“You Can’t Convict Someone With Maybe”: They Were Never Close To Indicting Hillary — 20 Years Ago Or Yesterday
Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear: specifically to September 1992, when Attorney General William Barr, top-ranking FBI officials, and — believe it or not — a Treasury Department functionary who actually sold “Presidential Bitch” T-shirts with Hillary Clinton’s likeness from her government office, pressured the U.S. Attorney in Little Rock to open an investigation of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s Whitewater investment.
The Arkansas prosecutor was Charles “Chuck” Banks, a Republican appointed by President Reagan, and recently nominated to a Federal judgeship by President George H.W. Bush. It was definitely in Banks’s interest to see Bush re-elected.
The problem was that Banks knew all about Madison Guaranty S&L and its screwball proprietor Jim McDougal. His office had unsuccessfully prosecuted the Clintons’ Whitewater partner for bank fraud. He knew perfectly well that McDougal had deceived them about their investment, just as he’d fooled everybody in a frantic fiscal juggling act trying to save his doomed thrift.
Banks and local FBI agents were unimpressed with the “Presidential Bitch” woman’s analysis. She showed shaky grasp of banking law, and obvious bias — listing virtually every prominent Democrat in Arkansas as a suspect. When FBI headquarters in Washington ordered its Little Rock office to proceed on L. Jean Lewis’s criminal referral, Banks decided he had to act.
He wrote a stinging letter to his superiors in the DOJ refusing to be a party to a trumped-up probe clearly intended to affect the presidential election. “Even media questions about such an investigation,” he wrote, “all too often publicly purport to ‘legitimize what can’t be proven.’”
Keep that phrase in mind.
Banks also promised to refer reporters to the Attorney General. And that was the end of the Bush administration’s “Hail Mary” attempt to win the 1992 election with a fake scandal. Also the end of Chuck Banks’ political career.
The prevailing themes of the Clinton Legends, however, were set: imaginary corruption, and a “Presidential Bitch.” Eight years and $70 million later, Kenneth Starr’s Whitewater prosecutors folded their cards, proving the Little Rock prosecutor had been right all along.
Shamefully, several of Starr’s assistants recently showed up in the Washington Post reminiscing about how they almost indicted Hillary Clinton. Except that they never did, and for the same reason FBI director James Comey wouldn’t dare take his largely adverbial case (“extremely,” “carelessly,” etc.) into a courtroom against her.
Because when the accused can afford competent defense counsel, a bogus case endangers the prosecutor more than the defendant. Indict the former Secretary of State and lose? Goodbye career.
If the Post had a sense of humor, they’d have illustrated the article with a photo of “Judge Starr,” as he liked to be called, dressed in his cheerleader costume leading Baylor University’s felonious football team onto the field.
But back to Comey’s successful grandstand play — successful at protecting Comey’s own career while wounding the Democratic presidential nominee, that is. See, no way could the former Secretary of State be prosecuted for mishandling classified information without convincing evidence that a bad guy got his hands on it. The best Comey could do was to say that “it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal email account.”
Clinton herself noted that Comey was simply speculating. “But if you go by the evidence,” she said “there is no evidence that the system was breached or hacked successfully.” (Although the State Department’s was.) Pundits can sneer, but you can’t convict somebody with maybe.
What secrets are we talking about? Slate’s Fred Kaplan explains: “Seven of [Clinton’s] eight email chains dealt with CIA drone strikes, which are classified top secret/special access program—unlike Defense Department drone strikes, which are unclassified. The difference is that CIA drones hit targets in countries, like Pakistan and Yemen, where we are not officially at war; they are part of covert operations… But these operations are covert mainly to provide cover for the Pakistani and Yemeni governments, so they don’t have to admit they’re cooperating with America.”
Top Secret, maybe. But regularly featured in the New York Times. The eighth email chain was about the President of Malawi.
Even Comey’s press conference assertion that Clinton handled emails marked classified failed to survive a congressional hearing. Shown the actual documents, Comey conceded that they weren’t properly marked. Indeed, it was a “reasonable inference” they weren’t classified at all. Both concerned trivial diplomatic issues in Third World countries. Really.
Michael Cohen in the Boston Globe: “Whatever one thinks of Clinton’s actions, Comey’s depiction of Clinton’s actions as ‘extremely careless’ was prejudicial and inappropriate. The only reason for delivering such a lacerating attack on Clinton was to inoculate Comey and the FBI from accusations that he was not recommending charges be filed due to political pressure. But that’s an excuse, not an explanation, and a weak one at that.”
The very definition, indeed, of legitimizing “what can’t be proven.”
By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, July 13, 2016
Hey, can we all just stop complaining that our government coddles Wall Street’s big money-grubbing banks?
Sure, they went belly-up and crashed our economy with their frauds, rigged casino games, and raw greed. And, yes, the Bush and Obama regimes rushed to bail them out with trillions of dollars in our public funds, while ignoring the plight of workaday people who lost jobs, homes, businesses, wealth, and hope. But come on, Buckos, have you not noticed that the feds are now socking the bankers with huuuuuge penalties for their wrongdoings?
Wall Street powerhouse Goldman Sachs, for example, was recently punched in its corporate gut with a jaw-dropping $5 billion for its illegal schemes.
Wow, $5 billion! That’s a stunning amount that Goldman Sachs has agreed to pay to settle federal criminal charges over its shameful financial scams that helped wreck America’s economy in 2008. That’s a lot of gold, even for Goldman Sachs. It’s hard to comprehend that much money, so think of it like this: If you paid out $100,000 a day, every day for 28 years, you’d pay off just one billion dollars. So, wow, imagine having to pull Five Big B’s out of your wallet! That’s enough to make even the most arrogant and avaricious high-finance flim-flammer think twice before risking such scams, right? Thus, these negotiated settlements between the Justice Department and the big banks will effectively deter repeats of the 2008 Wall Street debacle… right?
The chieftains of the Wall Street powerhouse say they are “pleased” to swallow this sour slug of medicine. It’s not because they’re contrite and eager to make amends. Wall Street bankers don’t do contrite. They are pleased (even thrilled) because this little insider secret: Thanks to Goldman’s backroom dealing with prosecutors, the settlement is riddled with special loopholes that could eliminate nearly $2 billion from the publicized “punishment.”
For example, the deal calls for the felonious bank to put a quarter-billion dollars into affordable housing, but generous federal negotiators put incentives and credits in the fine print that will let Goldman escape with paying out less than a third of that. Also, about $2.5 billion of the settlement is to be paid to consumers hurt by the financial crisis. But the deal lets the bank deduct almost a billion of this payout from its corporate taxes — meaning you and I will subsidize Goldman’s payment. As a bank reform advocate puts it, the problem with these settlements “is that they are carefully crafted more to conceal than to reveal to the American public what really happened here.”
Also, notice that the $5 billion punishment is applied to Goldman Sachs, not the “Goldman Sackers.” The bank’s shareholders have to cough up the penalty, rather than the executives who did the bad deeds. Goldman Sachs’ CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, just awarded himself a $23 million paycheck for his work last year. That work essentially amounted to negotiating the deal with the government that makes shareholders pay for the bankers’ wrongdoings — while he and other top executives keep their jobs and pocket millions. Remember, banks don’t commit crimes — bankers do.
One more reason Wall Street bankers privately wink and grin at these seemingly huge punishments is that even paying the full $5 billion would only be relatively painful. To you and me, that sounds like a crushing number — but Goldman Sachs raked in $33 billion in revenue last year, so it’s a reasonable cost of doing business. After all, Goldman sold tens of billions of dollars in the fraudulent investment packages leading to the settlement, so the bottom line is that crime can actually pay — if it’s big enough.
By: Jim Hightower, Featured Post, The National Memo, May 4, 2016
“Flint Was Forgotten Before It Was Poisoned”: America’s Forgotten Cities Populated By A Forgotten People
Long before Flint began dealing with a toxic water crisis, the city was already rusting and oozing from its underbelly.
What little hope remains is weary and torn, abandoned like the rows of dilapidated uninhabitable homes and weed-strewn lots that dot the avenues, drowning in water too toxic to drink.
The story of Flint, Michigan, not unlike other former smokestack cities that dot the upper Midwest, is almost too painful to tell. The latest revelations, involving a water supply tainted with lead, feels like a cruel joke being played on people who can least afford the laugh.
With thousands of children at risk, the Justice Department has announced an investigation into who knew the water was toxic and when; Michigan’s attorney general has launched a separate inquiry. Ultimately, what happened in Flint may not be a criminal matter, but there is nothing moral about what happened there.
The once-booming center of industry has lost half of its population in recent decades and is now one of the poorest cities in the nation. Today, nearly 40 percent of Flint residents live below the poverty line. What remains of Flint is 56 percent black and nearly 40 percent white—all too poor to get up and leave.
Blink and you could be standing in Gary, Indiana, East St. Louis, Illinois, or Camden, New Jersey, watching a similar tragedy unfold. Factories close, the middle class takes flight to the suburbs to build better schools and tend to pristine lawns.
They are among America’s forgotten cities—wracked with pervasive poverty and violent crime—populated by a forgotten people. Mostly black and brown, they have little voice over their own destiny. There are no finely suited Washington lobbyists pressing their interests. Presidential candidates rarely come to places like these and they almost never make the national news unless something really bad happens.
There are so many problems, so many complications in Flint that it is difficult for any one issue to command its collective attention.
Back in April 2014, an unelected manager appointed by the state to make Flint solvent decided the city could save money by drawing water from the Flint River instead of Lake Huron. Local residents thought it was a joke given the ugliness thought to be swimming in that river.
It would have taken a five-minute test to prove the river water unsafe. City leaders, who were then weighing less expensive options, knew as early as 2011 that water from the Flint River would need treatment with an anticorrosive agent before it would be drinkable.
In the end, the governor says he had no choice, since Detroit “kicked Flint off” its Lake Huron system. The fact is, that never happened. Detroit asked for a rate change and instead of negotiating, Gov. Rick Snyder’s appointee opted out. They were more concerned about saving money than saving lives.
To make matters worse, the Michigan State Department of Environmental Quality decided $100 a day was too much to pay for an anticorrosive additive that could appropriately treat the water. Consequently, the iron pipes eroded—turning the water brown—and lead began seeping into the water supply.
State and federal officials knew there was a problem. With brown water pumping out of kitchen faucets and fire hydrants, there was no way to hide their error.
State agencies reportedly used testing methodologies that would hide the real level of pollutants—including flushing residential systems before testing. They cheated to make it appear that the water was in compliance, knowing that skewed tests were used.
Ultimately, it took 18 months and a mother named LeAnne Walters who wouldn’t give up, Chicago-based EPA regulations manager, a local physician, an investigative journalist, and a class action lawsuit to force the state to do the right thing.
By then, the damage was done—to Walter’s 4-year-old twins and the at least 5 percent of Flint children who have tested positive. The effects of lead poisoning, especially on children, are well known and there are no safe levels for human consumption. Lead poisoning can have devastating effects on children, causing convulsions, hyper irritability, and neurological damage that lasts into adulthood. Studies show linkages to juvenile delinquency, ADHD, and a decrease in IQ performance. In fact, there is so much lead in the blood of Flint’s children that the state has called a state of emergency. The scourge is irreversible. This is a manmade disaster that will have catastrophic generational effects.
The Flint water crisis is just the latest among a host of serious environmental issues surrounding the city. When General Motors and suppliers pulled up stakes and left for greener pastures, they left unconscionable levels of contamination behind. The same is true in other Rust Belt cities. A community’s wealth is not only tied to jobs and education but also to health and the environment.
Economic recovery for Flint and others towns like it is about more than moving in a new company with some new jobs. It’s about rebuilding failing infrastructures and remaking social institutions. We can keep thumping our chest about personal responsibility and entrepreneurship, but there will be no economic uplift in Flint, Camden, Gary, or East St. Louis, until government does its part.
That means forcing chemical manufacturers, automakers, steel mills, and others to clean up their own mess. They should be forced to fill the hole they dug.
It is hard to believe that no one knew what was in that river. It is hard to believe that no one thought to test the water and the system through which it would travel for potential problems. And, the governor’s explanation about why the change was made as well as his reliance on his hand-picked investigative task force is even more dubious.
State leaders, it seems, were content to continue tightening the city’s belt until somebody strangled and died.
By: Goldie Taylor, The Daily Beast, January 18, 2016
“A Sad Window Into Our Political Dysfunction”: 3 Peerless Republicans For President; Trump, Carson And Fiorina
The leading contenders for the Republican nomination for president tell us three interesting things about America.
First, many G.O.P. voters are so disenchanted they’re willing to entrust the country to candidates — Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina — with zero experience in elective office or military command. Only two men without previous time in major elective office or the military have been president, Herbert Hoover and William Howard Taft, and both had held cabinet posts. No president has ever been as inexperienced as any of these three leading Republican candidates.
Second, the public feels an odd awe for C.E.O.s and presumes they know how to run things, even if their records suggest otherwise. This cultural reverence for C.E.O.s perhaps also explains why pay packages have increased — and why Fiorina was allowed to take home a $21 million severance package after she was fired as Hewlett-Packard’s chief executive for incompetence.
Third, the only kind of welfare that carries no stigma in America is corporate welfare. For all Trump’s criticisms of government, his family wealth came from feeding at the government trough. His father, Fred Trump, leveraged government housing programs into a construction business; the empire was founded on public money.
My bet is that Trump, Fiorina and Carson will fade, and that voters will eventually turn to a more conventional candidate, perhaps Senator Marco Rubio. From the Democrats’ point of view, the scariest Republican ticket might pair Rubio with John Kasich. Rubio has natural political skills, projects youth and change, and would signal that the Republican Party is ready to expand its demographic base. Rubio and Kasich would also have a decent chance of winning their home states, Florida and Ohio — and any ticket that could win Florida and Ohio would be a strong contender.
But instead, Republican primary voters for now are pursuing a bizarre flirtation with three candidates who are the least qualified since, well, maybe since Trump put his toe in the waters before the 2000 election.
In that sense, they offer a window into the American psyche — part of which is our adulation of the C.E.O.
There’s something to be said for C.E.O.s’ entering politics: In theory, they have management expertise and financial savvy. Then again, it didn’t work so well with Dick Cheney.
More broadly, the United States has overdone the cult of the C.E.O., partly explaining why at the largest companies the ratio of C.E.O. compensation to typical worker pay rose from 20 to one in 1965 to 303 to one in 2014, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
In any case, even if you were conducting a job search for a great C.E.O. to lead the free world, you wouldn’t turn to either Trump or Fiorina.
My sense is that Trump isn’t the idiot that critics often claim (the most common words voters used to describe him in a recent poll were “idiot,” “jerk,” “stupid” and “dumb”). This is a man who is near the top of diverse fields: real estate, book writing, television and now presidential politics. He’s a born showman, a master of branding and marketing. But he doesn’t seem a master of investing.
Back in 1976, Trump said he was worth “more than $200 million.” If he had simply put $200 million in an index fund and reinvested dividends, he would be worth $12 billion today, notes Max Ehrenfreund of The Washington Post. In fact, he’s worth $4.5 billion, according to Forbes.
In other words, Trump’s business acumen seems less than half as impressive as that of an ordinary Joe who parks his savings in an index fund.
An index fund might also have been less ethically problematic. In the 1970s, the Justice Department accused Trump of refusing to rent to blacks. And in 2013, New York State’s attorney general sued him, alleging “persistent fraudulent, illegal and deceptive conduct”; Trump denied the charges.
If Trump’s performance as a business executive was problematic, Fiorina’s was exceptional. Exceptionally bad.
Put aside the fact that she’s the C.E.O. who fired thousands of workers while raking in more than $100 million in compensation and pushing H.P. to acquire five corporate jets. Just looking at the bottom line, she earned her place on those “worst C.E.O.” lists she appeared on.
As Steven Rattner wrote in The Times, Hewlett-Packard’s share price fell 52 percent in the nearly six years she was at the helm. H.P. did worse than its peers: IBM fell 27.5 percent, and Dell, 3 percent.
Oh, and on the day she was fired, the stock market celebrated: H.P. shares soared 7 percent.
If I wanted a circus ringmaster, I’d hire Trump. If I wanted advice on brain surgery or hospital management, I’d turn to Carson. Fiorina would make an articulate television pundit. But for president?
The fact that these tyros are the three leading presidential contenders for a major political party is a sad window into our political dysfunction.
By: Nicholas Kristof, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, October 8, 2015
Although nobody sensible would choose to do it this way, America’s political fate has become captive to the TV news media’s never-ending quest for ratings. Months before the earliest votes are cast, the 2016 presidential contest has turned into a “reality TV” melodrama.
The themes are broad and simple: Donald Trump is cast as the Nationalist Strongman and Hillary Clinton as the National Bitch. Up with the Strongman, down with the Bitch! Yes, 20 other candidates are vying for attention, and somebody else could assume a starring role should these narratives lose momentum.
Even the supposedly left-wing MSNBC broadcasts Trump’s speeches live, giving the billionaire braggart free publicity that even he might not be able to afford. Whatever you can say about Trump, he gives good TV — that is, if professional wrestling extravaganzas are your idea of family entertainment.
Also, it’s always been clear that no Democratic woman, and certainly not one named Clinton, can be elected President of the United States without being designated a brass-plated bitch. Having failed to entomb Bill Clinton and drive a wooden stake through his heart, wrecking Clinton’s candidacy has become the Washington press clique’s overriding goal.
And yet the geniuses running her campaign act as if they don’t know it. Consider reporter Amy Chozick’s remarkable piece in the September 8 issue of The New York Times: “Hillary Clinton to Show More Humor and Heart, Aides Say.” According to “extensive interviews” with “top strategists” at the campaign’s Brooklyn headquarters, Chozick wrote, Mrs. Clinton would be urged to exhibit empathy and humor on the campaign trail.
Such as when she recently joked, apropos of Trump’s insistence that he didn’t buy that orange thing on his head from Hair Club for Men, that her own “hair is real,” though “the color isn’t.”
Well, it seems here that everybody in Clinton’s Brooklyn office involved in the Times exclusive ought to walk the plank. Voluntarily or otherwise. The Daily Caller‘s sarcastic headline summed things up perfectly: “Hillary Plans To Be More Spontaneous.”
The idea of Clinton as a kind of political Stepford Wife, calculating and “inauthentic” to use the cant term, is so deeply imprinted in the press clique’s standard narrative that they reacted pretty much the way your dog does when you rattle his leash.
Let Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank speak for them all: “And now comes the latest of many warm-and-fuzzy makeovers — perhaps the most transparent phoniness since Al Gore discovered earth tones.”
Never mind that the whole “earth tones” and “invented the Internet” fiascos were malicious inventions. Caricaturing Gore as a posturing phony made it possible for make-believe rancher George W. Bush to become president.
So how is it possible that Clinton’s communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, one of two staffers quoted in the Times by name, couldn’t see that coming?
Another Clinton staffer confided that although the candidate would emphasize income inequality, she’d be “scrapping the phrase ‘everyday Americans,’ which wasn’t resonating with voters.” One mocked it as too much like Walmart’s “Everyday low prices.”
Presumably, the campaign will choose a more tasteful slogan from Tiffany & Co. or Bergdorf Goodman.
Esquire‘s always understated Charles P. Pierce calls Clinton staffers “a writhing ball of faithless snakes,” more concerned with advancing themselves than electing her. Do they not grasp that wrecking her candidacy is Priority One at the New York Times?
Indeed, no sooner had Clinton made a rote apology for the manufactured email “scandal” than staffers “who insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations,” hurried to the same Times reporter to emphasize that they’d been urging her to kiss the news media’s collective feet for weeks.
Supposedly, Bill had resisted the idea on the grounds that she hadn’t done anything wrong. Supposedly too, he urged staffers to try harder to make that clear.
Based solely on her appearance on Chris Hayes’ MSNBC program, I’d say the aforementioned Palmieri — President Obama’s former communications director — couldn’t explain how to pour sand out of a boot with the instructions printed on the heel. Her speech mannerisms make her difficult to follow, and she talks in circles.
The Clinton campaign needs to send out more spokespeople like former governors Howard Dean and Jennifer Granholm, who are capable of clarity and forcefulness. Here we are months into this pointless debacle and it’s left to the Justice Department to state that Clinton’s email arrangements were legal, proper, and presumably known to everybody in the Obama administration who sent her a message.
And, oh yeah, that business about how Clinton’s obsessive secrecy caused her computer’s server to be wiped of all data? That was false also, as Bill Clinton apparently wanted the campaign to say all along.
So spooks in places like the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (seriously) now say emails sent in 2010 should be made Top Secret in 2015?
Isn’t that like getting a traffic ticket in the mail from a town you drove through last month because they dropped the speed limit last week?
And if it really is as absurd as that, then shouldn’t somebody say so?
By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, Featured Post, September 16, 2015