Justice Department redacts talking points on Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting
by Todd Shepherd
The Justice Department released a redacted version of talking points it created about last year’s tarmac meeting between then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton, and claimed that the information could be withheld because of the government’s “deliberative process” privilege.
The conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain numerous documents related to the meeting, and eventually had to sue the Department of Justice to obtain the documents, which included the redacted talking points.
“It is jaw-dropping that the Trump administration is blacking out key information about how the Obama Justice Department tried to spin Loretta Lynch’s scandalous meeting with Bill Clinton,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton in a press release. “President Trump should order the full and immediate release of these materials.”
The tarmac meeting became a major campaign issue in 2016, and was reignited thanks to recent testimony from former FBI Director James Comey.
In his June testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Comey said Lynch had asked him to refer to matters about Hillary Clinton’s email server as a “matter” instead of an “investigation.”
“That language tracked the way that the campaign was talking about the FBI’s work, and that’s concerning,” Comey said under questioning. “I don’t know whether it was intentional or not, but it gave the impression that the attorney general was looking to align the way we talked about our work with the way a political campaign was describing the same activity, which was inaccurate. We had a criminal investigation open, and so that gave me a queasy feeling.”
Comey also said the tarmac meeting was what forced him to decide in 2016 to hold a press conference independent of the Justice Department to announce that charges shouldn’t be filed against Hillary Clinton over her use of the independent, unsecured server for emails during her time as secretary of state.
Comey was heavily criticized for taking matters into his own hands, and his decision was even used as justification when President Trump suddenly fired him earlier this year.
Other watchdog groups have called on the Trump administration to release documents requested during the Obama administration which were withheld or redacted, but with little success.