Yesterday the government asked for more time to respond to U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant’s September 29, 2022 order directing the FBI to produce all records related to Seth Rich’s laptop. Somewhat relatedly, the FBI is withholding three reports produced by CrowdStrike in August of 2016 regarding the purported hack of the Democratic National Committee.
First the laptop. The FBI wants two more weeks so it can prepare a motion for reconsideration. As a courtesy, we have not objected to the request. According to the government’s motion, “the FBI is uncertain how to comply with the Court’s order as written, and the FBI is seeking input from a pending appellate consultation regarding the order to properly address this issue.”
The order itself is pretty straightforward, at least with respect to Seth’s personal laptop, because it directs the FBI to “produce the information it possesses related to Seth Rich’s laptop and responsive to Plaintiff’s FOIA requests within 14 days of this Order.” On the other hand, the order does not discuss Seth’s work laptop, which is also in the possession of the FBI.
I’m waiting for the FBI to explain what it thinks needs to be clarified, then I may be filing my own motion for clarification. Meanwhile, the FBI has cited only one narrow basis for withholding the records related to Seth’s laptop, namely his privacy. I’m not sure why it takes four weeks and an appellate lawyer to figure out why the judge did or didn’t get that issue right.
In any event, I’m reminded of something that I learned almost thirty years ago when I was a newspaper reporter: people with nothing to hide don’t try to hide nothing. [Continued on page 2].
As many of you already know, last week U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant ordered the FBI to produce all records related to Seth Rich’s laptop by October 13, 2022. That’s a huge breakthrough, and I suspect I will have a lot to report in the next few weeks. Perhaps we will have a little more insight into whether the murdered Democratic National Committee employee played a role in transferring DNC emails to Wikileaks in 2016.
In fairness to Seth and his family, I do not intend to post all of the laptop contents online. I have a team of investigators and IT experts who will review the contents, and we will post the relevant portions after we finish processing the records. And by “relevant,” I mean those portions that might deal with the transfer of DNC emails to Wikileaks.
A lot of commentators on social media are warning that all of the relevant records have been deleted. I think they are probably right, but we are not just looking for records per se. We are looking for metadata, hence the IT experts. If records were deleted, then we want to know when they were deleted and by whom.
Five years ago we learned that Seth Rich’s family took possession of his laptop after he was murdered in DC, and that raises some red flags. Why not give the laptop directly to the police? If your family member was murdered, wouldn’t you turn everything over to the police?
You may recall that Seth’s brother Aaron filed a federal lawsuit against one of my clients because my client (Ed Butowsky) suggested that Aaron assisted Seth in transferring the DNC emails to Wikileaks. We want to know if files were deleted during the period that the family had the laptop.
And why didn’t the police or the FBI demand the laptop or obtain a grand jury subpoena? I cannot imagine any self-respecting homicide investigator (or leak investigator) ignoring the electronic devices of the decedent. If I was still a cop, that would have been at the top of my list.
The FBI nonetheless obtained the laptop in 2017 — well after Seth’s death — when someone produced it voluntarily. You would expect the FBI to examine it immediately, but it didn’t. Within the last year, the Department of Justice acknowledged in two separate emails that the FBI never examined the laptop. (As I’ve said before, the FBI probably kept Seth’s laptop on the same shelf as Hunter Biden’s laptop).
In his order, Judge Mazzant took the FBI to task because it originally told me in a separate lawsuit filed in 2017 that it had no records whatsoever about Seth Rich, yet in the present lawsuit the FBI suddenly found 20,000 potentially responsive pages. Unfortunately, Judge Mazzant still allowed the FBI to withhold most of the records, but he did not review those records for himself to determine if they were properly withheld.
Our FOIA request also sought all FBI emails about Seth Rich, but the FBI flatly refused to search its email systems on the grounds that it would not be “reasonable.” That was the whole explanation. Unfortunately, Judge Mazzant sided with the FBI on that issue as well. So yes, there will be an appeal.
Judicial Watch: loud, proud, and often useless
In February of 2020, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton announced with much fanfare that JW was filing a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to get records from the FBI about Seth Rich. One month later, Judicial Watch quietly dismissed the case without any explanation whatsoever
Judicial Watch has gone native at the very least, and I’m beginning to wonder if it is controlled opposition. They raise millions every year, and Fitton regularly goes on Fox in a tight golf shirt to show off his biceps, but what have they accomplished lately?
A few years ago I organized The Transparency Project, a Texas nonprofit formed for the purpose of filing FOIA requests in Texas. Judicial Watch and most other organizations file their FOIA lawsuits in DC, where the judicial climate is much more hostile.
We’ve kept The Transparency Project fairly low profile thus far, but expect that to change soon. If you want updates, sign up as a LawFlog follower.
Life and LawFlog
As you can see, this is my first post in over a year. I now have a three-year-old son and an almost one-year-old daughter, so things have changed to say the least. If I cannot post updates myself, I’ll continue to share them with other heretic bloggers (such as TechnoFog). One way or another, the news will get out.