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Lawsuit Forces Release of Justice Department Records on Raid

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced that it received 11 pages of heavily redacted records from the U.S Department of Justice  concerning communications of The New York Times to officials in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY), showing the Times was tipped off about the November 6, 2021, FBI raids on the homes of Project Veritas founder/CEO James O’Keefe and then-Project Veritas journalists. 

Seven pages of records are redacted in large part and three pages withheld entirely, which the agency claims are “not part of the responsive record.”

The records were produced in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed in September 2022 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia after the agency failed to respond to a March 29, 2022, FOIA request (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of Justice (No.1:22-cv-02652)). The Judicial Watch lawsuit seeks all records of government and non-government communications between officials in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York and representatives of the New York Times regarding Project Veritas, James O’Keefe, Ashley Biden and others.

The records reveal that the U.S. Attorneys’ Office for the Southern District of New York was in contact with New York Times reporters, including William K. Rashbaum (referred to in the email chains as “Willy”) and Ben Protess, before, during, and after the raids on the homes of O’Keefe and then-Project Veritas reporters.

The records include a November 4, 2021, email chain labeled “Search in Mamaroneck re [redacted] diary?”, from James Margolin, former Chief Public Information Officer of SDNY to Nicholas Biase, former senior public affairs office for SDNY, and an individual whose name is redacted. Margolin states that “Willy” from the Times has information about the search warrants and investigation seemingly about Ashley Biden’s diary:

Willy Rashbaum from the Times just called and says they know or believe that a search warrant is being conducted in Mamaroneck this morning at a location that is either the residence of Eric Cochrane (sp?) — who may or may not be a whistle-blower — or a Project Veritas office. He believes this is in connection with a Florida investigation into whether Project Veritas stole, or purchased a stolen, diary belonging to [redacted]. 

Margolin later includes redacted details about “two searches” regarding the homes of James O’Keefe and then-Project Veritas journalist Spencer Meads. 

Margolin later states: “Times now believes it’s not ‘a Florida investigation’ but an SDNY investigation, ‘and it involves more than just the diary’ (no elaboration on that).”

 In a November 6, 2021, email with the subject line ““Re: O’Keefe (arrest?)” from Margolin to Biase and others, Margolin states, “The Times hears O’Keefe was arrested this morning.” The rest of the body of the email is redacted as “not part of the responsive record.”  

In response Biase thanks Margolin and writes: “The Times has his neighbor on record (who they suspect may not be entirely truthful) saying that FBI were banging on O’Keefe’s door with guns (or at least one agent with a gun) drawn.”

 On November 24, 2021, Margolin emails a redacted individual and Biase with the subject line “Veritas,” stating that “Willy” (William K. Rashbaum of Times) informed Margolin the Times was doing another story about Project Veritas, and “they’re pretty certain subpoenas went to [redacted].” Margolin explains that Willy asked him for “a wave-off if” the information was wrong, adding “I [Margolin] made no promises.”

Biase writes on November 30, 2021, in the heavily redacted email chain that Biase had spoken with NYTreporters “Willy” and Ben Protess, and “neither mentioned it. Maybe Jim?” The rest of the body of the email is redacted as “not part of the responsive record.” 

“The New York Times was obviously tipped off about the unprecedented raid on the home of James O’Keefe and other Project Veritas journalists. And these new Justice Department records raise more questions than answers about how that happened,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

Judicial Watch has actively investigated and litigated FOIA requests to gather information concerning the government’s treatment of Project Veritas. 

In April 2022, Judicial Watch filed three FOIA lawsuits against DOJ and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for communications about Project Veritas among Pfizer, the New York Timesand other outside groups.  

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