Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Beginning Of The End?

Please note that the header for this article contains a question mark. My guts tell me that it should be a statement rather than a question, but I have to be realistic. On the other hand, I’m older than most of you, and I’m experiencing that sensation of déjà vu all over again. I’m seeing the early cracks in the unified front of Holder and Obama in the Fast and Furious scandal.


President Obama’s recent and highly-questionable executive privilege claim to protect Attorney General Holder’s involvement in Fast and Furious is certainly an indicator of trouble in Obama heaven. News reporters who actually care to report the news have jumped on that as an indication of a coverup.

But having been through Watergate, I see a little-reported and more recent event as much more indicative that the White House of Cards may be coming down. When President Nixon raised executive privilege at the early Watergate stages, it was also a signal of trouble. But it was the burgeoning growth of the extension of that privilege to everyone who knew anything that was truly telling.

That is already beginning to occur with Obama in Fast and Furious. The weak claim of executive privilege (more correctly, communications privilege) has already led the administration into an attempt to block a third-tier former National Security adviser from testifying before Congress. If the privilege is stretched by extending it to Holder’s communications with his deputies and other federal agencies, then attempting to block testimony from a distantly-connected former federal adviser stretches the privilege to the breaking point.

The capsule version is as follows: ATF Special Agent Bill Newell testified before Congress in July of 2011 that he and National Security staff member Kevin O’Reilly had communicated with each other via e-mail and on the telephone. This is not a communication between Holder and his subordinates. It is communication between members of two different federal agencies discussing the ramifications of gun-walking operations and what should or should not be communicated to the Mexican government and Mexican media

Newell had attempted to paint his agency in the best possible light, claiming that any activity in Fast and Furious was solely to bring down the trafficking of guns with the Mexican drug cartels. But under withering examination from several members of the House Oversight Committee, Newell admitted that the agency had “made mistakes.” He also said that he and O’Reilly had attempted to keep their plans between themselves and out of the hands of the White House and the Department of Justice. But he slipped, and admitted that their plan to maintain secrecy had failed and was well-known throughout the Obama administration, including DOJ, as early as 2010.

At that point, no hard evidence of complicity with DOJ or the White House had yet been produced, but Newell was ordered by his direct superiors not to continue testifying. The matters contained in the e-mails and phone calls between old friends Newell and O’Reilly became known, but standing alone would not “prove” anything more than earlier knowledge of the operation than Holder had admitted to. Damning, but not deadly.

Now, the names of Newell and O’Reilly have shown up on potential Congressional witness lists, including the pending contempt of Congress vote that Holder faces. Newell’s testimony is rather narrow, and probably wouldn’t do much additional damage in further Congressional hearings. But O’Reilly was closer to the White House than Newell who was just a Phoenix area ATF agency director. O’Reilly would logically be assumed to be in communication with DOJ and the White House as Fast and Furious began to unravel.

In order to preempt any discovery of O’Reilly’s (and possibly Holder’s and Obama's) involvement in attempting to squelch the impact of the reports of scores of guns disappearing and civilian deaths in the failed sting operation that appeared early on, O’Reilly has been told by the White House that he cannot testify before Congress again. O’Reilly is no longer the National Security adviser to the White House, but in such a matter, the administration feels that any of his words or deeds whether past or present should be covered by the expansion of the dubious executive privilege.

This may seem both minor and technical, but it is not. More significantly, this is no longer insider-politics, nor even simply conservative investigative success. The curious relationship of Newell and O’Reilly, combined with O’Reilly’s previous insider position at the White House, raises some pretty big flags. Flags too big to be entirely ignored. The question “what are they hiding?” is becoming amplified. And it is, of all possible sources, being examined by CBS News.

White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler told a CBS reporter that O’Reilly “will not be made available for Congressional inquiry.” Last fall, O’Reilly was allegedly unavailable because he was on assignment for the State Department in Iraq. At that time, O’Reilly and his lawyers had said that he could not come back for the investigation, but was willing to be interviewed by the Oversight Committee by phone. That offer was quickly squelched by the White House. I can’t help but suspect that both Newell and O’Reilly are viewed by the administration as potential loose cannons.

How important is this? Hard to say, but I go back to Watergate for indicators. Almost everyone, including the press, considered Watergate to be a matter of little importance, with no serious ramifications for the Nixon White House. But then, Nixon started “disappearing” the Plumbers and administration officials who might tie the burglary to the highest levels of government.. Undaunted by being told how insignificant this whole thing was, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein got hold of the story like a pair of bulldogs. They started interviewing administration officials who seemingly had no connection to the Watergate break-in. In other words, they did their job as reporters.

To start with, Woodward and Bernstein latched onto early indications. They asked “why were a bunch of common burglars being represented at their criminal hearings by high-priced lawyers with strong connections to the White House?" Similarly, CBS is now asking why the administration is quashing the appearance of O’Reilly before Congress if he doesn’t know anything of value and could conceivably give exculpatory testimony for Eric Holder.

This is one of the early indicators that a coverup is being perpetrated, and that it goes all the way to the top. Rep. Darrell Issa and Sen. Chuck Grassley have sent a letter to the White House stating: “O’Reilly’s testimony is necessary to allow us to begin to determine the extent of involvement—if any—of White House staff in Operation Fast and Furious. As such, we strongly urge you to reverse your position and facilitate an interview with O’Reilly without further delay.” This is an early indication that the investigators may believe that the coverup doesn’t stop at Holder’s office, but rather goes all the way to where the buck stops.

I'm beginning to wonder at what point we will stop referring to "The Fast and Furious Debacle" and start referring to it as "The Fast and Furious Conspiracy." Maybe we should hire a medium and attempt to communicate with the spirit of Richard Nixon. For now, I simply pray that the reporters' egos and need to be there first with the next "scandal scoop" will overcome their ingrained need to protect Obama and his minions.

29 comments:

ambisinistral said...

The 800 lb gorilla in the room -- make that the 800 ton gorilla -- are the 200+ dead Mexicans. Obama has to protect as well as he can Holder, and likely a few other of his buddies from the inevitable Mexican criminal charges.

Why does he have to protect them?

The press not vetting his past doesn't mean that there aren't people who know where the skeletons in his closet are. When they tell him to jump, has has no choice but to ask "how high?"

Keep that in mind as you puzzle over his self-destructive political moves.

Kit said...

LawHawk,

Whose coverage of FAST AND FURIOUS would you say has been the best?

T-Rav said...

In one respect, Fast and Furious is utterly unlike the Watergate scandal. As far as we know, nobody got killed as a result of Watergate.

Kit said...

"In one respect, Fast and Furious is utterly unlike the Watergate scandal. As far as we know, nobody got killed as a result of Watergate."

Bingo.

LawHawkRFD said...

ambisinistrial: I have to say that this is a common theme among crooked politicians. They cover each other's activities, not so much out of loyalty, but rather out of fear of revelations about themselves. So the coverup is usually mutual rather than unidirectional. But anything's possible.

LawHawkRFD said...

Kit: So far, I'd have to say that The Washington Times has done the best job of digging and finding names without going hysterical over it. On TV, it's Fox, but their editorial opinion and their news seem to be getting somewhat intermingled on Fast & Furious. I think part of the pleasure I had in writing the article and doing the fact-checking is that at least one major mainstream news outlet has gotten on the trail. I only hope it continues and multiplies.

AndrewPrice said...

The problem I have with this is that the public at large doesn't care. To them, this is still just about politics. Heck, they probably don't even know Holder's name. But I think the distraction factor is good and Holder is good for upsetting their base because he's doing a lot of things Obama wasn't supposed to do.

K said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think your comparison is missing a couple of things: Deep Throat and the Nixon tapes.

While Deep Throat turned out to be the 2nd in command of the FBI (talk about your high level informants!) It is believed, if I remember correctly, that if the tapes had not been disclosed or never made then Nixon would have survived.


After impreaching the last Democratic President - to no effect other than damaging Republican popularity, certainly the present Republicans couldn't be so stupid as to try and impeach a sitting black President? But then I tend to be an optimist.

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: That's very true. But it doesn't matter to the law when properly used. Getting to the "crime" in these cases is about determining first if there was a coverup, and second if any facet of the coverup was criminal. The result of the alleged coverup (a botched burglary versus numerous deaths) is where the penalties come in. Lawyers and judges have to look at seemingly entirely different facts in cases yet find that they share a common violation of principle. Here, it would be the commonality of the purported coverups, though the results of the actions in the two cases appear to be quite different.

Watergate and Fast & Furious share almost nothing in common except the allegation of a coverup of unlawful and/or grossly negligent conduct. And now we're seeing the early parallels of extending executive privilege beyond the original players. Both scandals share that in common.

Patriot said...

I would not place any faith that CBS will "uncover" the truth. I believe they are too much in the tank for Obama. Nixon had the "nattering nabobs of negativism" after him, with zero media support. His side of the story was never presented in any of the communication channels available at the time.

I would not be surprised to find out in some hacks memoirs that W and B printed lies, half truths, and fabrications in order to make their bones. We won't ever know probably, but look how the message is presented today, and we have an adversarial 5th column in Fox news and the internet, where opposing views can be presented.

I think this is all part of Obama and his handlers plan to fundamentally "transform" America into the socialist utopia......without those hated guns.... And it has backfired on them big time. CBS and their Ilk will never out these ass clowns as they believe the b.s. In the same manner.

Coesceau their hides against the wall.

LawHawkRFD said...

Kit: The deaths do indeed clearly define a difference between the two coverups.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: At the early stages of Watergate, the public had exactly the same lack of interest. It was only when the multiple connections and conspiratorial lies were revealed that the public started to care. Something this seemingly political tends to take on a life of its own when reporters start doing their job and digging for news that keeps turning up protected players. Even as a political junkie and a Nixon-hater, I at first dismissed Watergate as a political catfight. By the time it was finally over, I sensed the inevitable.

I don't see this scandal bringing this presidency down the way it did with Nixon. But I do foresee that it could very easily become the thing that pushes sufficient moderates and independents into the Republican camp to prevent Obama's reelection. Much depends on the MSM rolling up its sleeves and doing their job. Nixon was despised by the entire MSM, while Obama is the much-beloved messiah. That could be the determining factor in whether or not the current public indifference turns to righteous anger. Also unlike Watertage, there is now a non-mainstream press, TV, and the internet.

T-Rav said...

Patriot, I will have to say, CBS' Sharyl Atkisson has been practically the only MSM reporter to actually pursue this story over the past year or so and has reportedly taken more than a little heat for doing so. Good for her.

But as to the network at large, no, they probably won't give this story the coverage it deserves. At least they're likely to be no worse in this respect than NBC, which I expect to create multiple "edits" to make it look like Issa personally killed the Mexicans or something.

ambisinistral said...

No, I meant Mexican prosecutors. Not their Executive branch, but State Prosecutors.

A certain amount of cooperation between the US and Mexican governments on the drug war is popular with the Mexican public. If'n I were a muckity-muck in a Mexican cartel, and I had my thumb on a prosecutor, I might want to complicate that cooperation as much as possible.

Yes, it would be a diplomatic mess -- in certain quarters that would be the idea of it all.

LawHawkRFD said...

K: Both of those factors were missing at the early stages of Watergate. What exists now may be very different from what exists three months from now. It only takes one self-serving insider (like Deep Throat) to blow a suspicion up into a full-blown scandal.

This thing won't be resolved fully by election time, and surely the Republicans have learned the dangers of attempting impeachment and prosecution leading to removal from office unless the time and the facts are exactly right (so far, that has never happened, though they got close with Andrew Johnson). If the facts continue to emerge indicating a high-level coverup, it will have a political rather than a legal effect. And my personal opinion that this might backfire on the Republicans is "hooey."

LawHawkRFD said...

Patriot: I'm not counting on their honesty, integrity or ethics. If I'm counting on anything, it's their egos. Even an Obama MSM stalwart wants that public recognition and the "big scoop."

I've mentioned before that like you, I think that the intention to reestablish gun-grabbing played a major role in the administration's decisions involving Fast & Furious.

rlaWTX said...

unfortunately, I agree with Andrew - this is a wonk issue so far, not John Q Public issue. [1] hope for journalists' egos to be of use is a bit unnerving. [2] I hope their egos do get this in MSM so Mr, Mrs, & Ms Public take notice!!!

I hate Eric Holder.

LawHawkRFD said...

ambisinistral: Well, that's why I figured it wasn't my place to speak for you. But as I said, it really doesn't matter since we're not about to turn a [former] President or Attorney General over to the tender mercies of the Mexican legal system under any circumstances.

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: I agree on the reporter and on CBS itself. But if this takes the path I think it's going to take, CBS will slowly start spending less time protecting Obama and more time trying to be there ahead of the others with the news of a growing scandal. They may try to spin it, a lot, but I don't think they will continue to be stalwart defenders. In addition, the other networks will be competing with CBS, leaving CBS with the risk of being left behind. There will never be the full-out assault that they did to Nixon, but the pro-Obama spin will get harder and harder for them to maintain. NBC is already getting a lot of flack for their "editing" of the Romney statement. They just don't have the ability to lie and distort that they had at the time of Watergate without facing open opposition in the alternative media.

LawHawkRFD said...

rlaWTX: I agree with Andrew and you, but the operative words are those you used--"so far." This confrontation between Congress and the Obama administration is still at its early stages. The past year or so has been wonkish, legalistic preparation for what may end up as a very common sense scandal that the public will take a lot of interest in. At this point in Watergate, I was still yawning and saying "big deal, political dirty tricks." Let's see where we are in, say, September and October. The first crack in this administration's armor really only began to manifest itself with Obama's phony executive privilege claim just days ago. And now he's already providing cover for officials who are not directly attached to the DOJ.

LawHawkRFD said...

rlaWTX: And while we're at it, let's pray for change. LOL

BevfromNYC said...

The reason that John and Jane Q. Public do not care is because no one is reporting on it. My parents are pretty plugged in, but get most of their information from newspapers and tv news (not the 'net) and there is no reporting except on CSpan and CBS barely.

ambisinistral said...

LawHawkRFD,

I'm not saying anybody will get turned over to get prosecuted. First off, charges and an extradition request would have to move through the Mexican courts where they would likely get quashed.

Besides, at worst they would get tried in a u.S. court.

What I'm saying is the charges will get filed, which renders the Watergate comparison moot. 200+ dead Mexicans guarantee that this is not just a domestic issue, it hugely impacts our relations with Mexico and Latin America.

It will unfold slowly, but it will unfold. And you can bet that those repercussions down the road are driving some of the decision making today.

People in this thread are saying it is a wonkish issue and the public doesn't know about it -- so why inflame the situation with the executive privilege claim? In my opinion the answer is because a serious and actionable crime has been committed. A lot of CYA going on for that reason.

I don't think that is a simple stonewall over a political snafu, my guess is evidence is being hidden.

LawHawkRFD said...

Bev: That's a big part of it. But this thing is only beginning to heat up. A little here, a little there, another witness ordered not to testify, another factual revelation through leaks or hard reporting and the water begins to boil.

LawHawkRFD said...

ambisinistral: The only parallel I've drawn is the slowly-growing pace of witness suppression and executive/communications privilege, indicating a coverup. That makes the Watergate comparison perfectly apt to this point. It hardly makes it moot. The end results would of course be entirely different because the underlying crimes are entirely different. The parallel is the coverup, not the crimes, the results, or the effects on foreign policy.

I'm doing more than suggesting this is a simple stonewall. I'm saying that it is my firm belief that this administration, now possibly all the way to the top, is covering up a massive plan to look heroic while causing deaths in the name of gun-control. And since that's an attempt to subvert the Constitution, there's another Watergate parallel.

The two cases have early common indicators of coverups, but I've never suggested they are the same. As for what gets filed in Mexico, I really don't care. A criminal filing in Mexico has zero effect on the mootness or ripeness of a domestic case in the US. Until we allow every Mexican who wants to leave Mexico to come to the US with no restrictions whatsoever, we will always have strained relations with Mexico. Our current corrupt administration is an aberration. Mexico's corrupt and criminal government is institutional and historical. Exporting Mexican citizens to the US is Mexico's primary industry.

Furthermore, what would soothe the savage breasts in Mexico and Latin America more than a full exposure and prosecution of the malefactors? They all know we're not going to turn our citizens over to them. In order to effect change south of the border, they have to have revolutions and banana republic show trials. Those here investigating the Obama administration still believe in the rule of law.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Great post, LawHawk!

There is no honor among thieves so I anticipate that a few and perhaps more reporters will seek out this scoop.
Besides, in their eyes Obama has let them down (journalists) and has had no problem with making them look bad.

So perhaps some are looking at their options:

1. Continue to protect Obama who doesn't give a damn about them and certainly hasn't rewarded them for their support. He takes and takes and never gives.
Obama has no sense of loyalty towards his MSM supporters.

2. Get the scoop! Get rich! Write a book! Become famous! Maybe win the Pullitzer! Become famous (or infamous, which is practically the same thing these days).

Who knows? Perhaps there are a few journalists who have developed a concience?

Yeah, I can see where all that might be appealing to some of the journalists.

Meanwhile, conservative journalists and citizen journalists will keep digging.

Leftwing journalists have been scooped by conservatives a lot the last 4 years and even the Enquirer has scooped them. Do they wanna be scooped again or get the treasure for themselves?

It won't be their fault. Emperor Obama let them down.

LawHawkRFD said...

USSBen: Thanks. Cracks other than the current scandals have been appearing, and you caught them. The press was already starting to act like jilted lovers, so their loyalty level had started to wane before they were handed the opportunity to get some payback for Obama's infidelity to them.

Wouldn't it be a sad commentary on American journalism if once again the Enquirer scooped them all?

Patti said...

my father was in the military and we had moved from texas to washington dc right before watergate hit. it was my introduction to politics. i was fascinated and loved the grown-up dramaz.

and i agree with USS Ben: the enquirer has done more heavy-hitting investigative work than many in the MSM. i hope they get the scoop. and then the pulitzer. i would do a jig.

LawHawkRFD said...

Patti: I was in law school, preparing for exams. The moment there was a break, we'd all head out of the classroom like a cattle stampede and into the lobby to see what was happening on the only TV at the school.

I have to admit that I've never purchased an Enquirer, but it has given me more than a few chuckles while waiting in line at the supermarket. I don't think the Edwards scoop gave them a whole lot of credibility beyond what little they already had, but there are lots of MSM reporters out there still cleaning the egg of their faces and vowing not to let that happen again.

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