Tag Archives: Alan Dershowitz

Comment Of The Day: “The Obama-Farrakhan Photo”

I don’t think I agree with this comment regarding the post about how a  photograph of Senator Obama smiling next to Louis Farrakhan came to be hidden from public view until now, and how its reappearance has launched speculation on the Right that Obama was elected by a public unaware of his radical, anti-white proclivities. It is a very interesting comment, though, and raises several excellent issues about how actions, motives and truth interact. I may author a detailed rebuttal in the comments, but the core question this raises is this: To what extent does the fact that an action was taken to hide something serve as material evidence that there that something that needed to be hidden?

The results of the Ethics Alarms poll asking what the photo proved, incidentally, was that 86% of those voting believed that it proved nothing regarding Obama’s feelings to toward Farrakhan  at all.

Here is johnburger2013‘s Comment of the Day on the post, The Obama-Farrakhan Photo:

Methinks our faithful ethics blogger is being, according to our friends across the pond, a bit “cheeky”, hoping to inspire a lively debate, knowing fully well that a photo of Trump with David Duke would be conclusive evidence that the present Chief Executive Officer of the US is merely waiting for his hood to come back from the cleaners so that he can don it and go out for a fun night on the town.

For me, the real ethics issue is not the photo, but that Congressional Black Caucus leaned on a journalist to kill its publication and the journalist capitulated. Other Bill, VPJ and Charles Marschner are correct: publication of the photo (probably) would not have changed the 2008 election results.

But, let’s ask the bigger question: Why kill it?

First, who is Askia Muhammad? According to Wikipedia, he is a poet, journalist, radio producer, commentator, and a photojournalist. He has served as the editor of Muhammad Speaks and as the head of the Washington office of The Final Call, the official newspapers of the Nation of Islam, which incidentally, is the organization headed by the right-honorable Louis Farrakhan, from Chicago, IL. (Who else was from Chicago? Might it have been a little-known senator but rising star in the Democrat party? Hmmm.) Continue reading

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The Obama-Farrakhan Photo

A  photo has emerged showing former President Barack Obama, then a U.S. Senator,  posing with Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the black nationalist Nation of Islam. Obama and the anti-white, anti-Semitic demagogue are beaming at a Congressional Black Caucus meeting in 2005. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls his organization a hate-group, but then they call a lot of organizations hate groups. I’d call the Nation of Islam a racist group that peddles hate.

Journalist Askia Muhammed, who took the photo, is publishing it in a new book called “The Autobiography of Charles 67X.” He says that after the event,  the Congressional Black Caucus contacted him and demanded to have the disk. “I gave the original disk to him and in a sense swore myself to secrecy because I had quietly made a copy for myself,” Muhammad told Fox News, adding that the CBC was concerned that a photo with Farrakhan could hurt the Obama’s Presidential prospects.

The conservative news media is writing about this, while the mainstream news media, with a few exceptions like the New Yorker, is ignoring it. Writes Vinson Cunningham, in that publication,

“[Askia] Muhammad, that anonymous C.B.C. functionary, and Farrakhan, with that faux-harmless smile, all knew it: if that picture spreads in 2007 or 2008, a whole different history ensues.”

If that’s true, then the fact that the photo was buried is news, right? But is that true? Why should it be true? Why would such a photograph mean anything at all? Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/30/2017: Is Robert Mueller Biased? Are The Patriots Cheating Again? Is Larry Tribe Deranged? Is President Trump A Robot?

Good Morning!

(Nothing better than waking up to a light dusting of snow!)

1 When you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…Alan Dershowitz, a Democrat and legal expert who has prominently avoided the ravages of anti-Trump mania that have crippled so many of his distinguished colleagues, tried to clarify several issues in the Mueller investigation on Fox News.

On Special Prosecutor Mueller personally and professionally: “I don’t think he’s partisan, I don’t think he cares whether the Democrats or the Republicans benefit from this.I think he’s a zealous prosecutor and if he were going after Hillary Clinton, he’d be going after her with as much zeal.”

On his investigative team: “Now that’s not true for some of the people on his staff. He should never have allowed these people to serve on this investigative staff, if they had the points of view that they’ve had towards Hillary Clinton and towards Donald Trump. That was a mistake…when you’re going after a president or a presidential candidate, you have to be ‘Caesar’s wife,’ you have to be above reproach, and he didn’t do a good enough job in vetting the people that he brought on to the prosecution and the investigative team, and that hurts his credibility.”

Correct, and obviously correct. So why is the White House and Fox News being criticized daily for questioning the legitimacy, fairness, objectivity, and independence of the investigation? It doesn’t matter if Mueller is personally fair and objective if he appoints biased and conflicted lawyers to do the work. That still means the investigation is compromised and untrustworthy. It also means that Mueller undermined the investigation exactly the way he could not afford to if he wanted its results to be accepted.

There is nothing inappropriate about those being investigated pointing out bias, incompetence and conflicts of interest by the investigators. Criticism of a legitimate complaint, backed up by facts, indicates that those critics  don’t care about bias, incompetence and conflicts of interest, if they lead to the result they crave.

2. Suspicion! Why would the NFL’s New England Patriots sign a washed-up, 39-year-old Pittsburgh Steelers veteran, James Harrison, with only one game left in the regular season, at a cost of about $60,000 for that game and for any play-off games the Patriots participate in? Harrison has barely played all season, is no longer a top performer, and was a discordant and disruptive presence in the locker room. Many sportswriters and fans believe that he is being paid by New England to be a turncoat, and to reveal  Steelers’ secrets that might provide an edge if the Patriots, as many expect, have to defeat Pittsburgh on the way to another Super Bowl. The Patriots have been caught cheating more than once. Would this be cheating?

I assume not, unless Harrison had an enforceable non disclosure clause that prohibited him from revealing Steelers plays and strategies even after he was no longer on the team. Indeed, it would be unethical for Harrison not to help his new team in any way possible. When New England signed him, they signed his body, mind and accumulated experience. Continue reading

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( PSSST! The Supreme Court Just Unanimously Pointed Out That The Courts Blocking The Trump Temporary Travel Ban Were Playing Partisan Politics, Not Objectively And Ethically Doing Their Jobs)

As many predicted (including me), the Supreme Court unanimously slappped down the lower court injunctions based on claims that the Trump temporary travel restrictions on six Muslim countries were unconstitutional, writing,

But the injunctions reach much further than that: They also bar enforcement of §2(c) against foreign nationals abroad who have no connection to the United States at all. The equities relied on by the lower courts do not balance the same way in that context. Denying entry to such a foreign national does not burden any American party by reason of that party’s relationship with the foreign national. And the courts below did not conclude that exclusion in such circumstances would impose any legally relevant hardship on the foreign national himself. See id., at 762 (“[A]n unadmitted and nonresident alien . . . ha[s] no constitutional right of entry to this country”). So whatever burdens may result from enforcement of §2(c) against a foreign national who lacks any connection to this country,they are, at a minimum, a good deal less concrete than the hardships identified by the courts below.
At the same time, the Government’s interest in enforcing §2(c), and the Executive’s authority to do so, are undoubtedly at their peak when there is no tie between the foreign national and the United States. Indeed, EO–2 itself distinguishes between foreign nationals who have some connection to this country, and foreign nationals who do not, by establishing a case-by-case waiver system primarily for the benefit of individuals in the former category. See, e.g., §§3(c)(i)–(vi). The interest in preserving national security is “an urgent objective of the highest order.” Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, 561 U. S. 1, 28 (2010). To prevent the Government from pursuing that objective by enforcing §2(c) against foreign nationals unconnected to the United States would appreciably injure its interests, without alleviating obvious hardship to anyone else.

…The Government’s application to stay the injunction with respect to §§6(a) and (b) is accordingly granted in part. Section 6(a) may not be enforced against an individual seeking admission as a refugee who can credibly claim a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States. Nor may §6(b); that is, such a person may not be excluded pursuant to §6(b), even if the 50,000 person cap has been reached or exceeded. As applied to all other individuals, the provisions may take effect.

Got that?

“To prevent the Government from pursuing that objective by enforcing §2(c) against foreign nationals unconnected to the United States would appreciably injure its interests, without alleviating obvious hardship to anyone else.” Continue reading

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The Comey Testimony, Part II

[Part I is here]

Now let’s look at some direct quotes from James Comey’s testimony: 

1. “Even though I was appointed to a ten-year term, which congress created in order to underscore the importance of the FBI being outside of politics and independent, I understood that I could be fired by a president for any reason or for no reason at all. And on May 9th, when I learned I had been fired for that reason, I immediately came home as a private citizen. But then the explanations, the shifting explanations, confused me and increasingly concerned me. They confused me because the president that I had had multiple conversations about my job, both before and after he took office, and he had repeatedly told me I was doing a great job and he hoped I would stay. And I had repeatedly assured him that I did intend to stay and serve out the remaining six years of my term. He told me repeatedly that he had talked to lots of people about me. Including our current attorney general. And had learned I was doing a great job. And that I was extremely well-liked by the FBI work force. So it confused me when I saw on television the president saying that he actually fired me because of the Russia investigation. And learned, again, from the media that he was telling privately other parties that my firing had relieved great pressure on the Russian investigation. I was also confused by the initial explanation that was offered publicly, that I was fired because of the decisions I had made during the election year. That didn’t make sense to me for a whole bunch of reasons, including the time and all the water that had gone under the bridge since those hard decisions had to be made. That didn’t make any sense to me. And although the law required no reason at all to fire an FBI director, the administration then chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray. That it was poorly led. That the workforce had lost confidence In its leader. Those were lies, plain and simple. And I am so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them and I’m so sorry the American people were told them. I worked every day at the FBI to help make that great organization better. As a help, because I did nothing alone at the FBI. There are no indispensable people at the FBI. The organization’s great strength is that its value and abilities run deep and wide. The FBI will be fine without me. The FBI’s mission will be relentlessly pursued by its people and that mission is to protect the American people and uphold the constitution of the United States. I will deeply miss being part of that mission, but this organization and its mission will go on long beyond me and long beyond any particular administration. I have a message before I close for the — for my former colleagues of the FBI. First I want the American people to know this truth. The FBI is honest. The FBI is strong. And the FBI is and always will be independent. And now to my former colleagues, If I may, I am so sorry I didn’t get the chance to say good bye to you properly. It was the honor of my life to serve beside you, to be part of the FBI family and I will miss it for the rest of my life. Thank you for standing watch, thank you for doing so much good for this country. Do that good as long as ever you can. And senators, I look forward to your questions.”

Observations: This entire statement is unworthy of the emphasis that has been placed on it by the wildly spinning news media, The key piece of information to frame the entire episode is  “I understood that I could be fired by a president for any reason or for no reason at all.” Comey also presumably understood that a sub-fact within that understanding is that he could be told some of the reasons he was fired, no reasons, or the reasons the President felt like talking about. He was told he was doing a great job and then fired? Welcome to the work force. Telling an employee that he is doing a great job when he isn’t may be good management, usually isn’t, but is still well within the range of management discretion, and certainly not illegal.

Comey said that he also concerned that the President was saying that firing “had relieved great pressure on the Russian investigation.” As we learn later, the President was not being targeted in that investigation, and we know that he regards it as a politically motivated effort to distract and derail his administration and its agenda. There was nothing sinister about the President’s desire that the investigation go away as quickly as possible. I would argue that he has an obligation to do whatever he can to speed it along. If he didn’t trust Comey’s judgment—and who would?—seeing his exit as a plus is reasonable. Naturally, Comey wouldn’t see it that way.

It is amazing to me that a fired employee saying that his superior’s assessment that his organization was in disarray, that he was a poor leader and that his staff had “lost confidence In its leader” is given any weight at all. What fired employee doesn’t think his firing is unjust and the criticism of him is unfair? Comey calls it a lie: how does he know what Trump had been told or heard? How does Comey know what his agents say behind his back?

Your opinion that someone’s negative opinion about you is wrong and based on erroneous information does not make that opinion a lie. As a lawyer, Comey should know that, and should not have thrown the word “lie” around to be misunderstood by people who don’t know what a lie is—that is, most of the public. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “Reluctant Additional Ethics Notes On A Manufactured Crisis: The Comey Firing Freakout”

With so much loose talk about impeachment going around (and by “loose” I mean “inexcusably ignorant”), texagg04’s review of the Constitutional standard for the removal of a President is a gift to readers of Ethics Alarms, and one of the most interesting and informative comments ever to appear here.

He was reacting to a New York Times op-ed, cited by another commenter,  by political scientist Greg Weiner (no relation) titled, “Impeachment’s Political Heart,” in which the author concluded,

“The question is by what standards they should conduct this work, and that question provides an opportunity to correct the mistaken assumption according to which presidents can forfeit the public trust only by committing what the law recognizes as a crime. That is a poor bar for a mature republic to set. It is not the one a newborn republic established. And that is why the idea that the conversation about impeachment is simply a political persecution of a man who is technically innocent of a literal crime not only jumps the investigatory gun. It misses the constitutional point.”

Having studied the issue myself, I immediately rejected Weiner’s analysis (which still is worth reading in its entirety) on the ground that a constantly evolving standard of what is a “high crime and misdemeanor” simply means that Presidents can be impeached for behaving, or governing, in ways that enough members of Congress, the news media and the public don’t like. That is what is being advocated now, and that approach would undermine our democracy, the power of elections, and the office of the President.

My gut response, however, is wan and insubstantial compared to tex’s masterful historical review and astute analysis, which (whew!) reaches a similar conclusion.

Here is texagg04’s fascinating Comment of the Day on the post, “Reluctant Additional Ethics Notes On A Manufactured “Crisis”: The Comey Firing Freakout”…I’ll have one brief comment afterwards:

[Weiner] is making an argument from the same source material I mentioned, chiefly the Federalist papers. I still haven’t found Madison’s own specific arguments regarding it, but I think the source is irrelevant as the body of work published by the Founders (“Federalist” and “Antifederalist” alike) should be read as a single work documenting an internal dialogue, to be used as clarification when and where the final adopted documents possibly contain ambiguity. This could very well be one of those cases. That being said, the body of work by the Founders which may aid in revealing their intent or at least how they believed their philosophy of our political system out to be enshrined in the constitution, isn’t the only body of work used to interpret their intent. There is precedence and tradition, which the author of this article disregards when he says “Our tendency to read the impeachment power in an overly legalistic way, which is ratified by 230 years of excessive timidity about its use, obscures the political rather than juridical nature of the device.”

He’s right in nothing but that many of the earliest drafts and proposed language of the impeachment standards were very vague, such as (not an exhaustive list):

Continue reading

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Ethical Quote Of The Month: Former Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz

“If it was a polite request saying, ‘Oh, you know, he’s a good guy, Flynn, I wish you’d back off this thing,’ that’s not an obstruction of justice. If it was a command, it would raise stronger problems.”

—Retired Harvard law professor , Constitutional scholar, lawyer, liberal and CNN commentator Alan Dershowitz, trying to explain to MSNBC what “obstruction of justice” means.

I’ve never been a Dershowitz fan, but when the List of Shame is complied after the Post 2016 Election Ethics Train Wreck has finally ground to a halt, he’ll be on another list: the one containing those who maintained their integrity.

He needn’t have bothered: the news media/Democratic Party/ “resistance'” collective has already labelled James Comey’s so far only rumored “memo” recounting that the President asked the then-FBI Director, in a private meeting in February, to close the FBI investigation of Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, proof of criminal motives and acts.

The New York Times learned of the memo from two people who claim they had read it. One of them read part of the memo to a Times journalist.  According to these unnamed sources’ description of the memo, Trump told Comey, “I hope you can let this go” in a meeting that took place the day after Flynn was forced to resign.

“I hope you can let this go” would be consistent with what Dershowitz, no Trump supporter but apparently yet to be infected with the integrity- and logic-destoying anti-Trump virus, accurately described as “not an obstruction of justice.”

The Times, however, a card-carrying member of the “overturn the election” cabal—we know this because it stated last August that defeating Trump justified tossing journalism ethics into the trash, and because since the election, its pages have from the book reviews to the op-ed pages have been filled anti-Trump propaganda—called Trump’s reported request “the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and FBI investigation” into links between Trump associates and Russia. This must mean that there is no evidence, at all, since saying “I hope you can let this go” is barely influence at all.

The news of the alleged memo was breathlessly hailed by the “Can we impeach him now?” fanatics, including some readers of this blog who should know better and once did, as a “bombshell.” As Alan Dershowitz dispassionately points out, and as I have in the comment threads, it’s no bombshell. This is not  remarkable observation; a New York Times contributor was even allowed to agree with Dershowitz. (The Times can’t completely commit to the lynch mob, for then its efforts to aid and abet would be less valuable. It’s quite a tightrope these people are walking….). Constitutional law prof Elizabeth Price Foley wrote, Continue reading

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