Tag Archives: Rod Rosenstein

Ethics Warm-Up, 11/13/18: ” Not Dead, Just Wishing I Was” Edition

I’m here.

The weekend was a near total wipe-out for me, as the incipient flu-cold or whatever it is that has been stalking me for at least a couple of weeks finally ended all ambiguity by leveling me  just as the long weekend was getting started. I was in bed virtually all day yesterday, most of the day before, and if I’m getting better, damned if I can see it. I’ve always got to be wary when I cough like this, as I am susceptible to bronchitis, but ProEthics, and ethics itself, wait for no Weenie.

1. What do you do with these idiots? The guys in Baraboo High School’s class of 2019 posed with Nazi salutes at their junior prom this year.

It isn’t Mel Brooks High School: “the  Heil sign” is only amusing or satirical in the most carefully constructed context. In any other time of place, it trivializes a historical nightmare, genocide and the engineered murder of millions of people by a madman,  his henchmen, and a poisoned culture. The Wisconsin school district that included Baraboo claims to acting on the photo,  but since it went viral on social media, current and former students have said that the school itself has a culture of racism and bigotry openly that is allowed to thrive by indifferent teachers and administrators.  There’s a lot I don’t understand about the photo.  Where are the girls? Are these only the Nazis in the class, or is it all of the boys? The kids that aren’t saluting: are they protesting against the display? Did they just miss the shot? Why are they in the photo at all? Who in their right mind would participate in such a stunt?

2. Fact: acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has no conflicts of interest with the Mueller investigation. So why are Democrats insisting that he recuse himself, now that his is overseeing the investigation as Jeff Sessions could not? As far as I can see, the only reason is that they want Rod Rosenstein, who had been the acting AG for only the Mueller matter to continue to supervise it because he is perceived as being hostile to the President. Rosenstein does have a conflict, and properly should have recused himself long ago. He was very much involved in the Comey firing, which is part of the  Mueller investigation’s inquiry into alleged obstruction of justice by the President. He conceivably possesses information about the President’s  motives in firing Comey, and quite possibly has  a personal interest in how the episode is interpreted. Rosenstein thus would very likely be a necessary fact witness in any obstruction inquiry in connection with the Comey firing. That’s a conflict.

Whitaker, however, has no conflict. His statements about how Mueller has run the investigation don’t create a conflict of interest under the applicable ethics rules, not does it raise the appearance of impropriety. Democrats are signaling here, as they have repeatedly for two years, that their objective is to “get Trump” by any means necessary, and they will torture and distort, law, ethics and common sense to achieve that goal. Continue reading

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The Woods Procedures

Sheryl Attkisson, the former CBS reporter who is suing the Justice Department and others for, she says, illegally spying on her, authored a widely ignored article in the Hill that clarifies some of the problems critics have with the FISA warrants approved against Carter Page. I know that those who are determined to deny that anything is amiss regarding the FBI as long as the agency appears to be adversarial against this President don’t care about such niceties, but maybe they should stop humming with their fingers in their ears long enough to learn something.

The Woods Procedures were named for the FBI official who drafted the rules as head of the Office of General Counsel’s National Security Law Unit, Michael Woods.  In April 2001. these rules were established to “ensure accuracy with regard to … the facts supporting probable cause,” after the FBI had presented inaccurate information to the FISA court several times, with “[i]ncorrect information …repeated in subsequent and related FISA packages,” the FBI told Congress in August 2003.  Under the Woods procedures, each and every fact presented in an FBI request to electronically spy on a U.S. citizen must be thoroughly vetted for accuracy, and presented to the court only if verified.

As Attkisson points out, we know that this rigorous standard was not followed.

“There’s no dispute that at least some, if not a great deal, of information in the anti-Trump “Steele dossier” was unverified or false. Former FBI director James Comey testified as much himself before a Senate committee in June 2017. Comey repeatedly referred to “salacious” and “unverified” material in the dossier, which turned out to be paid political opposition research against Donald Trump funded first by Republicans, then by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign….Yet Comey allegedly signed three of the FISA applications on behalf of the FBI. Deputy Director Andrew McCabe reportedly signed one and former Attorney General Sally Yates, then-Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein each reportedly signed one or more…”
When Robert Mueller—where have I heard that name before?— was head of the FBI, here was the process that he insisted that his agency go through before it could meet the Woods Procedures with appropriate confidence: Continue reading

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Responsible And Necessary: The Appointment Of A Special Counsel

The Justice Department appointed Robert S. Mueller III (above), a former F.B.I. director, as special counsel to handle the Russia probe.

I am reading conservative pundits fuming over this development for a number of reasons, some of them valid and troubling. However, there is no good argument to be made that a Special Counsel isn’t necessary now.

Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein explained his decision to make the appointment (remember, he is acting AG in the Russian investigation, because Jeff Sessions was bullied and hectored into recusing himself, also unavoidable):

“In my capacity as acting Attorney General, I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a Special Counsel to assume responsibility for this matter.My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination. What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command.”

Exactly. As for the last sentence, President Trump has no one to blame but himself. His own, typical, blundering, blathering ways created this atmosphere—that and “Deep State” leaks calculated to undermine him, and a news media feasting on those leaks like sharks on chum.

It is being argued that you can’t appoint a special prosecutor unless there is a finding that crimes have been committed. Here are the relevant sections of the law:

§ 600.1 Grounds for appointing a Special Counsel.

The Attorney General, or in cases in which the Attorney General is recused, the Acting Attorney General, will appoint a Special Counsel when he or she determines that criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted and –

(a) That investigation or prosecution of that person or matter by a United States Attorney’s Office or litigating Division of the Department of Justice would present a conflict of interest for the Department or other extraordinary circumstances; and

(b) That under the circumstances, it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside Special Counsel to assume responsibility for the matter.

§ 600.2 Alternatives available to the Attorney General.

When matters are brought to the attention of the Attorney General that might warrant consideration of appointment of a Special Counsel, the Attorney General may:

(a) Appoint a Special Counsel;

(b) Direct that an initial investigation, consisting of such factual inquiry or legal research as the Attorney General deems appropriate, be conducted in order to better inform the decision; or

(c) Conclude that under the circumstances of the matter, the public interest would not be served by removing the investigation from the normal processes of the Department, and that the appropriate component of the Department should handle the matter. If the Attorney General reaches this conclusion, he or she may direct that appropriate steps be taken to mitigate any conflicts of interest, such as recusal of particular officials.

I don’t read the law so narrowly. The law requires that there be a determination that a criminal investigation is warranted, not that crimes have been committed. Continue reading

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

1. When this ridiculous episode is recounted in history books, if it is, it will only be as an example of how the news media worked in tandem with Democrats to undermine the President of the United States, and deeply wounded American democracy and the public trust as a result. I suppose if it is recounted, it will either be as one of the many factors that led Americans to express disgust for both the news media and the Democratic party, forcing the first to shape up and the latter to re-invent itself, or, under the worst case scenario, to explain how the United States lost its Constitutional government.

2. A President of the United States fired an FBI director who deserved to be fired, and everything else is political warfare and public disinformation. A President firing someone he had the power to fire and that most Americans rightly believed should be fired cannot be a scandal, a crisis, or anything else worthy of the hysterical coverage this story has received. The coverage of the story is the antithesis of the journalism ethics tenet that journalists cover stories but do not create them.

3. President (and candidate) Trump is certainly at fault for handing his enemies sticks to beat him with. I put this is exactly the same category with a voluptuous woman walking into a bar full of drunken, rowdy men and doing a provocative dance to the jukebox as they hoot and drool. She should be safe, but she isn’t, and she should know that she isn’t. The drunken dogs should be trustworthy not to sexually assault her, but they aren’t,   When she ends up like Jodie Foster in “The Accused,” it is her sexual assailants who are guilty, but it is not blaming the victim to ask, “What the hell were you thinking?”

4. Of course, as has been proven at nauseating length here and elsewhere, President Trump does not think, at least in the professional sense of the word. It was stupid to throw out compliments to Vladimir Putin. It was stupid to make defensive-sounding comments about the Russian hacks because he didn’t want to admit that any factors led to his election other than his essential brilliance. One  indication that there are no sinister connections between Trump and Russia is that if there were, it would be mind-numbingly moronic for Trump to do anything but show hostility to the country and its leaders. It is only slightly less moronic for him to say these things when he has nothing to hide regarding “Russian ties.”

[An aside: a recent commenter on another thread repeated the oft-cited nonsense that Trump must be smart (like he says) because he has an IQ of 160. If Donald Trump scored 160 on an IQ test, then IQ tests should be thrown out and never used again. However, that claim is imaginary. (IQ tests don’t prove you are “smart,” either, but that’s a different issue.) A researcher once estimated Trump’s IQ based on his admission to Wharton and the gross average IQ of Wharton grads, which is itself a phony number. Then this  (incompetently) estimated figure was used by other hacks in some of those “Who was the smartest President?” articles, which estimate the IQs of the Presidents using the same kind of bad reasoning as the process that arrived at the figure for Trump (it was 156, not 160). In truth, nobody knows what Trump’s IQ is. Everybody knows, however, or should, that he does and says an astounding number of dumb things, many of which mostly have the effect of harming him, or his ability to do his job.] Continue reading

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More Ethics Observations On The Firing of FBI Director James Comey

It’s all this guy’s fault…

I have read the initial comments on the original post-–which I interrupted my viewing of a Red Sox game to write, just so you know how dedicated I am—had some additional thoughts and processed some new data. Here are some more observations:

1. The New York Times biased reporting is even worse than I thought. Today’s print edition has a “Saturday Night Massacre” size headline screaming:

TRUMP FIRES COMEY AMID RUSSIA INQUIRY

This is deceit, and, as I noted before, yellow journalism. It is technically accurate, but misleading and false anyway. Trump also fired Comey in May,  “amid” the North Korea crisis, and while the Orioles were playing the Nationals. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Comey’s firing had anything to do with the Russia investigation except this: Comey thoroughly botched the last major investigation the FBI was engaged in.

The Times goes further, adding another above the fold story headlined, “The President Lands a Punch, and Many Hear Echoes of Watergate.” Ah, the old “many say/many hear/many think” ploy—an unethical journalism classic. Let’s seed the unfair suspicion without taking responsibility for it! Hey, we didn’t say we thought that, just that others do!

2. Many have noted that President Hillary would have fired Comey within seconds of taking office, or as close to that as possible. This is doubtlessly true. It is also true that Republicans would probably be attacking her with as much fury and blatant hypocrisy as Democrats are attacking the firing now.

But doing something unethical in an alternate universe is still not as damning is doing it in this one.

3. I have been working on a “100 Days” overview of the ethics score since President Trump took office. In general, it is both remarkable and disturbing how closely the President’s actual performance tracks with my expectations, as explained over the last two years. One aspect of this mostly negative assessment that is undeniably positive, however is that President Trump, unlike his predecessor, does not fear making decisions, and makes them despite the amount of criticism he knows will be coming, especially from the news media. (The previous President knew that he had nothing to fear from the news media, since it was invested in making him seem successful and wise even when he wasn’t.)

The firing of Comey is a perfect example, as was the decision to enforce, belatedly, Obama’s “red line” in Syria.

4. Nowhere near enough focus has landed on Rod Rosenstein (left) , the  deputy attorney general who was only confirmed a couple of weeks ago ( April 25, 2017). Rosenstein is an impressive lawyer with a long, distinguished  record in both Democratic and Republican administrations, and authored  the  “Memorandum to the Attorney General” on the subject of “Restoring Public Confidence in the FBI.” This articulates the best reasons for firing Comey, and any critic who argues that it made sense to keep him on is tasked with rebutting Rosenstein’s brief. Good luck with that.
Continue reading

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