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“Why Was He Even Called In The First Place?”: Hillary’s Aide Right To Plead The Fifth

The Benghazi Committee is a Sham.

So many questions about Bryan Pagliano, the Clinton campaign IT guy who’s invoking his Fifth Amendment right not to testify before the Benghazi committee, and all of them—yes—swirling! Who is this guy? What’s he hiding? What did he know, and when did he know it? Egad. Trouble with a capital T.

And here’s another question about Pagliano, one that I bet maybe hasn’t occurred to some of you: Why, exactly, is the committee that is investigating the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi subpoenaing an IT guy in the first place?

Now if Trey Gowdy were here, I’d imagine he could drum up some quasi-respectable seeming answers. Well, Pagliano might have wiped Benghazi-related emails from the infamous server. But in reality, I doubt the committee even cares very much what he does or does not know about Benghazi. As I wrote Wednesday, the committee now has nothing to do with Benghazi.

And Gowdy has even basically said as much. On Fox on August 16, Chris Wallace asked Gowdy what all this email business had to do with Benghazi, and Gowdy said, “Well, probably not much of anything.” He went on to try to regain his footing by asserting that “my focus is on the four murdered Americans in Benghazi, but before I can write the final definitive accounting of that, I have to make sure that the public record is complete.”

That sounds nice and innocent, but here’s what appears to be Gowdy’s idea of a complete public record. It includes making more than 40 witnesses testify—but in private, providing testimony that has not been and evidently will never be disclosed.

Some witnesses have wanted to testify in public, the better for all of us to judge, but Gowdy said no. Former Clinton aide Cheryl Mills saw her requests to testify in public this week rebuffed by the Republican majority, so she is testifying in private—complying, even though she knows very well that doing so means that her testimony will probably be leaked selectively and out of context. She will presumably demand that the full transcript be released, as Sid Blumenthal did, and the committee will say no, as it has with Blumenthal (technically, the majority has just ignored the minority’s request for a vote on the matter).

So, all these witnesses, and we’ll never know what any of them said. We’ll just be left depending on leaks from Gowdy’s investigators to the every-hungry Times. That’s some “public record.”

In the face of that, of course Pagliano is refusing to testify. I promise you, you would too. Pagliano thought bubble: “Hmmm, let’s see. I’m being offered the opportunity to go behind closed doors before a committee that already has a history of leaking stuff to make people look as bad as they can make them look in order to establish some piece of innuendo about Clinton. And I get to run up what, $50,000 or $70,000 in legal fees for the privilege? No thank you.” The Fifth Amendment applies to Pagliano every bit as much as it applies to that great American Ollie North, who invoked it back in 1986.

Ah, 1986. I pointed out the other day that this has now gone on longer than the Church Committee hearings on intelligence abuses, which in the mid-1970s dug into extremely serious systemic abuses of power by our government. Do you know also that the 1986 Iran-contra hearings, at which North pleaded the Fifth, lasted just 10 months and 13 days? The Benghazi committee, meanwhile, has now lasted for 15 months and counting. On September 24, it will pass the duration of the Watergate committee. The Watergate committee!

Oh, and by the way, the Watergate and Iran-contra committees both called upwards of 500 witnesses each. This committee has called, as noted above, around 40. Why? Well, it may be because Gowdy is an extremely judicious fellow. Or it could be because Watergate and Iran-contra investigators had actual serious work to do, probing as they were White House-based conspiracies to violate existing U.S. law, while Gowdy is obviously just fishing around on the off chance that he finds some evidence that Clinton or an aide made some classification error that can be hung around her neck.

Yes, yes, Clinton invited all this to some extent, yadda yadda. I’ve written that plenty of times. But people need to understand just how without precedent this committee is. I can’t think of a case when a Democratic congressional majority did anything like this. The investigation into the Bush administration firing of the U.S. Attorneys comes to mind, but that was handled completely differently. No special select committee was named. Those probes were just handled by the standing Judiciary committees, and it all went down fast—Congress held its first hearings in April, and by August, the hearings were done, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and others had resigned.

Gowdy will say that he has to keep his committee alive as long as the State Department is dragging its heels on turning over a few emails. Lately they’re on a mad hunt for two emails from September 29, 2012, which were about prepping Clinton for a meeting with an unnamed senator in the aftermath of the attacks. Well, at least it’s about Benghazi, in a way, although what illuminating or incriminating information could be found in an email written two-plus weeks after the attack kind of eludes me (“Remember now, Madame Secretary, DON’T mention that you ordered that the military stand down because you didn’t care if Chris Stevens died!”).

But anyway it’s a weak argument. The Bush administration too withheld many emails from Congress during the U.S. Attorneys flap, and Congress still just got on with its work as best it could. That’s what a Congress usually does—it works, a little, with the minority party, and it tries not to do anything too embarrassing to the body, tries not to precipitate a blood sport crisis. But blood sport crisis is this committee’s raison d’être. I don’t blame Pagliano a bit for not feeding them his carcass to gnaw on.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, September 4, 2015

September 5, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, Hillary Clinton, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Are Police Stealing People’s Property?”: Policing For Profit, An Unconstitutional Cash Cow For Law Enforcement

“Don’t even bother getting a lawyer. The money always stays here.”

That’s what the Tenaha Police Department told 27-year-old Arkansan James Morrow after they confiscated $3,900 from his car for “driving too close to the white line.” The police reported the “odor of burned marijuana,” though no drugs were found in the car. Morrow was carted off to jail, while the car was impounded.

Eventually Morrow was released with no money, vehicle, or phone. “I had to go to Wal-Mart and borrow someone’s phone to call my mama,” he told The New Yorker. “She had to take out a rental car to come pick me up.”

Law-enforcement agencies at all levels of government provide a valuable and often thankless public service in their communities. There are, however, systemic problems that must be addressed. Perhaps one of the most egregious examples is the abuse of civil asset forfeiture laws.

The Fifth Amendment makes it abundantly clear that “[n]o person shall… be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” But for far too long, some law-enforcement agencies have used the law for their own benefit, seizing property suspected of use in a crime often without ever charging or convicting the owner of any wrongdoing.

The burden of proof, unfortunately, falls on the owner, ostensibly rendering his or her property guilty until proven innocent in the eyes of the law, with little concern for the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process. And since most people don’t have the financial means to fight a lengthy legal battle, the confiscated property often remains in the possession of the law-enforcement agencies that seized it.

What was originally intended to be an effort to combat organized crime has sadly morphed into an unconstitutional cash cow for local law enforcement and the federal government.

The New York Times recently reported that there are seminars that law-enforcement officers can attend that provide “useful tips on seizing property from suspected criminals.” A video shown in one seminar quotes the city attorney of Las Cruces, New Mexico, who called items that could be seized “little goodies.”

“A guy drives up in a 2008 Mercedes, brand new,” Harry S. Connelly Jr. says in the video, according to the Times. “Just so beautiful, I mean, the cops were undercover and they were just like ‘Ahhhh.’ And he gets out and he’s just reeking of alcohol. And it’s like, ‘Oh, my goodness, we can hardly wait.’

While law-enforcement agencies may have their wish lists of “little goodies” they covet, essentially “policing for profit,” civil asset forfeiture has serious ramifications for those whose property is taken from them.

As the co-founder of MoveOn.org and president and CEO of FreedomWorks, we don’t agree on many things, but this issue is one that should move progressives, conservatives, libertarians, and frankly any citizen who is offended by abuse of power to take action. Thanks to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), there is an opportunity before us to put our ideological differences aside to stop this blatant abuse of police power that erodes our civil liberties and our trust in police.

Earlier this year, Paul started a national conversation about civil asset forfeiture when he introduced the Fifth Amendment Restoration Act, or FAIR Act. This proposal would require federal law enforcement agencies to present “clear and convincing evidence” connecting seized property to a crime.

Though many states have reformed their civil asset forfeiture laws, some state and local law enforcement agencies still use federal statutes to seize property. The FAIR Act puts a stop to this loophole by requiring these agencies to abide by laws of the states in which they’re based.

The FAIR Act also removes the incentive that law-enforcement agencies have to police for profit by redirecting seized assets from the Justice Department’s Asset Forfeiture Fund, the value of which has swelled from some $500 million in fiscal year 2001 to nearly $4.3 billion in fiscal year 2012 (PDF).

While some may attempt to spin efforts to reform civil asset forfeiture laws as a “soft on crime” position, law-enforcement agencies don’t exist for the purpose of enriching themselves by taking property of the very people they are charged with serving.

When our elected representatives assume their respective offices, they take an oath to “protect and defend the Constitution.” This isn’t some feel-good suggestion; it’s an obligation, one that has been ignored by too many on Capitol Hill for far too long.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle must show the American people that their civil liberties matter, and they can send a crystal clear, bipartisan message by ending this pernicious practice of law-enforcement agencies through the restoration the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process.

 

By: Joan Blades, Co-Founder of MoveOn.org and Matt Kibbe, President of FreedomWorks for America; The Daily Beast, January 2, 2014

 

January 3, 2015 Posted by | Civil Rights, Law Enforcement, Police Abuse | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Republican’s ‘Un-American’ Activities”: Darrell Issa Tries McCarthyite Move To Revive Flailing IRS Probe

GOP congressman and House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform chairman Darrell Issa’s quest to uncover the smoking gun of the IRS scandal story — the missing Gotcha! moment that will cause the Obama administration to crumble under the weight of its own corruption — has run aground lately, primarily due to the people in Issa’s cross hairs pleading the Fifth Amendment. But that doesn’t mean Issa is quite yet ready to give up.

According to a report in the Huffington Post, Issa and his allies are considering making a rare argument and a procedural move in order to force former IRS official Loris Lerner to testify. Lerner used to be the head of the IRS department tasked with figuring out whether to grant tax-exempt status to groups claiming to be apolitical in nature and focused primarily on “social welfare.” Republicans have charged that the IRS disproportionately targeted right-wing organizations for review. Lerner resigned and has spoken to Issa’s committee, but has also refused to answer some questions by pleading the Fifth.

In response to Lerner’s invocation of this constitutional right, Issa is now arguing that because the former government official did speak with the committee before pleading the Fifth, she waived her right to do so and is thus eligible to be held in contempt of Congress and even possibly face criminal charges. A report by the Congressional Research Services that is pushing Issa’s argument calls Lerner “critical to the Committee’s investigation[.]” Further, the report states that “Without [Lerner’s] testimony, the full extent of the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party applications cannot be known, and the Committee will be unable to fully complete its work.”

One potential problem with Issa’s latest move, however, is the fact that no American has ever been successfully prosecuted for pleading the Fifth before Congress. Indeed, even the attempt to prosecute on such grounds is rare, with most of the examples in recent history having occurred during the McCarthyite years of the 1950s.

More from HuffPo:

Most of the cases involved the House Un-American Activities Committee and its communist witch-hunts in the 1950s. But one that is particularly instructive involves a Buffalo, N.Y., woman named Diantha Hoag, who was fired from her factory job after Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-Wis.) and his Senate Committee on Government Operations accused her of being a communist and she pleaded the Fifth.

In that case, Hoag answered many more questions than Lerner did. She listed several places where she had lived, said she worked at a Westinghouse plant, and told committee members that she knew Westinghouse contracted with the military. Lerner never went beyond a short opening statement professing her innocence.

Hoag flatly refused to answer questions about her associates and any communist connections she may have had.

When McCarthy attempted to compel her testimony through the courts, as Issa is now threatening, a judge did not look kindly on the bid, declaring: “I reach the conclusion that the defendant did not waive her privilege under the Fifth Amendment and therefore did not violate the statute in question in refusing to answer the questions propounded to her. Therefore, I find that she is entitled to a judgment of acquittal on all counts.”

 

By: Elias Isquith, Salon, April 9, 2014

April 10, 2014 Posted by | Darrell Issa, IRS | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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