Tag Archives: U.S. Justice Department

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/7/ 2018: Murder, Fake Journalism, Hatch Act Games, And California Defiance

Good Morning!

1  “A Murder in the Park.” The 2014 documentary about how the Northwestern University “Innocence Project” freed a guilty murderer hours before his execution and framed an innocent man who was eventually exonerated is now available on Netflix. I wrote about the case, which had the unanticipated consequence of causing Illinois to ban the death penalty, in 2014. Then I concentrated on how badly the whole mess reflected on the justice system. As I watched the documentary last night, however, what struck me was the self-satisfied smugness and certitude of the journalism students who participated in selective investigation, advocacy instead of objective reporting, manipulation of witnesses, cause driven conclusions and more. The documentary shows us why journalism has become whatever it can be called now–certainly not journalism. Northwestern has one of the elite journalism schools in the nation, and David Protess, then the professor who ran “The Innocence Project,” was teaching students that corrupt journalism was honorable. Protess at the time was perhaps the most praised journalism teacher in the nation. It seems that he was less the exception than the rule.

2. Real discipline would be nice for a change. The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) informed the Trump yesterday that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act twice.  The  findings were referred to President Trump “for appropriate disciplinary action.” The White House promptly denied the charges, so we should assume that Kelly won’t be disciplined at all.

The Hatch Act allows federal employees to express their views about candidates and political issues as private citizens, but forbids them from using their official government positions try to influence elections. Of course Conway violated the Act. On Fox and CNN, she made it clear that voters in Alabama should reject Democrat Doug Jones. The White House ludicrously claims that Conway did not advocate for or against the election of any particular candidate. Nah…she just told Fox viewers last November,

“Doug Jones in Alabama, folks, don’t be fooled. He will be a vote against tax cuts. He is weak on crime, weak on borders. He is strong on raising your taxes. He is terrible for property owners.”

On CNN,  she said in part,
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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 1/12/2018: Sigh. It Never Ends. (Part I)

Good Morning.

Blecchh.

I can’t begin to describe how much I would rather discuss something else. But I don’t control the universe, why, I don’t know.

1 Is this Plan K? Oh, probably. Sigh.

With the rapid demise of Plan E, this time around, anyway—that’s the “let’s remove President Trump because he’s mentally disabled” plot, which was quickly reactivated once Plan J (“Let’s force the President to resign like Al Franken because of unverified sexual misconduct accusers that voters knew about when they elected him”), the over-heated reporting of alleged vulgar and arguably racist comments the President may have made in a non-public meeting would suggest that “the resistance” and the mainstream media (but I repeat myself) will be fulminating and demanding dire consequences for the foreseeable future.Plan K will be “Vulgarity and undiplomatic statements about immigrants pretty much exactly like how Trump began his Presiential campaign is grounds for impeachment” or something similar. Please send me the link to the first appearance of this argument, will you?

This obviously will never end, and I despair. Democrats will never accept their obligations as citizens and regard the elected leader of the Unites States as legitimate and entitled to do his job until he is either defeated or prevails in the next election. They would prefer to dangerously divide the nation and undermine its institutions, perhaps doing permanent damage.

Yesterday, Times op-ed writer Nicholas Kristoff wrote another Trump/hate/fear-mongering piece indistinguishable from dozens—hundreds?— that have been written and published since January of last year. “Trump’s Threat To Democracy,” it was called—ironic, since the only current threat to democracy is not the President, but Kristof and his fellow travelers seeking to overthrow an elected government “by any means possible,” via Plans A-J and whatever’s next. His screed is an appeal to the authority of two Harvard profs, because as we have seen in the sad cases of Larry Lessig and Lawrence Tribe, you can find previously distinguished Harvard professors who will say almost anything to polish their progressive creds in the age of Trump Derangement.

Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt have a book coming out–no, I won’t plug it—that argues that Trump displays what they call “the four four warning signs” that a political leader is a dangerous authoritarian:

1.The leader shows only a weak commitment to democratic rules.

2. He or she denies the legitimacy of opponents.

3. He or she tolerates violence.

4. He or she shows some willingness to curb civil liberties or the media.

“A politician who meets even one of these criteria is cause for concern,” they say. Of course, as the professors show  in their examples and  Kristoff proves in his column,  what constitutes evidence of those “warning signs” is a subjective judgment that can be manipulated and built on biased political calculations. He writes, Continue reading

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A Popeye: I Just Can’t Let This Ridiculous Quote Pass…

I could headline this as an Ethics Dunce, an Unethical Quote, a “Stop making me defend Donald Trump” or even a KABOOM!, but it’s really a Popeye. The upcoming statement by Matt Miller, previously a spokesperson for the Holder Justice Department, could be easily ignored—who the hell is Matt Miller?—except that it breaks my chutzpah meter, and more than that, is designed to be recirculated as an indignant talking point by Democrats who haven’t cracked a history book since they were 12, or who are just plain liars.

After the Justice Department announced that it was taking another look at Hilary Clinton’s shenanigans with her secret email server (and perhaps the Clinton Foundation), Miller told The Daily Beast (echoing Holder, who has made similar statements),

“The president’s ongoing campaign to tear down the wall between the Justice Department and the White House seems to be working.”

Wall between the White House and the Justice Department? If there had been such a “wall,” President Kennedy obliterated it in 1960 when he appointed his brother as  Attorney General while Bobby was also serving as JFK’s primary political advisor. Nixon’s Attorney General, John Mitchell, had been the director of Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign, and was one of Nixon’s closest personal friends. Ronald Reagan’s second Attorney General was his longtime friend and political aide Ed Meese, who had previously served as Reagan’s Chief of Staff! Some wall! Continue reading

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A Lawyer Ponders: “Will Obama Pardon Clinton? And If He Does, Will She Accept?” An Ethicist Answers…

get-out-of-jail2

Over at The Hill, lawyer David Weisberg examines the questions in the title above. Frankly, I assumed that Hillary needing a pardon from Obama was a dead issue, but Weisberg persuades me that it might not be.

Let’s begin by pointing out that it would be gallactically stupid for the Trump Justice Department to prosecute Clinton. Doing so would be a guaranteed circus; it would inflame Democrats who are already resembling The Human Torch, and it would appear to be a political prosecution. A winning President tries to put his losing opponent in jail would reek of banana republic vengeance, and that’s one reason why no American President has ever done it.

This is Donald Trump we are talking about, however, so who knows? Certainly many of his more angry and less grey matter-blessed supporters would love to see Hillary in the slammer. I am hoping and praying that Trump either is smarter than this or has advisors who can talk him out of his worst ideas, but I am not as confident as I should be. Weisberg makes the reasonable point that Hillary may not be confident either:

“Since being elected, Trump has been remarkably warm towards the person he used to call “Crooked Hillary.” But how confident could Clinton be that the Justice Department, under a Trump administration, would not prosecute? Prosecutorial decisions are supposed to be independent of political considerations, so Trump’s recent friendliness should not be controlling once the new attorney general is in office.”

That last sentence is both true, and following the wretched partisanship of the Obama Justice Department, very much in the category of  legal fiction. Continue reading

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Obama’s Iran-Contra Moment

fake-ransom-note1

As you should know by now, the Wall Street Journal reported

“The Obama administration secretly organized an airlift of $400 million worth of cash to Iran that coincided with the January release of four Americans detained in Tehran, according to U.S. and European officials and congressional staff briefed on the operation afterward.

Wooden pallets stacked with euros, Swiss francs and other currencies were flown into Iran on an unmarked cargo plane, according to these officials. The U.S. procured the money from the central banks of the Netherlands and Switzerland, they said.

The money represented the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration reached with Iran to resolve a decades-old dispute over a failed arms deal signed just before the 1979 fall of Iran’s last monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi….Senior U.S. officials denied any link between the payment and the prisoner exchange. They say the way the various strands came together simultaneously was coincidental, not the result of any quid pro quo….But U.S. officials also acknowledge that Iranian negotiators on the prisoner exchange said they wanted the cash to show they had gained something tangible….Iranian press reports have quoted senior Iranian defense officials describing the cash as a ransom payment. 

Isn’t this, then, the equivalent of paying ransom for hostages? Continue reading

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The Flat Learning Curve Again: Obama Signals His Desires In A Law Enforcement Matter Of Some Considerable Consequence

curve-flat…and not just any law enforcement matter, but an investigation of a former Secretary of State and presumptive Presidential nominee.

Nice. You see, Barack Obama just doesn’t care. That’s the only possible explanation for this pattern which goes way back to 2009, when he opined on whether his old friend from Harvard, Henry Louis Gates, was the party at fault in an altercation with a Cambridge, Mass, police officer. That was his first year as President, so maybe it’s plausible that this “Constitutional scholar” and allegedly brilliant man didn’t know that the President of the United States warps the justice system and law enforcement when he declares how he thinks they should handle a particular matter, since he is at the tippity top of our rule of law. Obama has done this again and again, however—with Trayvon Martin… in the Big Branch Mine disaster…as Obamacare approached a key challenge in the Supreme Court…in the military sex abuse scandal…regarding Arizona’s illegal immigration laws, and regarding other matters. He has to know by now that it biases the process, but his supporters cheer, the news media makes excuses, only Republicans, the “conservative media”  and Ethics Alarms complain, so he keeps doing it anyway. He can get away with it, so he just doesn’t care.

Nice.

This, however, was special. The same day that the White House admitted that the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s intentional mishandling of official e-mails for her own personal needs–she didn’t want citizens to be able to see her business and political machinations using the Freedom of Information Act—was a criminal investigation, he endorsed Clinton for President in glowing terms.

Fox News’ Chief Washington Correspondent James Rosen asked White House Paid Liar Josh Earnest about the appropriateness of this—heaven forfend that any non-conservative-biased news outlet would ask such an obvious and necessary  question, queried “You have other employees of the executive branch, career prosecutors, FBI agents, working this case who have now just heard how the president wants to see this case resolved, in essence. Isn’t there some conflict there?”
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Ethics Quote Of The Day: Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick

“Whether or not the alleged institutional abuses are ultimately proven, the reality is this: A severely ill young man wasted away, smeared in his own feces, under the watchful eyes of multiple health care workers, corrections staff, and other inmates. His death will force no accountability and will bring about no change. The illness from which Jamycheal Mitchell suffered could have been better managed through medication, proper treatment, and simple respect. The illness that allows the rest of us to jail great masses of dangerously sick people and mistreat them until they die? It is increasingly seeming to be untreatable and incurable.”

—-Slate’s legal pundit Dahlia Lithwick, writing about the case of 24-year-old Jamycheal Mitchell, who was found dead in his cell at Hampton Roads (Virginia) Regional Jail in Virginia.

Jamycheal Mitchell: Almost nobody thinks his life mattered.

Jamycheal Mitchell: Almost nobody thinks his life mattered.

There is a $60 million lawsuit being filed by Jamycheal Mitchell’s family over his death as a result of an astounding combination of incompetence and negligence. Mitchell suffered from schizophrenia and a bipolar disorder, and was arrested four months prior to his death for stealing a can of Mountain Dew, a Snickers bar, and a Zebra Cake from a 7-Eleven.  He was allowed to waive counsel despite his mental and emotional impairments, and bail was set at $3,000  for stealing less than five dollars worth of junk food. A judge twice ordered him moved to a state mental health hospital, but no beds were available, so he was allowed to languish, and starve to death, in jail.

The videotape of his last days in prison were also erased forever, because, officials say, they didn’t show anything irregular. I was asked if this qualified as spoliation, the intentional and illegal destruction of evidence when a court proceeding is looming or and investigation is underway. No, because spoliation can only take place when a legal proceeding is inevitable or in process, and also because government institutions are remarkably unlikely to ever be held to account for the practice. This was not technically spoliation, because there was no legal proceeding yet, though one could have been predicted by an idiot. Similarly, Hillary Clinton destroying 0ver 30,000 supposedly “purely personal” emails  before they could be demanded by a Senate Committee (and hearings are not legal proceeding) were not technically spoliation. Ethically, it is a distinction without a difference.

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