Attorney Larry Klayman, the founder of Judicial Watch who first attained gadfly status during the Clinton years, is alleging that the Secret Service mistreated him when he went to the White House last week as part of an effort to force President Obama to reveal details of closed-door meetings with health care lobbyists.
It all went down last Wednesday as Klayman, who is also spearheading a legal fight against the Washington Times, decided to directly deliver a letter to President Obama arguing that White House health care meetings constituted a “de facto advisory committee” under the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
Therefore, the letter (.pdf). argued, Obama must turn over all documents related to meetings with PhRMA, Planned Parenthood, and others and allow Klayman, as a representative of the public, to attend any future meetings.
We should note that Klayman also filed a suit about Dick Cheney’s famous energy policy task force, which made it to the Supreme Court.
But back to our story. Did we mention Klayman decided to make his unannounced trip to the White House at 5 a.m.?
At a security gate outside the White House (the one facing Pennsylvania Avenue, he says), Klayman walked up to a guard with the letter in an unsealed envelope and asked, “can you deliver this to POTUS?”
After the guard refused to take the letter, Klayman said he had identification, and she asked to see it, according to Klayman. “Then she said, ‘we need to run a background check now.’ Next thing I know, three uniformed Secret Service officers surround me and interrogate me,” he says.
Over the next 75 minutes, according to Klayman, the three officers “worked me over” in the cold, asking for background information and about his intentions. He believes he was “in effect under false arrest.” Even though Klayman told the officers he had to make a hearing in Baltimore, which is why he made the trip at 5 a.m., “they told me, ‘you’re not going anywhere, friend.’”
Finally, two female agents came out and intervened, and one politely told Klayman that he could take off after answering a few questions, he says. They ultimately took the letter.
Klayman tells TPMmuckraker he believes the incident was a result of the Secret Service being on heightened alert in the wake the embarrassing White House Gatecrashers episode. “They violated my civil rights,” he says “I was on public property.”
Klayman’s experience was first noted by U.S. News & World Report. The Secret Service did not respond to requests for comment.
The White House never responded to Klayman’s letter. He sued in federal court this week over the health care meetings. Klayman tells us the suit marks an inescapable milestone: the first time he’s sued President Obama.