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We’ll Take Those Blagojevich Records Now, Watchdog Says

WASHINGTON (CN) - The White House no longer has a reason to stonewall records access concerning former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a conservative watchdog said Monday.

Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit Monday just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court denied Blagojevich's latest petition to review his corruption convictions.

Back in June 2011, weeks before Blagojevich's second trial ended in convictions on 17 of 20 counts, Judicial Watch submitted a request for various interviews the FBI conducted on Blagojevich between Dec. 1, 2008, and Jan. 1, 2009.

Blagojevich was arrested in December 2008 on various charges, the key of which accused him of trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat President Barack Obama vacated upon his election.

The Seventh Circuit affirmed most of Blagojevich's convictions this past July, but overturned five regarding accusations that Blagojevich wanted a favor from Obama in exchange for appointing Valerie Jarrett to the Senate. Blagojevich ultimately appointed to Roland Burris to the seat, but Mark Kirk took the office after an ensuing special election.

Judicial Watch's 2011 request under the Freedom of Information Act sought the FBI's interviews regarding Blagojevich with Obama, Jarrett and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

A longtime fixture of Chicago's political scene, Jarrett has been an adviser to the Obama administration since 2009.

Emanuel succeeded Blagojevich's seat on the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002 and left that office in 2009 to become Obama's White House chief of staff. He resigned in Year 2 to run for mayor of Illinois, an office he has held since May 2011.

Judicial Watch's complaint highlights the reason given by the Justice Department's Office of Information Policy in 2013 for withholding records on the Blagojevich interviews.

Though the office cited the possibility that the records would "interfere with enforcement proceedings," Judicial Watch says Monday's order by the Supreme Court has brought those "enforcement proceedings" squarely to an end.

Judicial Watch is represented in this matter by staff attorney Paul Orfanedes.

A second FOIA suit that Judicial Watch filed Monday in the same D.C. court seeks records on the State Department's handling of a 2012 request by fellow government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

On the heels of these lawsuits Tuesday, Judicial Watch scored a minor victory in an ongoing lawsuit against the State Department concerning Hillary Clinton's emails.

"Where there is evidence of government wrong-doing and bad faith, as here, limited discovery is appropriate, even though it is exceedingly rare in FOIA cases," U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth wrote.

Lamberth said "it remains to be seen" whether the court will make a finding of bad faith against the State Department for its initial resistance to Judicial Watch's request.

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