Government watchdog group Judicial Watch on Friday filed a lawsuit against Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and the House Intelligence Committee for failing to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
Specifically, Judicial Watch wanted information about private phone records that were released as part of the Democrats' partisan impeachment push against President Donald Trump. The revelation came about on page 153 of the House Intelligence Committee's report on its investigation into Ukraine.
Page 153 of the report has this citation:
49 AT&T Document Production, Bates ATTHPSCI _20190930_00768, ATTHPSCI _20190930_00772, ATTHPSCI _20190930_00775
Which goes to this paragraph:
The Committees uncovered evidence of close ties and frequent contacts between Mr. Solomon and Mr. Parnas, who was assisting Mr. Giuliani in connection with his representation of the President. Phone records show that in the 48 hours before publication of The Hill opinion piece, Mr. Parnas spoke with Mr. Solomon at least six times.
The people in those calls included President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-CA), investigative journalist John Solomon, Trump attorney Jay Sekulow, attorney Victoria Toensing, as well as others.
"The records are of critical public importance as the subpoenas were issued without any lawful basis and violated the rights of numerous private citizens," the group said in their lawsuit. "...Defendants’ refusal or failure to disclose the records does not serve any legitimate public interest."
When the watchdog group filed their FOIA request they asked for:
1. All subpoenas issued by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on or about September 30, 2019 to any telecommunications provider including, but not limited to AT&T, Inc., for records of telephone calls of any individuals;
2. All responses received to the above-referenced subpoenas.
Judicial Watch explains the importance of receiving the public records, specifically citing a vested public interest.
The records are of critical public importance as the subpoenas were issued without any lawful basis and violated the rights of numerous private citizens.
Disclosure of the requested records would serve the public interest by providing information about the unlawful issuance of the subpoenas.
The requested records fall within the scope of the public’s right of access to governmental records as a matter of federal common law.
The group's president, Tom Fitton, brought up a valid point: if Chairman Schiff has nothing to hide and he believes releasing the call information was perfectly acceptable, why has the Committee failed to release these records?
“Adam Schiff abused his power to secretly subpoena and then publish the private phone records, in potential violation of law, of innocent Americans. What else is Mr. Schiff hiding?” Fitton asked in a statement. “Schiff and his Committee ran roughshod over the rule of law in pursuit of the abusive impeachment of President Trump. This lawsuit serves as a reminder that Congressman Schiff and Congress are not above the law.”
Judicial Watch is not the only one who wants to see more information relating to these secret Committee-issued subpoenas. Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) actually sent a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham asking him to subpoena various call records for Chairman Adam Schiff, former Vice President Joe Biden, Hunter Biden and Mark Zaid, the lawyer for the Ukrainian whistleblower.
"The public has a right to know with whom Rep. Adam Schiff has coordinated his impeachment effort and if America's national security is at risk in any way as a result of Rep. Schiff's actions," Banks wrote.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, anyone has the ability to request access to federal agency documents or records. There are nine exemptions, most of which include classified information that can be vital to the United States' national defense or foreign policy, or a person's private information, like medical files or bank statements.
The agency that receives the FOIA request has 20 days to respond to a request, either granting or denying access to the requested records. When those records are actually produced, assuming they are granted, can vary.