Jamie Gorelick Knew What Team She Was On
One of the faux scandals to have emerged in this crazy past week was the revelation that in December, President Trump allegedly asked his deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, “Are you on my team?”
Opined a trio of reporters from CNN, presumably with a straight face, “The episode is the latest to come to light portraying a President whose inquiries sometimes cross a line that presidents traditionally have tried to avoid when dealing with the Justice Department, for which a measure of independence is key.”
Obama White House speechwriter Ben Rhodes was not directly referencing these reporters when he told the New York Times, “The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old… They literally know nothing,” but he might as well have been.
Reporters under 45 or so have no real idea what happened in the Clinton White House. Those over 45 don’t really know either but, unlike their younger colleagues, they have no excuse for not knowing.
For the record, the Clinton White House ran an openly political Department of Justice (DoJ). Obama’s DoJ was equally as political. It is just that Obama was a little more discreet.
The Clintons, like The Great Gatsby’s Tom and Daisy Buchanan, “were careless people. They smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”
The clean-up people rarely got the top jobs in the Clinton cabinet. Those jobs attracted too much attention. They got the number two spots or, in Webster Hubbell’s case at the Department of Justice, the number three spot.
Unfortunately, Hubbell had messes of his own, and no one to clean up after him. A year into his tenure as associate attorney general, the Clintons’ pal was forced out for sundry corruptions back at his and Hillary’s law firm in Little Rock. For the Clintons, this was just as well. The ungainly Hubbell would not have been up to the major messes the Clintons would soon have to clean up.
From the moment Hillary Clinton staked out Justice as her personal fiefdom, the department had been in chaos. Nanny issues sidelined the first two attorney general candidates as well as the first would-be deputy AG.
Insisting that a woman -- any woman -- head the department, Hillary finally settled on the feckless Miami prosecutor Janet Reno. For the next eight years the Clintons would have to work around her. They did not fully trust Reno to be on their “team.”
Needing someone to work through, the Clintons finally found a fixer worthy of the number two position, a little-known D.C. litigator named Jamie Gorelick. With Gorelick’s appointment as deputy attorney general in February 1994, Hillary had three women occupying the most powerful posts in federal law enforcement, criminal division head Jo Ann Harris being the third.
Gorelick proved to be a much more capable and subtle problem solver than the blundering Hubbell. In June 1996, Newsweek’s Mark Hosenball took note of Gorelick’s insider role. In a rare glimpse at the political workings of the feminized DoJ, Hosenball observed that Gorelick had set up “a campaign-like ‘war room’” to combat alleged smears from the Bob Dole campaign. Wrote Hosenball without a hint of disapproval, “In a campaign year, Justice can’t afford to be totally blind.” Truer words never came out of Newsweek.
In that stormy campaign year, Justice was very nearly omniscient. A month after the Hosenball revelation, still in war room mode, Gorelick directed the FBI to take over the investigation into the destruction of TWA Flight 800 off the coast of Long Island.
Heading up Justice’s operation on the ground in Long Island was United States Attorney Valerie Caproni. As attorneys and officers of the court, Gorelick and Caproni knew the FBI was subordinate to the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB could not legally be restricted in its pursuit of information. Gorelick and Caproni simply ignored the law. The FBI seized the investigation from the NTSB. The FBI reported to Justice. The NTSB did not.
While Reno contented herself with “policy issues,” Gorelick ran the DoJ. The media acknowledged as much, but they missed Gorelick’s crucial role in the TWA 800 investigation. In her book Deadly Departure, CNN’s Christine Negroni never once mentioned her.
Only with the release of a book by the AP’s Pat Milton three years after the crash, In the Blink of an Eye, did Gorelick’s name surface in any meaningful way. Milton identified Gorelick as the most serious player at an August 22, 1996, meeting in the attorney general’s office. This meeting reversed the momentum of the investigation.
What followed in the next several weeks was the most ambitious and successful cover-up in American peacetime history. At its quiet center was Gorelick. With the help of a complicit media, she and her cronies transformed a transparent missile strike into a mechanical failure of unknown origin.
Given her role, the months after the crash had to have been emotionally harrowing. She did not know whether she would wake up one morning to find Washington Post reporters at her door eager to make her their John Mitchell or H. R. Haldeman.
Perhaps such anxiety may have inspired her to leave the DOJ in January 1997. If so, the media missed the story. In an article on her departure, the New York Times failed to explain why the “hard-driving, efficient” deputy was stepping down or what she intended to do next. Nor did the paper mention her role in the TWA 800 investigation.
There was nothing routine about Gorelick’s next career move. In May 1997, the Clintons found a way to reward their trusted team player for her steely performance. Not one reporter even questioned why a middling bureaucrat with no financial or housing experience would be handed the vice-chairmanship of Fannie Mae, a sinecure the Washington Monthly aptly called “the equivalent of winning the lottery.”
One does not have to be a conspiracy theorist to suspect that Clinton had something to do with Gorelick’s appointment. Gorelick would make $877,573 in that first half-year alone, more than $25 million during her six-year tenure at Fannie Mae.
Taking her place as Deputy AG was none other than Eric Holder. Holder quietly did the Clintons’ dirty work, but one of his last assignments blew up in everyone’s face. Holder was responsible for orchestrating President Clinton’s pardon of fugitive billionaire Marc Rich.
So deep was Holder in the muck of “Pardongate” that even the New York Times called it a “notable blemish” on his career. In its occasional nod to fairness, the Times allowed Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, then the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, to point out the obvious.
“Marc Rich was a fugitive for nearly two decades, wanted by the federal government for fraud and tax evasion,” said Smith. “If a Republican official had engaged in this kind of activity, he would never receive Senate confirmation.”
In 2009, Holder did receive confirmation as Barack Obama’s attorney general. In 2013, he was asked by the press if he had any plans for retirement. Said Holder for the ages, "I’m still enjoying what I’m doing. There’s still work to be done. I’m still the President’s wingman. So I’m there with my boy.”
Ah, yes, in the Obama White House, as in Clinton’s, “a measure of independence” was key. It is just that the DoJ’s independence was measured by the thimbleful.