Court in ACLJ FOIA Case Orders Biden Deep State To Turn Over to ACLJ Unredacted Jen Psaki Email Regarding Newly Confirmed Obama-Biden Administration “Meeting” About the Iran Deal
This is a major breakthrough in one of our oldest-running lawsuits, now directly against the Biden Administration, about the Obama-Biden Administration’s “Iran lie.” In our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case against the State Department, we just discovered that senior Obama-Biden officials held a “meeting” where a “decision” was made on what to tell the press about its clandestine negotiations with Iran in reaching the infamous “Iran Nuclear Deal.”
That “meeting” and what “decision” was made has been kept from the American public, but all that is about to change.
We have just obtained a new federal court order in this case, and it’s a big one. Despite attempts by the Biden Deep State to hide the truth about the disastrous Iran deal, the court agreed with our arguments and ordered the Biden State Department to hand over a key email – now with no redactions – between none other than President Biden’s own White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and other senior Obama-Biden officials containing newly confirmed details about a “decision” made at that “meeting.”
We already got that email in this case, but it was heavily redacted based on the State Department’s claim of “presidential communications privilege” – a high-level privilege signaling that what they wanted to withhold is likely highly sensitive. We didn’t give up or back down. Now we’re going to get to see what it said.
Here’s the situation, as we’ve explained before:
As we told you, we filed this FOIA almost FIVE YEARS AGO.
Way back then we explained how the Obama-Biden Administration was involved in censoring an official State Department press briefing video to delete an embarrassing admission that the Administration lied about its Iran deal negotiations.
We received definitive evidence that the Obama-Biden Administration intentionally manipulated the public video record of a press briefing – having deleted an incriminating portion in which it admitted deceiving the American people about the Iran nuclear negotiations.
As we explained in our lawsuit, the Administration originally claimed the deletion was a “glitch”; but after receiving our FOIA request, it admitted the deletion was not a glitch, but was instead “deliberate.”
Through our lawsuit, we have obtained an email sent by Jen Psaki – who is now the Biden White House Press Secretary – with information relevant to our Iran lie FOIA regarding when the Obama-Biden Iran deal negotiations actually began. In typical Deep State fashion, the chain of emails has been so heavily redacted that it is hard to make heads or tails of the conversation, except that the Iran discussion is specifically referenced. And the flurry of email activity began with an inquiry from an Associated Press reporter within days of the deleted press briefing. Now the Biden State Department is refusing to cooperate or provide us with an unredacted copy, due to supposed security concerns, including new concerns it claimed for the first time well into our lawsuit.
We got the EMAIL. But as you can see, it is so heavily redacted, that we couldn’t tell what they were trying so hard to hide.
We had objected to the State Department’s redactions; and in a major move, the court ordered the Biden State Department to turn over the unredacted document for what is called in camera review. This is when a judge gets to see a full document in their chambers to determine if the reasons the agency doesn’t want to give it to us are actually valid – which is a very rare victory in and of itself in FOIA cases. Then, we appeared (via teleconference) in court earlier this month for oral argument about the redacted email.
Now, the court has roundly rejected the Biden State Department’s arguments about presidential communications privilege and its asserted arguments to withhold this email from the American people. In fact, as the court noted, the Biden Administration “fail[ed] to present direct evidence” to support its vague assertions that the presidential communications privilege applied. As the court explained:
The presidential communications privilege “preserves the President’s ability to obtain candid and informed opinions from his advisors and to make decisions.” Loving v. Dep’t of Def., 550 F.3d 32, 37 (D.C. Cir. 2008). It “applies to communications made in the process of arriving at presidential decisions,” and it protects those communications in their entirety. In re Sealed Case, 121 F.3d 729, 745 (D.C. Cir. 1997).
The presidential communications privilege is a serious one and should be reserved to cover the kind of information it was truly meant to protect. We’ve seen these agencies abuse these privileges in case after case. It appears that’s what happened here, too. According to the court:
The Court holds that State has not met its burden of showing that the redacted material is covered by the presidential communications privilege, and thus may be withheld under [FOIA] Exemption 5. The record lacks information from which the Court can conclude that the meeting described in the redacted material was convened by an immediate presidential adviser for the purpose of advising the President. . . . State seems to argue that because the meeting was convened within the National Security Council framework, it must have been called by an immediate White House adviser covered by the privilege. Maybe. But even if the Court could find that whoever called the meeting must have been close enough to the President for the privilege to attach, on this record the Court cannot find that the meeting was called for the purpose of advising him, for several reasons. . . .
The Court knows of no reason why it should excuse State’s failure to present direct evidence, by its nature within State’s control, about this key prerequisite for the presidential communications privilege to attach. . . .
Moreover, that the meeting was called to address press reports and the Administration’s response to them does not necessarily suggest that presidential decisionmaking was involved, even if Iran policy was a key priority for President Obama. To be sure, the Court accepts that press strategy can be a part of diplomacy and presidential decisionmaking. But there is no indication that it was in this case.
As we reported previously, this entire situation stemmed from a 2013 press briefing where secret meetings between the Obama-Biden Administration and Iran were brought up, and then-State Department (and now Biden’s White House) spokesperson Jen Psaki essentially admitted she feels it is justifiable to withhold the truth from the American people – otherwise known as lying – at her own discretion:
At the Daily Press Briefing on December 2, 2013, [James] Rosen asked spokesperson Jen Psaki if the talks had really begun as far back as 2011, as Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes recently admitted to the New York Times. Here is what Rosen said, referencing a prior press briefing in February 2013:
QUESTION: — about Iran. And with your indulgence, I will read it in its entirety for the purpose of the record and so you can respond to it.
“Rosen: There have been reports that intermittently, and outside of the formal P5+1 mechanisms, the Obama Administration, or members of it, have conducted direct secret bilateral talks with Iran. Is that true or false?”
“Nuland: We have made clear, as the Vice President did at Munich, that in the context of the larger P5+1 framework, we would be prepared to talk to Iran bilaterally. But with regard to the kind of thing that you’re talking about on a government-to-government level, no.”
That’s the entirety of the exchange.
Rosen followed up with a valiant attempt to get a straight answer. Finally:
QUESTION: Let me try it one last way, Jen —
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: — and I appreciate your indulgence.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Is it the policy of the State Department, where the preservation or the secrecy of secret negotiations is concerned, to lie in order to achieve that goal?
MS. PSAKI: James, I think there are times where diplomacy needs privacy in order to progress. This is a good example of that. . . .
And as we’ve noted before:
Based on that answer, it’s rather alarming that Ms. Psaki has authorized herself to determine when she should and should not tell the truth, considering that she now speaks for the White House and President Biden. But maybe it’s not all that surprising.
The Obama Administration – of which then-Vice President Biden was an integral part – engaged in closed-door negotiations with Iran, the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world, long before the public knew. And then they tried to obscure the facts to cover it up. They lied to the American people about the most critical and controversial diplomatic negotiations in decades.
In the censored video, President Obama’s State Department – and Psaki specifically – essentially admitted as much. The decision to scrub the video was part of an intentional cover-up. The decision to call the alteration a “glitch” was part of that cover-up. And we’ve obtained the “sensitive” State Department internal memo detailing “evidence of purposeful editing” that proves it. Further, the decision to not fully comply with our lawful FOIA request proves what we’ve suspected all along.
The American people have the right to know who was involved in that cover-up. It’s certainly not up to a Press Secretary to spoon out what they believe we deserve to know. Especially when we know Psaki was involved in a discussion about the Iran negotiations and now doesn’t want to cooperate. It’s worth nothing that Psaki is the same White House Press Secretary who wanted to require all journalists to submit their questions in advance of briefings so she could determine which ones she would call on to answer.
But now we know even more. Quoting from the court’s opinion, we learned in this case that there was an “inter-agency government meeting, involving high-level officials in the administration’s foreign policy and national security teams, pertaining to Iran.” As the court explained, “the meeting was convened under the PPD-1 framework—established to consider national security policy issues requiring presidential determination . . . . Moreover, . . . the meeting was called to address press reports and the Administration’s response to them . . . .” It is also clear from the court’s order that “a key decision . . . was made at the meeting in question. . . . In addition, . . . the decision concerned how to address ‘the administration’s response to the press reports regarding U.S.-Iran talks’ and ‘how to communicate Iran-related policy to the public’ . . . .” Additionally, we learned that Bernadette Meehan and Ben Rhodes, two advisors to President Obama, “were involved in passing on a decision reached at the meeting to Psaki and [Marie] Harf at State.” We’ve further learned through our litigation, from the State Department’s own arguments, that this “meeting” occurred within two days of and regarded “the subject of the December 2, 2013, press briefing video” – the now infamous deleted press briefing video about the Iran negotiations – which is the main subject of our FOIA.
What we’ve already learned is key because while the Biden State Department no longer has an excuse to keep withholding the information from us, they can, and quite likely will, attempt to appeal this to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. If they do, we will be there to hold our ground and to defend the district court’s well-reasoned opinion. And if there is no appeal, we will be quickly providing you, the American public, with the unredacted email.
Our leaders, and especially the spokesperson for the sitting President, must be held to account for their actions. If lies were told, if a plan to deceive was made, you deserve to know. Make no mistake: What happened five years ago is VERY relevant today, as the Biden Administration is now seeking to rejoin the disastrous Iran deal. And Psaki herself is once again responsible for providing the truth to the American people. One has to wonder, considering her record, if she can.
Someone needs to protect the rights of the American people. That’s why the work of the ACLJ is needed now more than ever. We will not give up until we expose the truth behind the Obama-Biden Iran lie.