Bipartisan Tango and Lawless Justice
Two things caught my attention this week: first, the ridiculous way Democrat partisans, erroneously appointed by President George W. Bush to government positions from which they exercised their power, to undercut Republicans are by reason of the Bush appointment tagged "bipartisan" by the media.
Secondly, the widespread ignorance of the Bill of Rights and their obligations by oath to obey the Constitution by government lawyers in Washington and at the state level.
Two "bipartisan" exemplars are James Comey, whom President Obama nominated this week to head the FBI and Douglas Shulman, whom Bush had appointed to head the IRS and under whom that agency began a partisan attack on Obama opponents.
James Comey, as you may recall, came to Washington from the U.S. Attorney's office in New York, where he made his name by successfully prosecuting Martha Stewart. His selection is praised this week by the New York Times as proof of Obama's bipartisanship. Those of us who, like Thomas Maguire, have a better sense of history, remember Comey otherwise as a fiercely partisan anti-Cheney force.
The Times reminded readers that Comey refused to authorize warrantless wiretaps.
The Washington Post also referred readers to the hospital room confrontation pitting White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card, Bush's chief of staff, against Comey over waterboarding. It also reminded readers of Comey's role in selecting his former colleague Patrick Fitzgerald to conduct a special investigation into who leaked the name of CIA officer Valerie Plame, which led to the conviction of Vice-President Cheney's aide, Scooter Libby (not for the leak but for remembering something different than perhaps Tim Russert did.)
Like Thomas Maguire, I remember Comey's role as more partisan than heroic:
Which leads to my perspective -- a Republican group was pushing back on a number of fronts against Dick Cheney's aggressive view of Executive power and the best way to fight the war on terror. Warrantless surveillance and enhanced interrogation were two disputed areas. The Plame "investigation" was never a serious attempt to find out who may have leaked information about Valerie Plame (hence the cursory non-investigation of Armitage and Powell at State and the utter pass given to NBC's Russert, Mitchell and Gregory) -- the focus was on bringing down Scooter Libby and Dick Cheney.
Just to review the timing -- Jack Goldsmith took over the Office of Legal Counsel in October 2003 and promptly raised questions about enhanced interrogation and warrantless wiretapping. He tried without success during the fall of 2003 to get James Comey, then a Deputy AG, read into the surveillance program. On Dec 30, 2003 Ashcroft recuses himself from the Plame investigation and Comey appoints Special Counsel Fitzgerald. A month later, Comey was read into the surveillance program, and by March we had the famous hospital showdown.
Cheney had made a lot of enemies, not all of whom were on Team Blue.
The Commissioner is In (the White) House
Much is made of the fact that former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, now at Brookings, a Democratic think tank, was also a Bush appointment and therefore, it is supposed, readers should ignore the outrageous partisan activities of the agency instituted under his watch. Shulman not only had been a Democratic political contributor, but his wife is a senior program advisor for Public Campaign, which describes itself as an "organization dedicated to sweeping campaign reform that aims to reduce the role of big special interest money in American politics."
In case you've been sleeping or your name is John McCain, "special interests" are not defined in the press or "public interest" world as unions, George Soros, or the Rockefeller Foundation -- they are farmers, small businessmen, anti-abortion groups, and the NRA. In other words, just as Shulman turned the IRS into an arm of the Democratic Party, his wife was plowing the same field from outside the government.
How bipartisan could Shulman have been when he spent somewhere in excess of 150 days visiting the White House during his term?
And how hand in glove was the harassment aimed at the conservative grassroots, and why is Comey's appointment of concern? Because the IRS obviously coordinated it with other government agencies.
As Hot Air notes, after the reference to the Attkisson report on CBS:
The trouble began shortly after Engelbrecht founded True the Vote, which trains election volunteers and aims to root out voter fraud; and King Street Patriots, a group with ideals similar to the Tea Party. Both sought tax-exempt status from the IRS in July 2010. And both organizations drew the ire of Democrats. Democrats accused True the Vote of intimidating voters in its poll watching efforts, which the group denies. And the Texas Democratic Party successfully sued King Street Patriots, arguing that it's an unregistered political action committee.
But Engelbrecht's attorney, Cleta Mitchell, says it's not just the Democratic Party that went after the conservative causes, but also the federal government. Within months of the groups filing for tax-exempt status, Engelbrecht claims she started getting hit by an onslaught of harassment: six FBI domestic terrorism inquiries, an IRS visit, two IRS business audits, two IRS personal audits, and inspections of her equipment manufacturing company by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Texas environmental quality officials.
Taken alone, any of the visits and actions might seem perfectly reasonable. But Engelbrecht and her lawyer says it's the pattern and the timing of the attention paid to Engelbrecht's interests that led them to conclude something was amiss.
True the Vote filed a lawsuit against the IRS last week for its harassment, which even an attorney representing liberal groups on tax exemption found "very troubling":
Washington, D.C., attorney John Pomeranz represents liberal organizations seeking tax-exemption. He told CBS News that he has found some of the IRS requests of tea party groups "new" and "very troubling," and said he doesn't recall getting similar demands for his liberal clients.
Assuming this lawsuit shakes loose any evidence of coordination between these agencies (still a large assumption at this point), that would be more than just "very troubling." The IRS works within the Department of the Treasury; ATF and FBI within Justice; and OSHA within Labor. Any coordination would have to take place well above the agency leadership level and up to Cabinet level at least. Or it would, unless it turns out that the leaders of these agencies have the same visiting pattern to the West Wing as Douglas Shulman, in which case we're talking about coordination at the highest level. And while it's possible that all of the attention showered on Engelbrecht was just a coincidence, nothing we've seen from the responses of the bureaucrats called on the carpet by Congress gives any confidence in that explanation.
As we consider this week's reports on law, the lawless and lawyers, let's not forget that the Holder Department of Justice, which still can't seem to remember who okayed the wiretap warrants on the Associated Press and whose fandangos have resulted in most of the press finally refusing to openly participate in Holder's secret off the record briefings, is now suggesting that it can and should monitor free speech. U.S. Attorney Bill Killian indicates that posting something mean about Muslims on social media might be a criminal offense.
And if that doesn't turn you off lawyers for good, there's the AP report out of Florida where in the baseless case against George Zimmerman, a former prosecutor,Wesley White, revealed to the court that a court employee, Ben Kruidbos, had retrieved photos and deleted text messages from Trayvon Martin's cellphone and that prosecutors did not properly turn over this evidence to the defense.
I'm finding it hard to be sympathetic to the plight of law schools that keep churning out graduates who have no understanding of the most basic constitutional rights and responsibilities.