The DC Patriot reports that the FBI has released a new batch of documents to attorney Ty Clevenger from his client’s FOIA request for documents concerning Seth Rich and brother Aaron Rich. These 121 pages follow the 68 released on April 23; Clevenger has yet to comment on his blog.
The 123-page PDF includes a two-page cover sheet on United States Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Information Policy (OIP) letterhead and 121 pages of declassified documents. The cover letter indicates it is a final response to the FOIA request and that 58 additional pages were not released based on standard exemptions, including information the OIP says is either protected by attorney privilege, pertains to privileged law enforcement investigations, or the release of which would invade personal privacy or identify a confidential source.
A portion of the famous interview of former FBI director James Comey during the Executive Session Committee on the Judiciary, Joint with the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight (GRO) at the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday, December 7, 2018, which was already available in its near-entirety. The complete and lengthy interview covers topics that include WikiLeaks, the Podesta emails, and hacking of DNC servers, but only four pages were considered “responsive,” or within the scope of the FOIA inquiry by the DOJ OIP.
Justice.gov explains the process by which it is determined whether records are responsive:
Sometimes a requester seeks information on a particular topic and in the course of conducting their search for records on that topic, the agency may locate documents that discuss a number of different subjects, only some of which relate to the topic of the FOIA request. If only a portion of a document concerned the topic of a request, a common practice has been for an agency to process only the responsive portion and redact the other portions as “non-responsive” or “outside the scope” of the request. Given that the processing of FOIA requests can be very labor-intensive and time-consuming, it is in both the requesters’ interests and the agencies’ that time and resources not be expended unnecessarily by reviewing material that was not requested. While many district courts had approved the practice of agencies redacting “non-responsive” material from records processed for release under the FOIA, in July 2016, the issue was addressed by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in American Immigration Lawyers Association v. EOIR, 830 F.3d 667 (D.C. Cir. 2016).
OIP’s guidance summarizes the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia’s holding that the FOIA “does not provide for . . . redacting non-exempt information within responsive records.” As declared by the court, “once an agency identifies a record it deems responsive to a FOIA request, the statute compels disclosure of the responsive record—i.e., as a unit—except insofar as the agency may redact information falling within a statutory exemption.”
The responsive portion of the newly released documents contains a question of Comey from Democratic Representative from Tennessee, Steve Cohen, and Comey’s response:
[Cohen] “When you were at the FBI, did you have any reason to investigate the people who propagated stories that Seth Rich was murdered by folks within the DNC or other democratic operatives or any of the people that talked about this pizza operation, the pizzagate thing? Did you ever investigate the people that started those conspiratorial stories?”
[Comey] “I don’t remember. I don’t remember investigations on those topics. I remember at one point receiving an email from someone, a private citizen, to my personal account, raising issues about the—is it Ping Pong? Whatever the pizza place was that was involved in some conspiracy theories. I remember sending it to my staff saying, make sure this gets to the appropriate place, but I don’t know whether there were investigations.”
Saturday’s release also includes 20 pages of emails among officials involved in the Mueller Investigation, which came to be known as Crossfire Hurricane. The emails involve the identity of Guccifer 2.0, who claimed responsibility for hacking the DNC, and related articles in the press. UncoverDC reported on Assange and Guccifer 2 related to Seth Rich in July 2019 and further details on the Crowdstrike forensic analysis that concluded the culprit was Russian exfiltration of data in a remote cybersecurity breach, as well as evidence to the contrary. UncoverDC Editor-In-Chief, Tracy Beanz, breaks down the DNC Leak in this Dark to Light podcast episode.
The first email chronologically is February 23, 2018, sent from L. Rush Atkinson (LRA) of the Special Counsel’s Office to a redacted recipient. It is solely comprised of a link to an article by VOX’s Jeff Guo titled ‘The bonkers Seth Rich conspiracy theory, explained’ with the subtitle “How a young Democrat’s murder became the right’s favorite fake news.”
Next, an April 6, 2018 email from ‘PAC’ to ‘RSMSC; AMZ; JLQ; DWA; JSR; LRA; RKD’ and at least one redacted recipient, includes the entirety of an article by Kevin Collier at Buzzfeed titled ‘These Messages Show Julian Assange Talked About Seeking Hacked Files From Guccifer 2.0.’ This email is a reply to an email sent 24 days earlier from Redacted to ‘RK’ and at least one redacted recipient, with the subject ‘Records Request Processe [Redacted].’ The content of this previous email is entirely redacted; the exemption code shows redaction by statute and for its potential to disclose techniques and procedures of law enforcement investigations.
A June 7, 2018 email from ‘JSR,’ who turns out to be Jeannie S. Rhee of the Special Counsel’s Office, is the most recent in another chain of emails that began April 28. The original email in the chain appears to have been sent to Robert Mueller; the content is fully redacted save for Mueller’s physical office address at the top, as is custom for a traditional snail-mail professional letter. The provenance is not certain because it is included in-line, which means it could conceivably have been edited. It is ostensibly sent to email@example.com in a response dated April 30, with the subject: ‘Guccifer 2.0 – identity’ and has a signature that would be left by a non-government encrypted email provider called ProtonMail.
More in-line text from June 7 from Redacted to ‘JS…; LR…; RK…; C…;’ and at least 3 additional recipients with subject ‘Question fro[Redacted]’ and content “This afternoon I received a ca[Redacted]” plus closing partial sentence “Any guidance o[Redacted]” The final response in the chain is the one that apparently subjected the whole to FOIA, being a government email used through Microsoft Outlook. It is addressed to ‘LRA; RK,’ and it appears at least one additional recipient. Rhee writes, “Let’s talk about this.”
A June 15, 2018 email from James L. Quarles of the Special Counsel’s Office is addressed to ‘AMZ; MRD,’ has subject ‘Article,’ and contains only a link to a FOX5DC.com piece by Sarah Simmons titled ‘WikiLeaks founder addresses death of DNC staffer Seth Rich in Fox News interview.’
One email is dated October 3, 2018, and it includes another of Collier’s Buzzfeed articles, provided without comment, titled ‘This Ohio Woman’s Run-In With The FBI Gives Us A Window Into Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia Probe.’ It tells the story of a woman who says she renamed her Twitter account @Guccifer2, describing it as “something between a joke and an experiment,” and ended up receiving a subpoena from Robert Mueller. The email is sent from ‘PAC’ to ‘RSMSC; AMZ; JLQ; DWA; JSR; LR’ and at least one redacted recipient.
Also within this release are 45 pages of a Complaint For Writ of Mandamus by FreedomWatch USA that they had already made available previously on their website. FreedomWatch was founded by former federal prosecutor Larry Klayman, who also founded Judicial Watch. The intent of the complaint was to have Mueller removed and to force Robin C. Ashton, Director of the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), Inspector General (IG) Michael E. Horowitz, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and FBI Director Christopher Wray to investigate leaks in the Mueller Investigation.
As Brian Cates reported for UncoverDC, “Frequent leaks about the Mueller Special Counsel’s work appeared in the news media for the 22 months, it was active. Many of these leaks were inaccurate and even deliberately misleading, including one stating that General Flynn had flipped on the President and was singing like a canary to Mueller about the supposed Russian collusion the Trump campaign had been involved in.” Flynn was given code name Crossfire Razor in the Mueller investigation and was charged with lying to FBI agents—a charge that was later dismissed.
Cates also notes that, though we knew that then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was overseeing the Mueller Investigation, we only later found out Rosenstein was overseeing the Durham Investigation as well when John Ratcliffe declassified new documents as Director of National Intelligence in October 2019. “Nobody even knew about it. There were no leaks from April of 2017 all the way to January 2019, when Durham’s name first surfaced in news reports related to congressional testimony that had occurred in October of 2018.”
In an article titled “Why Mueller Is Taking Over the Michael Flynn Grand Jury,” mentioned in the Mueller Report, Atlantic’s Matt Ford reports that two weeks after Mueller was appointed special counsel by Rod Rosenstein in May 2017, Mueller took over the Michael Flynn Grand Jury Investigation. Ford stated it would “give Mueller broad authority over its direction and outcome” and also “give Mueller a valuable bargaining chip with Flynn in the broader federal probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.” Dark to Light episode covered Robert Mueller’s testimony in front of the House Judiciary Committee and House Intelligence Committee in July 2019.
Flynn’s relationship with Turkish businessman Ekim Alpetkin, who was recently interviewed on the Dark to Light podcast, was being investigated to determine whether General Flynn was acting as an unregistered agent for the Government of Turkey, committed other FARA-related crimes, or was in violation of the Logan Act, which is what then-President Donald Trump had accused John Kerry of in his dealings with Iran.
In a Coronavirus Task Force Press Briefing 4/18/20, Trump said,
“When I came in, Iran was a terror… they’re a much different nation right now… I stopped that horrible deal… Kerry violated the Logan Act… John Kerry … who made the deal originally… gave them 150 billion dollars, gave them 1.8 billion in cash… and I say he violated the Logan Act… But he doesn’t want to be #1 embarrassed, #2 he said let’s wait until after the election… maybe Trump will lose, and then you can negotiate with a patsy.”
The Logan Act prohibits “correspondence or intercourse” with agencies or agents of foreign governments “with intent to influence… disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States.” Violation is subject to fine or imprisonment up to three years.
Two additional inclusions are at best tangential to the Seth Rich murder. One is a Motion to Intervene in the case of United States of America v. General Michael T. Flynn, one of several filed by private citizens in that case. Another is the entirety of an appellate argument that mentions Seth Rich in passing.
When a case is open for any public citizen to file a Motion to Intervene, many may be submitted—but judges do not always introduce any individual motion to the docket. This one appears to lack a case number, which may indicate that it was not docketed. These motions nevertheless give individuals the opportunity to reach the eyes of the judge, along with any involved lawyers who are served, docket clerks, researchers and scholars who search the legal databases, and eventually FOIA requesters. As a result, some individuals make a habit of filing these ‘friend of the court’ motions in quantity whenever allowed.
Both the Motion to Intervene and the appellate argument are included in this release only by virtue of having Seth Rich’s name appear within them. They nevertheless were considered responsive and appear in their entirety, together making up 52 pages of the total.