the reporter has committed or is committing a violation of section 793(d), as an aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator, to which the materials relate.” In other words: The Department of Justice considered that there was probable cause Rosen violated the law.

RELATED: The Time House Republicans Bonded Over ‘The Town’

As reported by the Huffington Post, Justice the next day acknowledged that Holder had been involved in the Rosen case — officially, U.S. vs. Kim, after Rosen’s alleged source for the leak, Stephen Jin-Woo Kim. The department released a statement reading, in part:

The Department takes seriously the First Amendment right to freedom of the press. In recognition of this, the Department took great care in deciding that a search warrant was necessary in the Kim matter, vetting the decision at the highest levels of the Department, including discussions with the Attorney General. After extensive deliberations, and after following all applicable laws, regulations and policies, the Department sought an appropriately tailored search warrant under the Privacy Protection Act. And a federal magistrate judge made an independent finding that probable cause existed to approve the search warrant.

After the NBC report, the conservative blog Gateway Pundit called attention to the discrepancy between Holder apparently authorizing the search warrant, including a reference to possible criminal action, and the Attorney General’s testimony. That night, Karl Rove raised the issue on Fox News itself. Today, it reached Capitol Hill.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testifies during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, May 15 in Washington. The day before, Holder announced a Justice Department investigation into any possible criminal wrongdoing by the IRS.

What is perjury?

It’s worth noting that there’s a difference between lying under oath and perjury, albeit a very subtle one, as Slate outlined in 2007. Given that Holder was under oath at the time of his statement, we’ll consider the statute related to perjury. (Neither Gateway Pundit nor Rove used that word.)

The statute mandates that anyone having taken an oath that he will testify or certify truly who then “willfully and contrary to such oath states or subscribes any material matter which he does not believe to be true” is guilty of the crime. (There are nuances and alternatives that aren’t particularly relevant here.)

“Willfully and contrary to any such oath” is the critical language. It necessitates that the testimony must be 1) false and 2) intentionally false. A mistake doesn’t count.

What is Holder saying?

So far, nothing. As reported by The Hill, Rep. Johnson has come to Holder’s defense.

“The attorney general’s statement that no journalists have been prosecuted under the Espionage Act during his tenure is accurate,” he told The Hill. “My point remains that the law as written could be misused. Congress is responsible for protecting the press while giving law enforcement the tools to prosecute officials who leak classified information. I support considering amendments to the Espionage Act and passing the Free Flow of Information Act to refine this balance.”

It should be noted that the section 793(d) cited in the search warrant is indeed the Espionage Act of 1917. It should also be noted that Johnson is correct on one point: as reported by the New Yorker‘s Ryan Lizza, Rosen was not actually indicted for his role in the leak. This raised a side conversation over the weekend as to whether or not such threats from the Department of Justice — that is, accusing a member of the media of criminal complicity — is common practice in Justice’s efforts to access legal records.

What will Holder’s defense be? We reached out to several legal experts for their assessments of his case, and will provide their thoughts when we hear back. But one possible response seems fairly obvious: Holder’s is likely to claim, if asked, that his statement was not willfully false.

If Holder can claim that he didn’t remember the Rosen case during the House hearing — news of it didn’t break until last week — he can present at least some defense on this front. He might also argue that there was no “potential prosecution” in the Rosen case; that, in other words, the Department never had any intention of prosecuting Rosen for any conspiracy charges. It’s not clear if this will address the concerns of the Judiciary Committee, but it’s safe to assume that Holder know some good attorneys who could put the best face on that argument.

It’s impossible not to consider this (reported!) investigation by the House Judiciary Committee outside of the context of that body’s long-standing antipathy to Holder. Last year, the House voted to hold Holder in contempt for failing to respond to questions about a previous investigation. Even before the committee finished any investigation, the committee’s second-highest ranking Republican called on Holder to resign. There is strong motivation by some members of the House to find fault with Holder, which should certainly be considered.

If the committee determines that Holder did lie under oath, it’s not entirely clear what would happen next. When Scooter Libby, an aide to Vice President Cheney, was charged with perjury in 2005, he faced a federal grand jury. If the Holder investigation gets that far, it’s safe to say that the president’s opponents would already be able to claim at least some victory.

Georgia Wife Arrested for Husband’s Murder

August 3, 2012

Andrea Sneiderman, the wife of a man gunned down by Sneiderman’s boss and alleged lover, was indicted today on murder charges for her husband’s death.

Sneiderman, 35, is accused of playing a fatal role in the Dunwoody Daycare murder that rocked the suburban Georgia community. Her husband, Russell “Rusty” Sneiderman, 36, was shot and killed in the parking lot of his son’s daycare center in November 2010.

DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James said today that prosecutors and Dekalb sheriff’s officers went to Sneiderman’s lake house in Putnam County today to arrest her. Her children, Sophia and Ian, were not present.

By COLLEEN CURRY | Good Morning America

Andrea Sneiderman Arrested for Husband's Murder

Andrea Sneiderman Arrested for Husband’s Murder (ABC News)

She is charged with racketeering, murder with malice, criminal attempt to commit murder, insurance fraud, and making false statements and perjury.

Andrea Sneiderman’s boss, Hemy Neuman, was arrested months after the shooting, thoughprosecutors said they suspected Mrs. Sneiderman was involved. Neuman and Andrea Sneiderman traveled frequently together during their work at GE Energy, and prosecutors and Neuman’s lawyers have alleged that the pair had an affair and plotted the murder.

Andrea Sneiderman has denied being involved in her husband’s murder.

Neuman was found guilty of the murder earlier this year and sentenced to life in prison in March.

In closing arguments during Neuman’s murder trial, his lawyer claimed Andrea Sneiderman used Neuman to kill her husband so she could collect on his $2 million life insurance policy.

“The gun was in Hemy’s hand, but the trigger was pulled by Andrea Sneiderman,” Doug Peters said in court.

James said that prosecutors began working to bring charges against Mrs. Sneiderman since the case against Neuman was finished. They presented their evidence to a grand jury at 8:30 a.m. today and after an hour of deliberations, received an indictment for Andrea Sneiderman on eight criminal charges.

Prosecutors feel “confident” in the case they have against Sneiderman and would likely follow the same format and approach that they used in trying Neuman, James said.

“It worked last time. We’re going to do the same thing this time,” he said.

He said the next step in the case is Sneiderman’s arraignment, which could take place within the next month. Sneiderman is being held without bond but may request a bond hearing, he said.

Alice Gomstyn contributed to this report.