This effort led to the establishment in 2008 of the Office of Congressional Ethics. This week House Republicans proposed a rule change that would eliminate this office and set up a new entity under the complete control of the House Ethics Committee. This new entity would be less transparent and would be subject to severe restrictions on any investigations of allegations of misconduct.
Now this all took place during a late day meeting this past Monday, which was a federal holiday. Tracking developments from home, it became clear what was happening, and I tweeted the following:
Poor way to begin draining the swamp, @SpeakerRyan.The liberal media and Democrats, of course, pounced, picking up the tweet and highlighting the opposition of the conservative Judicial Watch to this ethics gambit. Many Americans, who are conservative and principled, quickly saw this as more of the business as usual gamesmanship from Washington politicians who don’t want to be held accountable. (Democrats were particularly dishonest in their criticism, as many would have loved the see the ethics office disappear.)
Adding to the pressure on Congress, I issued this statement for JW on Tuesday morning:
It is shameful that House Republicans are trying to destroy the Office of Congressional Ethics, the most significant ethics reform in Congress when it was established nearly a decade ago. This drive-by effort to eliminate the Office of Congressional Ethics, which provides appropriate independence and transparency to the House ethics process, is a poor way for the Republican majority to begin “draining the swamp.” The American people will see this latest push to undermine congressional ethics enforcement as shady and corrupt. The full House should seriously consider whether it wants to bear the brunt of public outrage and go through with the rule change this afternoon.President-elect Trump followed JW’s lead and good sense, subsequently tweeting his concern about the changes, too:
With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance! #DTS [Drain The Swamp]At least for now, Mr. Trump clearly remembers how he won the presidency on his anti-corruption message.
More importantly, constituents called their House members to voice their objections. And within a few hours, House Republicans retreated and left the Office of Congressional Ethics intact.
Judicial Watch’s leadership and independence were noted all over the media (see, for example, Town Hall, The Washington Post, and Breitbart). Even the liberal New York Times gave us a backhanded compliment:
The public protests over the House move to weaken the office were heartening. Even the conservative group Judicial Watch paused in its pursuit of Hillary Clinton to decry the [Rep. Bob] Goodlatte [R-VA] proposal as a “poor way to begin draining the swamp.”The House Republicans now supposedly will do what they should have done in the first place, which is to discuss any ethics reform in a manner that is more transparent. Your Judicial Watch will continue to be a leader in that debate, advocating stronger ethics and more transparency and accountability on Capitol Hill.
Many officials in the Obama administration, and not just Hillary Clinton, improperly used personal email accounts to conduct official business. And we are concerned that they will destroy these emails when they leave office this month.
For that reason, we asked a federal court to preserve the personal email accounts of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and other top officials. Judge Randolph D. Moss held a court hearing this week.
We had filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeking agency records in the personal email accounts used by Secretary Johnson, Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Chief of Staff Christian Marrone, and General Counsel Stevan Bunnell to conduct official government business (Judicial Watch v U.S. Department of Homeland Security (No. 1:16-cv-00967)).
The lawsuit has already uncovered documents showing that Johnson and other top DHS officials were exempted from a strict ban placed on web-based personal email accounts despite heightened security concerns.
The order for the hearing follows a Motion for Preservation Order filed by Judicial Watch on December 22. In that filing Judicial Watch asked the court to issue a preservation order for the non-.gov emails of Johnson, Mayorkas and Bunnell because their departure from government service is anticipated upon the installation of the new administration and Homeland Security will no longer have any control over these individuals:
The records at issue are in the physical possession of three current agency officials and one former agency official. With the upcoming change in administrations on January 20, 2017, it is likely that the three officials currently in office (Secretary Jeh Johnson, Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and General Counsel Stevan Bunnell) will leave government service.The court hearing exposed that the Obama administration has done absolutely nothing to retrieve the government records likely on these accounts. The transcript reads:
THE COURT: But you say to me there’s no reason to doubt that the agency will pursue the records and that they’ll be returned, but it’s been six months. Is there any evidence that anything has been done to retrieve those documents or records?As you see in the transcript, we didn’t get our requested preservation order yesterday. But the court did require the government to provide more information and may take action soon. Judge Moss’s follow-up order reads:
On or before 1/12/2017, the Government is to produce, under seal, for in-camera submission, the preservation requests that it sent to all four of the individuals; The Government is also to file a notice on the public record, on or before 1/12/2017, regarding the in-camera filing, and to indicate the individuals intentions with respect to abiding by the preservation requests.I told reporters after the hearing that Obama administration was creating another “Hillary Clinton-type email disaster with eyes wide open.” But as with the Clinton emails, your Judicial Watch is on the case and our attorneys will try to use the courts to enforce the rule of law and preserve your right to know.
For years we have alerted you to the dangers posed by a porous border with Mexico. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the only people wanting to enter our country illegally are children and families seeking work “Americans don’t want to do.” Last week, I alerted you to our report about Islamic terrorist fundraising and planning in Latin America.
I have more concerning news for you today from our Corruption Chronicles blog – which sounded the alarm on jihadists training just 130 miles from our border with an eye on entering the United States.
A Jihadi-cartel alliance in the Mexican state of Nuevo León is collaborating to carry out attacks in American cities and ports of entry along the southern border, according to intelligence obtained by Judicial Watch from confidential U.S. and Mexican law enforcement sources. As part of the plan, militant Islamists have arrived recently at the Monterrey International Airport situated in Apodaca, Nuevo León, about 130 miles south of the Texas border.I encourage you to also read the Corruption Chronicles report on the systematic bribing of DHS agents who allow drugs and illegal aliens to enter our country through El Paso. The border is a disaster of corruption and threats to our national security. We will continue to press urgently for appropriate responses from public officials, while continuing our cutting-edge investigations exposing the truth.
Let me introduce to you a new feature here at Judicial Watch: Chris Farrell’s “On Watch,” a weekly “vodcast, ” or video, on a pressing government corruption issue of the day. Chris is JW’s Director of Investigations and Research.
This week he looks at the marriage of convenience between Islamist militants and the cartels in Mexico. You will be shocked at what is going on – how militants are brought into Mexico, given new identities, participate in cartel smuggling of drugs and people, and then sneak across the border. “Mohammed” is being remade as “Manuel.”
The video is only 11 minutes long, but I assure you that you will never think about the border in the same way again.
Until next week...