According to emails obtained by a watchdog group, State Department officials were explicitly ordered to stop tracking 13 prominent Americans’ social media accounts for information about the Joe Biden-Ukraine scandal in Spring of 2019.
These officials were order to stop these actions because the monitoring violated federal law, according to the recovered emails. According to Just the News, these emails “were originally redacted to hide the concerns from the American public.”
“We are barred by law from actively monitoring the accounts of American citizens in aggregate — and particularly from identifying and monitoring individual, selected accounts,” a State Department official wrote in an April 1, 2019 email to officials in Washington, and to the U.S. embassy in Kiev.
The emails obtained by the outlet raise new questions about the accuracy of the testimony of State Department officials during the impeachment trial of President Trump. They also show how the State Department used redactions in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case to hide the information weeks before the 2020 election.
According to Just the News, “The emails show State Department officials under Trump openly worried a year before the 2020 election that the emerging storyline that Vice President Joe Biden may have engaged in a conflict of interest by presiding over Ukraine policy while his son worked for a corrupt Ukrainian gas company might prove to be ‘the mother load [sic] and main thread to play out, possibly thru Nov. 2020.'”
Reportedly, the illegal monitoring was ordered specifically to counter that narrative, and to counter another story that involved liberal megadonor George Soros, according to the emails.
Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, first brought these concerns to the forefront earlier this year. They asserted that the U.S. embassy in Kiev, run by then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, had created an “enemies list” when ordering State Department officials to monitor social media accounts of prominent Americans. The monitoring was ordered just as the Ukraine scandal regarding Joe and Hunter Biden first surfaced.
After a legal battle, the State Department released memos last month confirming that the embassy did in fact monitor those accounts, which included “Fox News personalities Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Lou Dobbs, the president’s son Don Jr., his lawyer Rudy Giuliani as well as this reporter, whose articles in The Hill first shined a light on the Bidens’ possible conflict of interests in Ukraine.”
Due to the fact that these memos were heavily redacted, Tom Fitton, the Judicial Watch president, accused the State Department of editing the documents in order to hide the truth from the American people.
“It looks like this material was blacked out not for legal reason but for political reasons: namely to help Joe Biden. Judicial Watch first exposed this illicit spy operation against Trump world, and the coverup of this material by the State Department for over a year is inexcusable. Our lawyers will review this new material and consider the legal ramifications,” Fitton said.
View the redacted memo here: EmailUkraineTwitterReportRedacted.pdf
The unredacted version: EmailUkraineTwitterReportUnredacted.pdf
The possibility that U.S. officials in Ukraine and Washington were monitoring perceived critics of Joe Biden in the American news media first surfaced last winter during the Trump impeachment proceedings.
The idea that U.S. officials in Washington and Ukraine were monitoring critics of Joe Biden within the American news media first surfaced during the impeachment hearings for President Trump last winter.
Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who was a hold-over from the Obama administration before Trump fired her, testified to House investigators that her embassy has requested the monitoring after a column in The Hill quoted a Ukrainian prosecutor raising questions about her and the embassy in March 2019.
“So we, you know, we’re interested in, you know, kind of keeping track of the story so that we would know what was going on,” she testified, acknowledging she had received a “finished product” from the mining of the social accounts. “Because, I mean, there’s an interest, obviously, I had an interest since I was being directly attacked.”
Yovanovitch also acknowledged that her embassy had asked State officials in Washington to assist in the monitoring. She then said, when asked why the monitoring stopped, that it was due to a lack of resources.
“What we were told is that the folks in Washington were too busy to do this, etc, etc.,” she testified.
The truth of the matter is, the unredacted emails show that she lied. The monitoring of the 13 email accounts, which was done using a mining tool known as CrowdTangle, was ordered to cease by a lawyer in the State Department because federal law prohibits the agency from targeting Americans.
“I understand the urgency of having these types of reports developed around emerging conversations, but I have asked [redacted] to delete the CrowdTangle list, which explicitly pulls this information from lists that include the personal accounts of American citizens, amongst others,” the official wrote.
His statement that the activity was “barred by law” was underlined and bolded for emphasis.
“We can use CrowdTangle to monitor terms as they pertain to Yovanovitch, but these search terms cannot be used to target a particular list if it includes American citizens,” the email added.
Other unredacted emails also show that some of the search terms her team sought to monitor included stories about Yovanovitch herself, and liberal megadonor George Soros.