As reported in the Washington Post, new FOIA-obtained documents show the White House National Security Council (NSC) paid over $1,000 for an unidentified guest to stay two nights at Donald Trump’s luxury resort Mar-a-Lago. This payment, made with a U.S. government charge card, constitutes the first documented violation by President Trump of the Constitution’s Domestic Emoluments Clause. President Trump owns 99.99% of Mar-a-Lago, LLC directly, and the company’s profits are held in a revocable trust from which Trump may withdraw funds without restriction.
Washington, DC — Today, as a result of ongoing FOIA litigation, Operation 45 obtained, among other documents, a November 1, 2016 letter from Senators Dianne Feinstein and Benjamin Cardin wherein the Senators call on then President Barack Obama to take immediate action against Russia for intrusions into the 2016 election, which was at the moment of their letter just over a week away.
Also included in the released documents are responses from Julia Frifield, Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs at the State Department stating that they, "will not tolerate attempts to interfere with the U.S. Democratic process, and we will take action to protect our interests, including in cyberspace, and we will do so at a time and place of our choosing."
These documents were produced in response to a lawsuit we filed with investigative journalist Jason Leopold on December 26, 2016. Leopold's article about the Feinstein/Cardin letter can be found here.
Today, we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) seeking the release of Donald J. Trump’s FBI file. The records requested, which cover a period from June 14, 1946 through June 15, 2015, will shed new light on already known investigations linking Trump to organized crime and will provide new information about Trump’s engagements with the bureau.
The effort is part of Property of the People’s Operation 45, a project dedicated to seeking transparency and accountability from the Trump administration. Ryan Shapiro, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) PhD candidate, and investigative reporter Jason Leopold, are co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
It has been nearly three months since Property of the People first filed a request to the FBI seeking, among other things, as the request states: “[a]ny and all records mentioning or referring to the living person Donald John Trump.”
Though the FBI has previously released multiple documents with Trump’s name on them from the period stated to Shapiro and Leopold, they have improperly withheld records from this most recent request on the grounds that confirming the existence or non-existence of such records would infringe on Trump’s privacy. However, the enormous public interest in obtaining this information clearly outweighs any embarrassment Trump might suffer. Additionally Trump’s own tweets acknowledging the FBI’s investigation of him negate any arguments that such records may not exist.
Moreover, the FBI has improperly withheld records from this request on the grounds that confirming the existence or non-existence of such records would “risk circumvention of Federal law enforcement efforts.” As stated in the complaint:
“Confirming that the FBI maintains files numbered 137-NY-19967 and 137-22152 would not disclose techniques, procedures, or guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions. Additionally, documents referencing file numbers 137-22152 and 137-NY-19967 in connection with the FBI’s contact with Mr. Trump are already available to the public. The disclosure of the mere existence or nonexistence of responsive records could not reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law. The FBI has not only unreasonably withheld the responsive records, but has unreasonably refused to even confirm the existence of responsive records.”
Plaintiff Shapiro asserts: “Given the profound gravity of the FBI’s past and ongoing investigations involving Donald J. Trump, the public interest in the release of the requested documents is immense. The American public absolutely deserves to know the full truth about the FBI’s historical and current operations involving the President.”
Property of the People vs. Department of Justice, was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The complaint can be read in it’s entirety HERE.
On May 11th, the saga of the FBI's investigation of Trump's call for Russian hacking in the US election was the top story in The Guardian. As analyzed by Operation 45 founder Ryan Shapiro: "In light of Trump's sudden termination of Director Comey, this fact should significantly reinforce the widespread perception that the president of the United States is unabashedly seeking to cover up his and his associates' crimes."
Newly released documents unearthed by the work of Operation 45 reveal that the FBI investigated an extortion threat related to a menacing phone call made to bankruptcy attorney Kristopher Hansen on February 18, 2009, wherein a Trump associate using the name “Carmine” threatened Hansen’s wife and children. Redactions within FBI documents initially indicated that the bureau’s extortion investigation was ongoing as of March 9, 2017. However, in an unusual step the FBI backtracked and claimed that the redaction marking was inadvertent.
The first set of FBI documents (1 & 2) were produced in March as a result of a FOIA lawsuit filed by BuzzFeed News Senior Investigative journalist Jason Leopold, and Operation 45 founder, Ryan Shapiro.