Czar Klain: No Way to Run a Republic

First published at Judicial Watch’s Investigative Bulletin, October 21, 2014

On Friday, addressing mounting concerns about a medical crisis in the U.S., President Obama named the noted epidemiologist Dr. Ronald Klain as the country’s “Ebola czar.” Dr. Klain….

Oh, sorry, that didn’t happen.

The new Ebola czar is not an expert in infectious diseases, or in public health, or even a doctor. To Washington insiders, Ron Klain, a high-stakes Democratic Party operative, is most famous for his role in Florida legal challenges surrounding the 2000 presidential election. Those with longer memories remember Klain’s work as the Al Gore aide who labored to raise more than $100 million for the Democratic Party in the scandal-plagued 1996 presidential campaign. Klain served as chief of staff for two vice presidents, Gore and Joe Biden. In the latter role, he was instrumental in greasing the wheels for the troubled Solyndra Corp., which later collapsed at a cost to taxpayers of more than $500 million.

Dr. Klain has not exactly rushed to the medical front in the battle against Ebola. Appointed Friday, he’ll start today, or maybe tomorrow, and will skip Friday’s Ebola hearing at the House Oversight Committee. Already news is leaking in the Beltway that the Klain appointment is merely to set the stage for bigger things at the White House—senior counselor to the president, perhaps, or maybe a turn as chief of staff to the big man himself.

So it’s clear that the White House views the Ebola situation as a potential political crisis, not a public health one. Okay, fine, that’s the president’s prerogative. But what’s troubling is Czar Klain’s end run around the Constitution.

The Washington Post reports that Klain is “tasked with coordinating domestic preparedness efforts and the U.S. military operation to help control the virus’s spread in West Africa.” He’ll report to homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco and national security advisor Susan Rice, the Post says. But the Federal Emergency Management Agency is also a player. And the Defense Department has a major role. And because it is Africa, so does the State Department. And so does the Department of Homeland Security. Power in Washington is in direct relation to proximity to the president. So a “czar” operating from the White House exercises powerful influence over these departments, which have a measure of transparency and accountability under the law.

Not the czars. As Judicial Watch has reported, the Obama Administration has named dozens of them across the Executive Branch. Many, like Czar Klain, are unconfirmed by the Senate, largely unaccountable to Congress, and often outside the reach of the Freedom of Information Act. That’s a troubling consolidation of power, and no way to run a Republic.

Ebola Watch: Judicial Watch Seeks Answers

First published at Judicial Watch’s Investigative Bulletin, October 17, 2014

As an Ebola-driven health-care crisis appears to mount across America, Judicial Watch is moving fast to get answers from Washington. We have filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the Defense Department and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to uncover medical and safety threats to our frontline health-care workers—and through them, to the public at large.

“This is no time for the administration to be playing its usual ‘hide the ball’ games with FOIA requests,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said today. “Administration foot-dragging on FOIA is well-documented. Given the threat to public health, we expect timely replies. If we don’t get them, we’re prepared to go to court to force release of critical information.”

Specifically, Judicial Watch is seeking immediate clarification of Defense Department plans for evacuation of U.S. personnel from Africa in the event of Ebola infection; OSHA plans for response to the current Ebola outbreak, and any expressions of concern by OSHA personnel concerning the virus.

We’re also seeking more information about the cryptic carrier, Phoenix Air, which has been responsible in some cases for transportation of Ebola victims. How safe is Phoenix Air? What, precisely, is its role with the U.S. government? Unsubstantiated online chatter puts Phoenix Air at the center of the U.S. intelligence community’s black ops. What seems undisputed is that Phoenix Air, in addition to its medical transport unit, has significant Defense Department contracts.

Connecticut Corruption: It’s the Transparency, Stupid


First published at Judicial Watch’s Investigative Bulletin, October 1, 2014

On Sept. 19, John G. Rowland, the former governor of Connecticut, was convicted in federal court in New Haven on seven counts related to political corruption. The jury found that Mr. Rowland had created false records and obstructed justice in a conspiracy to hide his role as a political adviser to a 2012 Republican candidate for the state’s Fifth Congressional District, Lisa Wilson-Foley.

Rowland certainly knows politics. Elected three times as governor, three times to the U.S. House of Representatives, and once to the chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association, Rowland was a rising Republican star with a national future—possibly even in the White House, pundits said. Then came a 2004 corruption scandal. Facing impeachment, Governor Rowland stepped down as governor and pleaded guilty to accepting lavish gifts—a hot tub, a heating system for a lakeside cottage, cigars, Champagne, a Ford Mustang—from friends and associates with business before the state. He served 10 months in prison.

A decade later, Rowland apparently learned nothing from the experience. In the current case, Ms. Wilson-Foley’s husband, Brian Foley, gave Mr. Rowland a sham job at his nursing home company, Apple Rehab, to conceal a $35,000 payment for political advice. The Foleys, caught, cooperated with prosecutors and await sentencing. Mr. Foley was a key witness at the trial.

Rowland’s attorney was Washington super-lawyer Reid Weingarten. He told all who would listen that this was just politics as usual—sausage-making in the state sausage factory—and that no crimes had been committed.

And indeed, as a legal matter, as the New York Times noted, Rowland “could have worked for a candidate’s campaign and received payment, had it been properly reported.” The problem: “candidates valued his experience but his criminal history made the association too risky.”

So a fake job had to be created, false documents had to be filed with regulators, and lies had to be told. The crime was the cover-up.

Speaking on the courthouse steps after the verdict, a senior federal prosecutor, Michael J. Gustafson, got to the heart of the matter: transparency.

“I heard it suggested, cynically, during the course of the trial, both in the courtroom and outside the courtroom, that this case was simply politics as usual,” Gustafson said in widely reported remarks. “It was far from that. It ought to be—no, it has to be—that voters know that what they see is what they get. In this case, the defendant and others didn’t want that to happen.”

Gowdy’s Game Plan

First published at the Daily Caller, September 22, 2014

Four months after a White House email uncovered by Judicial Watch forced the appointment of a special House committee on Benghazi, the curtain has gone up on the next stage of the investigation. Committee chairman Trey Gowdy led hearings into the State Department’s implementation of recommendations to prevent future attacks on U.S. facilities abroad. The witnesses were members of an Independent Panel on Best Practices convened after the Benghazi attacks—three middle-aged white guys from the State Department. Could anything be more boring?

Across the land—or at least across Washington—the disappointment among star-spangled partisans on both sides of the aisle was palpable. No Crazytown thunderbolts from wild-eyed conservatives? No discussion of Hillary Clinton, stand down, or arms supplies to Syria? Privately, the Right grumbled that Gowdy was in over his head. The Left snickered at the committee’s partisanship. “All that was missing” from the hearings, snarked Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, “was a group hug.”

It could be true. It could be true that the South Carolina Republican for reasons unknown is planning one giant kumbaya with the Democrats. It could be true that Trey Gowdy is a sheep among wolves, a country cousin, a bumpkin, a backbencher with a drawl and a bad haircut suddenly thrust into the limelight by a conniving House leadership that in fact wants him to fail, thus ending once and for all a full investigation of a spectacular CIA debacle—oh, sorry, are we still calling this a State Department operation?—and re-affirming the wisdom of the congressional committee overlords who have already declared, case closed.

True? Maybe. But not a smart bet. Consider the evidence. For months, the spin machine from the Democratic side—led, incredibly, by some of the sleaziest operators from Clintonland—David Brock, Lanny Davis and James Carville—has declared that there is “nothing new” to be learned about Benghazi, that earlier inquiries were exhaustive, that it’s a witch hunt. “Case closed,” declared the Brock-led “rapid response” Benghazi Research Center in June.

And yet, at Tuesday’s hearing, during questioning by Rep. Jim Jordan, we were reminded that the co-chair of the Accountability Review Board (ARB) that investigated the State Dept. and issued recommendations—Admiral Michael Mullen—had been reporting back to senior staff at the department; in other words, Admiral Mullen was discussing the investigation with the very people he was supposed to be investigating.

And yet, days before the committee hearings opened, former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson issued a detailed story in the Daily Signal, an on-the-record interview with a former high-ranking State Dept. official, Raymond Maxwell, who claimed that top Clinton aides had culled damaging documents from department files before turning them over to the ARB.

And yet, weeks before the committee hearings opened, four CIA contractors who were at the U.S. compounds in Benghazi went on the record in a new book stating that in fact there was a “stand down” order given in the chaotic hours of the firefight.

Now, it may turn out that Mr. Maxwell has problems—many witnesses do. And it may turn out that there are many different ways to “stand down” an operation. But that is not the point.

The point is, yes, there is new information out there on Benghazi—and much more is likely much more to emerge. (Not least from Judicial Watch, which last week announced it launched three new lawsuits to gain Benghazi information from the State Department and Defense Department.)

And, of course, that’s what has the Clinton team worried and elevates Benghazi into a potential Death Star battle heading into the 2016 presidential election season. The Clintons, long experienced at this sort of thing, have lined up a Murderers’ Row of political operatives to “respond” to the committee. Inside the committee, the leading Democrat, Elijah Cummings of Maryland, will come under intense pressure from party loyalists to protect Mrs. Clinton. And this being the Clintons, expect dirty tricks if Gowdy gets too close to doing real damage to Mrs. Clinton.

What’s a country cousin to do? The signals from the Gowdy camp suggest that his game plan is not to act like a congressman at all. Instead, he’ll run the inquiry like the prosecutor he was for 16 years in South Carolina—a job by all accounts he loved.

“For 16 years, I had to stand in front of 12 people that I did not know,” he told the American Spectator. “How do you persuade? Do you have the facts on your side? If you have the facts on your side, how do present them in a way that makes people want to believe?”

And so there was Trey Gowdy on Tuesday in effect making his opening statement to the jury. It is the biggest trial of his life. He is lining up his facts. He is presenting them in a way that makes people want to believe. He is building his case and laying a few traps. Maybe Mike Mullen discussing the investigation with people he was supposed to be investigating will turn out not to be incidental at all.

According to press accounts, Gowdy never lost a case. That’s quite a record and suggests that the “country lawyer” demeanor is something of a shtick. But not an unfamiliar shtick in Washington. Sam Ervin, who led the Senate Select Committee investigation in Watergate, perfected the routine and emerged from that ordeal victorious.

Kenneth Starr—no “country lawyer” but a dignified Washington jurist who believed courtly manners would carry the day in the Whitewater investigation—had a different experience. He was mugged repeatedly by the same gang now lining up against Trey Gowdy.

Cuomo & Moreland


First published at Judicial Watch’s Investigative Bulletin, September 10, 2014

Andrew Cuomo took a serious hit yesterday in the New York gubernatorial primary, when an unknown novice with the whimsical name Zephyr Teachout walked off with about 35% of Democratic primary voters. Cuomo prevailed, with 60% of the vote, but the damage was done and the reason is anything but whimsical: in a word, corruption.

In March, Cuomo abruptly disbanded his own Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, known in New York as a Moreland Commission. The commission was launched only eight months earlier to much fanfare from the governor about cleaning up Albany. Teachout, a left-wing activist and law professor with a shoe-string campaign, hit a nerve in July after a bombshell New York Times report detailed Cuomo’s interference with the commission.

Saying Cuomo should “immediately resign” if he knew of efforts to obstruct the commission’s work, Teachout began to climb in the polls. Despite a strong left-wing platform, Teachout won support from influential New York conservatives, including the state’s Conservative Party chairman, Mike Long. Long called on “conservative Democrats” to “send Albany a message” about corruption.

Writing from the Left in the Daily Kos, a former counsel to the Moreland Commission, Janos Marton, echoed Long. In Albany, Marton wrote, he found “hotbeds of scandal, apathy and mediocrity.” He added, “The opportunity that has been lost by the Commission’s neutering, then disbandment, is more significant than most people realize, and the level of the governor’s interference more pervasive than press accounts suggest.”

Among those apparently outraged by Cuomo’s naked power politics is the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, who seized the commission’s files and is investigating. The press senses blood (Cuomo’s) in the water. And New York liberals and conservatives have found something they can agree on. So Ms. Teachout, a spirited thorn in the governor’s side, may be gone for the moment, but more Moreland trouble lies ahead.

Russian Sanctions: Follow the Money






First published at Judicial Watch’s Investigative Bulletin, September 9, 2014

President Obama is hoping sanctions will punish Russia for its abuse of Ukraine, but there’s already one group that sanctions are helping: lawyers and lobbyists. Late last month, former senators Trent Lott and John Breaux signed on as lobbyists for Gazprombank, a financial arm of the state-owned energy giant, Gazprom.

In July, the U.S. sanctioned Gazprombank, effectively banning U.S. financial institutions from doing business with it. By August, according to a Senate filing first reported by the Center for Responsive Politics, Lott and Breaux were in business: they’re listed as the main lobbyists on the Gazprombank account for DC powerhouse Squire Patton Boggs, focusing on “banking issues and regulations including applicable sanctions.”

Lott and Breaux are not alone. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that 417 former members of Congress are registered lobbyists. Many “receive handsome compensation from corporations and special interests as they attempt to influence the very federal government in which they used to serve.”

Politico reports that Chevron, Exxon Mobile, Caterpillar, MasterCard and Visa, Xerox and Coca-Cola all are lobbying lawmakers on sanctions. So is the Russian natural gas company OAO Novatek. But Gazprom is in a class by itself. It supplies vast amounts of natural gas to Ukraine and much of Europe, while functioning as economic weapon in Vladimir Putin’s arsenal. Putin has used Gazprom to cut off gas supplies to Ukraine and pressure weaker neighbors; he has jailed Gazprom competitors and seized their assets. The Court of Arbitration in the Hague recently ruled that Moscow owed $50 billion to a Gazprom—and Putin—rival. The court ruled that the Russian government, in “serious due process violations,” had seized the assets of the oil company Yukos. Russia said it would appeal the ruling.

And the head of Yukos, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a popular and powerful opponent of the Kremlin ruler? Putin jailed him for ten years.

It’s been a rough year for Gazprom, with profits slipping and sanctions ratcheting up. Revenues likely will be down significantly from $140 billion in 2013. But there’s still plenty of money to grease the wheels of influence in Washington. With Lott and Breaux, Putin and Gazprom are off to a good start.

State Dept. Approved 215 Bill Clinton Speeches Worth $48 Million











First published at the Washington Examiner, July 30, 2014.

By Micah Morrison and Luke Rosiak

A joint investigation by the Washington Examiner and the nonprofit watchdog group Judicial Watch found that former President Clinton gave 215 speeches and earned $48 million while his wife presided over U.S. foreign policy, raising questions about whether the Clintons fulfilled ethics agreements related to the Clinton Foundation during Hillary Clinton‘s tenure as secretary of state.

According to documents obtained by Judicial Watch and released Wednesday in an ongoing Freedom of Information Act case, State Department officials charged with reviewing Bill Clinton’s proposed speeches did not object to a single one.

Some of the speeches were delivered in global hotspots and were paid for by entities with business or policy interests in the U.S.

The documents also show that in June 2011, the State Department approved a consulting agreement between Bill Clinton and a controversial Clinton Foundation adviser, Doug Band.

The consultancy with Band’s Teneo Strategy ended eight months later following an uproar over Teneo’s ties to the failed investment firm MF Global.

State Department legal advisers, serving as “designated agency ethics officials,” approved Bill Clinton’s speeches in China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Panama,Turkey, Taiwan, India, the Cayman Islands and other countries.

The memos approving Mr. Clinton’s speeches were routinely copied to Cheryl Mills, Hillary Clinton’s senior counsel and chief of staff.

Mills is a longtime Clinton troubleshooter who defended the president during his impeachment. In the Benghazi affair, Mills reportedly berated a high-ranking official at the U.S. embassy in Libya for talking to a Republican congressman.

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Unraveling Benghazi: Is Mike Rogers Part of the Problem?


First published at the Daily Caller, June 17, 2014.

By Micah Morrison

With the curtain soon to go up on select committee hearings on Benghazi, a key question remains unanswered: what on earth were we doing there? What policies were being pursued in that violent outpost of the Libyan revolution?

The White House would rather not say. In an email obtained by Judicial Watch and released in April, senior White House communications advisor Ben Rhodes instructed administration media spinners in the aftermath of the attack to “underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.” For all the sound and fury over hearings, Congress also has not shown much interest in precisely what Ambassador Christopher Stevens, the State Department and the CIA were doing in Benghazi.

Last month, Daily Beast national security correspondent Eli Lake reported that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers had “warned his colleagues about the upcoming select committee to investigate Benghazi.” In interviews Rogers “downplayed” the testimony CIA contractors gave in closed session, Lake noted, and has said he did not believe the CIA had stonewalled his committee. Lake reported that “the chairmen of the House Intelligence, Armed Services, and Government Reform committees — Reps. Rogers, Buck McKeon, and Darrell Issa, respectively — all opposed the formation of a select committee on Benghazi.”

Sussing out the White House’s response to Benghazi is a critical step in clearing the shadows from the incident, but there are other players in the drama as well, including Rep. Rogers, and possibly also including a private military contracting firm that until recently was run by his wife, Kristi Rogers. Mike and Kristi Rogers are quintessential Washington insiders. A seven-term Republican from Michigan, Mike Rogers climbed the political ladder to become chairman of the Intelligence Committee in January 2011. Kristi Rogers, after years of government service in mid-level administrative positions, moved to the private sector, joining the British-based security contractor Aegis Defense Services to help open its U.S. subsidiary. The newsletter Intelligence Online noted that thanks to Ms. Rogers’ efforts, “Aegis won several major contracts with the U.S. administration.”

A spokesperson for the House Intelligence Committee noted that “strictly observed and enforced” policies required “that there should be no interaction with Mrs. Rogers on any matter relating to the official business of the House” and “no interaction between the Committee and any representative of Aegis.” There is no evidence of wrong-doing by Rep. Rogers or Aegis. Indeed, the outlines of the story are more suggestive of “right-doing,” Washington-style: an insider’s game of covert operations and corporate profits played out in the gray areas of law and policy.

No issue has dominated Rep. Roger’s time as committee chairman more than Libya. Protests against Muammar Gadhafi’s regime began in February 2011. In March, NATO air strikes commenced and the U.S. named Christopher Stevens as special envoy to the Benghazi-based Libyan opposition. By August, the end of the Gadhafi regime was in sight. The Associated Press reported that the CIA and State Department were “working closely” on tracking down the dictator’s vast arms stockpiles, including chemical weapons, yellowcake uranium, and some 20,000 shoulder-fired missiles known as MANPADS. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told the AP that Mr. Stevens was working with officials in Benghazi on how to track down the weapons.

By early October 2011, concern over missing MANPADS was growing. Prized by insurgent forces and terrorists, MANPADS (the acronym stands for “Man-Portable Air Defense Systems”) are capable of shooting down attack aircraft — or a civilian plane. “We have reports that they may in fact have crossed borders,” Mr. Rogers told USA Today, criticizing the Obama administration for a lack of urgency. “I have some concerns we may be a little bit late.” By the end of the month, Gadhafi was dead. Less than a year later, Mr. Stevens — by then Ambassador Stevens — would be dead too, killed with three other Americans in an attack on the Benghazi stations of the State Department and CIA. Benghazi became a full-blown crisis. Chairman Rogers emerged as one of the Obama administration’s sharpest critics, hammering it for a lack of transparency.

Libya also was an area of activity for Aegis, Ms. Rogers’ company. As Rep. Rogers assumed control of the Intelligence Committee, an Aegis subsidiary, Aegis Advisory, began setting up shop in Libya. “Aegis has been operating in Libya since February 2011,” noted an Aegis Advisory intelligence report aimed at corporate clients. The report, marked “Confidential,” notes the company’s ability to provide “proprietary information [and] expert knowledge from our country team based in Tripoli.” Security was part of the Aegis package, too. “Aegis has extensive links in Libya which can be leveraged quickly to ensure safe passage,” the report noted. In 2012, Al Jazeera reported that Aegis was hunting bigger game in the country, “seeking a $5 billion contract to guard Libya’s vast and porous borders.” Aegis declined to respond to Judicial Watch’s questions about Libyan border security contracts.

Ms. Rogers’ rise at Aegis was swift. A former press aide to Ambassador Paul Bremer in Iraq and an assistant commissioner for public affairs at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, she was named executive vice president when the U.S. branch opened in 2006. She was promoted to president in 2008 and added the position of CEO in 2009. In 2011, Ms. Rogers was named vice chairman of the company’s board of directors. In December 2012, she left Aegis and joined the law firm Manatt as a managing director for federal government affairs.

Aegis took a particular interest in events in Benghazi. One recipient of Aegis Advisory’s Libya briefings was Strategic Forecasting, or Stratfor, the global intelligence and consulting firm. According to Stratfor documents obtained by Wikileaks, Aegis’s Libya briefings were circulated to Stratfor’s confidential “alpha list.” The alpha list “is a repository for most of the intelligence that comes in,” a Stratfor analyst wrote in an email released by Wikileaks. “The first rule of the alpha list is that you don’t talk about the alpha list.”

In July 2011, in a report circulated to the alpha list, a senior Aegis official reported on a trip to Benghazi. “Despite reports of pockets of jihadist elements the presence of Islamic extremism has so far been low-key,” the official noted. But plenty of other forces were at work. “Qatar and the UAE [United Arab Emirates] have established a strong presence on the ground, providing tactical assistance at all levels, weapons, and recognition,” the official said, adding that one possible “motivation” for the Qatari presence was “U.S. support to act as its proxy.”
Ms. Rogers was a strong advocate for Aegis. In 2010 testimony before the congressionally chartered Commission on Wartime Contracting, she noted that “contractors are a necessary reality of the United States’ missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and perhaps similar, future missions.” Aegis, she said, was a “threat driven and intelligence led” company with “seasoned professionals” and “exceptional performance.” She added that the firm “regularly meets with Members of Congress, their staff and other key decision makers.”

In 2007, Aegis won Pentagon renewal of a contract to run security services for reconstruction projects in Iraq, a deal “worth up to $475 million over two years,” the Washington Post reported. In 2011, it was awarded a $497 million State Department contract for embassy security in Kabul, Afghanistan, according to the Project on Government Oversight. Theories linking Aegis to the failed Blue Mountain Group guarding the State Department’s Benghazi mission have circulated on the Internet. Aegis issued a statement denying it. No “member of the Aegis Group has ever entered into a contract with any department of the U.S. government to perform work in Libya,” the company noted.

A definitive statement about Aegis in Libya, apparently, but not without wiggle room. The activities of the U.S. government, its allies, and private contractors in Libya remain cloaked in secrecy. Methods to sidestep Congressional oversight include handing off sensitive missions to friendly foreign governments or operating through shell companies. There’s no evidence that Aegis was involved in such misconduct, but Ms. Rogers did seem to have been focused on boosting Aegis’s capability for confidential operations. According to a biographical profile posted on the Manatt website and since removed, Ms. Rogers “obtained top-secret facility security clearance for Aegis, created the company’s board of directors and positioned it for future growth and expansion.” Among the new Aegis board members were two former senior CIA officials: Robert Reynolds, a leader in contracts and procurement for the CIA; and John Sano, a former deputy director of the CIA’s clandestine services.

On March 28, Mr. Rogers announced he was stepping down from his safe Congressional seat and committee chairmanship to become a talk radio host. Two weeks earlier, on March 14, Ms. Rogers quietly left Manatt, after a tenure of only thirteen months. Her departure was not announced and her association with the firm has been scrubbed from its website.

Ms. Rogers and Manatt did not respond to emailed questions and interview requests. Messrs. Reynolds and Sano, the Aegis board members, did not respond to interview requests. The State Department and CIA did not respond to questions about Aegis. A lawyer for Aegis declined to address questions about the company’s relations with the U.S. intelligence community and its work in Benghazi.

The select committee should take a close look at the CIA’s activities in Benghazi and the Aegis connection. Both Rep. Rogers’ committee and Ms. Rogers’ company were focused on the Libyan security and intelligence environment in the months surrounding the Benghazi attack. Both Rep. Rogers and Aegis pursued Libyan border security issues. And both Rep. Rogers and Ambassador Stevens were linked to efforts to secure Gadhafi’s arsenals, including MANPADS, a high-stakes venture that involved both the State Department and the CIA.

Micah Morrison is chief investigative reporter at Judicial Watch.

Holding Holder Accountable

IB Holder2

First published at Judicial Watch’s Investigative Bulletin.

The IRS scandal has accelerated with the agency’s declaration that it “lost” thousands of emails from Lois Lerner—the senior official at the center of the controversy—to the White House, Treasury, Justice Department, and other outposts of Democratic Party progress. How convenient. Republicans are outraged: the emails, they suspect, provide more evidence that the IRS had been targeting conservative groups in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election. Calls for a special prosecutor are mounting. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp sent a letter to President Obama demanding “an immediate investigation and forensic audit by an independent special investigator.” National Journal columnist Ron Fournier wants “a fiercely independent investigation.”

But as readers of the new book by John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky, “Obama’s Enforcer: Eric Holder’s Justice Department,” will recognize, that ain’t gonna happen—there will be no independent special investigator. Why? Because the only man with the power to appoint a special prosecutor is Attorney General Eric Holder. Fund and von Spakovsky detail how Holder acts as a “heat shield” for the administration, protecting the president from a growing series of scandals, while transforming the Justice Department into a stronghold of left-wing activism.

The authors are no babes in the wood. They know the games people play in Washington. Fund is a longtime political reporter and a legendary figure in the conservative press. Von Spakovsky, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, served on the Federal Election Commission and in the Justice Department. Von Spakovsky told Judicial Watch that in the IRS scandal, the latest email revelations are “clear evidence that DoJ is not conducting a serious investigation. If it were, it would have seized these email records immediately, when it supposedly first opened its criminal investigation.”

In addition to providing a catalogue of the attorney general’s dicey moves, political partisanship and outright outrages during the Obama administration, “Obama’s Enforcer” reminds us the past is prologue, sketching Holder’s tenure as tenure as deputy attorney general in the Clinton Justice Department. Among his notable accomplishments there: shooting down requests by special prosecutors and greasing the skids for a pardon of fugitive money man Marc Rich.

If Congress wants an independent special prosecutor, it will have to renew the Ethics in Government Act, which it allowed to expire in a rare moment of bipartisan horror over the aggressive clean-ups of Iran-Contra and Whitewater. If Republicans maintain the House and win control of the Senate in November, they can bring back the independent counsel. Meanwhile, we’ll have to depend on the likes of Fund and von Spakovsky to hold Holder accountable.

Buy the book here.

Heeding Hanen

First published at Judicial Watch’s Investigative Bulletin.

Debate rages over the rise in children crossing the U.S. border from Mexico and Central America. The numbers are staggering. According to the latest reports, more than 48,000 children were caught in the last eight months alone.

At least one federal judge recognized the sinister nature of the enterprise early on. Last December, U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen issued an unusually strong order in a single case of child smuggling. His words should be heeded.

An unnamed ten-year-old girl from El Salvador had been spirited across the border, caught along with the smuggler, and then united with her mother—an illegal alien living in Virginia. And there, apparently, mother and daughter remain. The Department of Homeland Security did not arrest the mother, who instigated the conspiracy by hiring the smuggler. It did not prosecute her or move to deport her. “The DHS, instead of enforcing our border security laws, actually assisted the criminal conspiracy in achieving its illegal goals,” Judge Hanen wrote.

In a remarkable ruling, Judge Hanen cut to the dark heart of this perilous enterprise. “First and most importantly,” he wrote, illegal border crossings are about dope, violence and money: “these illegal [human trafficking] activities help fund the illegal drug cartels which are a very real danger to both the citizens of this country and Mexico.” Drug cartels, he noted, control the entire human smuggling process. Smugglers regularly use violence, extortion and sexual assault against illegal aliens. “This Court has seen instances where aliens being smuggled were assaulted, raped, kidnapped and/or killed.”

At DHS, he noted, the “current policy undermines the deterrent effect the laws may have and inspires others to commit further violations. Those who hear that they should not fear prosecution or deportation will not hesitate, and obviously have not hesitated, to act likewise.” The policy also encourages individuals “to turn their children over to complete strangers—strangers about whom only one thing is truly known: they are criminals involved in a criminal conspiracy.”

The decision to smuggle a child across the border, “even if motivated by the best of motives, is not an excuse for the United States Government to further a criminal conspiracy, and by doing so, encourage others to break the law and endanger children.”

Read the full Hanen order here.