Thursday, June 18, 2015

Judge orders Clinton Foundation racketeering case to trial

Judge orders Clinton Foundation racketeering case to trial
BY: Sarah Westwood
May 29, 2015 | 7:39 pm

Save the date. Hillary Clinton's racketeering trial has been set for January 20, 2016. (Getty Image)
Watchdog Hillary Clinton Bill Clinton 2016 Elections Campaigns Law RICO Clinton Foundation

A Florida judge has set a trial date in the racketeering case against the Clinton Foundation and Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Judge Donald Middlebrooks of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida ordered the racketeering, influenced and corrupt organizations, or RICO, case to head to trial January 20, 2016.

The order, entered Friday and obtained by the Washington Examiner, came days after Larry Klayman of Freedom of Watch filed a lengthy civil complaint against the Clintons and their foundation in the same court.

While the Clinton legal team could settle the case or enter a variety of motions in an effort to derail the lawsuit before the trial, the judge's swift decision means the matter could go to court before the Feb. 1 Iowa caucus and Feb. 9 New Hampshire primary.

Klayman, who has filed dozens of lawsuits against the Clintons and other prominent politicians, suggested the former first couple and their family philanthropy used their political clout to drum up foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation and lavish diplomatic favors for contributors while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.

Klayman also asked the judge to order a "neutral forensic expert ... to take custody and control of the private email server and reconstruct and preserve the official U.S. Government records relating to the conduct of U.S. foreign policy during Defendant Secretary Clinton's term as Secretary of State."

Judge Middlebrooks has not yet ruled on Klayman's request that the court seize Hillary Clinton's server.

The court documents also state the Clinton Foundation and the former first couple must discuss the Cameras in the Courtroom pilot project, an initiative in the Southern District of Florida aimed at incorporating video recordings into civil cases.

"I am pleased that the Court has set this case for early jury trial," Klayman told the Examiner. "This is a matter of extreme national importance and before now, for decades, the Clintons have not had to answer to a jury for their alleged crimes. Now, justice will be done."

The Clinton Foundation declined a request for comment Friday.

Clinton Foundation: Toss 'fatuous' racketeering lawsuit
6/10/15 3:59 PM EDT

Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation are asking a federal judge in Florida to toss out a conservative legal activist's lawsuit claiming the former secretary of state used her private email account and the promise of changes in U.S. foreign policy to shake people down for speaking fees and donations to the foundation.

The Clinton Foundation has also pulled in a legal big-gun, former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, to lead its defense against the racketeering suit filed in March by Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch.

In her first filing in the case last week, Gorelick — a partner at D.C. law firm Wilmer Hale — called the claims in the lawsuit "fatuous." She argued that Klayman's grievance is derived from what he contends were incomplete responses to Freedom of Information Act requests his organization filed with the State Department. Klayman contends those responses could not have been complete because Hillary Clinton used a private email account and server for all her email and only returned some of her messages to the department at its request last year.

Gorelick and longtime Clinton personal lawyer David Kendall argued in separate motions filed last week with U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks that any of Klayman's issues with the FOIA responses should be resolved through litigation pending in Washington against the State Department, not through a racketeering lawsuit against the Clintons personally and the foundation.

"Any remedy for Plaintiff’s alleged FOIA injuries lies with the State Department, in the two actions proceeding in the District of Columbia. Plaintiff has unsuccessfully attempted to re-purpose his FOIA claims into a civil RICO action against private defendants," Gorelick wrote in a motion also signed by Wilmer colleague Jeannie Rhee and Florida lawyer Jeffrey Marcus. The motion dismisses as "farfetched" the notion that records related to Freedom Watch's FOIA requests might be among emails Clinton had erased after her lawyers determined they were personal or private in nature.

"Plaintiff has no constitutional right to Secretary Clinton’s e-mail," Kendall wrote in a parallel motion filed by the Clintons.

However, a more colorful passage in the legal filings is a discussion Kendall offers of Klayman's long record of litigation against the Clintons' as founder of Judicial Watch and now with his new organization.

"The Individual Defendants have borne the burden of defending against Mr. Klayman’s meritless complaints time and again: Plaintiff has sued former Secretary Clinton or President Clinton at least fifteen times. Almost all of those lawsuits have failed before or at the motion-to-dismiss stage, and Mr. Klayman has not prevailed on the merits on a single claim over his decades-long history of suing the Individual Defendants," Kendall wrote in an April filing that also called Klayman a "prolific litigator [whom] federal courts have repeatedly reprimanded and sanctioned."

Klayman quipped to POLITICO Tuesday that he was fairly sure Kendall's tally of lawsuits was low. "Gee, I thought I sued them more than that," the conservative gadfly said. "Kendall tries this in every case and it doesn't go anywhere. I'm used to it and frankly it's irrelevant and insignificant."

Klayman also said the reference to the lawsuits failing overlooked several cases where Judicial Watch prevailed, including one about pay-to-play allegations regarding selection for Commerce Department trade missions during the Clinton Administration.

In the April filing, Kendall argued that allowing Klayman to have the court seize the Clintons' private email server would be unfair and unwise.

"Plaintiff’s proposed relief — seizure or imaging of a privately owned e-mail server — threatens irreparable injury to the Individual Defendants’ basic property and privacy rights, and Plaintiff has not met his burden of showing that the public interest would not be adversely affected by an order that would permit a litigant to seize private property by filing an untested Complaint and asserting that such property may contain documents relevant to the suit," Kendall wrote.

Middlebrooks, a Clinton appointee, has not yet ruled on the motions to dismiss the case. He has set a trial date of January 20, 2016.

Gorelick did not immediately respond to a message about how she came to be involved in the foundation's defense. According to a federal database, the last federal court case she appeared in was when she represented Duke University in a lawsuit brought by lacrosse team members who said they were unfairly connected to a rape prosecution of other team members — a prosecution that later fell apart. After court rulings largely in the school's favor, the former Duke students party to that lawsuit reached a confidential settlement with the school in 2013.

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