312 Contempt, Compromised, Hoax

In the 1980s Kenneth Starr was one of the legal luminaries circulating within the higher echelons of the federal government—appointed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals by Ronald Reagan and then named Solicitor General by George H.W. Bush.  He was a seriously considered for the Supreme Court slot vacated by Warren Burger but was passed over when David Souter appeared to be a less controversial candidate.  “Justice Souter was even heard to say, privately, ‘I have the Ken Starr seat’” (p. 307)  When Robert Fiske (the first special prosecutor appointed to investigate Bill and Hillary Clinton’s activities in Arkansas) resigned, Starr was named his replacement, since he was widely acclaimed as a fair, eminently-qualified lawyer.  Looking back at his prosecutorial efforts in the 90s, Starr has written Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation (New York:  Penguin Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, c. 2018).  

In sum, he tells this “story:  Twenty years ago, after a four-year investigation resulting in fourteen criminal convictions in Arkansas and leading to the resignation of the sitting governor of the state, the Whitewater investigation took a bizarre twist.  It was revealed that in 1995 President Bill Clinton had begun an extended Oval Office affair with a twenty-two-year-old White House intern, Monica Lewinsky, then tried to cover it up.  In the fallout from the president’s misdeeds, the nation went through wrenching political turmoil.  Much of the drama was tragically unnecessary, a self-inflicted wound by a talented but deeply flawed president who believed he was above the law.  In the long and painful saga, he showed contempt not only for the law, but for the American people, whom he willfully misled for his political self-preservation.  He also demonstrated a shockingly callous contempt for the women he had used for his pleasure” (p. xi-xii).  Ultimately, Starr thinks:  “By the end of this book, my personal account of the legacy of Bill and Hillary Clinton—a legacy of contempt—I believe most reasonable, open-minded people will agree with me.  Or at least they should agree with my basic proposition:  that President Clinton and the First Lady knowingly embarked on a continuing course of action that was contemptuous of our revered system of justice” (pp. xii-xiv). 

To provide suitable context for his account, Starr shares a bit of his own story.  He was born in Texas and reared in a pastor’s home (his father ministering in the Churches of Christ denomination).  Thenceforth, though moving away from his father’s denomination, he says:  “Faith proved to be a pillar of strength in my daily life” (p. 24).  Ever a sterling student, he earned a B.A. from Brown University and a law degree from Duke.  Entering the legal profession he found his true life’s calling and fully enjoyed both practicing law and serving as a judge.  Then, much to his sorrow, he was persuaded to accept the position of special prosecutor and investigate the Clintons’ Whitewater adventures.  Almost immediately the president’s political operatives (e.g. James Carville, Lanny Davis, and Sidney Blumenthal) swung into action, portraying him as a “right-wing hit man” (p. 40).  Starr thinks they mainly implemented the strategies of Hillary, the more  sinister of the Clintons, for she had been “profoundly influenced by the radical Saul Alinsky, whose ‘rules for radicals’ included tips for budding community activists such as:  ‘Keep the pressure on, never let up,’ ‘Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon,’ ‘Go after people and not institutions,’ and ‘Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.’  She’d written her ninety-two-page senior honors dissertation on Alinsky, whom she quoted as saying that gaining and holding on to power ‘is the very essence of life, the dynamo of life’” (p. 64).  Embracing Alinsky’s tactics, the Clintons left a trail of “wrongdoing” which “could have been avoided if they’d followed the Golden Rule instead of Alinsky’s rules for radicals” (p. 65). 

Presiding over a team of FBI agents and Department of Justice lawyers, Starr collected evidence from witnesses such as Judge David Hale, who repeatedly directed them to various of the Clintons’ shady deals.  “Hale became the epicenter of the Arkansas investigation.  Through his testimony, the mysteries of Whitewater and other financial crimes were illuminated.  If Judge Hale was right, Bill Clinton was a potential felon, assisted by Hillary” (p. 62).  Others in the Clinton entourage—e.g. Webb Hubbell, Jim and Susan McDougal—were interviewed and investigated and convicted of assorted crimes.  But their efforts were impeded by the mysterious disappearance of important documents and at every turn, and investigators were constantly frustrated by the Clintons’ disdain for law.  In fact:  “Engaging with the White House was like walking in molasses” (p. 86).  Or, to shift the metaphor, “Talking to Clinton,” Starr found, “was like nailing spaghetti to the wall” (p. 239).

One of Starr’s best lawyers, after taking a deposition from the president in 1995, said he “knew the president ‘was a lying dog’” who had probably committed perjury (p. 98).   While watching a film of Clinton’s deposition, his old friend and business partner Jim McCougal lamented seeing “‘the president of the United States commit perjury,’” and doing in the White House  Map Room.  “The Map Room, to Jim McDougal, was hallowed ground because of his admiration for FDR.  But that sacred soil, so to speak, had been polluted by the self-interested perjury of his hero’s successor.  Despite his own crimes, Jim was morally outraged by the lies under oath of the Man from Hope” (p. 131).  At her deposition, Hillary’s “responses were so glib, so superficial, they were almost ‘in your face,’ alternating on the theme of profound memory loss. In the space of three hours, she claimed, by our count, over a hundred times that she ‘did not recall’ or ‘did not remember’’” (p. 100).  Starr and his team “were of one accord that Hillary was a liar” (p. 203).

Starr’s team focused its attention on the Clintons’ financial activities in Arkansas and  “never pursued any case of sexual wrongdoing against Clinton” (p. 157).  In due time, however, the accusations of Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky intruded into the investigation because of illegal maneuvers Bill Clinton made trying to deny them.  He refused to accept offered “mediation to resolve the case” brought by Paula Jones and “chose a foolhardy course.  He believed he could lie his way out of it” (p. 185).   “Clinton knew what he had done.  He had lied under oath in his deposition.”  Determined to stay in office, he followed “a multifaceted strategy:  First, take care of or at least neutralize Monica, much in the way the White House had taken care of Hubbell.  Second, stonewall the investigation while purporting to cooperate.  Third, send out surrogates to aggressively attack Starr and his team—and to trash Monica” (p. 195).  That strategy, aided by the media, succeeded magnificently, and the American people rallied to Clinton’s defense. 

So Starr ultimately crafted his “referral” and presented it to the House of Representatives, which duly impeached Clinton.   He and his team clearly identified “counts of impeachable offenses” the president had committed.  He clearly “had committed perjury, tampered with witnesses, and obstructed justice in many ways” (p. 247).  But the Clintonistas effectively massaged the media to make Starr the real “bad guy,” and the president prevailed in the court of public opinion.  To explain and justify his work to the American people, Starr assented to an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer.  “Jettisoning her usual Kentucky charm, Sawyer immediately went on the offensive.  She lambasted me for producing ‘demented pornography, pornography for puritans.’  On and on.  When she asked me about the tone of the referral, I was matter-of-fact:  ‘Diane, don’t fault career prosecutors for telling the truth’” (p. 278).  But neither Sawyer nor the public cared much for the truth.  They were, instead, determined to discredit Starr!  “Literally for years, my personal integrity and professionalism had been subject to a well-organized, relentless campaign of character assassination” (p. 300).

Over the years I’ve distrusted few politicians more than Bill and Hillary Clinton.  My suspicions stand confirmed by Starr’s Contempt.  Though he fully recognizes their political dexterity, he concludes:  “Tragically, their legacy, despite their accomplishments, despite their talents, is, above all, contempt: contempt for the rule of law that binds us together as citizens, and contempt for human beings—especially women—as inherently worthy of dignity and respect” (p. 306).

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Healthy republics require the “rule of law.”  Lex Rex (law is king) must prevail.  To do so, law enforcement must be trustworthy and transparent.  Thus Seamus Bruner’s Compromised: How Money and Politics Drive FBI Corruption (New York:  Bombardier Books, Kindle Edition, c. 2018) should concern us.  The book examines the FBI’s role in a “story of corruption [which] (like so many others) begins with Hillary Clinton” (#164).  It reveals FBI officials involved in “the misdeeds committed during the 2016 election,” including “criminal allegations of lying under oath, obstruction, leaking classified material, coordination with foreign powers, and coordination with the media.”  But it all “began as a complex smokescreen apparently orchestrated by the Clinton team to undermine opponent Trump and obfuscate allegiances.”  Involved in the operation were:   President Barack Obama; his Attorney General Loretta Lynch; and James Comey, the FBI director appointed by Obama.  Working under Lynch in the Department of Justice were Sally Yates, Rod Rosenstein, and Bruce Ohr.  Having failed to block Trump’s election, they worked to undermine his presidency.  To do so they helped orchestrate Robert Mueller’s appointment as a special prosecution to investigate Trump’s Russian ties, and he “picked a team full of criminal prosecutors, many of whom are Clinton loyalists and Democrat donors who seem hostile towards Trump” (#450).  In Bruner’s searing judgment, Richard Nixon’s notorious Watergate scandal was “fairly tame compared with the FBI’s actions in 2016” (#2256).

The bad actors in his story had both financial and political reasons for their behavior.  Mueller and Comey, for example, have shrewdly moved in and out of government, working briefly for high-powered law firms or corporations that pay them millions of dollars.  They have “worked as a tag team for twenty years, drifting between FBI and DOJ leadership positions before cashing in on their valuable intel and experience” (#2163).  Comey was thus paid $6 million in one year by Lockheed—probably for his contacts within government rather than any stellar legal expertise!  In 2003 Comey was worth $206,000, “according to documents filed with Congress.”  Two years later “he left the DOJ to join Lockheed as general counsel and senior vice president and moved to Bridgewater Associates in 2010.  When Obama appointed him FBI director in 2013, Comey had amassed well over $10 million in compensation from just two sources:  Lockheed and Bridgewater Associates” (#2452). 

“The FBI and the DOJ have long been lucrative stops in the revolving door between the public and private sectors in D.C.  This intersection of money and politics at the top of the FBI and the DOJ is concerning” (#2149).  Comey and Mueller both “fancy themselves ‘Boy Scouts.’”  But they and their associates “became rich passing back and forth through the revolving door,” though Bruner could not demonstrably “link their huge compensation to direct official action.”  They did, however, receive  inordinate retainers, which are “upfront and ongoing compensation paid to attorneys so that when their services are needed, they will be on call.  This same model, applied to government employees, might explain the massive sums that individuals such as Clinton, Holder, and Comey received.”  Importantly:  “It is not even illegal” (#3417).  Both legal and lucrative!  How sweet it is!   

To investigate President Trump, Mueller employed a dossier compiled by Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm which specializes in digging up dirt on Republican politicians.  The firm received an estimated $12 million for producing the document.  “Some of it went to Christopher Steele, the retired MI5 agent who assembled much of the dossier.  Some of it went to Nellie Ohr, the wife of a top DOJ official.  Some of it went to journalists who promoted the salacious findings.  And some of it allegedly even went to the dossier’s sources, which included Russian officials” (#608).  In short:  Fusion GPS created the Trump dossier and Democrats paid for it.  On the other hand, though considerable evidence exists suggesting a Hillary Clinton-Russia connection, Mueller refused to investigate the Democrat candidate.  “Mueller’s special counsel mandate . . . does not differentiate between Russian interference with the Trump campaign and Russian interference with the Clinton campaign.  The absence of any charges implicating the Clinton-connected Russian agents above should prove once and for all that the Mueller investigation is a political cover-up” (#2065). 

The FBI claimed the famous Steele “dossier” justified spying on Trump’s advisors and got a FISA judge to authorize targeting “a sitting U.S. president, which may be an unprecedented abuse of power by the bureau” (#2107).  Indeed:  Mueller’s team seemingly has one mission—to take down Trump” (#2107).  To read Bruner’s Compromised is to have one’s faith in the federal government seriously compromised!  If law enforcement officials seek personal goods rather than the public welfare the fabric of our society cannot but fray. 

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In 1774, on the eve of the American Revolution, John Adams envisioned a “government of laws, and not of men.”  Consequently, Supreme Court Justice Lewis Brandeis said:  “if the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.”  In The Russia Hoax:  The Illicit Scheme to Clear Hillary Clinton and Frame Donald Trump (New York:  HarperCollins, c. 2018), Gregg Jarrett says:  “In truth, this book is a defense of the rule of law” (p. 281).  To do so he seeks to show how the contempt for law evident throughout the careers of Bill and Hillary Clinton persists.  He tells “a story of corruption.  It begins, as it must, with Hillary Clinton” (p. 1).  In the midst of the 2016 presidential campaign, evidence came to light revealing that Hillary Clinton had knowingly flaunted important laws as a federal employee.  Indeed, her “egregious breach of rules, regulations, and laws jeopardized national security” (p. 6) 

Assigned to investigate her case, FBI Director James Comey maneuvered to exculpate Hillary Clinton “from the sundry crimes she appeared to have committed by storing copious classified documents on her unauthorized private computer system at the Clinton homestead.  Despite a subpoena insisting to preserve her records, tens of thousands of government documents were deleted, her server wiped clean, and numerous devices destroyed” (#52).  But President Obama defended her and Comey penned an “exoneration statement” for her behavior long before his agents interviewed important witnesses, including Hillary Clinton.  “Danny Coulson, who served as deputy assistant director of the FBI during his three decades at the bureau,” lamented:  “‘Comey controlled it from start to finish and came out with the results he wanted’” (p. 24).  “Former assistant director of the FBI Steve Pomerantz is convinced Clinton knew she was breaking the law, but didn’t care:  ‘It is consistent with everything I know about the Clintons.  They make their own rules, and it’s wrong.  Hillary Clinton engaged in conduct that was dangerous to the national security of the United States.  And, of course, lying about it only compounds the problem.  The Clintons have a history of lying.  That’s what they do.  First they commit the offense, then they lie about it.  That’s what they do’” (p. 12).  

Jarrett suspects Comey protected Hillary Clinton because he felt pressure emanating from the Department of Justice headed by Attorney General Loretta Lynch.  “We are expected to believe it was a coincidence that former President Bill Clinton just happened to be on the tarmac of Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona, at exactly the same time as Attorney General Loretta Lynch on June 27, 2016, a scant five days before Hillary Clinton was to meet with FBI officials for questioning about her suspected wrongdoing.  Perhaps it was also just a coincidence that eight days after the furtive tarmac meeting the decision was announced that criminal charges against Clinton would not be filed” (p. 38).  Such convenient “coincidences” rather routinely speckle the Clintons’ records! 

Hillary Clinton obviously broke the law because she had things to hide!  Those things are amply evident in a chapter Jarrett titles “Clinton Greed and ‘Uranium One’.”  Upon leaving the White House in 2001, the former president and first lady became enormously wealthy, raking in some $230 million before taxes.   Shrouding the sources of this income doubtlessly explains Hillary’s “determination to keep her State Department emails forever hidden from public view” (p. 66).  Tellingly, much of their wealth came from “Bill’s lucrative speaking engagements, especially those abroad, [which] accelerated during the four years his wife presided over the state department.  Two-thirds of his fees came from foreign sources.  It is no surprise that many of the foreign entities who were shelling out substantial dollars to Bill were the very people and governments who were angling for favorable actions or decisions by Hillary” (p. 67).  Then there was the Clinton Foundation, purportedly established to do charitable work around the world.  Contributors surely envisioned enjoying special access to the Clintons, and the foundation quickly raised more than a billion dollars.  “The charity also became a cash conduit, helping Bill collect millions of dollars as he leveraged the foundation to secure his lucrative personal speaking engagements” (p. 68). 

The Clintons’ modus operandi is nicely illustrated in the “Uranium One” deal.  In 2005 Bill Clinton and his friend Frank Giustra, a Canadian businessman interested in buying Kazakh mines, went to Kazakhstan.  Clinton facilitated a deal with President Nursultan A. Nazarbayev, whom he fulsomely praised in a press conference.  “Days later Giustra got his lucrative uranium mines.  Soon thereafter the Clinton Foundation received a $31.3 million donation from Giustra, followed by a pledge to give $100 million more.  The deal also provided Bill with incredibly profitable speechmaking fees.”  In due time, following a merger, “Giustra’s company became a uranium giant called Uranium One.  According to the president of the government agency that runs Kazakhstan’s uranium industry, Hillary Clinton pressured his government to approve the merger.  Clinton herself, who then sat on the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, had allegedly threatened to withhold U.S. aid if the deal did not go through.  It should come as no surprise that it did” (p. 70).   In fact, “more than half the people outside the government who met with Clinton while she was secretary of state donated money to her foundation” (p. 80).  Tit for tat!  So it goes with the “Clinton Cash” machine!

Rather than pursue an investigation of Hillary Clinton, the FBI and Department of Justice launched an inquiry into Donald Trump’s “collusion” with Russia!  The document cited to justify the case was a “dossier” the DNC had paid for, seeking to damage Trump’s campaign.  “On its face, the ‘dossier’ was a preposterous collection of rumors, innuendos, supposition, and wild speculation” (p. 120).  Having thoroughly examined the evidence—detailing the maneuvers, identifying the participants—Jarrett concludes:  “There was never any real evidence of wrongdoing by the Republican nominee for president.  There was no reasonable suspicion or evidence sustaining probable cause that those in his campaign were collaborating with Russians to influence the 2016 election.  In its purest form, it was a hoax that was manufactured by unscrupulous high-ranking officials within the FBI and the Department of Justice.  Their motives were impure, animated by antipathy for Trump. They were determined to tip the scales of justice and, in the process, undermine electoral democracy” (pp. 87-88). 

Jarrett has done extensive, meticulous research, evident in his many citations, his careful concern for details, and his competence as a lawyer fully conversant with the legal system.  To understand the tumultuous beginnings of Donald Trump’s presidency, The Russia Hoax is most enlightening.