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Judicial Watch, a nonprofit group that rose to prominence after suing the Clinton administration about 18 times in the 1990s, has demanded that the U.S. government turn over all records pertaining to Dinesh D’Souza’s movie 2016: Obama’s America as well as his upcoming film, America, hoping to discover whether the conservative filmmaker was targeted by federal agents for retribution.
If Judicial Watch does not get what it seeks in about 30 days, it will sue the U.S. government, said the organization’s president, Tom Fitton.
“It’s unlikely that government bureaucrats will respond as the law requires,” Fitton said. “Too often, we have to sue. A lawsuit is always a viable option.”
2016 was released just ahead of the presidential election two years ago and it portrayed President Barack Obama in a negative light. In January, D’Souza was arrested for making illegal campaign contributions to Wendy Long, who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate, and several notable people have speculated the arrest was politically motivated, including liberal attorney Alan Dershowitz and Sen. Ted Cruz. Last month, D’Souza pleaded guilty to making illegal campaign contributions and in exchange prosecutors are expected to drop the more serious charges of making false statements to the Federal Election Commission. He’ll be sentenced in about three months and could face more than a year in prison.
From the beginning, the prosecutors have said that D’Souza’s arrest stemmed from a “routine” investigation by the FBI into campaign laws, which Fitton says is unlikely the case.
“That’s just fanciful. The FBI doesn’t routinely review Federal Election Commission records,” Fitton said. “Somehow, we suspect something else is going on here – that it’s retaliation. Frankly, I’m surprised there’s not more media interest in this. It was a major film from a major conservative figure, and the media assumes everything the Department of Justice does is above board?”
Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act request for all communications between employees of the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York and any and all third parties, and similarly filed one demanding the FEC turn over such communications, which includes emails, videos, audio recordings and faxes. Plus, the organization is preparing more FOIA requests aimed at the DOJ and the FBI, The Hollywood Reporter learned Monday.
2016 is the second-most-successful political documentary in the history of American film, and Lionsgate will release the follow-up, America, on July 2. D’Souza is not involved with Judicial Watch or its FOIA requests.
“If people are being criminally prosecuted for something other than breaking the law, we want to know about it,” said Fitton. “The concern is the DOJ is targeting the president’s adversaries. We can’t prevent that behavior if we don’t first find out exactly what they’re doing.”
Judicial Watch is generally perceived to be a conservative organization, though besides the Clintons, it has also sued the George W. Bush administration and former Vice President Dick Cheney. Other high-profile cases involved the group obtaining documentation relating to Osama bin Laden family members living in the U.S. at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and the release of video tape that debunked conspiracy theories regarding one of the planes involved in that attack. More recently, Judicial Watch sued the U.S. departments of state and defense to obtain records regarding the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.
Judicial Watch has also waded into filmmaking by co-producing the documentary District of Corruption, a look at corruption among lawmakers in both parties. The movie is available on DVD and has aired on AXS TV, a television channel co-owned by Ryan Seacrest, Mark Cuban, Anschutz Entertainment Group and Creative Artists Agency.
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