An inside the Beltway public-interest group that investigates and exposes government corruption, especially at the federal level, announced on Wednesday that its legal staff filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice in order to gain access to records regarding the granting of mass clemency to convicted felons by President Barack Obama.
The successful legal eagles at Judicial Watch are seeking to obtain all of the records of communications between Deputy Attorney General James Cole's office and several activist groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the American Bar Association (ABA).
According to officials at Judicial Watch, the organizations cited in the federal lawsuit created what they titled "The Clemency Project 2014”). The Project supported the Justice Department's actions in April 2014 that gave President Obama the "legal cover" to grant a massive clemency program that would release upwards of 20,000 convicted felons now serving time in federal penal institutions for drug-related offenses.
The FOIA lawsuit was filed after the DOJ failed to comply with a March 2014 request seeking "any and all records of communications" between employees or officials from Deputy Attorney General James Cole's office and representatives of the ACLU, the ABA, Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) in anyway connected to the "Clemency Project 2014 from January 1, 2014 to the present."
On April 23, 2014, Deputy Attorney General Cole sent out a press statement announcing Obama's "clemency initiative" asserting that the program would lead to inmates -- sentenced under what he called “out-of-date" federal laws -- petitioning the courts to have their prison terms “commuted, or reduced, by the President of the United States.”
According to several law enforcement professionals, this latest round of clemencies is just one part of the Obama plan -- and that of his Attorney General, Eric Holder -- to use executive power to end alleged racial discrimination in drug-related sentences.
"Instead of worrying about the pain and destruction caused by these felons, Obama and his minions are concerned with the tough sentences given to felons. It's just another example of executive excess by this president," said former New York detective Keith McDermott, who served on an inter-agency drug task force.
"Marijuana is one thing I agree we need to address as far as prison sentencing, but cocaine, heroin, designer drugs and diverted prescription narcotics are another thing," McDermott said.
“This is clearly yet another case of the president abusing his authority,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton in a press statement. “This is an example of the imperial presidency at its worst, and the American people have a right to know who is behind his arrant usurpation of power. And his Department of Justice’s outsourcing of its work to left-wing interest groups is yet another abuse that undermines accountability. So it is no surprise that the Department of Justice is now violating our nation’s primary open records law and refusing to divulge basic information about this controversial program.”