Judicial Watch Director of Investigations and Research, Chris Farrell joined me this week on a special edition of The Bias Buzz podcast to discuss the Hillary Clinton email scandal and said that one thing that will help Hillary Clinton in her quest for the White House is that “the mainstream media for the most part acts as her super PAC.”
Don Irvine-We are going to talk about the Hillary Clinton email scandal and let’s start off by having you give us a little overview like where did we start, where are we now, and then we can talk about some more of the details.
Chris Farrell– Sure, there were two tracks in this thing. The first track really started as civil litigation where we had requested. Actually, we had filed something like sixty FOIA requests. We had litigated twenty concerning Secretary Clinton’s term as Secretary of State, a variety of topics, all sorts of things. A number of those cases were litigated, open and closed because the government came in and swore that they provided all the information they had available. Later on, almost a year after we had closed one of the cases, the State Department came back to us and said, you know we have discovered another universe of documents, and that universe of documents was really Hillary Clinton’s emails. They reluctantly disclosed that it was her e-mails. That reopened this case. It started a criminal inquiry, but that’s the proximate cause, that’s the start point for this whole saga. Once there was a realization that these emails had been absconded with by Mrs. Clinton, tens of thousands of them, and the taken and then she deleted again tens of thousands and only turned over about fifty-thousand pages of material, that initiated the criminal inquiry. So there’s two tracks–our track is civilly, to recover records and documents that the public has owed under the open records law. And there was a criminal track that the FBI was following, and that was a national security crime specifically title XVIII of the US Code section 7.93 F, which had to do with the mishandling of national defense information. I can talk about Director Comey and that decision.
Irvine: We will get into that.
Farrell: But civilly we are at the point now where we still have a number of cases open. We have been granted discovery by two different federal judges. What that means is that we can do written interrogatories, document requests, and we can take sworn depositions of officials who had dealings with us, and we have. We have taken seven depositions and just yesterday we were in court arguing to take the deposition of Mrs. Clinton.
Irvine: Okay, I’ll start there and work my way around. With the deposition of Mrs. Clinton, they are obviously trying to avoid this at any costs, but the interesting thing, as I was reading about this, is that the judge is a Bill Clinton appointee, correct?
Farrell: So much for the vast right-winged conspiracy.
Irvine: So what do you think are the odds? He seems to be favorably disposed, but he also said something to the fact that he doesn’t want this to turn into a political football or something to that effect?
Farrell: Well, I mean he is a very smart man. He knows that there are all kinds of interests and all kinds of pressures, and so he wants to defend the public’s right to know. But he also realizes that he is also operating in a very sensitive environment walking up to an election, so I don’t think he wants to be viewed as reckless or trying to throw something. There are really two things that are left open: one is written interrogatories where Mrs. Clinton will be forced to provide essentially a sworn statement answering our question. That is the lesser of the two. And of course, the better of the two would be an actual deposition. Because then you have somebody alive in front of you, and you are interacting, asking and answering questions. It’s a much better means of arriving at the truth.
Irvine: Doesn’t the lack of interest or trying to avoid getting to this deposition stage, doesn’t this give you the feeling or the public a feeling that she really is trying to hide something or avoid something, which she claims she hasn’t been?
Farrell: She’s claimed so many things at this point; I don’t know whatever the latest pronouncement is from her or from one of her press officers, who knows what the truth is? That’s really the problem. She has made all sorts of statements but we need to get her under oath, that’s the critical part.
Irvine: Now as I recall one of the depositions you had was the IT guy. Didn’t he plead the fifth?
Farrell: Bryan Pagliano, he set the indoor record for the 90-minute deposition with one-hundred twenty eight claiming the fifth, refusing to answer. He did so because he feared, or so he claimed criminal prosecution. Well, that doesn’t appear what is going to happen so it may be an inability to go back and compel answers from him.
Irvine: Now has he had to answer any questions that you’ve asked or tried to ask to the State Department itself? Is there another investigation?
Farrell: We don’t know for sure. We know that there is obviously an FBI investigation. We don’t know what questions he has answered or to what degree and to whomever else he provided the information to.
Irvine: Now all of this started too because Secretary Clinton had this e-mail server in her home. I mean this is unprecedented, using a private e-mail, using the private accounts, and not using the government account; though she tried to shift the blame a little bit or at least tried to cover herself a little bit by saying Colin Powell did something like this. These were times when things were gearing up in the State Department. She really was covered by this Act, this federal records act, compared to the others in terms of what they had available at the time, right?
Farrell: Sure, I will be very super clear on this one. No other cabinet secretary in the history of the country has ever established their own server and run all of their government work over a private server. No one has ever done that before. People say Colin Powell used email. He did use email. He used an AOL account and he coordinated the use of that account with the diplomatic security service. He specifically invited them in and said, hey look, I want to be able to use all my contacts and all of my emails that I have developed over the years in a way that will advance the mission. He synchronized, or coordinated these activities, with the active participation of DS. Mrs. Clinton did nothing of the kind. In fact, she deliberately did an end run and tried to avoid all of those procedural requirements, so the difference could not be any starker frankly.
Irvine: Let’s talk a little bit about the FBI director James Comey and his investigation. I know that you guys are not overly pleased with what he has done. It was remarkable the fact that he came out and did thatpress conference and said what he said. It did make it clear that Secretary Clinton had a list of things that she did wrong. I thought maybe it was prewriting some potential Trump ads for the presidential campaign. But you do have some problems with what he did.
Farrell: Yeah, well look. I mentioned earlier; it was a national security crime investigation, specifically Title XVIII to the US code. Section 7.93 F is the felony count for mishandling national defense information. 19.24 is the misdemeanor version of that. That is what General Petraeus plead to. He got two-years probation and a $100,000 fine for doing a tiny, tiny fraction of what Mrs. Clinton did. So let’s discuss Director Comey. He lays out all the elements of the crime. He then goes on to provide examples of how Mrs. Clinton satisfied or conducted each of those elements and then says we are not going to charge her anything. It’s incomprehensible, it’s unbelievable that someone would do that. Now he may have his own motives or ideas. I can’t get into his head, Who knows? There is a problem with it. First of all, it defies logic. Secondly, no other government employee of any rank in any agency would be treated the same way. None. The disparity is shocking. It sends an incredibly negative message to people in law enforcement, the intelligence community, and the armed forces who also routinely deal with classified information and arguably they are not going to run home and set up their own server to run classified information across. But that is the message that is sent. I think also there is an effect on the rank and file of FBI agents who see this and see that this has been phonied up. They know that the fix is in. That has a very corrosive effect on the public’s perception of equal justice under the law, under disparate treatment. It sends a very negative message.
Irvine: It seems to me that FBI Director Comey had a huge opportunity here. Particularly with Loretta Lynch who put herself in a corner saying that she will accept whatever the FBI says in their investigation and then very quickly this thing pops up and hands her a very easy way for her to accept it and be done. It does make you wonder.
Farrell: The sequence of events from the tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton to a couple of days later with this sort of sweetheart interview, a voluntary interview with the FBI. When I heard that happened my first question was: was it a rights warning event? Before coming to Judicial Watch, I was a special agent monitoring counter intelligence. I have done national security crime investigations, so I am not guessing at this. I have done it for a living. When you have a suspect in the room, and I am a law enforcement officer, and I have a reason to believe that you have committed a crime, and I am going to question you, I have to Mirandize you. If I think you are a suspect, and I think you committed a crime, I need to give you a rights warning. It can be done in a number of ways. You can do it like they do on TV, but you can also Mirandize someone by talking through their rights in a very factual but casual way. It was clear this was not a rights warning interview or event which means that she was not a suspect, at least in the mind of the people in the room. And right there, you are done. You can tell nothing was going to happen.
Irvine: I think that part of thee fallout of this email scandal is that Hillary is having a very tough time on the trustworthiness to honesty scale when the polls are being done. I don’t know how much more these latest revelations will affect that. It seems though that she has a little bit of a teflon shield in the sense that even with these high negatives she seems to be bouncing along and is relatively unscathed. Voters may have a different opinion when we get to the polls in November versus what we are seeing in these thousand person polls in the media at this point. Do you see any effect that will happen as a result of this in the election?
Farrell: I think, as you mentioned, her credibility is shot with the average voter. I think that they realize that she is a real problem ethically and credibility wise. The counterpoint is that the mainstream media acts as her super PAC. They are her big public relations arm. There is virtually nothing she can do that they wouldn’t spin or endorse or reframe in such a way as to show her as being the victim. That is a tough opposition.
Irvine: Right, and that is good that you mention the media too because the media had long been in Obama’s hip pocket and it wasn’t clear how much they were going to be in Clinton’s because the Sanders’ effect was having quite an interesting effect overall in the whole Democratic nomination process. It makes me wonder; I think the media is coalescing. They are enthralled with Trump for ratings, but they are probably going to coalesce easily around Hillary, and how much play they give to her email scandals going forward. I think they were in a situation where they couldn’t avoid much of it because it was news and you have to cover the news. The question is how do you cover it and what is the context? It doesn’t seem now that we are hearing as much about the email and Director Comey now that the investigation has been closed. It’s kind of like Hillary has said, it is time to move on. But it really isn’t time to move on. There is still far more to go. You guys are still going to be keeping at it, right?
Farrell: Yeah, absolutely. Our litigation is active and ongoing, and the thrust of it is to recover the tens of thousands of emails that she absconded with. She took federal records and then two years later, only under pressure, destroyed a bunch and handed over some. I don’t know how you rationalize that to say it is no big deal, it’s fine. Our cases are very much alive and pressing forward. You know we have a whole other case in front of Judge Royce Lamberth where discovery has been granted as well. We are going to go back and keep drilling down on this, and we are going to get answers and put people under oath and hold them to it.
Irvine: How many more e-mails are out there that you are aware of?
Farrell: They had a hard time answering that question yesterday in front of Judge Emmet Sullivan during the hearing. There are the recovered emails that the FBI attained forensically, and no one has a firm number. They just say several thousand. What does that mean? It could be seven thousand or ten thousand.
Irvine: So this could go on for quite a while?
Farrell: This is not disappearing anytime soon
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