“The Good Faith Of The Justice Department”: Sure.

“Yes, but they are fighting in good faith…”

In his scathing indictment of the ACLU (discussed here) for giving the Justice Department a partisan pass despite the dubious legality of its raid on Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen, Alan Dershowitz wrote,

“David Cole, who identifies himself as the ACLU Legal Director, said the organization relies on the good faith of the Justice Department, the FBI, and the judge who issued the warrant to assure all Americans that this raid on a lawyer’s office, is “a sign that the rule of law is alive.”

Here are the recent performances of key figures among that group that is getting the ACLU’s trust:

  •  Book-peddling, Trump-stalking James Comey says in his forthcoming book that he found evidence that “would undoubtedly have been used by political opponents to cast serious doubt on the attorney general’s independence in connection with the Clinton investigation,” and also faulted Attorney General Lynch’s decision to refer to the Clinton email investigation as a “matter.”

Loretta Lynch responded to the accusation and criticism with her own statement that concluded,

“…I have known James Comey almost 30 years. Throughout his time as Director we spoke regularly about some of the most sensitive issues in law enforcement and national security. If he had any concerns regarding the email investigation, classified or not, he had ample opportunities to raise them with me both privately and in meetings. He never did.”

  • Fired acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe is out of a job because the independent Justice Department Inspector General found that he had lied on multiple occasions, his report concluding in one of the instances, regarding leaks to the news media about the Clinton Foundation…

“While the only direct evidence regarding this McCabe-Comey conversation were the recollections of the two participants, there is considerable circumstantial evidence and we concluded that the overwhelming weight of that evidence supported Comey’s version of the conversation.”

In response, McCabe directed his counsel to write Congress that Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/17/2017: Comey, Eminem,”Hustler”… And Cognitive Dissonance

ARRGH! I thought this was posted hours ago! Verizon is doing it to me again, going on and off every ten minutes. This is war.

 

Good Morning!

1 Nicely dovetailing with last night’s Ethics Alarms post, Christian Toto put his finger on the tragic and narcissistic delusions of Hollywood celebrities and athletes, without specifying what is really going on: a complete failure to comprehend the Cognitive Dissonance, and the perils of defying the scale. His post is called, “Celebrities make it official: Pick Trump or Us!”

He relates…

Eminem appeared at the BET Awards this week to do more than plug his new album. He unleashed a four-plus minute rap against President Trump…

That’s hardly worth a news item alone. Virtually every player at every level of the entertainment world is against this Commander-in-Chief. Trump…A few have wished him dead in colorful ways. Eminem didn’t go that far. Instead, he turned some of his ire against Trump towards those who support the president:

“And any fan of mine who’s a supporter of his

I’m drawing in the sand a line: you’re either for or against

And if you can’t decide who you like more and you’re split

On who you should stand beside, I’ll do it for you with this:

Fuck you!”

The next night, “Late Night host Seth Meyers praised the rapper’s “powerful” rant-rap, and then said:

“And I was inspired by that, so tonight, I say to any fans of this show who are also big fans of Donald Trump, it’s time to make a decision,” said Meyers. “Get off the fence. Do you support him or do you support this show, that constantly mocks and denigrates everything about him? I know it’s a tough call, but the time has come to make a decision. Now, I’m not much of a rapper, but here it goes. My name is Seth and I’m here to say, if you like Trump, then go away.”

Then Meyers ended by flashing his middle finger.

Nice. Also incredibly arrogant,  stupid and ignorant. Whatever Donald Trump’s status on the public’s cognitive dissonance scale

…was before November 8, it was a lot better after. The Presidency is high on the scale for the vast majority of Americans, because the Presidency, no matter who occupies it presently, carries the respect and prestige of all of the former Presidents, including Washington, Lincoln, the Roosevelts, and yes, Obama. That yanks a new President up the scale, and hard. Part of the assault on Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, Washington and Madison by progressives consciously or unconsciously seeks to counter this effect by tearing down the office—yes, “the resistance” would destroy the institution of the Presidency to save it—, but it doesn’t matter. The power of the office can’t fall far enough or fast enough to pass Seth Myers or Eminem on the lower rungs. These ludicrously confused semi-celebrities, just like the NFL stars that most people couldn’t pick out of a line-up, really think choosing between them and the President, the flag and the United States of America—you see, that is the team—and their minuscule and trivial personas is an easy choice. It is, but not the choice they think. When Trump wrongly injected himself into the foolish NFL kneeling protests, the players actually believed that if they showed “solidarity,” NFL would choose them over the President of the United States.

Brilliant.

2.  Yesterday, the FBI confirmed that James Comey indeed drafted his July 5, 2016 statement declaring that Hillary Clinton’s official and classified email machinations did not quite violate the law two months before he made it, and before Clinton had even been interviewed on July 2, 2016.

I initially was inclined to give Comey the benefit of the doubt here, but especially following on the heels of  the FBI  “discovering” last week 30 pages of documents related to the strange 2016 tarmac meeting between former President Bill Clinton and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch while the investigation of Bill’s wife was at a critical stage, I have to revise my opinion. Before the election, Comey’s FBI denied that any such documents existed. Are serious people really going to keep claiming that the President firing Comey was “obstruction of justice”? Increasingly it looks as if Obama’s keeping him in office was a travesty of justice. Or Justice.

 

The release of Comey’s prescient draft confirms information that Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of that committee, disclosed in a letter to new FBI Director Christopher Wray in August.  The Senate Judiciary Committee is reviewing Comey’s conduct as director and President Donald Trump’s firing him in May.

Some analysts are defending Comey, but that seems to be an increasingly forced exercise. “To me, this is so far out of bounds it’s not even in the stadium,” Chris Swecker, who retired from the FBI in 2006 as assistant director for the criminal investigative division and acting executive assistant director for law enforcement services, told reporters. “That is just not how things operate…. It’s built in our DNA not to prejudge investigations, particularly from the top.” Ron Hosko, an assistant FBI director under Comey, said that while drafting statements is not unusual, having such drafts include conclusions regarding matters that have not been thoroughly investigated is:
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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/12/17

1.Senator Diane Feinstein redeemed some of the Democratic Party’s integrity by stating that James Comey’s revelations regarding Obama AG Loretta Lynch’s directive that he lie to the news media and the American people so they wouldn’t think Hillary Clinton was being investigated warranted hearings and its own investigation. This was easily the biggest story to come out of Comey’s testimony, as the U.S. government using its power to influence a Presidential election by spreading misinformation is far more serious than a foreign power influencing an election by allowing the public to see what a candidate and her party have been covering up. (I have stated the issue this way before, and will continue to do so, since it is accurate and true.) That this damning account was mostly buried by the New York Times, the Washington Post and the broadcast media is yet one more smoking gun (as if more were needed) proving just how partisan and untrustworthy the news media has become. It also should focus more attention on the still-percolating IRS scandal, speaking of subordinates interpreting a leader’s expressed desires as directives, as well as  Barack Obama’s repeatedly demonstrated belief that the ends justifies the means in the 2012 campaign, the passing of the Affordable Care Act, the Iran deal, and more.

2. NY Times op-ed columnist Charles Blow, a smoking-gun himself since the Times’ refusal to discipline or can him when he repeatedly used anti-Mormon slurs to attack Mitt Romney, has become the loudest shill for “the resistance” at the paper–quite an achievement, since the whole paper is a shill for “the resistance”—reveals that 43% of the public (according to polls, remember, and we now know how reliable and unbiased they are) believe that Congress should commence impeachment hearings. Blow finds this tragic, but the only two interpretations of the data is that 43% of the public is civicly, legally and historically ignorant, that 43% of the public has been completely misled by the biased reporting of the news media, or that 43% have embraced the anti-democratic view of impeachment being pushed by progressives and “the resistance,” which is that it is a legitimate device to undo elections and ensure that the Left achieves permanent rule over us all. Writes Blow, sniffling,

“I know well that the very real obstacles to removal injures the psyche of those worn thin by the relentless onslaught of awfulness erupting from this White House. I know well that impeachment is one of the only rays of hope cutting through these dark times. I’m with you; I too crave some form of political comeuppance. But, I believe that it’s important to face the very real possibility that removal may not come, and if it does, it won’t come swiftly. And even a Trump impeachment would leave America with a President Pence, a nightmare of a different stripe but no less a nightmare.”

It should bother everyone that a man like this has a regular, high-visibility platform for his corrosive views. Impeachment is national convulsion that good citizens only hope for when a President has engaged in impeachable acts. Blow and other like him, who hope for those impeachable acts to justify removing a President they object to on ideological, personal or other grounds are just  people with busted ethical alarms,  bad citizens, bad neighbors, and dangerous to our democracy.

3. Here is an ethics train wreck from academia. A white professor at the University of Tennessee asserted via a multiple choice quiz ( Colleges use multiple choice quizzes?) that the statement “Black family bonds were destroyed by the abuses of slave owners, who regularly sold off family members to other slave owners” was wrong. A black student vehemently disagreed and challenged the teacher, who then threatened to “get” the student on Facebook. After the professor was pressured into resigning by the university, she emailed the class with a further attack on the student, without using her name. Naturally, the student has decided that this single incident shows the lurking perfidy of white social justice warriors, or to put it bluntly, “Can’t trust whitey!” How do people like the professor get hired? Since when is a professors position “unacceptable’ because it disputes conventional wisdom? Is race immune from non-conforming academic views? And why are college courses using multiple choice quizzes? [Pointer: Fred]

4.  Also from Ethics Alarms Super Scout Fred: this study, showing that Oakland police officers “tend to speak less respectfully to black people than to white people during traffic stops, using language in these everyday interactions that can erode community faith in the police, according to a first-of-its-kind study of body-camera footage released Monday by Stanford researchers.” Ugh. Now that’s “ microagression,” and maybe not so micro.

Ethics diagnosis: incompetent training, negligent oversight, and dead ethics alarms.

5. CNN has a lot of work to do before it can claim to be a professional and trustworthy news source, and one obvious step is to fire Brian Stelter, the network’s alleged journalism ethics watchdog. His predecessor Howard Kurtz was pretty bad, but Stelter is pure flack, seeing his main function as defending CNN and his secondary function as denying media bias, since he is so shockingly biased himself.

Yesterday on his ironically-named show “Reliable Sources,” Stelter and guest Jeff Greenfield blamed President Trump for polls that show a steep decline in public trust of the news media. Greenfield said,  “I think that has served that relentless campaign on Twitter and in his comments, fake news, fake news, fake news has been to convince that group of people that there is no such thing as a set of facts independent of your politics. And that has certainly served to continue and accelerate what you’ve talked about as a long process of declining trust in news.”

The downward trend will continue until prominent members of the news media admit that the reasons trust in journalism have  declined precipitously are

  • That the mainstream media’s partisan bias is obvious and palpable,
  • That has proven itself untrustworthy, and
  • Arrogant hacks like Stelter and Greenfield make it clear to all willing to see reality that the news media thinks that there’s nothing wrong with its reporting.

As for President Trump, he has an ethical and professional obligation to focus attention on the news media’s shift into a partisan political force, both to prioect his administration and  to ensure that the public isn’t deceived. The previous President was happy to ignore this dangerous development, because Obama  foolishly thought he benefited from it. In truth, he and the nation would have benefited more by journalism that held him to higher standards and criticized him when he deserved it, which was often.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/10/17

 

1. In the category of “Good!”, or maybe “Better late than never!” was the news that CNN, after a a full week of pondering, determined that maybe it wasn’t sufficiently professional for a host to call the President of the United States a “piece of shit,” or anyone a “piece of shit,” really, or use “shit”  under the CNN banner, so it fired “Believer” host Reza Aslan. I don’t know why CNN can’t figure out that an immediate firing sends the message that the organization has professional standards and enforces them, and the way CNN handled this says, “We were hoping this would blow over, but guess not.”

Aslan’s tweet after his hook raised other questions:

  • Wait, CNN is trying to be an unbiased new outlet???
  • Oh, is “piece of shit” how scholars express themselves now?
  • “I need to honor my voice” by being able to use vulgarity to express his measured views. Got it.
  • The “tenor” of discourse is entirely within the control of the speaker.
  • Why does CNN put people on the air who don’t understand or respect their professional obligations to the network or the audience?

2. Fox News’s Sean Hannity got web headlines yesterday by tweeting to Aslan: “I do not think you should be fired. You apologized.” Sean Hannity is really too dumb to be allowed out without a leash. His theory is that an apology magically returns everything to where it was before the conduct in question, as if there were no effects. This was serious breach of professionalism and responsibility showing the Aslan was too untrustworthy to be allowed to have his own TV show. It proved that he was a threat to CNN’s reputation (Crude News Network” is the current successor to “Clinton News Network,” and no organization can function if its announced policy is “Go ahead, do anything; as long as you apologize, your job is safe.” Continue reading

The Comey Testimony, Part I.

I have finally read the transcript, which you should do as well. By now I have also seen a lot of video clips. (James Comey really says, “Lordy!” Wow.)

First, some general observations, with more detailed comments to come in a subsequent post.

1. My earlier expressed opinion of James Comey when I defended him against conservative accusations that he was giving Hillary Clinton an undeserved break by not indicting her were revealed as too generous yesterday. I still believe he is honest and non-partisan. More than ever, I believe that he is untrustworthy. He was obviously in a difficult position—many, in fact—that he was not able to successfully manage, if anyone could have. However, his oft-repeated insistence that he (and his FBI) did not play politics was exposed as false, if not dishonest (a gracious interpretation of the sort that Comey denied the President in his bitter testimony.)

2. The fake Russia collusion narrative pushed by Hillary, Democrats and the news media to simultaneously excuse her loss and undermine the Trump Presidency was killed yesterday, but will wander around like a zombie for months if not years because Trump-haters will not have the integrity to admit they were wrong. Chris Matthews, a once astute and courageous liberal Democrat reporter who morphed into a partisan, knee-jerk progressive shill and anti-Republican scold as soon as he started getting paid by MSNBC, had a sudden flashback to his days of integrity when he pronounced yesterday,

“But the big story has always beenthe assumption of the critics of the president, of his pursuers, you might say, is that somewhere along the line in the last year, the president had something to do with colluding with the Russians. Something to do, a helping hand, encouraging them,feeding their desire, to affect the election in some way, some role they played, some conversation he had with Michael Flynn, or Paul Manafort, or somewhere. And yet what came apart this morning, was that theory, because in two regards the president said according to the written testimony of Mr. Comey, ‘go ahead and get anybody satellite to my operation and nail them, I’m with you on that,’ so that would mean Manafort, Carter Page, someone like that. And then he also came across today what was fascinating, Comey said that basically Flynn wasn’t central to the Russian investigation, that he was touching on it. That there was, of course, Flynn had an honest, we assume, wasn’t honest in his answer on the official forms that he had to fill out to become a national security head.”

But it only touched on that, it wasn’t really related to that. But he could be flipped for that, but in other words, they could flip him because they had him caught on something he dishonestly answered but he wasn’t central to the Russian thing, and I always assumed that Trump was afraid of was that he had said something to Flynn, and Flynn could be flipped on that. And Flynn would testify against the president that he had had some conversation with Flynn in terms of dealing with the Russians affirmatively. And if that’s the case, where’s the there there?”

There is no there there, and never has been. Thus the anti-Trump hysterics are left with what they have always believed was proof enough: Hillary lost, leaked hacks of e-mails that led the public to realize how sleazy the Democrats were should have never been seen by voters, Trump was the beneficiary of the leaks, he had said nice things about Putin, he’s an unethical creep, and a lot of his associates had business contacts with Russia, and besides, they just know Trump is guilty.

That’s not enough; in fact, it’s nothing at all. Matthews as both a lifetime Democrat and a romantic regarding the Presidency and democracy detests Trump to his Irish-American Boston liberal core, but he knows when to get off a bandwagon that will embarrass him if he stays on board, or make it impossible for Chris to look in the mirror.

3. For a lawyer, Comey’s loose use of the term “liar” and his stated belief that he assumed that Trump was a liar early on in their relationship shows a troubling inattentiveness to his own biases, as well as a classic misunderstanding of what it means to lie. Comey said Trump lied about why Comey was fired, for example. Comey has no way of knowing which of the many legitimate reasons for firing him played the biggest role in his firing. He does not know what Trump was thinking, so he cannot assert that Trump lied. He can say that he believes Trump lied, but that is only his opinion: it does not make Trump a liar, and it is not evidence. Last ditch bitter-enders among the Impeach Trump Lynch Mob will be arguing that Comey’s various opinions and reactions prove misconduct by Trump. But lying and obstruction of justice are not like sexual harassment, where a second party, by his or her reactions, determines whether misconduct has taken place. Comey stated that he took Trump’s words that he “hoped” that the FBI would drop the Flynn investigation as a “direction.” He also could have taken it as a marmoset, but that wouldn’t mean that the President meant it as one.

Any time a supervisor says “I hope you do this,” it is a statement of what will make that supervisor happy. (Did Obama ever say to his Treasury Secretary, “I hope the IRS is tough on those tea party groups: they are about as non-partisan as I am!”?) Nevertheless, it leaves the decision in the hands of the subordinate.

4. Comey came off like a classic disgruntled former employee, and I’ve interviewed many of them, angry that he was fired and determined to do as much damage to his former supervisor as possible on the way out the door.

I thought he was better than that.  Guess not. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Firing of FBI Director James Comey

President Trump on Tuesday fired the director of the FBI, James B. Comey today. Rod Rosenstein, the new deputy AG who replaced Sally Yates, prepared a memo that recommended the firing, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions concurred.

Ethics Observations:

1. Here’s how the New York Times described the firing in its story’s opening sentence:

President Trump on Tuesday fired the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, abruptly terminating the law enforcement official leading a wide-ranging criminal investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s advisers colluded with the Russian government to steer the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

That’s pretty despicable, and as blatant an example of intentional negative spin as you are likely to see, even from the Times. There were so many justifications for firing Comey that the mind boggles. Attaching the act to the one elicit reason for firing Comey is just yellow journalism, and nothing but. The Times is really a shameless partisan organ now.

2. Should Comey have been fired? Of course. He didn’t have to be fired, but to say that at this point he was not trusted by either political party and was widely viewed as incompetent would be an understatement  The fact that his testimony before Congress last week was not only riddled with errors, but riddled with errors that made headlines, was reason enough to fire him.

From the Washington Post:
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Ethics Observations On The AG Sessions-Russian Ambassador Controversy

sessions-3

To bring you up to date—from the Times yesterday:

“…[N]ew questions were raised about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s ties to the Russians. According to a former senior American official, he met with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, twice in the past year. The details of the meetings were not clear, but the contact appeared to contradict testimony Mr. Sessions provided Congress during his confirmation hearing in January when he said he “did not have communications with the Russians.”

“I have no idea what this allegation is about,” he said. “It is false.”

Sean Spicer, the Trump White House spokesman, said, “The only new piece of information that has come to light is that political appointees in the Obama administration have sought to create a false narrative to make an excuse for their own defeat in the election.” He added, “There continues to be no there, there.”

…On Wednesday, a Justice Department official confirmed that Mr. Sessions had two conversations with Ambassador Kislyak last year, when he was still a senator, despite testifying at his Jan. 10 confirmation hearing that he had no contact with the Russians. At that hearing, Mr. Sessions was asked what he would do if it turned out to be true that anyone affiliated with the Trump team had communicated with the Russian government in the course of the campaign. He said he was “not aware of any of those activities.”

“I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn’t have — did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it,” Mr. Sessions said at the time.

However, Justice officials acknowledged that Mr. Sessions had spoken with Mr. Kislyak twice: once, among a group of ambassadors who approached him at a Heritage Foundation event during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July and, separately, in an office meeting on Sept. 8. The contacts were first reported by The Washington Post.

From today’s Times:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, facing a storm of criticism over newly disclosed contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States, recused himself on Thursday from any investigation into charges that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election…Many top Democrats demanded Mr. Sessions’s resignation, and a growing number of Republicans declared that he should not take part in any investigation into the case, given his own still largely unexplained role in it.

But Mr. Trump stoutly defended Mr. Sessions, one of his few early champions on Capitol Hill. “He could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional,” he said in a statement, which accused Democrats of engaging in “a total witch hunt.”

…Mr. Sessions insisted there was nothing nefarious about his two meetings with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, even though he did not disclose them to the Senate during his confirmation hearing and they occurred during the heat of the race between Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, and Mr. Trump, whom Mr. Sessions was advising on national security….

In his account on Thursday of the more substantive meeting, which took place in his Senate office on Sept. 8, Mr. Sessions described Mr. Kislyak as one of a parade of envoys who seek out lawmakers like him to glean information about American policies and promote the agendas of their governments.

“Somehow, the subject of Ukraine came up,” Mr. Sessions said, recalling that the meeting grew testy after the ambassador defended Russia’s conduct toward its neighbor and heaped blame on everybody else. “I thought he was pretty much of an old-style, Soviet-type ambassador,” Mr. Sessions said, noting that he declined a lunch invitation from Mr. Kislyak.

Mr. Sessions’s decision to recuse himself was one of his first public acts as attorney general. He said he made the decision after consulting with Justice Department officials, and he denied misleading Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, when he said in his confirmation hearing that he had not met with Russian officials about the Trump campaign.

“In retrospect,” Mr. Sessions told reporters, “I should have slowed down and said, ‘But I did meet one Russian official a couple of times, and that would be the ambassador.’ ”

Observations:

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