- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The FBI was sued in federal court Tuesday in a bid to bring to light the bureau’s handling of various matters related to the 2016 presidential race, including topics ranging from its probe of the Clinton Foundation to the rise of the so-called alt-right.

The seven-page complaint, brought this week on behalf of journalist Jason Leopold and Massachusetts Institute of Technology doctoral candidate Ryan Shapiro, accuses the FBI of violating the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by failing to say if it’ll expedite recent document requests filed with respect to the White House race.

Mr. Leopold and Mr. Shapiro submitted a wide-ranging FOIA request to the FBI on Dec. 2 in hopes of acquiring copies of internal records and emails involving dozens of topics concerning the presidential election. The FBI acknowledged receipt of the request four days later, according to the lawsuit.

As of Tuesday morning, however, the bureau has failed to explain whether or not it expedite that request, prompting the plaintiffs to take legal action with less than two months until Donald Trump is inaugurated president.

“The purportedly ‘apolitical’ FBI just played an unprecedented role in perhaps the most controversial and contested election in modern U.S. history,” Mr. Shapiro said in a statement.” The public absolutely needs to know how and why the nation’s leading federal law enforcement agency came to play such a determinative role in American presidential politics.”

In their initial FOIA request, Mr. Shapiro and Mr. Leopold asked the FBI to release internal emails and any other records mentioning or referring to a laundry list of election related topics, persons and organizations.

In addition to seeking internal documents related to Mr. Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, the two men also sought information concerning Breitbart News and chairman Steve Bannon, as well as records related to the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank, and its founder Richard Spencer, an author widely credited with inventing the term “alt-right.”

The Dec. 2 FOIA request also sought records mentioning or referring to various aides and advisers to either candidate, as well as information concerning the FBI’s investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s private email server and its decision to end that probe without bringing criminal charges against the former White House hopeful.

Tuesday’s lawsuit was filed in connection with Operation 45, a charitable group recently started by Mr. Shapiro and attorney Jeffrey Light in an attempt to ensure the nation’s next president is held accountable upon taking office.

“Given Trump’s authoritarian aspirations and overt contempt for the Constitution and a free press, American civil liberties and privacy now face a profoundly clear and present danger,” Mr. Shapiro said of the organization. “Trump must not be allowed to conduct his presidency from the shadows, and he must not be allowed to cripple the Freedom of Information act. The need is urgent for aggressive work to keep President Trump and his administration transparent and accountable.”

According to Tuesday’s suit, the Justice Department should acknowledge that the FBI has failed to comply with the terms of FOIA as required by law and be subsequently forced to expedite the documents request. The FBI did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

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