Commentary Magazine


Topic: Cheryl Mills

Of Administration Lawyers and Disdain for the Law

The Obama administration is not the first in which incompetence reigns large, although the botched roll-out of the Obamacare websites followed by the exposure of 21 million current and former employees’ personal data pretty much takes the cake. Still, there is a difference between incompetence driven by the perfect storm of bloated government on one hand, and the prioritization of political patronage over management ability on the other, and casual disdain for the law. Read More

The Obama administration is not the first in which incompetence reigns large, although the botched roll-out of the Obamacare websites followed by the exposure of 21 million current and former employees’ personal data pretty much takes the cake. Still, there is a difference between incompetence driven by the perfect storm of bloated government on one hand, and the prioritization of political patronage over management ability on the other, and casual disdain for the law.

It is the latter, which not only increasingly defines Washington, but is actually being driven by elite lawyers. No, this is not a rant that seeks to criminalize policy debate — that’s another poisonous characteristic of Washington. But, while many good and honest lawyers enter government service and never subordinate their professional responsibility to ambition or politics, increasingly the greatest scandals have lawyers at their center.

Take Sandy Berger, for example. He received a law degree from Harvard University, perhaps the most rigorous law school in the United States. He leveraged that into plum positions in the New York Mayor’s Office, Congress, State Department, and, finally, as President Bill Clinton’s national security advisor. Then, in the wake of 9/11, he stole documents from the National Archives, presumably to protect his former boss from documentary evidence which might tarnish his reputation. From RealClearPolitics:

Contrary to his initial denials and later excuses, Berger clearly intended from the outset to remove sensitive material from the Archives. He used the pretext of making and receiving private phone calls to get time alone with confidential material, although rules governing access dictated that someone from the Archives staff must be present. He took bathroom breaks every half-hour to provide further opportunity to remove and conceal documents. Before this information was released, the Justice Department, accepting his explanation of innocent and accidental removal of the documents, allowed Berger to enter a plea to the misdemeanor charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material – no prison time, no loss of his bar license. The series of actions that the Archives and House investigations detail, however, are entirely at odds with protestations of innocence. Nothing about his actions was accidental. Nothing was casual. And nothing was normal.

Then there’s Jake Sullivan, a graduate of Yale Law School (where he is now on faculty) and a member of Hillary Clinton’s trusted inner circle. While he is widely respected both by her allies and political adversaries, his rapid rise comes more through loyalty to his patron than always to the law. Hence, his own potential Sandy Berger problem:

As the House Select Committee on Benghazi prepares for its first hearing this week, a former State Department diplomat is coming forward with a startling allegation: Hillary Clinton confidants were part of an operation to “separate” damaging documents before they were turned over to the Accountability Review Board investigating security lapses surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. According to former Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell, the after-hours session took place over a weekend in a basement operations-type center at State Department headquarters in Washington, D.C… A few minutes after he arrived, Maxwell says, in walked two high-ranking State Department officials. In an interview Monday morning on Fox News, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, named the two Hillary Clinton confidants who allegedly were present: One was Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff and a former White House counsel who defended President Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial. The other, Chaffetz said, was Deputy Chief of Staff Jake Sullivan, who previously worked on Hillary Clinton’s and then Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns.

Cheryl Mills, his alleged co-conspirator in the effort to suppress documents outside of established procedures and perhaps the law? A graduate of Stanford Law School.

Then, of course, there is Hillary Clinton herself, who is currently mired in a morass of her own making over maintaining and using a private email server to conduct government business. Clinton, a graduate of Yale Law School, had Sullivan and Mills as her top advisors. Both knew (and corresponded) with her private email, and it was the job of both to know and understand the rules, regulations, and laws governing communications of government officials (government email accounts must be used so that they can be archived as government records). Yet while Clinton, Sullivan, and Mills presumably knew the law (and were incompetent if they did not), they simply chose to disregard it.

The list goes on. Jon Finer, Secretary of State John Kerry’s chief-of-staff and a graduate of the Yale Law School, is currently accompanying his boss in Vienna, but, when he returns, he will likely be called before Congress to explain the State Department’s “total recalcitrance at allowing Congress to investigate” issues relating to Benghazi. A separation of powers exists for a purpose in the U.S. government and, while no one likes an investigation, no secretary of State Department official can simply ignore Congress because they do not like the direction of a congressional investigation. If Congress is playing political football, then it is up to the electorate to hold them to account; it’s not the job of the State Department to unilaterally decide on behalf of the people what is or is not legitimate.

Lois Lerner, director of the Exempt Organizations Unit of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), may not have gone to an elite law school, having instead received her law degree from the Western New England College School of Law, but every law school teaches students to be incisive and dispassionate about what is and is not legal. That’s different than right and wrong: at times lawyers must suspend moral judgment, for example, to provide defendants with the best possible defense. But Lerner is alleged to have withheld evidence, maybe even destroyed it, to obstruct an investigation into her use of the IRS to target those with whom she politically disagreed.

Politicians regardless of party recruit lawyers as staff because they value their legal education which encourages incisive and careful thinking and because those with legal training can keep officials on the right side of the law as they seek to achieve their campaign promises and fulfill philosophical and political agendas. There is something very wrong not only with Washington but also with elite law schools when those supposed trained to be aware of the intricacies of process and the law appear to treat it with such disdain. Perhaps rather than simply honor title, it’s time that the Yale’s Harvard’s and Stanford’s consider why it is that so many top alumni graduate without internalizing the most important lessons.

Read Less

Blame the Middle Manager for Benghazi?

Nine months after the terrorist attack in Benghazi that cost four American lives, we’re finally finding out who it was that the State Department thinks is responsible for the debacle: the middle managers. Josh Rogin’s exclusive interview at the Daily Beast with the only person to lose his job over the tragedy doesn’t tell us much about why Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others were left without security in the face of clear danger from an al-Qaeda affiliate. But it does tell us everything we need to know about how Hillary Clinton’s State Department functioned.

Benghazi is one of the worst disasters in American diplomatic history, but the sum total of accountability for it is limited to the career of Raymond Maxwell, deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) who was placed on administrative leave in December after the now-famous Administrative Review Board (ARB) led by Thomas Pickering issued its report. Pickering didn’t bother interviewing the person in charge of the department—Secretary Clinton—but according to Rogin’s sources, Maxwell was consigned to perdition for not reading his daily intelligence reports. If so, perhaps he deserves his fate even though Maxwell claims he had “no involvement to any degree with decisions on security and the funding of security at our diplomatic mission in Benghazi.” That is something that cannot be said of others, including the secretary, who sent Stevens on what proved to be a fatal mission. Yet what comes across loud and clear in the piece is that what happened at Foggy Bottom in the aftermath of the debacle was that a middle manager was made to walk the plank while all senior personnel were spared from the consequences of the mistakes that were made.

Read More

Nine months after the terrorist attack in Benghazi that cost four American lives, we’re finally finding out who it was that the State Department thinks is responsible for the debacle: the middle managers. Josh Rogin’s exclusive interview at the Daily Beast with the only person to lose his job over the tragedy doesn’t tell us much about why Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others were left without security in the face of clear danger from an al-Qaeda affiliate. But it does tell us everything we need to know about how Hillary Clinton’s State Department functioned.

Benghazi is one of the worst disasters in American diplomatic history, but the sum total of accountability for it is limited to the career of Raymond Maxwell, deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) who was placed on administrative leave in December after the now-famous Administrative Review Board (ARB) led by Thomas Pickering issued its report. Pickering didn’t bother interviewing the person in charge of the department—Secretary Clinton—but according to Rogin’s sources, Maxwell was consigned to perdition for not reading his daily intelligence reports. If so, perhaps he deserves his fate even though Maxwell claims he had “no involvement to any degree with decisions on security and the funding of security at our diplomatic mission in Benghazi.” That is something that cannot be said of others, including the secretary, who sent Stevens on what proved to be a fatal mission. Yet what comes across loud and clear in the piece is that what happened at Foggy Bottom in the aftermath of the debacle was that a middle manager was made to walk the plank while all senior personnel were spared from the consequences of the mistakes that were made.

The ARB actually fixed the blame for Benghazi at the assistant secretary level that would have meant that Maxwell’s boss, Beth Jones, should have been the one to fall on her sword along with others of similar rank. But according to Rogin:

But Jones was not disciplined in any way following the release of the report, nor was the principal deputy assistant secretary of State at NEA, Liz Dibble, who is slated to receive a plush post as the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in London this summer. In the DS bureau, the assistant secretary, principal deputy, and deputy assistant all lost their jobs. In the NEA bureau, only Maxwell was asked to leave.

Jones and Dibble were responsible for security in Libya, Maxwell and three State Department officials said. What’s more, when Maxwell was promoted to his DAS position in August 2011, most responsibility for Libya was carved out of his portfolio, which also included Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. Although Maxwell did some work on Libya, all security related decisions were handled by Dibble and Jones, according to the three officials.

At the time he was placed in career limbo, Rogin reports Maxwell was told that after the political storm about Benghazi blew over, he would come back to his department and get a senior job. But apparently Clinton and Mills reneged, leaving him out in the cold to face the music while they were allowed to go on in their positions.

Suffice to say that if Mrs. Clinton had a shred of personal honor, she would have taken genuine responsibility for Benghazi rather than merely says those words as a figure of speech. If she did, she might not have let her department sacrifice a low-level person like Maxwell for supposedly not reading every item he was sent to read while her defenders claimed it was unreasonable, if not defamatory, to hold her responsible for the documents that went out under her name. Instead, she left State to the applause of her acolytes to wait for a propitious moment to resume her quest for the presidency, all the way claiming none of what happened in Benghazi was her fault.

If the Obama administration took the issue of embassy security as seriously as it claims to—while insisting that any attention paid to the lies it told about Benghazi is a distraction—it might have cleaned house at State in a way that made it clear that all those involved with the refusal to give Stevens adequate security did not escape accountability.

Maxwell’s saga is a depressing reminder of everything that is wrong with Obama and Clinton’s sense of entitlement and a refusal to be accountable for mistakes. It will be up to the Congress and a slowly awakening mainstream press to keep the issue alive and reopen the question who, other than a middle manager with unrelated job responsibilities, should be blamed for Benghazi.

Read Less




Pin It on Pinterest

Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.