Commentary Magazine


Topic: Eric Holder

Eric Holder’s Ferguson Report Is a Public Service, and Conservatives Should Say So

There has been so much partisanship and misinformation about America’s police and about race in general these past few years, it’s understandable that conservatives get defensive when the topics come up–and certainly when they are fused in one story. But conservatives should set all that aside and embrace the Holder Justice Department’s thorough report on the toxic municipal policing in Ferguson, Missouri. Holder’s report is a public service. And it would be a tremendous wasted opportunity not to engage in this argument. An abusive government run amok should never escape conservatives’ ire.

Read More

There has been so much partisanship and misinformation about America’s police and about race in general these past few years, it’s understandable that conservatives get defensive when the topics come up–and certainly when they are fused in one story. But conservatives should set all that aside and embrace the Holder Justice Department’s thorough report on the toxic municipal policing in Ferguson, Missouri. Holder’s report is a public service. And it would be a tremendous wasted opportunity not to engage in this argument. An abusive government run amok should never escape conservatives’ ire.

The first thing conservatives should note about the report is that yes, Ferguson appears to have a race problem. Here are some, but by no means all, of the more troubling statistics:

African Americans are 2.07 times more likely to be searched during a vehicular stop but are 26% less likely to have contraband found on them during a search. They are 2.00 times more likely to receive a citation and 2.37 times more likely to be arrested following a vehicular stop. …

African Americans are 68% less likely than others to have their cases dismissed by the Municipal Judge, and in 2013 African Americans accounted for 92% of cases in which an arrest warrant was issued.

There certainly does seem to be a two-tiered system of justice, and no amount of racial demagoguery from this White House or its partisans should turn conservatives away from recognizing it.

But the most fascinating part of the report is that it details precisely how the abusive policing is structured. It is a damning portrait of too-powerful government in desperate need of reform, and it should be required reading for every member of Congress.

At the core of the report is the fact that the city uses its police force as a revenue-collection tool. This is not limited to Ferguson, of course. But it’s worth looking at Ferguson to see how easily the wheels come off when this is the operative strategy. “The City has budgeted for, and achieved, significant increases in revenue from municipal code enforcement over the last several years, and these increases are projected to continue,” the report tells us. The city sets a revenue target and tells the police to go get it.

The city is now raising millions a year in fees and fines. This is where the scheme really comes alive:

Our review of police and court records suggests that much of the harm of Ferguson’s law enforcement practices in recent years is attributable to the court’s routine use of arrest warrants to secure collection and compliance when a person misses a required court appearance or payment. In a case involving a moving violation, procedural failures also result in the suspension of the defendant’s license. And, until recently, the court regularly imposed a separate Failure to Appear charge for missed appearances and payments; that charge resulted in an additional fine in the amount of $75.50, plus $26.50 in court costs. See Ferguson Mun. Code § 13-58 (repealed Sept. 23, 2014). During the last three years, the court imposed roughly one Failure to Appear charge per every two citations or summonses issued by FPD. Since at least 2010, the court has collected more revenue for Failure to Appear charges than for any other charge. …

Thus, while the municipal court does not generally deem the code violations that come before it as jail-worthy, it routinely views the failure to appear in court to remit payment to the City as jail-worthy, and commonly issues warrants to arrest individuals who have failed to make timely payment. Similarly, while the municipal court does not have any authority to impose a fine of over $1,000 for any offense, it is not uncommon for individuals to pay more than this amount to the City of Ferguson—in forfeited bond payments, additional Failure to Appear charges, and added court fees—for what may have begun as a simple code violation. In this way, the penalties that the court imposes are driven not by public safety needs, but by financial interests.

And how do such “violations” pile up? The report tells us that “It is often difficult for an individual who receives a municipal citation or summons in Ferguson to know how much is owed, where and how to pay the ticket, what the options for payment are, what rights the individual has, and what the consequences are for various actions or oversights. The initial information provided to people who are cited for violating Ferguson’s municipal code is often incomplete or inconsistent.”

In the interest of space, I’m forgoing the excerpts of personal anecdotes. But I recommend reading the report for those as well, to see how these actions affect the lives of the city’s residents. The crux of it is this: the city instructs the police to raise a certain amount of revenue. They do so by issuing various citations on skimpy or nonexistent evidence and which at times plainly violate Ferguson residents’ constitutional rights.

The municipal court then structures the payment procedure in a way that encourages additional violations. They put up obstacles to payment and don’t follow their own rules. For example, they leave the impression that in-person payment is required in far more cases than it actually is. They then close earlier than the posted closing time. It’s as if they don’t want to take your money–but that’s only because they want you to end up owing more, and then take that.

And why does the court do this? Jumping back earlier in the report, we learn that “Ferguson’s municipal court operates as part of the police department. The court is supervised by the Ferguson Chief of Police, is considered part of the police department for City organizational purposes, and is physically located within the police station. Court staff report directly to the Chief of Police.” Additionally, “the Court Clerk, who is employed under the Police Chief’s supervision, plays the most significant role in managing the court and exercises broad discretion in conducting the court’s daily operations.”

The game is rigged. And conservatives have a real opportunity to talk about why. This is the community-policing version of the regulatory state. There is a tendency among the right to counter attempts to gain sympathy for criminals by saying something like, “well don’t break the law.” And I suppose that’s true as far as it goes. But here’s the thing: it’s no longer so easy not to break the law, in all sorts of respects. And the proliferation of ticky-tack charges makes it that much easier to run afoul of the law.

Again, racism is certainly a part of this too in many cases. But the government exacerbates the problem by encouraging the police to see law-abiding citizens as potential piñatas. When you pass a law you put the state’s monopoly on the use of force behind it. And when you add a significant price tag to such arrests policing becomes like a video game. And when you bring the arms of municipal government under the unified command of the police, you remove the potential for necessary oversight.

The government has ballooned its own spending to the point where arresting citizens, and turning the innocent into criminals, has become a new form of stealth taxation. It’s dehumanizing, and limited-government conservatives are missing a real opportunity by not shouting it from the rooftops.

Read Less

The Racism Narrative and Attacks on Police

Last night’s shooting of two police officers in Ferguson, Missouri repeats a pattern of behavior that should shock Americans to their core. After the release of a Justice Department report alleging systematic racism by the police in Ferguson, and statements by Attorney General Eric Holder that appeared to delegitimize the entire law enforcement establishment in that town, there were demonstrations followed by what is described as an “ambush” of the police. While the responsibility for this crime belongs only to the person who fired the shots, it is still necessary to point out that those, including some of the highest officials of the land, who have sought to exploit charges against police in order to further their political agendas need to understand that inflammatory rhetoric doesn’t help heal our racial divide or promote peace on our streets.

Read More

Last night’s shooting of two police officers in Ferguson, Missouri repeats a pattern of behavior that should shock Americans to their core. After the release of a Justice Department report alleging systematic racism by the police in Ferguson, and statements by Attorney General Eric Holder that appeared to delegitimize the entire law enforcement establishment in that town, there were demonstrations followed by what is described as an “ambush” of the police. While the responsibility for this crime belongs only to the person who fired the shots, it is still necessary to point out that those, including some of the highest officials of the land, who have sought to exploit charges against police in order to further their political agendas need to understand that inflammatory rhetoric doesn’t help heal our racial divide or promote peace on our streets.

The shooting particularly resonates because it was less than three months ago that similar events unfolded. In the aftermath of controversial rulings that absolved policemen of criminal charges in the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in Staten Island, the country was convulsed by demonstrations and condemnations of law enforcement personnel. But after statements by the Obama administration, the mainstream media, and those claiming to speak for the civil-rights movement blasting police, the national conversation was altered by the murder of two New York City policemen by a person who claimed to want revenge for Brown and Garner.

That tragedy allowed the nation to put these incidents in perspective and to appreciate that there was more to these issues than the narrative of racism we had been hearing so much about. But that didn’t stop the administration and its cheering section of racial hucksters such as presidential advisor Al Sharpton from returning to the rhetorical excesses that helped gin up violence in Missouri and New York last year.

The Justice Department’s reports on Ferguson deserve particular scrutiny because they illustrate just how wrong-headed much of our national conversation on race has been in the last several months. After months of harangues about the shooting of Brown being indicative of racism, the federal review of the case confirmed the decision of the Grand Jury that refused to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson for the incident. The claim that Brown had put his hands up and cried, “don’t shoot” to Wilson was rightly labeled a lie. But after the mantra was repeated endlessly in social media, demonstrations, and stunts by celebrities and athletes, for many people the truth didn’t matter.

But not satisfied with debunking the myth that Wilson had murdered Brown, Justice also issued another report nonetheless blasting the Ferguson police for racism. The rationale for the report was largely statistical. As John R. Lott wrote in the New York Post earlier this week, there is reason to dispute the report’s conclusions that the numbers demonstrate bias. But even if we are to accept the idea that Ferguson’s law enforcement practices were flawed and concede, as we should, that racism still exists in this country, it must be understood that Holder’s willingness to go so far as to dismantle the Ferguson police department in a federal purge of local authorities was an attempt to ignore or to obfuscate the facts in the Brown case. After spending so much effort demonizing police because of the Ferguson incident, the agenda here was not so much reform as it was to revive the discredited claim that Brown’s death was an apt symbol of police brutality against minorities.

What we should have learned in December and ought to finally grasp now is that those who have sought to exploit extraordinary cases like those of Brown and Garner are keeping the racial pot boiling for political purposes.

The acts of violence against police ought not to silence discussions about race or of wrongful actions on the part of law enforcement authorities. But what Holder, President Obama, Sharpton, and those who have echoed their charges in the media have done is to create a narrative of police racism that isn’t always justified by the facts. More to the point, they have created an atmosphere in which violence against police becomes not only thinkable but also expected.

After all, even before the shooting of the Ferguson cops yesterday, the New York Times was reporting that police were no longer handing out traffic tickets or doing the same sort of patrols they had done before Brown’s death because of fears of violence against them. By demonizing the police, the civil-rights movement had essentially created a law-free zone in Ferguson that cannot have done much to enhance the quality of life there. Most of all, it should be remembered that the months of demonstrations and condemnations were rooted in myths and outright lies that were given credence by national figures who should have known better.

The latest shootings should, as the December killings did, cause those trumpeting often-dubious claims of racism to think more carefully about what they are doing. Moral leadership from Washington is necessary to make good on the promise of American freedom and to recognize the achievements of the civil-rights movement. But all too often what we have gotten instead are statements aimed at wrongly portraying the America of 2015 as little different from that of 1965. Racists must be condemned and out-of-control and prejudiced law enforcement must be reformed. But what must also be changed is the kind of rhetoric that incites violence and promotes harmful myths that encourage hate and division.

Read Less

Now It Can Be Told, Eric Holder Edition

Attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee today in her first step on the path toward confirmation. The key question around this initial hearing was about President Obama’s executive amnesty, not anything controversial in Lynch’s past or expected to arise in the near future. Which is why Lynch should know from the outset that her nomination is in good shape.

Read More

Attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee today in her first step on the path toward confirmation. The key question around this initial hearing was about President Obama’s executive amnesty, not anything controversial in Lynch’s past or expected to arise in the near future. Which is why Lynch should know from the outset that her nomination is in good shape.

Lynch is a highly confirmable nominee, even in these times of political polarization. For the left, her identity-politics credentials are impeccable: she’d be the first African-American woman to be attorney general. Far more interesting is her appeal to the right. Democrats have initiated an unusual sales job to convince enough Republicans to approve her nomination. Their case for her, at least with regard to conservatives, involves throwing Eric Holder under the bus before he can clean out his desk.

Lynch is the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York. She is regarded as a tough and fair prosecutor, charming and up-front. But perhaps the best example of the way Democrats are convincing Republicans of her virtues is this New York Times profile of her from January 12. It begins with a story:

While interviewing aspiring prosecutors for jobs in the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn, Loretta E. Lynch, an African-American Democrat who grew up in the segregated South, often poses a favorite question.

You are investigating a violent crime in a minority neighborhood. The crucial witness, a kindhearted grandmother, will not testify. The case hangs in the balance. What do you do?

Many applicants think they know the answer she wants. They offer thoughts on the challenges of policing troubled neighborhoods and the need for sensitivity to the concerns of witnesses. But in a soft voice bearing hints of North Carolina, Ms. Lynch tells them they are wrong.

“Nana’s going to jail,” she says.

What’s the upshot of this story? That Lynch is no hostage to racial grievance politics. That her pursuit is justice, not postmodern “fairness” or empathy before the law. That to her, the rule of law comes before political correctness or partisan accounting. She is, in other words, everything that Eric Holder is not:

Ms. Lynch, President Obama’s nominee to become the next attorney general, is easy to misread. Mr. Obama predicted that she would carry on the legacy of Eric H. Holder Jr., an African-American who proudly declared himself an activist and became the administration’s most outspoken voice on race.

But while Ms. Lynch shares Mr. Holder’s views on issues such as the strained relations between the police and minorities, her friends and colleagues describe someone cautious and comfortable staying in the background who sees her role as that of a traditional prosecutor and not a civil rights advocate. …

There is no doubt that Ms. Lynch is sensitive to issues of race and criminal justice, said Annette Gordon-Reed, a Harvard law professor, an old friend and one of the “triplets” at Cahill. But “she’s not an ideologue,” Ms. Gordon-Reed said. “She’s not going to do things to please some wing. She’s not a caricature of anything. She is a prosecutor.”

This is yet another installment of a game the media plays that sometimes rankles conservatives. It might be called, “Now it can be told.” It plays out like this: conservatives level an entirely accurate accusation at a liberal political figure; liberals respond that they are simply shocked at the level of incivility conservatives are inserting into our politics; when it becomes convenient later on, liberals tacitly acknowledge that, yes, conservatives were right all along, as they so often are.

Eric Holder was a terrible attorney general. But much of that was because he saw himself as a partisan actor. All attorneys general get accused these days of “politicizing justice,” so it doesn’t advance the argument much to claim that Holder was a special kind of toxic stooge. Though that’s pretty obviously true.

When Holder officially leaves his post, there will be numerous columns from the right-of-center press detailing his many, many failings as attorney general. This isn’t that column. Instead, I think it’s far more interesting to note the extent to which the left praises Lynch as the un-Holder.

The Times even does a kind of meta version of this today, writing that “Her allies have sought to differentiate her from Mr. Holder, an outspoken liberal voice in the administration who clashed frequently with Republicans who accused him of politicizing the office,” in an article that seeks itself to do precisely that, from a newspaper that has been the leading clearinghouse of such Lynch-Holder differentiation.

Eric Holder couldn’t get confirmed today, because he turned out to be precisely the kind of attorney general who believes in selective justice, personal vendettas, and self-righteous crusades that turn the country against itself. Of course, that’s the attorney general the left wanted, so they couldn’t be too honest with the country until he was confirmed.

But now there’s a serious, ethical, lawful, responsible nominee who just wants to do her job. And that is an entirely different kind of nominee from Eric Holder. So now it can be told–now, in fact, it must be told.

Read Less

Holder Does Something Right

It’s hard to believe, but Eric Holder’s Justice Department has actually done a good thing. On Friday, the attorney general barred state and local police from using federal law to seize property from citizens without a warrant or criminal charges. Under a program called Equitable Sharing, police could pull someone over for some minor infraction, and then, if they found, say, a large amount of cash, seize it and the vehicle without any evidence that the cash had been obtained illegally. The citizen would then have to prove his innocence to get it back.

Read More

It’s hard to believe, but Eric Holder’s Justice Department has actually done a good thing. On Friday, the attorney general barred state and local police from using federal law to seize property from citizens without a warrant or criminal charges. Under a program called Equitable Sharing, police could pull someone over for some minor infraction, and then, if they found, say, a large amount of cash, seize it and the vehicle without any evidence that the cash had been obtained illegally. The citizen would then have to prove his innocence to get it back.

This was no small business. Since 2008 there have been more than 55,000 seizures under this program, worth $3 billion. The proceeds were usually split 80-20 between the local police and a federal agency.

The program originated in the early 1980s as a way of attacking the illegal drug trade, which is largely conducted in cash. After 9/11 it was ramped up to fight terrorism.

Abuses were sure to follow, and they did. After all, if a local police department can substantially increase its revenues by seizing property and making the owners fight (at their own expense) to get it back, and they can then use that revenue to increase expenditure, that’s a tremendous motivation not to be over-scrupulous.

As a general principle, government departments should be funded solely by legislative appropriations. Doing otherwise, as in this case, produces an open invitation to corruption, which will all too often be accepted. In other instances, such as funding wildlife and environmental agencies out of hunting license fees, policy is skewed in order to maximize income.

Read Less

No Longer the Leader of the Free World

Perhaps President Obama instinctively understood that any mass unity rally in Paris would be more of a feel-good photo-op than a genuine response to Islamist terror or anti-Semitic violence. Perhaps the Secret Service sought to veto an impromptu visit from the president or even Vice President Biden on security grounds. But whatever the reasons for the decision not to send a high-level American representative to the event in Paris, it told us something important about this administration’s approach to the relevant issues as well as about this president. By choosing to stay away from the march, the United States expressed not only its public disdain for the effort to respond to the rising tide of hate, but the president also demonstrated that he doesn’t understand that being the leader of the free world occasionally requires him to show up even when he’d rather stay home. The symbolism of the boycott illustrated very clearly why Obama is the first American president since World War Two to publicly disdain that title.

Read More

Perhaps President Obama instinctively understood that any mass unity rally in Paris would be more of a feel-good photo-op than a genuine response to Islamist terror or anti-Semitic violence. Perhaps the Secret Service sought to veto an impromptu visit from the president or even Vice President Biden on security grounds. But whatever the reasons for the decision not to send a high-level American representative to the event in Paris, it told us something important about this administration’s approach to the relevant issues as well as about this president. By choosing to stay away from the march, the United States expressed not only its public disdain for the effort to respond to the rising tide of hate, but the president also demonstrated that he doesn’t understand that being the leader of the free world occasionally requires him to show up even when he’d rather stay home. The symbolism of the boycott illustrated very clearly why Obama is the first American president since World War Two to publicly disdain that title.

Administration defenders are dismissing criticisms of the astonishing U.S. decision not to send a high-ranking representative by saying that it was mere symbolism. They say that American security cooperation with France against terrorism is more important than such trifles and, in a material sense, they are right about that. Indeed, even White House spokesman Josh Earnest’s admission that a mistake was made tried to emphasize that the error was more one about image than substance. The march was just symbolism and, to the extent that many in the media were prepared to treat it as a substantive answer to Islamist terror or the rising tide of Jew-hatred that has afflicted Europe in recent years, it was an entirely inadequate one. A day after this massive event, French Jews remain under siege with their institutions being guarded by thousands of Army troops and police. It has yet to be seen whether a genuine change in atmosphere or anything like it will stem from all of the righteous rhetoric being uttered about unity in a Europe that has proven more interested in appeasing Islamists than fighting, and where anti-Semitism has moved from the margins to the mainstream in the last decade.

But that did not relieve the administration of its obligation to join with other nations who sent their leaders to Paris to show solidarity after such egregious attacks on the West. That even Attorney General Eric Holder, who was already in Paris and meeting with security officials who did go to the march, disdained to make an appearance at the march spoke volumes about the administration’s attitude.

By passing on it, the president was, as he has done before, tripping on what he calls the “optics” of a situation. It should be recalled that after he made a statement about the death of James Foley at the hands of ISIS terrorists, he followed it with a round of golf during which he was photographed joking and laughing with his companions. Afterwards, he admitted this was a mistake but in doing so he was merely acknowledging that the unfortunate juxtaposition was bad politics. But there is more to such “optics” than losing a news cycle to critics who can pounce on a gaffe.

This is a man who sought and embraced the power that comes with the presidency but even after six years in the White House, he has not learned that along with the ability to make important decisions, the essence of such an office is moral leadership. That means that presidents, like all world leaders, are not merely acting a part in a political play but are actually setting the tone for their nation’s national discussion and behavior on crucial subjects. Great leaders, such as Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, understood this even as their critics attacked them for being theatrical showmen. Obama not only refuses to play such a role, he still seems to not to understand that such symbolic acts are in some ways as important as policymaking.

But, of course, there’s more here than mere tone deafness to public opinion. The president’s flat line response to the Charley Hebdo massacre and then the terrorist attack on the kosher market in Paris (which he failed to characterize as an act of anti-Semitism in his public statement after it happened) illustrated his lack of comfort on this terrain. This is a president that has spent his time in office trying desperately to reach out to the Arab and Muslim worlds to change their perception of the United States. That he has failed in this respect is no longer in question but his disinterest in taking part in a symbolic response to extremist Islam stands in direct contrast to his eagerness for détente with an Iran that is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. The cold shoulder he gave the Paris march resonates not so much because of the odd and very conspicuous absence of an American representative of any stature, but because it fits with the perception of his attitudes.

If he and his defenders think this is unfair, that is understandable. But a president who disdains acts of moral leadership cannot complain when they are judged as having failed to send the right message to the world. A president who thought of himself as the leader of the free world would not have made such a mistake. One that disdains that title couldn’t help but make it.

Read Less

Standing with the Cops Against de Blasio

According to this story in the New York Times, the number of murders in New York City dropped to 328 in 2014. That’s the lowest figure since at least 1963, when the Police Department began collecting reliable statistics.

Read More

According to this story in the New York Times, the number of murders in New York City dropped to 328 in 2014. That’s the lowest figure since at least 1963, when the Police Department began collecting reliable statistics.

As a reference point, in 1990, the number of murders was 2,245–roughly seven times what it is today. This drop in murders from 2013 (335) capped a year of lower numbers in nearly every major crime category.

This constitutes one of the most stunning social policy successes of the last 50 years, and it didn’t happen by accident. It’s the result of tremendous professionalism by the NYPD, from the quality of its police officers to crime-fighting approaches that include increased focus on the small number of people responsible for a majority of offenses and their patterns of criminal behavior; embracing the “Broken Windows” approach to fighting crime; and reliance on a data-driven management model referred to as CompStat, which is responsible for lowering the crime rate and improving the quality of life in New York City.

All of which makes the anti-cop narrative that has been advanced by people like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Attorney General Eric Holder, along with President Obama, so indefensible. Thanks to the sacrifices and excellence of police officers all across the United States, and especially in our large urban areas, our streets are far safer and the quality of life in our cities is far better than it was a quarter-century ago. This occurred despite the fact that many criminologists were predicting crime rates would sharply rise throughout the 1990s and beyond because of demographic reasons (a bulge in the number of young males) and because the percentage of children born out of wedlock continued to go up. Instead, rates of murder, violent crime, and overall crime have dropped dramatically. For example, from 2000 to 2012, the violent crime rate fell over 23 percent–and before that, from 1993 to 2000, the the rate fell 32 percent.

For people like de Blasio, Holder, and Obama to suggest that systemic racism is characteristic of our police departments and to constantly undermine confidence in cops is disgraceful, particularly given the tremendous achievements by police officers in protecting innocent people from harm and maintaining order in our streets. It tells you a very great deal about the progressive mind that those on the left are so eager to attack the police even when they are performing their duties with great distinction.

We live in a time during which cops should be praised and honored for their bravery and their accomplishments. Instead we have political leaders acting in ways that are undercutting and slandering law enforcement officers. The result is a poisonous climate in which a diseased and malignant mind like that of Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who wrote on an Instagram account, “I’m putting wings on pigs today. They take 1 of ours, let’s take 2 of theirs,” can be catalyzed to lethal violence. Which explains why I’m supportive of police officers who have on several occasions now turned their backs on Mayor de Blasio. Their contempt for him is well-deserved. “We might be reaching a tipping point with the mind-set of officers, who are beginning to wonder if the risks they take to keep communities safe are event worth it anymore,” Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke said. “We’re seeing a natural recoil from … officers who don’t feel like certain people who need to have their backs have their backs.” (New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, when asked about the role of Obama and Holder in the current climate, said officers “feel that they are under attack from the federal government at the highest level.”)

It is all quite contemptible–and for the left, quite predictable.

Read Less

My Appearance on C-SPAN

This morning I was on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, talking about the mood of America and its causes, economic trends, the Obama presidency and the Affordable Care Act, the 2016 presidential race, and the anti-police bias of Mayor de Blasio, Attorney General Holder, and President Obama. All in roughly 45 minutes. For those interested, the link can be found here.

This morning I was on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, talking about the mood of America and its causes, economic trends, the Obama presidency and the Affordable Care Act, the 2016 presidential race, and the anti-police bias of Mayor de Blasio, Attorney General Holder, and President Obama. All in roughly 45 minutes. For those interested, the link can be found here.

Read Less

The Progressive Movement’s Anti-Cop Narrative

I don’t believe New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has “blood on his hands,” which is the accusation made by Patrick Lynch, president of the largest and most influential union of the New York City Police Department, in the aftermath of the horrific assassinations of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. The killer, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, was a wicked and deeply disturbed person. It’s simply wrong to blame public figures for words or actions, even unwise ones, that might conceivably trigger deranged people to commit violence. That was true when Bill Clinton blamed conservatives for the actions of Timothy McVeigh and when liberals blamed Sarah Palin for the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

Read More

I don’t believe New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has “blood on his hands,” which is the accusation made by Patrick Lynch, president of the largest and most influential union of the New York City Police Department, in the aftermath of the horrific assassinations of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. The killer, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, was a wicked and deeply disturbed person. It’s simply wrong to blame public figures for words or actions, even unwise ones, that might conceivably trigger deranged people to commit violence. That was true when Bill Clinton blamed conservatives for the actions of Timothy McVeigh and when liberals blamed Sarah Palin for the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

But here’s what I do believe: Mayor de Blasio, along with Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama, have spoken in ways that have created a false and pernicious narrative, one that would lead you to believe that race was a factor in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson and the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island–and, more broadly, that (a) racism is a prominent problem in many of America’s 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies in the United States; (b) African-Americans are frequently targeted by cops because of bigotry; and (c) the main problem facing inner-city blacks is white cops. None of that is true. That doesn’t mean that now and then there aren’t racists cops; nor does it mean that mistakes aren’t made. But the storyline itself is at its core a lie–and rather than challenge the lie, de Blasio, Holder, and Obama have given it oxygen.

There’s very little question that to varying degrees Messrs. de Blasio, Holder, and Obama have lent their voices and moral authority in ways that have created greater distrust toward the police, from President Obama wrongly accusing the Cambridge police of acting “stupidly” after a run-in with Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. to the attorney general sending in federal agents as a way of signaling his unhappiness with grand jury verdicts that sided with the police to Mayor de Blasio linking the death of Mr. Garner to systematic police racism. (I recommend this fine editorial by National Review on Mayor de Blasio, saying he has “repeatedly given voice to unfounded allegations of racial bias in the police department.”)

I will repeat what I’ve said before: Cops are not only by and large impressive and admirable individuals who do very difficult jobs with skill and professionalism; they are among the best friends that communities, most especially inner-city communities, have. It would be nice if our political leaders would say that more than they now do, without the constant caveats slyly inserted to erode support for law enforcement officials.

It isn’t a good thing when the president of the United States, the attorney general, and the mayor of New York City grant more esteem and deference to a divisive and dishonest charlatan like Al Sharpton than they do to the police. (This Politico story refers to Sharpton as the president’s “go-to man on race.”) But that is what the progressive movement in America has given to us. Our communities and race relations are worse because of it; and so is our nation.

Read Less

As Police Die, Racism Narrative Unravels

Any conversation about the murders of two New York City Police officers this weekend must start by acknowledging the ordinary heroism of law enforcement personnel that puts them in harm’s way every day. We should then acknowledge that all those who have criticized police actions in Ferguson, Missouri and New York after the controversial deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner are not responsible for the slaying of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. We don’t know yet who or what may have influenced the reportedly mentally disturbed shooter, who was apparently bent on “revenge” for Brown and Garner. But we do know this. After four months of non-stop condemnations of the police and the justice system for both racism and deliberately targeting African Americans for violence, it is time for the race hucksters and their political enablers such as President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to stop the campaign of incitement against the police.

Read More

Any conversation about the murders of two New York City Police officers this weekend must start by acknowledging the ordinary heroism of law enforcement personnel that puts them in harm’s way every day. We should then acknowledge that all those who have criticized police actions in Ferguson, Missouri and New York after the controversial deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner are not responsible for the slaying of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. We don’t know yet who or what may have influenced the reportedly mentally disturbed shooter, who was apparently bent on “revenge” for Brown and Garner. But we do know this. After four months of non-stop condemnations of the police and the justice system for both racism and deliberately targeting African Americans for violence, it is time for the race hucksters and their political enablers such as President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to stop the campaign of incitement against the police.

Conservatives know very well that attempts to politicize violence on the part of the mentally ill is deeply unfair. They know that liberal claims that either the Tea Party or conservatives such as Sarah Palin were somehow responsible for the 2011 shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was sheer slander. If some angry supporters of the police now try to say Obama, Holder, or de Blasio approved or countenanced the actions of Ismaaiyl Brinsley, they are just as wrong. Obama, Holder, and de Blasio have all rightly condemned the murder of the two officers.

But once we acknowledge that, we cannot ignore the fact that the discussion about race and the police in this country has gotten out of control in recent months and that these same political leaders who should have been seeking to restrain the public from drawing extreme and general conclusions about two very extraordinary cases instead kept the pot boiling for political advantage.

Even worse than that, they have empowered and legitimized racial demagogues like Al Sharpton who have sought to profit from exploiting these tragedies to promote their own agendas. In turn, Sharpton and those like him who are given prominent air time on networks like MSNBC and CNN have encouraged protesters who have not only engaged in violence but often openly called for the killing of police, a stance that has been openly endorsed by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and other radicals.

The act of a single possibly mad gunman does not mean that Americans must never question the actions of police or ponder broader issues about race. It is misleading to claim that those who have raised such questions have given a green light to the murder of police officers. Yet those who have sought to take two very different and quite unusual incidents in Ferguson and New York and weave them into a neat narrative of racism and anti-black violence by police have done very much the same thing. The difference between the two is that the media spent much of the last four months seeking to establish that wrongheaded narrative as a fact while they will, quite rightly, give no credence or air time to those who will blame Obama for cop killers.

The narrative of incitement against the police in recent months was based on two misnomers.

One was the unquestioning acceptance of the narrative of police wrongdoing and racism in the killing of Brown and the far more questionable death of Garner by both the media and political leaders. This involved not only the willingness of both celebrities and lawmakers to treat myths, such as the claim that Brown had his hands up when he was shot, as fact. It also involved the casual acceptance of the charge of racism on the part of ordinary cops around the nation in the absence of any real proof as well as the shouting down of those like former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani who sought to defend the role of the police in defending the black community rather than attacking it.

Just as reprehensible was the willingness to ignore the calls for violence against the police on the part of so many of those who took to the streets about Ferguson and Garner. While stray comments on the part of a handful of Tea Partiers became the foundation for conventional-wisdom dismissal of their movement as racist or violent, the anti-police chants at mass demonstrations were largely ignored, rationalized, or excused. The same is true of comments like those of Farrakhan delivered in Baltimore where the killer of the two policemen lived.

But just as the murder of two cops doesn’t necessarily excuse the actions of the police in the Garner case, neither should we forget that all too many public figures have accepted with very little evidence the assumptions about racism and violence that have done so much to besmirch the reputation of the police. Rather than working to connect the dots between the comments of the president, the attorney general, and the mayor to a murder that none of them wished for, sensible observers should instead be unraveling the even shakier narrative these figures helped create about police misbehavior and racism.

The unraveling of the false narrative of incitement against the police should not give rise to another that is also mistaken. But what happened in Ferguson, Staten Island, and the assassination of two police officers should teach us that simplistic, easily manipulated narratives that serve the interests of a few race inciters and politicians don’t deserve any more respect than conspiracy theories coming from the other end of the political spectrum. If there is any reproach today that should be laid at the feet of Obama, Holder, and de Blasio, it is that by helping to foster one false set of assumptions, they have now left themselves vulnerable to questions about their own willingness to accept and exploit calumnies against the police and the justice system.

Read Less

Should the GOP Link Lynch to Immigration?

Fresh off their victory in last week’s midterm elections, Republicans are bursting with ideas about implementing their agenda but also spoiling for a fight with a president who arrogantly thinks the verdict of the voters shouldn’t affect his policies. But those who think it’s a good idea to fire on the first administration target to come into range may be making a mistake. While the GOP will be right to use every opportunity to push back against President Obama’s likely decision to bypass Congress and seek to legalize millions of illegal immigrants, linking that arrogant move to efforts to block or stall the confirmation of Loretta Lynch as attorney general won’t accomplish much.

Read More

Fresh off their victory in last week’s midterm elections, Republicans are bursting with ideas about implementing their agenda but also spoiling for a fight with a president who arrogantly thinks the verdict of the voters shouldn’t affect his policies. But those who think it’s a good idea to fire on the first administration target to come into range may be making a mistake. While the GOP will be right to use every opportunity to push back against President Obama’s likely decision to bypass Congress and seek to legalize millions of illegal immigrants, linking that arrogant move to efforts to block or stall the confirmation of Loretta Lynch as attorney general won’t accomplish much.

Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee stated clearly that they intend to use Lynch’s confirmation to grill the nominee on whether she thinks the president’s planned executive orders on amnesty are constitutional. More to the point, they and other conservatives are seeking to get some commitments from Lynch on her willingness to avoid the kind of selective enforcement of the law that characterized the tenure of her predecessor Eric Holder.

That should make for some good television but even the brash Cruz must understand that he and his colleagues must tread carefully when questioning the first African American woman selected to lead the Justice Department. This administration’s cheering sections in the mainstream media are quick to cry racism every time anyone blasts Obama’s policies or cry sexism when someone points out the damaging role being played by Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett. So it won’t take much for the same crew to try to portray tough questioning of Lynch as a new edition of the Spanish Inquisition.

Republicans will rightly dismiss that as just another instance of media bias by a press corps that will probably continue to operate as a cheering section for President Obama until the day he vacates the White House. But that doesn’t mean the GOP should walk into the trap the president is setting for them. Turning Lynch into a victim won’t be tactically smart especially since she is viewed as a non-political career prosecutor rather than another Obama crony like Holder.

It’s not clear what options Republicans will have if the president goes ahead and seeks to run roughshod over the Constitution by seeking to govern on his own without the consent of Congress. The GOP may try to defund those agencies involved in any mass amnesty plan, though doubtless Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will keep his pledge to avoid any potential government shutdown scenarios. So that may leave the court of public opinion as the best avenue for venting outrage over a move that will endear Democrats to many Hispanics while outraging those who think, whatever their views about the need for immigration reform, the rule of law should not be trashed in order for the president to get his way on the issue.

The president may want the lame duck session of Congress to vote on Lynch but there’s no reason to rush this confirmation so as to avoid giving newly elected senators a shot at asking pointed questions. But while the GOP should not flinch from raising this issue every chance they get in the coming months, not every Obama appointment will serve this cause as well as others. Though conservatives want to fight Obama over everything and anything, a scattershot approach will only serve to help him spin his lawless ways as less provocative than a senatorial grilling of a woman they can’t lay a glove on. Having been presented with a seemingly unexceptional appointment, turning Lynch into a piñata over immigration could be tactically inept. There will be other, better targets for Republican scrutiny in the coming months. Until they come along, the GOP may do better to keep their powder dry and not start a nomination fight that they won’t win.

Read Less

“It’s Called the Department of Justice. It’s Not Called the Department of Revenue.”

In 2007, a huge forest fire burned 65,000 acres in the Sierra Nevada in California and neighboring states. The Justice Department and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) went after Sierra Pacific, the largest landowner in California, claiming its logging operations had caused the fire when a bulldozer hit a rock and struck a spark. Knuckling under to the enormous leverage government has in even civil litigation, Sierra Pacific, which claimed it was innocent, settled for $55 million and 22,500 acres of forest land, which was to be deeded over to the federal government.

Read More

In 2007, a huge forest fire burned 65,000 acres in the Sierra Nevada in California and neighboring states. The Justice Department and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) went after Sierra Pacific, the largest landowner in California, claiming its logging operations had caused the fire when a bulldozer hit a rock and struck a spark. Knuckling under to the enormous leverage government has in even civil litigation, Sierra Pacific, which claimed it was innocent, settled for $55 million and 22,500 acres of forest land, which was to be deeded over to the federal government.

But in an almost unprecedented action this month, the chief judge of the eastern district of California, Morrison C. England, Jr., has ordered all federal judges in the district to recuse themselves from the case and has asked the chief judge of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal to appoint an outside judge, stating the possibility of a fraud upon the court by the Justice Department. A fraud upon the court happens when one party deliberately misleads the court in order to win a case. The chief judge, Alex Kozinski, is likely to oblige, as he has been seriously alarmed by what he calls an “epidemic” of prosecutorial misconduct in recent years.

Sierra Pacific claims that,

The United States presented false evidence to the Defendants and the Court; advanced arguments to the Court premised on that false evidence; or, for which material evidence had been withheld, and obtaining court rulings based thereon; prepared key Moonlight Fire [as this fire was called] investigators for depositions, and allowed them to repeatedly give false testimony about the most important aspects of their investigation; and failed to disclose the facts and circumstances associated with the Moonlight Fire lead investigator’s direct financial interest in the outcome of the investigation arising from an illegal bank account that has since been exposed and terminated.

Their evidence is the sworn testimony of two assistant U.S. attorneys, one of whom was fired from the case for raising ethical considerations and another who quit in disgust as it became plain to him that the Justice Department’s actions in this case were not to find justice but to extract a lucrative settlement, saying,“It’s called the Department of Justice. It’s not called the Department of Revenue.”

The state case against Sierra Pacific has also fallen apart. The state judge not only decided against the state’s case for lack of sufficient evidence, but also ordered it to pay $30 million in attorney’s fees. He wrote in his decision that, “the misconduct is so pervasive that it would serve no purpose for the Court to attempt to recite it all here.” But he recites enough: “CalFire failed to comply with discovery orders and directives, destroyed critical evidence, failed to produce documents it should have produced months earlier, and engaged in a systematic campaign of misdirection with the purpose of recovering money from the defendants.”

The Justice Department under Eric Holder is not only using its power for illicit reasons, it is divvying up the money with its favored pals. The stench of corruption at Justice is becoming overpowering. If this had come out prior to January 20th, 2009, it would be a front-page-above-the-fold story.

Read Less

It’s Time to Talk About Serious IRS Reform

On the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Watergate break-in, the Washington Post noted an amusing coincidence: “Almost a quarter century ago, Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson served as Republican counsel on the Senate Watergate committee. Now he chairs the Senate panel investigating the current White House fund-raising scandal.” The timing was interesting because, as the Post explained, the “controversy came to light last year because of the reforms of Watergate, including requirements that campaigns and political parties regularly submit lists of their contributors to the Federal Election Commission.”

Read More

On the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Watergate break-in, the Washington Post noted an amusing coincidence: “Almost a quarter century ago, Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson served as Republican counsel on the Senate Watergate committee. Now he chairs the Senate panel investigating the current White House fund-raising scandal.” The timing was interesting because, as the Post explained, the “controversy came to light last year because of the reforms of Watergate, including requirements that campaigns and political parties regularly submit lists of their contributors to the Federal Election Commission.”

The Post went on to list seven major reforms that stemmed either from the scandal itself or the atmosphere of distrust in government in the wake of Watergate. Of course these reforms had at best a mixed record. And some of them, like the campaign-finance reforms, ended up strengthening the government’s hand over Americans, reducing transparency, and infringing on voters’ constitutional rights. There was also the famed Church Committee, designed to expose abuses in the intel community and rein in its associated federal agencies.

And it is quite clear that while some have called for a new Church Committee in the wake of Moscow defector Edward Snowden’s theft and dissemination of American secrets to investigate the intel community, what is really needed is a full accounting and reform of a different federal agency: the IRS.

We have covered here exhaustively the massive abuse-of-power scandal surrounding the IRS’s targeting of conservatives ahead of the 2012 presidential election, and doing so at the encouragement of prominent Democrats. That surely should be enough to prompt a full investigation–especially since it was revealed that Eric Holder’s Justice Department is apparently coordinating with congressional Democrats to undermine the investigation and protect the IRS. But there’s another IRS scandal brewing, and it suggests the agency is long overdue for a reckoning.

John Fund notes that the private-jet company NetJets has been in a tax dispute with the IRS, and is claiming the IRS–you guessed it–destroyed evidence by having “wiped clean a number of computer hard drives containing emails and other electronic documents that the Government was required to produce.” Fund provides the background to the case:

NetJets sued the IRS in 2011, claiming that it improperly applied a ticket tax on users of its aircraft that is meant for commercial airline passengers. The IRS countersued claiming that NetJets “has failed, neglected or refused to pay its federal tax liabilities . . . in full.” But its argument was undercut in 2012 when Congress changed the tax code to make it clear the air-passenger-ticket tax doesn’t apply to private firms such as NetJets, whose customers buy time-shares in planes operated by the company.

In its latest court filing, NetJets claims the IRS has been concealing evidence. Its lawyers say the computers of three key IRS employees were wiped clean, including the computer of “an excise-tax policy manager and a key decision maker regarding the application of the section 4261 ticket tax to whole and fractional aircraft-management companies.”

Amazing. The agency assigned to take your money at will covers its tracks by destroying evidence, apparently routinely. I had noted in the past that destroying evidence seems to have become the IRS’s key strategy in the targeting scandal. It appears to be its policy with regard to disputes in general. It should go without saying that at this point there is really no denying the agency needs serious reform.

That poses its own challenges, to be sure. For one, high-level Democrats in the president’s Cabinet and in Congress are supporting and enabling the IRS here, so Democrats are unlikely to be very cooperative in the kind of investigation that would expose them to transparency and accountability as well.

Another challenge is the law of unintended consequences. As we saw with some of the post-Watergate reforms, giving politicians the power to pass sweeping regulations often just exacerbates existing problems. The regulatory regime is partly to blame for the current IRS scandal as it is, because the agency was tasked with being the gatekeeper to Americans’ political activism. Since the IRS is a creature of big-government bureaucracy, it went after the Americans who supported limited-government causes. The current regulatory regime governing the IRS pits the American government against the people, with the inevitable results.

Additionally, if the IRS has been routinely destroying evidence or deleting emails it’s supposed to save then it’s already breaking the law. There’s not much sense in going through a reform process if the result is only to take something that’s currently illegal and make it super-duper-illegal. That would be classic Washington behavior, and it should be avoided.

Perhaps the best answer is a much-simplified tax code and fewer rules limiting political speech. The IRS can’t abuse power it doesn’t have, after all. In fact, serious tax reform would be saving the IRS from itself–think of all the computers and phones it won’t have to completely destroy each year in an attempt to evade accountability.

Whatever the case, it would be criminal–figuratively, though very possibly also literally–for the scandals to pass without reforming the agency.

Read Less

Tom Perez and the Trusted Few

The Obama administration’s active engagement with pop culture can sometimes backfire, as it seemed to last night. Valerie Jarrett apparently made a cameo on last night’s episode of The Good Wife, urging a main character to run for state’s attorney. But, lamented a New York Times arts critic, “The political functionaries can’t act — they’re a distraction, and they flatten every scene they’re in.” At least the role was believable.

Read More

The Obama administration’s active engagement with pop culture can sometimes backfire, as it seemed to last night. Valerie Jarrett apparently made a cameo on last night’s episode of The Good Wife, urging a main character to run for state’s attorney. But, lamented a New York Times arts critic, “The political functionaries can’t act — they’re a distraction, and they flatten every scene they’re in.” At least the role was believable.

Jarrett made another cameo over the weekend, also backing a favored candidate. But this one was in the real world, in a Politico consideration of possible successors to Attorney General Eric Holder–and one in particular: Tom Perez.

Perez is already a member of President Obama’s Cabinet; he’s the labor secretary. But the administration is seeking to replace Holder at Justice, and some insiders, Jarrett among them, reportedly like the idea of shifting Perez over to Holder’s spot. It’s not that there aren’t any traditional candidates; Solicitor General Donald Verrilli is apparently on the list, as is outgoing Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who served as assistant attorney general for civil rights in the Clinton administration.

Perez, in fact, isn’t even on some of the speculative lists circulating in the political press. But in this insular White House, there are few trusted by the president. Few enough, it appears, to have to shift them from Cabinet secretarial post to Cabinet secretarial post:

Perez has made more stops with the president than any other Cabinet secretary, events that are often followed by rides home and private meetings on Air Force One. And he’s often been out on his own, making over 40 appearances around the country since May where he’s pumped out the message of an economy that is actually recovering and has urged people not to see the president as having given up or disappeared.

Obama’s not the only one in the White House who’s come to rely on him. Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett’s been a Perez fan and promoter for years, going back to Perez’s time in the Civil Rights Division, and she and Holder continued to call on him for advice even as the violent protests overtook Ferguson last month. (Perez refers to that as “part of other duties as assigned.”) At Holder’s resignation announcement Thursday at the White House, Perez was right there in the front row, clearly emotional. And White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz has known Perez since they were both Hill staffers in the 1990s, and their relationship has expanded as they’ve collaborated over the past year and a half.

This is not to cast doubt on Perez’s qualifications–he’s already served as an assistant attorney general as well–nor to imply that there aren’t quite logical political reasons to nominate him to replace Holder. Chief among those reasons would be (as Politico also notes) the fact that as a Cabinet secretary, Perez has already been confirmed by the Senate. That takes some of the air out of Republican opposition, though his last confirmation vote was fairly close.

It does, however, reinforce a theme we’ve seen surface intermittently throughout the six years of the Obama presidency: insularity and a fortified inner circle. In differentiating the Bush administration’s prosecution of the war in Iraq and Obama’s botched health-care reform, Dana Milbank nonetheless saw eerie similarities:

But the decision-making is disturbingly similar: In both cases, insular administrations, staffed by loyalists and obsessed with secrecy, participated in group-think and let the president hear only what they thought he wanted to hear.

In a damning account of the Obamacare implementation, my Post colleagues Amy Goldstein and Juliet Eilperin described how Obama rejected pleas from outside experts and even some of his own advisers to bring in people with the expertise to handle the mammoth task; he instead left the project in the care of in-house loyalists.

MSNBC described the same phenomenon thus: “Obamacare burned by culture of secrecy.” Ron Fournier asked: “Will Insularity, Incompetence, and Lies Doom Obamacare?” Brent Budowsky said Obama “governs through a tightly controlled and highly centralized White House staff that is overloaded, dangerously insular, short on gravitas, and often hostile to outside advice even from friends and supporters.”

It was not a new concern. In 2010, the L.A. Times reported that Democrats worried about Obama’s insularity. He was replacing staffers and appointees with loyalists everywhere you turned, the paper noted, from the Council of Economic Advisors to his own chief of staff–and of course, always leaning on Valerie Jarrett:

Obama’s executive style relies heavily on a cordon of advisors who were with him at earlier points in his career. In nearly every instance, as senior advisors have resigned, Obama has filled the vacancies with trusted confidants who are closer to him than the people they replaced.

It should be noted that, as the above examples suggest, it is Democrats who are more worried about this than Republicans. Democrats are the ones getting shut out of the inner circle while the party’s congressional candidates have to suffer for Obama’s sins. And Democrats are the ones doomed to a mess of a bench thanks to the dried-up talent pool that, aside from a select few (Susan Rice, for example), leaves Democrats with a team of political hacks and yes-men staffing the White House. The atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust in this administration, on the other hand, would make a Clinton succession pretty seamless.

Read Less

Mr. Holder, You’re No Bobby Kennedy

A few days ago President Obama summoned a press conference to announce the resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder. For all the misty-eyed platitudes, it was hard to believe that the president was speaking about the only sitting Cabinet member in U.S. history to be held in contempt of Congress. In fact, only three days ago a federal court dealt the Department of Justice a significant blow, ordering Mr. Holder to hand over a list of the documents it has withheld from the congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious. None of this stopped the president from praising Holder’s “deep and abiding fidelity to one of our most cherished ideals as a people, and that is equal justice under the law.” To the contrary, Holder leaves behind a dubious legacy of selective law enforcement, careless public pronouncements, and partisan abuses inconsistent with the principle of equal justice under the law.

Read More

A few days ago President Obama summoned a press conference to announce the resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder. For all the misty-eyed platitudes, it was hard to believe that the president was speaking about the only sitting Cabinet member in U.S. history to be held in contempt of Congress. In fact, only three days ago a federal court dealt the Department of Justice a significant blow, ordering Mr. Holder to hand over a list of the documents it has withheld from the congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious. None of this stopped the president from praising Holder’s “deep and abiding fidelity to one of our most cherished ideals as a people, and that is equal justice under the law.” To the contrary, Holder leaves behind a dubious legacy of selective law enforcement, careless public pronouncements, and partisan abuses inconsistent with the principle of equal justice under the law.

The attorney general is what President Obama correctly called “America’s lawyer, the people’s lawyer.” His principal functions are to uphold the Constitution of the United States and enforce the laws duly enacted by the elected representatives of the people. At least, that’s his job in theory. In practice, Holder has behaved more like the President’s hired gun than the people’s lawyer. This was underscored by a slip of the tongue as Holder spoke yesterday: “Over the last six years,” he remarked, “our administration”–and then, correcting himself–“your administration, has made historic gains in realizing the principles of the founding documents[.]” Honest mistake or Freudian slip, there was truth in Holder’s faux pas: this attorney general has faithfully pushed the president’s political agenda, even at the expense of the rule of law.

In his six years as attorney general, Holder has become more notable for not enforcing federal law than for enforcing it–and this should be troubling to all Americans. If we are truly to live in a government of laws and not of men, all people must be afforded equal treatment under generally applicable laws. The attorney general is in a singular position to ensure this through his prosecutorial and enforcement powers. But, as I’ve discussed elsewhere, when the president has been unable to reform existing laws through the political process, Holder has effectively nullified them by refusing to defend or enforce the statutes in question. This was the case when the DOJ refused to defend the Defense of Marriage Act from judicial challenge, and it remains the case now that the DOJ refuses to enforce provisions of federal immigration and drug-control law.

All this suggests a baldfaced contempt for the role of Congress in the lawmaking process and a deep distrust of the judiciary as the proper arbiter of constitutional disputes. Under Holder’s leadership, the Department of Justice provided the executive with a way of bypassing constitutionally ordained processes, creating law and policy by executive fiat. And this subverts the very spirit of the Constitution that Holder is sworn to defend, replacing the majesty of the law with a kind of leering cynicism for political and judicial processes.

This cynicism made it all the more jarring when both Obama and Holder attempted to don the mantle of Robert F. Kennedy through repeated appeals to his legacy in yesterday’s statements. In May 1961, only a few months after the University of Georgia campus exploded with violence in response to a court’s desegregation order, Bobby Kennedy spoke to the university’s law students about Brown v. Board of Education. “I happen to believe that the 1954 decision was right,” he said. “But my belief does not matter. It is now the law. Some of you may believe the decision was wrong. That does not matter. It is the law. And we both respect the law. By facing this problem honorably you have shown to all the world that we Americans are moving forward together, solving this problem under the rule of law.”

If the rule of law is to mean anything in this nation, it must command the respect of those sworn to uphold and defend it. Attorney General Holder’s successor, whoever that may be, would do well to remember that.

Read Less

Why Did We Learn About Christie’s Innocence From a Leak?

The news that the federal investigation of Bridgegate will absolve New Jersey Governor Chris Christie of any involvement in the bizarre scandal is the most important development in a story that has lingered since the beginning of 2014. But the fact that we learned about it from a leak, rather than a formal announcement of some sort, should raise some eyebrows and raises as many questions as it provides answers to those interested in the story.

Read More

The news that the federal investigation of Bridgegate will absolve New Jersey Governor Chris Christie of any involvement in the bizarre scandal is the most important development in a story that has lingered since the beginning of 2014. But the fact that we learned about it from a leak, rather than a formal announcement of some sort, should raise some eyebrows and raises as many questions as it provides answers to those interested in the story.

If, after nine months of digging into a scandal that, as far as we know, involves no dead bodies, stolen money, or bribery, the Justice Department is still puttering around the affairs of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, it’s worth asking what’s taking so long and what are the motives of those sitting on the findings that are apparently conclusive.

But it should also be remembered that what is being investigated here isn’t all that mysterious. With the vast resources of the government at their disposal, it’s hard to imagine exactly what it is about the traffic jam that is taking so long to figure out.

Even WNBC’s sources, which are, we are assured, government officials and not connected to the Christie camp in any way, say the federal probe of Bridgegate is not concluded. This is an interesting fact in and of itself since it shows that, as is their practice in all too many of their cases, having found that the intended object of their investigation is innocent, the Justice Department investigators are desperately searching for a way to indict someone for something, even if it has nothing to do with the bridge.

In other words, the effort to find out who it was that decided to close lanes on the bridge and set off days of traffic jams that inconvenienced many thousands of citizens has probably turned into a fishing expedition in which the FBI may be looking for something that can be called a crime even if the original scandal is not one.

That prospect is bad enough because it demonstrates again the power of the feds to nail anyone who gets in their cross hairs, even if they have to invent a new crime to justify their waste of time and money on an investigation that had run into a dead-end. But the length of the investigation and the refusal of the Justice Department to wind up a matter that is not, as far as anyone knows, actually about anything more serious than a wacky revenge plot involving a local New Jersey political feud between the governor’s office in Trenton and the mayor of Fort Lee is curious.

Yet the decision of some on the inside of the probe to leak the principal findings of their work is even more curious. Why did they do it?

The first reason that comes to mind is the possibility that higher-ups in the Justice Department are deliberately slow-walking the investigation or stalling the release of its findings. The most likely motive for such shenanigans is obvious. The longer the investigation continues, the more damage is done to Christie, a Republican that many in the administration rightly fear as a dangerous opponent for the Democrats in 2016.

Is that an unreasonable suspicion? No doubt Attorney General Eric Holder’s defenders will insist that it is outrageous to even suspect him of doing anything like that. But the highly political way Holder has conducted the affairs of the Justice Department, including its involvement in voter ID cases in which it has taken up the partisan talking points of the Democratic Party, makes it clear that politics is always at the top of the agenda at Justice these days. A slow-walking of the probe also allows Democrats in the New Jersey State Legislature to continue their own lengthy and predictably pointless and inconclusive dive into the Bridgegate mess whose only purpose is to embarrass and/or damage the governor.

That may not be true. But there is also no reason for the Department to be sitting on the main results of any Bridgegate investigation. If the leaks are correct and Christie has been found to be innocent in the scandal then that needs to be formally announced and not kept under wraps for a moment longer. If investigators are now trying to lay some other crime, real or imagined, at the feet of someone else in his administration, that needs to be put on the table immediately as well.

The unnecessary traffic jams caused by some political mischief makers was an outrageous abuse of power but no matter who did it, it has never been exactly clear that it was a crime as opposed to something that is merely outrageous rather than illegal. It shouldn’t take this long to answer that question or the one about the authors of the bridge decision. The longer the Justice Department continues their part in this farce, the more it is becoming clear that in this affair, it may be that the investigation is a bigger scandal than the traffic jams.

Read Less

Is Eric Holder Trying to Protect the IRS?

A remarkable conversation about the IRS’s illegal targeting of conservative groups took place on Friday in Washington. According to Rep. Darrell Issa’s office, at 5:01 Friday Brian Fallon, a former aide to Chuck Schumer and currently a communications aide to Attorney General Eric Holder, called Issa’s office. By mistake. And it’s quite a mistake.

Read More

A remarkable conversation about the IRS’s illegal targeting of conservative groups took place on Friday in Washington. According to Rep. Darrell Issa’s office, at 5:01 Friday Brian Fallon, a former aide to Chuck Schumer and currently a communications aide to Attorney General Eric Holder, called Issa’s office. By mistake. And it’s quite a mistake.

The purpose of the call, according to a letter Issa wrote to Holder, was to work with the intended recipient of the call to strategically leak damaging information to selected, friendly reporters and to coordinate a damage-control plan. The intended recipient of the call was apparently Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee who has gotten quite visibly nervous over the extent of the investigation into the IRS abuse–despite his attempts to protect the abusers.

Here’s Jonathan Strong at Breitbart:

The aide, Brian Fallon, is a former senior aide to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and a well-known personality on Capitol Hill. The letter describes Fallon as “audibly shaken” when he realizes his request to leak documents to help get ahead of news stories about them was mistakenly made to the very office he was seeking to undermine. Issa believes the call was intended to be made to Democratic Rep. Elijah Cumming’s staff, the ranking member on the oversight panel, the letter said.

According to the letter, Fallon – who is not named in the letter but confirmed he made the call – asked if the aides could release the IRS scandal documents to “selected reporters” to give Fallon an “opportunity to comment publicly on it.”

Fallon explained to Issa aides that the Justice Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs had not permitted him to release the documents to the public and he wanted to get ahead of the story “before the Majority” – meaning Issa – could share it, according to the letter.

Issa aides – who had placed the call on speakerphone – were “caught off guard by the unusual nature of the call and the odd request” and asked Fallon to “e-mail the material for evaluation.”

“At this point,” Fallon “abruptly placed the call on hold for approximately three minutes.” When Fallon returned to the call, “he was audibly shaken. He immediately stated that there was a ‘change in plans’ and that there would be no effort” by DOJ to release the material early.

In other words, it looks like Holder’s Department of Justice is seeking to help the IRS and the Democrats protecting the IRS. And the only reason the public knows about it is that Holder’s office accidentally called the wrong phone. Oops.

The left’s response to the IRS targeting scandal has morphed over time as more information has come to light. Mostly gone are the truthers who think nothing unethical happened or that this is an aimless witch hunt. It’s now clear to any sentient person that the IRS was indeed engaged in this targeting scheme ahead of a presidential election. Additionally, as I wrote last week, it’s since been revealed that the IRS began destroying evidence once the investigation into the targeting began.

That particular destruction of evidence concerned Lois Lerner, the former official at the center of the scandal, in order to get rid of her email correspondence. The media yawned at the revelation of the destruction of evidence, apparently tiring of this story. So the same day of Fallon’s phone call to Issa’s staff, the IRS admitted it lost the email of “five more workers who figure in the investigation into the alleged targeting of conservative nonprofit groups,” as the Wall Street Journal reported.

The Democratic response to the investigation has thus gone from the eminently silly denial that anything untoward took place to actively trying to thwart the investigation and run interference for the IRS–which, in its targeting scheme, was only following the pronouncements of high-level congressional Democrats, after all. And those Democrats have gotten quite uncomfortable with the investigation. Democratic Sen. Carl Levin has put together a report attacking the inspector general conducting the investigation.

Such interference and/or stonewalling wouldn’t be out of character for this DOJ. As the Washington Examiner reported yesterday, according to the department’s inspector general “Department of Justice senior officials have barred or delayed the inspector general there from gaining access to documents crucial to high-visibility investigations.”

The “nothing to see here” brigade has lost any semblance of credibility. In response, they’d like to make sure there’s actually nothing to see by the time investigators come looking for it.

Read Less

The Justice Department Voter ID Charade

Why is the Justice Department doing everything in its power to invalidate Voter ID laws? According to Attorney General Eric Holder, it’s simply a question of voting rights. But lawyers representing the state of Texas, whose voter ID law is being challenged in federal court this week by the federal government, have a different explanation. They say that while Holder claims Republicans have promulgated voter integrity laws to limit the number of blacks and Hispanics casting ballots and increase their chances of winning, that’s looking at the case through the wrong end of the telescope. Instead, it is, as voter ID defenders rightly assert, the result of a Democratic administration trying to alter the outcome of elections in southern, Republican-leaning states.

Read More

Why is the Justice Department doing everything in its power to invalidate Voter ID laws? According to Attorney General Eric Holder, it’s simply a question of voting rights. But lawyers representing the state of Texas, whose voter ID law is being challenged in federal court this week by the federal government, have a different explanation. They say that while Holder claims Republicans have promulgated voter integrity laws to limit the number of blacks and Hispanics casting ballots and increase their chances of winning, that’s looking at the case through the wrong end of the telescope. Instead, it is, as voter ID defenders rightly assert, the result of a Democratic administration trying to alter the outcome of elections in southern, Republican-leaning states.

That charge has the Justice Department outraged as they think the claim of Texas’s attorneys that it is the feds who are practicing a form of discrimination is absurd. The government argues that laws requiring voters to identify themselves when voting are inherently discriminatory because the poor, the elderly, and blacks and Hispanics are less likely to have a photo ID. But the context here is not so much the presumption that these groups are either too stupid or without the will to procure a picture ID. It is the effort of the Justice Department to resurrect the “pre-clearance” provisions of the Voting Rights Act which used to require southern states to get federal permission before changing their voter procedures.

But, as the Supreme Court has ruled, singling out these states for that kind of treatment can no longer be justified by the awful practices that were prevalent more than a half-century ago. Though Holder and the groups who claim to represent the cause of civil rights are acting as if they are still fighting Jim Crow laws, their efforts aren’t so much about fighting discrimination as they are an attempt to convince the country that it is still 1964, not 2014.

The facts about voter ID laws are pretty simple. In an age when you can’t complete virtually any private or public transaction, fly, take a train, or get prescription drugs without a photo ID, the notion that people should be allowed to simply show up and cast a ballot without proving that you are a registered voter boggles the mind. The overwhelming majority of Americans have photo identification and states that require them for voting offer free state ID cards for those who don’t have drivers’ licenses or passports.

The government argues that this makes it impossible for some to vote because they have no ability to get identification. But the witnesses they are bringing forward to back up that assertion don’t seem terribly credible. In the New York Times feature on the issue, we are introduced to one such example, 22-year-old Imani Clark, who resides in rural Texas where there is no public transportation to get her to a state center to get an ID card. But it boggles the mind to think that what appears to be an able-bodied employed young African-American student such as Clark is really unable to come up with any proof of her identity. Indeed, to assume that African Americans or Hispanics are without the wit to do so is itself a discriminatory view that most blacks and Hispanics do not share.

As Texas’s lawyers have pointed out, a report by the Justice Department’s inspector general that said there was no evidence of a discriminatory intent behind voter ID laws but also noted that there was evidence of “deep ideological polarization” among government lawyers pursuing this case.

That report was spot on. The claim that voter fraud is unknown in the United States—thus obviating the need for voter integrity provisions—is a joke. To believe that we would have to forget everything we know about American political history as well as human nature.

But while asserting that voter fraud is unproven, Justice believes it can merely claim discrimination without being required to show either intent during its passage or bias in the law’s implementation. But to do so it they must act as if the Texas of today is no different from the Texas of the past. This is a false charge that one can only hope the courts will eventually reject.

The only thing motivating this case is partisan politics. But rather than it being a function of a prejudiced GOP seeking to hamstring Democrats, the truth is that it is really a matter of a Democratic administration trying to gin up anger among African Americans and Hispanics about a measure that is simply a matter of common sense. Democrats are trying to hype minority turnout not by protecting their rights but by falsely asserting prejudice. This is nothing but a partisan charade and a case that the courts should throw out.

Read Less

Can Holder and the Feds Fix Ferguson?

Attorney General Eric Holder is scheduled to arrive in Ferguson, Missouri today leading some to hope that his presence will somehow ease tensions as the ongoing conflict stemming from the police shooting of a young black man continues. But the expectation that having Holder parachute into this mess will somehow magically fix the problem or halt the civil unrest there is not merely unrealistic; it reflects a misunderstanding of both the judicial process and what the protestors want.

Read More

Attorney General Eric Holder is scheduled to arrive in Ferguson, Missouri today leading some to hope that his presence will somehow ease tensions as the ongoing conflict stemming from the police shooting of a young black man continues. But the expectation that having Holder parachute into this mess will somehow magically fix the problem or halt the civil unrest there is not merely unrealistic; it reflects a misunderstanding of both the judicial process and what the protestors want.

As the New York Times reports today, there are some on the left that see Holder’s persistent race baiting from the bully pulpit of the Justice Department as a necessary counter-weight to President Obama’s amorphous calls for calm in crises such as the one unfolding in Ferguson. Holder, a man who called Americans a “nation of cowards” on race and who continues to speak as if the Jim Crow era were not a half century in the country’s rearview mirror, seems like just the sort of legal activist who could swoop in the maelstrom of Ferguson and somehow convince protesters to stand down while ensuring that justice is done.

Symbolism plays a not inconsiderable role in this dispute as a town with a population that is heavily African-American but few black police officers turned out to be a tinderbox waiting to burst into flame at the slightest provocation. But the willingness of the national media to frame this story as an example of how racism isn’t dead in America has transformed it from a troubling while complicated legal case in which the facts are a matter of dispute into merely the latest excuse for racial conflict. The demonizing of the police and their response to rioters there has created little room for the legal process to play out in a dispassionate and fair manner.

Despite the agitation from race hucksters like Al Sharpton and others who have also parachuted into the town, there is no evidence that either the country prosecutor or any other responsible legal authority is dragging their feet in the case or behaving improperly. Nor is there a reasonable case to be made that the state and local authorities should be shoved aside to make room for a federal prosecution led by Holder’s department.

The plain fact of the matter is that tensions have now been raised to the point where nothing short of the indictment of the police officer who shot Michael Brown will appease either the peaceful demonstrators in Ferguson or the thugs who have hijacked some of the protests with violence aimed at law enforcement authorities as well as the looting of local businesses.

Since the Grand Jury process is not immune to political pressures, they may well get their wish and, to be fair, it is entirely possible that such a result may be justified. But, as the Times noted in a separate story, the reality of the Brown shooting may not be as cut and dried as the “hands up, don’t shoot” chants of the protesters indicate. The very different accounts of the shooting of Brown by the officer seems to indicate a strong possibility that we may be heading to a replay of last year’s Trayvon Martin shooting trial in which the media’s insistence on imposing a narrative of racism run amok on the story didn’t necessarily reflect the facts of the case. If so, then Holder’s intervention may be deeply mistaken.

There are instances when federal intervention into murder cases is justified. If the justice system in Missouri were so riddled with institutionalized racism that it never prosecuted the killers of blacks, there would be a strong argument for the Justice Department to step in. In cases where prosecutions failed due to negligence or jury nullification of the law (such as often happened in Jim Crow states prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Act or when a New York jury acquitted a black man in the murder of Hasidic Jew during the Crown Heights riot, even though he was literally caught red-handed after the murder), the attorney general ought to step in. But in the absence of those circumstances, or at least until the locals have proven to be unfair or incompetent, Holder’s presence in Ferguson must be seen as mere grandstanding and an attempt to complicate or delegitimize the local prosecution, not the cavalry coming to the rescue of the justice system.

Public officials who weigh in on complicated cases merely in order to placate a mob—such as Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s call for a “vigorous prosecution” of the case rather than a vigorous investigation—prior to the evidence being fully revealed do nothing to advance the cause of justice or racial healing.

Holder can’t fix Ferguson. That is not merely because his instincts are so skewed on race issues that he can’t be trusted to behave fairly. It is also because the only thing that will improve the situation is an effort to defend the integrity of the legal system on the part of local and national political leaders who seem to have a vested interest in stirring the racial pot rather than promoting healing and justice.

Read Less

Man Up, Mr. Holder

Attorney General Eric Holder, in a speech to the National Action Network, accused his congressional critics of launching “unprecedented, unwarranted, ugly and divisive” attacks on him and the Obama administration.

“Forget about me [specifically]. Look at the way the attorney general of the United States was treated yesterday by a House committee,” Holder said. “What attorney general has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment? What president has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment?”

Let’s take these topics in reverse order. What president has been on the receiving end of such ugly and divisive attacks? Try George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, just for openers. For example, Senator Ted Kennedy declared, from the well of the United States Senate, that “before the [Iraq] war, week after week after week after week, we were told lie after lie after lie after lie.” He also accused President Bush of hatching a phony war, “a fraud … made up in Texas” to boost his political career. Prominent Democrats made these kind of charges all the time against Bush. President Reagan was attacked as a warmonger, a racist, a man who celebrated in the misery of others. The personal, ad hominem nature of the attacks against our current president are less, I would say, than was the case with Bush and Reagan. What’s happening certainly isn’t “unprecedented.” 

As for Holder’s Woe Is Me portrayal of his tenure as attorney general, I’d point him (for starters) to Alberto Gonzales and Edwin Meese. Both were treated viciously by Democrats and (unlike Holder) by many in the press.

Read More

Attorney General Eric Holder, in a speech to the National Action Network, accused his congressional critics of launching “unprecedented, unwarranted, ugly and divisive” attacks on him and the Obama administration.

“Forget about me [specifically]. Look at the way the attorney general of the United States was treated yesterday by a House committee,” Holder said. “What attorney general has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment? What president has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment?”

Let’s take these topics in reverse order. What president has been on the receiving end of such ugly and divisive attacks? Try George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, just for openers. For example, Senator Ted Kennedy declared, from the well of the United States Senate, that “before the [Iraq] war, week after week after week after week, we were told lie after lie after lie after lie.” He also accused President Bush of hatching a phony war, “a fraud … made up in Texas” to boost his political career. Prominent Democrats made these kind of charges all the time against Bush. President Reagan was attacked as a warmonger, a racist, a man who celebrated in the misery of others. The personal, ad hominem nature of the attacks against our current president are less, I would say, than was the case with Bush and Reagan. What’s happening certainly isn’t “unprecedented.” 

As for Holder’s Woe Is Me portrayal of his tenure as attorney general, I’d point him (for starters) to Alberto Gonzales and Edwin Meese. Both were treated viciously by Democrats and (unlike Holder) by many in the press.

While I’m at it, let me add this point: Mr. Holder is part of an administration notable for its partisanship, divisive rhetoric, ugliness, and polarization. As I’ve pointed out before, Mr. Obama has accused Republicans of being social Darwinists and members of the “flat earth society,” of putting their party ahead of their country, and of wanting dirty air and dirty water. He says Republicans want autistic and Down syndrome children to “fend for themselves.” He accuses his opponents of not simply being wrong but of being his “enemies.” During the 2012 election, Obama’s vice president said Republicans want to put African-Americans “back in chains” while Obama’s top aides and allies implied Governor Romney was a felon and flat-out stated that he was responsible for the cancer-death of a steelworker’s wife. The list goes on and on. Mr. Obama is the most polarizing president in the history of polling.

It’s bad enough that Eric Holder is incompetent, that he’s misled Congress on multiple occasions, that he considers America to be a “nation of cowards” on race, and that he’s engaged in covering up for the administration (including the current IRS scandal). But can the Attorney General of the United States please quit feeling so sorry for himself? So put upon?

Man up, Mr. Holder.

Read Less

What’s To Be Done About Lois Lerner?

The House Ways and Means Committee voted today to urge the Justice Department to consider criminal charges against former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner. There is good reason to believe Lerner violated the law by directing a discriminatory campaign by the tax agency against conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. But neither committee chairman Dave Camp nor any other member of the Republican majority in the House is under any illusions about whether Attorney General Eric Holder and his staff will act on their recommendation. Though the Justice Department has been investigating this scandal since it came to light, there is little reason to believe they will act against Lerner or anyone else involved in the mess at the IRS. Democrats believe that the only reason the House GOP caucus is still focusing on Lerner long after most of the news media got bored with the story or took the hint from the White House to move along is that they still harbor the hope that her testimony could implicate the administration in the scandal and prove the illegal behavior was not just the actions of a “rogue” agency office in Cincinnati.

But whether or not they’re right about that, Lerner remains the key figure in a scandal about which we’ve learned little since the initial flurry of coverage in 2013. Since Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when called before the House Oversight Committee last year (though not before she also claimed to have done no wrong and thereby, at least in theory, waiving her Fifth Amendment rights), the question of her fate has been held hostage to an undignified spat between that committee’s Republican Chair Darrell Issa and ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings. But if Republicans — and anyone else for that matter — want to get to the bottom of this affair, they’re going to have to find a way to make Lerner talk. And though Issa is seemingly loath to give up the fight to indict her for contempt that means offering Lerner immunity.

Read More

The House Ways and Means Committee voted today to urge the Justice Department to consider criminal charges against former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner. There is good reason to believe Lerner violated the law by directing a discriminatory campaign by the tax agency against conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. But neither committee chairman Dave Camp nor any other member of the Republican majority in the House is under any illusions about whether Attorney General Eric Holder and his staff will act on their recommendation. Though the Justice Department has been investigating this scandal since it came to light, there is little reason to believe they will act against Lerner or anyone else involved in the mess at the IRS. Democrats believe that the only reason the House GOP caucus is still focusing on Lerner long after most of the news media got bored with the story or took the hint from the White House to move along is that they still harbor the hope that her testimony could implicate the administration in the scandal and prove the illegal behavior was not just the actions of a “rogue” agency office in Cincinnati.

But whether or not they’re right about that, Lerner remains the key figure in a scandal about which we’ve learned little since the initial flurry of coverage in 2013. Since Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when called before the House Oversight Committee last year (though not before she also claimed to have done no wrong and thereby, at least in theory, waiving her Fifth Amendment rights), the question of her fate has been held hostage to an undignified spat between that committee’s Republican Chair Darrell Issa and ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings. But if Republicans — and anyone else for that matter — want to get to the bottom of this affair, they’re going to have to find a way to make Lerner talk. And though Issa is seemingly loath to give up the fight to indict her for contempt that means offering Lerner immunity.

We don’t know if, as many conservatives seem to take as an article of faith, Lerner and other IRS officials were acting on orders from higher up in the food chain. Given Lerner’s own past tangles with conservatives, there is good reason to believe she was an eager participant and perhaps was responding to the open hints about targeting conservatives and Tea Partiers issued by an administration determined to demonize their opponents. But given that there is little chance that Holder will act decisively to find out the truth about the IRS, the only way Lerner can be persuaded to talk is if Issa and his colleagues find a way to get her back in the witness chair prepared to talk.

As he seems to have done successfully with the fallout from the Benghazi terror attack and the lies told by administration figures about what happened, the president is seeking to run out the clock on the IRS. A year after the initial news that provoked outrage and even an apology of sorts from Obama, the mainstream press has moved on and Democrats are dismissing the issue as a partisan talking point rather than a blatant violation of trust that ought to concern both parties. To some extent this is the fault of Issa and House Republicans who have preferred to engage in verbal fisticuffs with Democrats rather than engaging them in an investigation that the president and his party would like to terminate. But no matter who’s fault this is, unless Republicans act soon to use their leverage with Lerner to get her to tell the truth, it will soon be too late to get to the bottom of a an act of criminal misbehavior that cries out for justice.

Read Less




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.