Tag Archives: Illegal

Associated Press Threatens Legal Action Against Government, Ignoring Request for Hillary Clinton Information

Associated Press Threatens Legal Action Against Government, Ignoring Request for Hillary Clinton Information

Hillary Clinton Benghazi attack

The Associated Press said Wednesday that it was considering legal action over unfulfilled Freedom of Information Act requests for government documents covering Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.

In its requests, the AP asked for her full schedules and calendars and for details on the State Department’s decision to grant a special position to a longtime Clinton aide, Huma Abedin, among other documents. The oldest request, the news organization said, was made in March 2010.

“We believe it’s critically important that government officials and agencies be held accountable to the voters,” said AP’s general counsel, Karen Kaiser. “In this instance, we’ve exhausted our administrative remedies in pursuit of important documents and are considering legal action.”

The statement comes after the revelation this week that Mrs. Clinton used a personal email account for her government business, an unusual practice that some have suggested insulated her correspondence from the eyes of investigators and the public.

In 2012, when Congressional investigators sought documents related to the attack on the United States diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, they were initially not supplied with emails from Mrs. Clinton’s private account. In 2013, Gawker submitted a Freedom of Information Act request seeking correspondence between Mrs. Clinton and a close adviser, Sidney Blumenthal. Though some of that correspondence had been made public already, the State Department told Gawker that it could find no records responsive to the request, Gawker reported.

The conservative group Citizens United is expecting a ruling this week on a lawsuit filed last year after the State Department would not disclose flight records showing who accompanied Mrs. Clinton on overseas trips.

Hillary Clinton use of private email while Secretary of State illegal, violation of law

Hillary Clinton use of private email while Secretary of State illegal, violation of law

FoxNews.com
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Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used a personal e-mail account to exclusively conduct official business during her time at the State Department, a move that raises questions about access to the full archive of her correspondence, as well as the possibility that she violated federal law requiring official messages to be retained for the record.

The existence of the account was discovered by the House select committee investigating the deadly 2012 attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and was first reported by The New York Times.

Clinton did not even have a government e-mail address during her tenure as America’s top diplomat, which lasted from 2009 to 2013, and The Times reports that her aides took no action to preserve her emails on department servers, as required by the Federal Records Act.

Instead, the paper reports, Clinton’s advisers selected which of her emails to turn over to the State Department for archival purposes after going through tens of thousands of pages of correspondence. The department said late Monday that it had received 55,000 pages of Clinton’s emails as part of a request made to previous secretaries of state to turn over any official documents they may have had in their possession.

It is not clear how many total emails from that period were in Clinton’s personal account, nor is it clear how Clinton’s advisers decided which emails to hand over to the State Department.

Nick Merrill, a Clinton spokesman, told The Times that the former Secretary of State expected that emails to State Department officials would be preserved. The fate of emails to foreign leaders, private citizens, and non-State Department officials is unclear.

“The State Department has long had access to a wide array of Secretary Clinton’s records — including emails between her and Department officials with state.gov accounts,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf told Fox News late Monday. Harf added that the department turned over about 300 emails to the Benghazi select committee, and noted that Clinton’s successor as Secretary of State, John Kerry, “is the first … to rely primarily on a state.gov e-mail account.”

Records officials interviewed by The Times expressed grave concern over Clinton’s practice, saying it represents a severe ethical breach and noting that personal e-mail accounts are far less secure than official ones.

Jason Baron, a former director of litigation at the National Archives, told the paper he found it “very difficult to conceive of a scenario — short of nuclear winter — where an agency would be justified in allowing its cabinet-level head officer to solely use a private e-mail communications channel for the conduct of government business.” Baron added that the use of private e-mail accounts is meant to be reserved only for emergencies, such as when a department’s server is not working or compromised.

However, The Times reports that the imposition of penalties for not complying with federal record-keeping requirements are rare because the National Archives has so few enforcement mechanisms.

The report has drawn heavy criticism from Republicans, including at least one potential challenger in the 2016 presidential race. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who released 250,000 emails from his gubernatorial tenure this past December, tweeted about the contrast between his disclosures and Clinton’s secrecy.

Clinton is widely believed to be the front-runner for the Democratic nomination in 2016. The Wall Street Journal reported late Sunday that she was expected to formally launch her candidacy next month.

Fox News’ James Rosen contributed to this report. 

Judge orders one Alabama official to start gay marriages. Will others follow?

Judge orders one Alabama official to start gay marriages. Will others follow?

After a week of conflicting legal arguments, confusion, and open defiance in Alabama, a federal judge rules that a Mobile probate judge may not deny same-sex couples a marriage license.

Alabama official ordered to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

A federal judge in Alabama on Thursday ordered a probate judge in Mobileto begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but it remains unclear how broadly her order will apply in a state that is still largely in a defiant posture concerning same-sex marriages.

United States District Judge Callie Granade ordered Don Davis, the probate judge in Mobile, to open his office and start issuing licenses.

“Probate Judge Don Davis is hereby enjoined from refusing to issue marriage licenses to plaintiffs due to the Alabama laws which prohibit same-sex marriages,” the judge wrote in an eight-page order.

“If plaintiffs take all steps that are required in the normal course of business as a prerequisite to issuing a marriage license to opposite-sex couples, Judge Davis may not deny them a license,” Judge Granade said.

The action comes amid a week of conflicting legal arguments, confusion, and open defiance among officials in Alabama after a ruling by Judge Granade striking down the state’s ban on same-sex marriages took effect on Monday.

Despite the ruling, most of the state’s probate judges, who issue marriage licenses in each county, are refusing to begin providing licenses to gay men and lesbians wishing to marry. Some simply closed their offices and refused to issue any licenses at all.

In contrast, probate judges in 23 Alabama counties voluntarily started issuing licenses without regard to the sexual orientation of applicants.

Those refusing to issue licenses have cited an order issued by Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore the day before the federal ruling was to take effect.

On Sunday, Chief Justice Moore ordered Alabama probate judges to uphold Alabama law, rather than the federal decision.

The chief justice noted that the federal lawsuit challenging Alabama’s marriage laws named the state’s attorney general, Luther Strange, as the sole defendant. He said the federal courts had no jurisdiction to order any probate judge to comply with its decision, since no probate judge was named as a defendant in the underlying lawsuit.

Lawyers for four same-sex couples in Mobile sought to correct that deficiency on Monday by amending their complaint to include Davis as a defendant.

With Davis as a defendant in the lawsuit, Judge Granade on Thursday was able to exert jurisdiction over him and order him to begin issuing marriage licenses.

The legal gymnastics were necessary in part because the federal appeals court, the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals, has not yet ruled on the merits of Judge Granade’s decision. Such a ruling would establish binding precedent throughout all three federal districts in Alabama.

Granade’s decision last month invalidated Alabama’s marriage law and a state constitutional amendment that defined marriage as “inherently a unique relationship between a man and a woman.”

Granade concluded that Alabama’s marriage definition violated a fundamental right under the US Constitution for same-sex couples to marry. She also ruled that it violated their constitutional right to equal treatment.

Alabama officials had asked both the appeals court and the US Supreme Court to stay the decision until the merits of the case should be litigated – or at least until the US Supreme Court decides four pending same-sex marriage cases raising the same issues.

Both the appeals court and the Supreme Court declined to issue a stay.

Judge Granade’s injunction only applies to Davis. It is possible that other same-sex couples will have to file lawsuits naming other probate judges as defendants to force them to issue licenses to same-sex couples.

It also possible that state officials may recognize that Judge Granade’s decision is based on an interpretation of the US Constitution, which binds all public officials – state, local and national. In that sense, probate judges may voluntarily comply with the principles expressed in Granade’s decision.

“Today’s ruling by Judge Granade provides clear direction to Judge Davis and other probate judges and will help ensure that all same-sex couples in Alabama, regardless of where they live, have the freedom to marry,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, in a statement.

According to the gay rights organization Human Rights Campaign, on Thursday afternoon prior to the ruling, 23 county probate judges were issuing marriages licenses to all couples, 18 were only issuing licenses to heterosexual couples, and 26 – including Mobile – were refusing to issue any licenses.

Granade’s order should, at a minimum, reduce that last number from 26 to 25.

Alabama chief justice tells probate judges not to issue gay marriage licenses

Alabama chief justice tells probate judges not to issue gay marriage licenses

Associated Press

Gay Marriage Alabama_Cham640360020915.jpg
Feb. 8, 2015: Shanté Wolfe, left and Tori Sisson, right, sit near the Montgomery County Courthouse Sunday in Montgomery, Ala. Wolfe and Sisson camped out all night on Sunday to be the first couple to marry in Montgomery on Monday morning. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Alabama appeared set within hours to become the 37th state where gays can legally wed, prompting one couple to pitch a tent outside a courthouse even as the state’s chief justice made an 11th hour bid to keep the weddings on hold Monday.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore sent a letter Sunday evening to probate judges ordering them to refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses when the courts opened Monday morning. Moore wrote that the judges weren’t bound by a federal judge’s ruling Jan. 23 that the marriage ban was unconstitutional.

“Effective immediately, no probate judge of the state of Alabama nor any agent or employee of any Alabama probate judge shall issue or recognize a marriage license that is inconsistent with (the Alabama Constitution),” Moore wrote.

Susan Watson, executive director The American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, called the move by the conservative chief justice “grandstanding” and predicted licenses would be issued shortly.

“We will see marriage equality in Alabama tomorrow. I don’t think the probate judges in Alabama are going to defy a federal court judge’s order,” Watson said late Sunday.

U.S. District Judge Callie Granade had ruled that the state marriage ban was unconstitutional and — in a later clarifying order — said that probate judges have a legal duty under the U.S. Constitution to issue the licenses.

The developments unfolded as at least one couple showed up early at the county courthouse in one major city, Montgomery, and more were expected at courthouses around the state in coming hours.

Tori Sisson and Shante Wolf pitched a blue and white tent outside the Montgomery County Courthouse and hugged as they waited in hopes of being the first couple to get a marriage license in Alabama.

“It’s about time,” Wolfe, 21, said of gay marriage being allowed in the Deep South state.

The chief justice, Moore, has been one of the state’s most outspoken critics of gay marriage. He called homosexuality an “evil” in a 2002 custody ruling and urged judges to reject issuing such licenses in recent days.

A few probate judges have said they would refuse to issue the licenses until they received greater clarity from the courts. Moore, as head of the court system, upped the ante Sunday night by sending the directive, although, it was unclear what enforcement provision he has.

Moore’s letter to the probate judges said Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley can take action against elected officials who fail to follow the law.

Jennifer Ardis, a spokeswoman for Bentley, said she did not know about Moore’s letter and did not have an immediate comment Sunday evening.

Couples plan to seek marriage licenses across the state with marriage equality groups providing ministers and judges to perform ceremonies in Huntsville and Birmingham.

Attorney General Luther Strange has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to put aside Granade’s order since justices are expected to issue a ruling later this year on whether gay couples have a right to marry nationwide. The high court had not ruled on the state’s request within hours of the opening of courthouses Monday.

The ACLU has established a hotline for couples to report if they are refused a license. Watson said the ACLU will be at courthouses across the state, not just to be prepared for problems, but to hand out balloons and gifts to joyful couples.

“I think it will really pretty simple. Hopefully we will be able to hand out a lot of wedding favors,” Watson said.

More than 100 people attended a “Sanctity of Marriage” rally at the Alabama Capitol on Saturday. With the sign “One Man One Woman” behind them, speakers said they stood with the biblical definition of marriage and the 80 percent of voters who approved Alabama’s gay marriage ban in 2006.

A group of marriage rights supporters gathered across the street waving signs reading, “Y’all means all” and singing a version of “Going to the Chapel,” but changing the word chapel to courthouse.

Congress Eyeballing Civilian Body Armor With New Bill

Congress Eyeballing Civilian Body Armor With New Bill

By 

As if the push to severely restrict our gun rights wasn’t enough, which is directly opposed to the Second Amendment, it appears as if Congress is trying to take a swipe at safety by targeting body armor with a new bill.

H.R. 378 was introduced by Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA). The new bill seeks to prohibit the private ownership of certain types of body armor by civilians, with exceptions of course. According to Guns Save Lives, Type III and above body armor is on the chopping block from devious Democrats who hate all things Second Amendment related.

If passed, the bill would make owning such armor a federal offense that’s punishable by up to 10 years in prison, which undoubtedly seems rather harsh. It was introduced as part of a three-section legislative package that’s aimed at promoting “public safety,” the congressman’s website said.

Congress Eyeballing Civilian Body Armor With New Bill

“These bills are sensible, reasonable measures to limit the damage that can be inflicted by guns and those who mean harm with them,” Congressman Honda said. “We have seen too many people injured and killed by guns to just stand by and do nothing. These bills will modernize our gun laws to reflect how weapons are currently getting into the wrong hands.”

The “Responsible Body Armor Possession Act,” as it’s so-called, is intended to allow “law enforcement to respond to active shooting situations more effectively” by prohibiting the “purchase, sale, or possession of military-grade body armor by anyone except certain authorized users, such as first-responders and law enforcement.”

Included in Rep. Honda’s legislative package are two other bills, which he says will “make the streets safer.” Both bills focus on guns that are assembled or manufactured at home, and would impose harsh restrictions on hobbyists and others who enjoy private gunsmithing.

“We need a common sense approach to reduce gun violence,” Congressman Honda said. “These bills can make our streets safer, and protect our citizens, police, and first responders. I will continue to fight for sensible public safety laws.”

From Rep. Honda’s site:

The Homemade Firearms Accountability Act – This bill will require that guns that are self-assembled or manufactured at home be regulated the same as those that are purchased. It will require that all homemade guns have serial numbers, so if they are used in the commission of a crime, the police are able to trace the bullet back to the weapon.

The Home-Assembled Firearms Restriction Act – This bill will ban the sale and purchase of “incomplete lower receivers,” which are easily purchased and converted into functioning firearms. Banning these transactions would severely reduce the number of untraceable weapons on our streets.

According to the National Institute of Justice, Type III body armor is capable of withstanding direct impacts from rifles that shoot 7.62mm 147 gr FMJ and larger rounds. Type IV is capable of withstanding armor piercing rounds and is the highest level of protection available, it would be banned under the new law as well.

While it’s unlikely that such a law would pass with the Republican-controlled Congress, being aware of what the Democrats have on the table is always a good idea. After all, they could very easily retake both houses of Congress next election cycle, then a bill like this would easily pass.

FBI Says Doesn’t Need Warrant To Track Your Cell Phone

FBI Says Doesn’t Need Warrant To Track Your Cell Phone

Practically nothing to protect citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights

The FBI Says It Doesn’t Need a Warrant to Track Your Cell Phone in Public

The FBI claims that it doesn’t need a warrant to use so-called Stingray cell-phone tracking technology in public spaces, according to two US Senators raising privacy concerns over use of the devices.

Stingrays and similar devices intercept data by emulating a cell phone tower, say privacy groups. With the briefcase-size technology, police can identify and locate cell phone users in a general area or search for a specific person while also vacuuming upmetadata from phones.

The FBI recently settled on a new policy surrounding the use of Stingrays and similar technology that requires agents to obtain a warrant before using the technology in a criminal investigation. However, the policy includes such broad exceptions that privacy advocates worry they do practically nothing to protect citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights.

The new policy was first revealed by former Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and the then ranking Republican on the committee, Chuck Grassley—who has since become chairman—in a letter to the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security released at the end of December.

In the letter, Leahy and Grassley question whether law enforcement agencies using cell-phone-tracking technology “have adequately considered the privacy interests of other individuals who are not targets of the inception, but whose
information is nevertheless being collected when these devices are used.”

The Wall Street Journal reported in November that the US Marshals Service was using cell-phone-tracking technology in small aircraft to search for criminal suspects, sweeping up thousands of other cell phone signals in the process.

Law enforcement agencies purchase Stingrays and similar devices—technically called International Mobile Subscriber Identity catchers—through federal grants under the auspices of anti-terrorism operations. Police say the technology can also be used for search-and-rescue operations, in kidnapping situations, and disaster response.

According to Leahy and Grassley, the FBI’s new policy contains an exception for “cases that pose an imminent danger to public safety, cases that involve a fugitive, or cases in which the technology is used in public places or other locations at which the FBI deems there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.”

Hanni Fakhoury, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said in a statement to VICE that it “seems that a carve out to allow the FBI to use an IMSI catcher in public without a warrant is an exception that swallows the rule.”

Fakhoury said the FBI’s new policy is “a good first step towards transparency, but there need to be a lot more information made public about how these devices are used.

“First, what was happening before the change in policy?” Fakhoury continued. “If the new policy requires the FBI to get a warrant to use the device but has an exception for when the device is in public use, does that mean the feds were using IMSI catchers to capture signals emanating from the home, a place clearly protected by the Fourth Amendment? Second, what is the requirement for FBI’s use of these devices in public places, which is presumably where the bulk of these devices are used?”

Leahy and Grassley are pressing the Justice Department for more details on the privacy implications of the technology.

“The Judiciary Committee needs a broader understanding of the full range of law enforcement agencies that use this technology, the policies in place to protect the privacy interests of those whose information might be collected using these devices, and the legal process that DOJ and DHS entities seek prior to using them,” Leahy and Grassley wrote in their letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson.

Reports of police departments using Stingrays first surfaced in December 2013, whenUSA Today reported that cell phone surveillance technology originally designed for the US military was finding its way into state and local police departments across the country.

Since that report, the ACLU has unearthed public records showing police departments and federal law enforcement in 19 states and the District of Columbia are using IMSI catchers.

Transparency groups and news organizations trying to dig up more information on Stingrays have been stymied by an aggressive effort from federal agents, local police departments, and the company that manufactures the devices.

Earlier this year in Sarasota, Florida, the US Marshals Service confiscated records on Stingray surveillance from a courthouse just hours before the records were due to be handed over to the ACLU.

In September, a public records request revealed state and local police must sign a non-disclosure agreement with the FBI, keeping details of the devices secret.

Prosecutors in Baltimore went so far as to toss key evidence in a case rather than reveal details of how police used a Stingray to track the defendant.

The FBI and DHS did not immediately respond to requests for comment. In a statement to VICE, the Justice Department said only that it is reviewing Leahy and Grassley’s letter, which calls for a response to their concerns by the end of the month.

Follow CJ Ciaramella on Twitter.

Dashcam video of wobbly judge, DUI case dismissed for ‘lack of evidence’

Dashcam video of wobbly judge, DUI case dismissed for ‘lack of evidence’

Nora Longoria DWI arrest (KGBT)

Citizens of a Texas border town are incensed after dashcam footage shows that a judge whose DWI charge was dropped for lack of evidence clearly failed a field sobriety test, KGBT reports.

Thirteenth Court of Appeals Justice Nora Longoria was arrested in July on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.

According to the police report, Longoria was driving 70 mph in a 55-mph zone. When the officer pulled her over, she slurred her speech and smelled of alcohol, so he administered a field sobriety test — which she failed.

Longoria begged the officer to “please let me go home. I live a couple of miles away. You are going to ruin my life. I worked hard for 25 years to be where I am today.” She then refused to be handcuffed, allegedly telling the officer that if he wanted to arrest her, he would have to drag her to his patrol car.

When she went into court in November, however, Judge Rolando Cantu dismissed the charges because prosecutor Rene Guerra said that the district attorney’s office didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute — because there was no dashcam footage of her arrest.

On Friday, however, McAllen police released the dashcam video from the night of Longoria’s arrest, and in it she can clearly be seen yelling at the officer and struggling to walk in a straight line.

McAllen police claimed to be unaware of why the prosecution in Longoria’s case did not have the footage.

Watch the raw footage of her failed sobriety test below via KGBT on YouTube.

Day 8: IRS Still Can’t Find Lerner’s Hard Drive

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WASHINGTON – The IRS can’t say with certainty what happened to the computer hard drive used by Lois Lerner, or exactly where it is now, but the agency has provided a federal judge sworn testimony indicating it was probably destroyed.

That means it is doubtful the judge will let the conservative group True the Vote have an independent expert do a forensic examination of what happened to the hard drive.

Related: True the Voter Leader, Soccor Mon Testifies Before Congress on IRS Targeting Scandal

But the group’s lawyer, Cleta Mitchell, told WND it is still “is a big step in the right direction” because “we have more information today than Congress has gotten from the hearsay testimony of the IRS commissioner.”

On July 11, Judge Reggie Walton ordered the agency to find out what had happened to the hard drive, after IRS Commissioner John Koskinen revealed in June that a computer malfunction had caused the loss of two years of emails belonging to Lerner, whose tax-exempt division improperly targeted conservative groups.

Related: Complete History and Recap on IRS Targeting Scandal

Lois Lerner

In a declaration made under oath, Stephen L. Manning, a supervisor in the IRS’ Information Technology business unit, said the agency keeps track of its desktop and laptop computers by tagging them with bar codes.

Lerner’s laptop had the serial number 2AGAHC11XN0ON.

But, Manning testified, the IRS does not keep track of the serial numbers of the computers’ component parts, such as hard drives.

That is why, he implied, the IRS does not know where the crucial piece of equipment is now, testifying it is “impossible to specifically identify the hard drive through any Internal Revenue Service equipment system.”

And, that is why, he testified, “to the best of my knowledge no one at the Internal Revenue Service has firsthand knowledge of the serial number on the hard drive that was in the laptop computer assigned to Lois Lerner at the time of the help desk complaint on June 13, 2011.”

He said the technician replaced the hard drive in Lerner’s laptop and had it returned to her.

Manning said Lerner’s hard drive was then “delivered to the IRS Criminal Investigation Division Electronic Crimes Forensic Laboratory for additional efforts to recover data from the malfunctioning hard drive.”

He said, as far as he knew, those efforts were unsuccessful and the hard drive was returned to the IT department.

Manning testified, to the best of his knowledge, the hard drive was then destroyed.

He said, as far as he knew, in accordance with standard procedure, all information on the hard drive was erased to protect any confidential taxpayer information.

To the best of his knowledge, the hard drive was then destroyed by shredding; then it was recycled.

The testimony revealed another bizarre turn in the saga: The technician, or, specialist, who tried to recover the data from Lerner’s hard drive on that June day in 2011 may have been blind.

Manning testified, “According to the Specialist, prior to joining the Internal Revenue Service, from 2004 to 2005, formal Microsoft training was completed through Lions World Services for the Blind …”

The testimony didn’t indicate how blind, if blind at all, that person may have been. That specialist also appears to be highly qualified and extensively trained, as revealed by Judge Walton’s order that all the qualifications of those who worked on the hard drive be reported.

The Lions program appears to accept either those who sight-read or those who use Braille, and an IRS web page shows it has worked with Lions since 1967.

True the Vote is hopeful it will be able to make inroads into the IRS’ targeting of conservatives where congressional investigators have been stymied by what GOP lawmakers portray as the agency’s lack of cooperation.

Judge Walton encouraged that hope July 11 by saying, unlike Congress, he is easily able to throw people in jail if they refuse to cooperate.

Attorney Mitchell told WND she is encouraged that True the Vote’s lawsuit against the IRS is moving in “the right direction of getting to the truth of what happened” and that her legal team will now confer as to their next step.

As WND reported a week ago Thursday, a federal judge ordered the IRS to explain, under oath, exactly what happened to Lerner’s missing emails.

Then, on Friday, in the same District Court, Judge Walton ordered the IRS to explain, under oath, what happened to Lerner’s computer hard drive.

IRS Commissioner Koskinen had testified before Congress last month that the hard drive was recycled, and presumably destroyed.

IRS Commissioner Koskinen Testifies on Missing Emails

Walton ordered the IRS to tell him whatever it knows about the hard drive that Lerner says malfunctioned and lost two years of emails sought by congressional investigators, within one week.

Walton issued the order July 11, demanding to know the serial number of Lerner’s hard drive and what happened to it.

The judge’s order specifically directed the IRS to submit to “an affidavit or declaration signed under oath by an appropriate individual with firsthand knowledge that”:

  • “Outlines the expertise and qualifications of the individual or individuals currently conducting the forensic examination as part of the Inspector General’s investigation;
  • “Outlines the expertise and qualifications of the individual or individuals who previously conducted forensic examinations or otherwise attempted to recover information from the computer hard drive at issue;
  • “Provides a projected date of completion of the Inspector General’s investigation;
  • “States whether the serial number, if any, assigned to the computer hard drive at issue is known; and
  • “If the serial number is known, why the computer hard drive cannot be identified and preserved.”

Lerner claims her emails were lost when her hard drive crashed on July 13, 2011. She said that caused her to lose all her emails sent to recipients outside the IRS from mid-2009 to mid-2011.

A Treasury Department Inspector General for Tax Administration, or TIGTA, is doing the investigation into Lerner’s missing emails.

The Treasury Department actually oversees the IRS, so attorneys for True the Vote, which is suing the IRS for damages, had requested the judge allow independent experts to do a forensic examination of what happened to Lerner’s hard drive and to see if they could recover any of the missing emails.

Judge Walton stopped short of that, but was clearly sympathetic to their concerns, demanding that TIGTA provide so much information in such a short time to the court.

Attorney Mitchell had told WND she was very encouraged because the judge had decided the time had come to hear from people with direct knowledge of the investigation into Lerner’s missing emails.

True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht told WND she was very happy with the development because the judge showed “a keen interest in having someone look at what investigators are actually doing.”

True the Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht testifies in a congressional hearing in February

Engelbrecht could be the poster gal for federal abuse in the IRS scandal, having had an entire alphabet soup of federal agencies come knocking on her door after she helped found True the Vote and King Street Patriots.

Even though the Englebrechts had spent two decades running a business without any interest from federal agencies, once she applied for tax-exempt status for her grassroots groups, the Texan was suddenly audited by the IRS and ATF, received multiple visits by OSHA and ATF, and even was visited by the ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.

The Engelbrechts were subjected to an astounding 15 audits or inquiries, in all.

Lerner is under investigation by Congress for targeting conservative groups such as True the Vote.

She has admitted the IRS improperly targeted groups seeking 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, but has refused to testify before Congress, twice invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

WND broke the news last week that Rep. Steve Stockman had submitted a motion in the House of Representatives calling for the arrest of Lerner for contempt of Congress.

Lerner’s missing emails were sent during the very period in which the IRS targeted conservative groups.

A week ago, Thursday, federal Judge Emmett Sullivan ordered the IRS to make a sworn declaration in writing describing how Lerner could have lost all the emails she sent to other departments from mid-2009 to mid-2011.

The declaration is due by Aug. 10.

The judge also assigned federal magistrate John Facciola, an expert in e-discovery, to find out if there is another way to retrieve the emails.

The judge’s ruling was a significant victory for Judicial Watch, the nonprofit government watchdog group which had filed a Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, request for Lerner’s emails from 2010 to the present.

Judicial Watch has been seeking the emails since May 2013 and requested the hearing to have the IRS explain what happened to Lerner’s emails, and to explain why the group was never informed they were missing.

Lerner is not the only IRS employee under investigation whose emails are missing.

Incredibly, the IRS says the hard drives of six other employees also lost their emails due to hard drive crashes.

Just one month ago, the IRS belatedly informed congressional committees that Lerner’s emails were missing.

The IRS then informed Congress that Lerner’s computer hard drive was recycled and apparently destroyed.

The IRS also then informed Congress that it did not keep backup copies of emails for more than six months, because they were stored on a on old-fashioned tape that is re-used every six months.

Members of Congress were incredulous that the IRS, which requires taxpayers to save records going back seven years, did not save emails for more than six months.

As WND reported, when asked by members of the House Oversight Committee on June 23 why the IRS used such an antiquated system, Commissioner Kokinen testified that the estimated cost of $10 million to $30 million was too much.

Expressing disbelief, Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., wondered, given the IRS’ $1.8 billion IT budget, should that not have been a priority?

“If we had the right resources, there would be a lot of priorities,” Koskinen testily retorted.

However, Rep. Scott Desjarlais, R-Tenn., pointed out that $10 million to $30 million was not much compared to the $89 million the IRS paid in bonuses last year, including $1 million to employees who actually owed back taxes.

Will the Supreme Court get another shot at Obamacare?

Will the Supreme Court get another shot at Obamacare?

Obama Obamacare affordable care act Supreme Court

 

The Supreme Court last week chipped away at one part of the Affordable Care Act, but its ruling in the Hobby Lobby contraception case left most of Obamacare intact. Other court cases, however, are making their way through the court system in an attempt to deliver a more fatal blow to the controversial law.

As early as this week, a three-judge panel from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to hand down a ruling on whether the federal government can give subsidies to Obamacare recipients in states with federally-run health care exchanges. If the appeals court rules in favor of the law’s opponents, it could cripple the law. More than half of the states rely on federally-run marketplaces, and were subsidies not available in those states, Obamacare could be too costly for many customers.

The case, Halbig v. Burwell, rests on how the court system interprets a poorly-worded sentence in the Affordable Care Act.

Section 1311 of the law says the federal government will give subsidies to eligible consumers who buy insurance from an exchange “established by the State.” The Halbig suit — and three other similar cases — argue that, consequently, subsidies aren’t available to customers in the 34 Obamacare exchanges that were established by the federal government. (Here’s a list of which states have state-run exchanges and which have federally-run exchanges.)

Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, and Jonathan Adler of Case Western Reserve University School of Law first made the case against the subsidies, arguing that Congress wanted the subsidies to serve as a reward for states that established their own exchanges. Obamacare’s “congressional sponsors created incentives for states to implement much of the law and reasonably expected that states would do so,” they wrote.

However, there’s no need to guess congressional intent given the law was passed by Congress four years ago. In fact, seven high-ranking Democrats who helped craft Obamacare, as well as dozens of state lawmakers, filed a brief in the case to explain the true intent of the law.

“The purpose of the tax credit provision was to facilitate access to affordable insurance through the Exchanges–not, as Appellants would have it, to incentivize the establishment of state Exchanges above all else, and certainly not to thwart Congress’s fundamental purpose of making insurance affordable for all Americans,” they wrote.

Nicholas Bagley, an expert in health law at the University of Michigan Law School, told CBS News that the “the challenger’s argument about legislative intent is pretty adventurous.”

The argument, he said, attempts to “exploit poorly-drafted statutory language and transform that into a radical re-conceptualization of what the Affordable Care Act was meant to do.”

Steven Schwinn, a professor at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago, agreed that the legal basis for the challenge focuses intently on one poorly-drafted phrase.

“So much of the language of the act makes clear the congressional intent was to extend subsidies to federal exchanges,” he said. “When you look beyond one sentence… I think the picture is quite clear what’s going on in the Affordable Care Act.”

Still, during the oral arguments in March, at least one of the three judges from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals panel was skeptical of the administration’s arguments in the case.

Should the Obama administration lose, it would very likely request an en banchearing, Bagley explained, which would require all 11 active judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider the case. Given that most of the judges were appointed by Democrats, the administration would have a better chance of winning that round. Yet if the government lost again, it would likely ask the Supreme Court to review the case.

“If the government asks the Supreme Court to review the case, it would be very likely to accept review, especially on an issue of this importance,” Bagley said.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is fending off a challenge to the Affordable Care Act on another front in Wisconsin. On Monday, a federal judge considered whether Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., should be allowed to proceed with his lawsuit against the ACA. Specifically, the lawsuit challenges the federal subsidies for lawmakers and congressional staffers who purchase health insurance through Obamacare exchanges.

The controversy stems from a provision in the law requiring congressmen and their staff to get their insurance from the state-based health care exchanges — in order to ensure members of Congress weren’t receiving special treatment. However, that meant that members of Congress and their staff were the only people in America directly cut off from their employer-provided health insurance subsidies because of Obamacare (whether or not other Americans have been off as an indirect result of the law is a different story). This was particularly troublesome for low-paid staffers.

To work around this problem, the administration crafted a compromise rule, allowing congressional employees getting insurance through the exchanges to still get employer contributions to their premiums.

“It’s Congress’ role to actually make or change or repeal laws,” Johnson saidoutside of the courthouse on Monday. “They can’t do it through presidential fiat.”

Before Johnson can proceed with the case, a federal judge needs to determine whether or not the senator has standing — in other words, whether he has a personal stake in the outcome of the lawsuit or has been personally harmed by the president’s actions. Johnson argues he has standing because he and other lawmakers were “asked to be complicit in something we do not believe to be lawful.” Additionally, he said that providing his staff with subsidies could harm his reputation with his constituents.

Schwinn called the argument “bizarre,” given that the Obama administration in this case is actually trying to help, rather than harm, Johnson’s staff. He added, “It doesn’t even really help them,” but rather “puts them in the position they were in prior to the Affordable Care Act.”

“It’s a very bizarre theory to get into federal court, and in my view underscores the political nature of this challenge and so many challenges to Obamacare,” Schwinn said.

After Monday’s hearing on the standing issue, Johnson said he was encouraged that U.S. District Judge William Griesbach even entertained his arguments, the Green Bay Press-Gazette reported. The judge said he would issue a ruling on the matter of Johnson’s standing in “short order.”