‘I never want to hear about Hillary’s e-mails again’: Conservative writer lays out why Clinton’s lapses are nothing compared to Trump’s
When President Donald Trump is chastised for being careless with security measures, his supporters often respond, “Yeah, but what about Hillary Clinton’s e-mails?” Conservative Never Trump journalist Max Boot answers that question in his Washington Post column, stressing that when it comes to security precautions, Trump has a much worse track record than the former secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.
“Trump, recall, spent much of 2016 leading chants of ‘Lock her up!’ because Hillary Clinton made the mistake of employing a private server for some of her official e-mails as secretary of state,” he wrote. “Trump still routinely refers to the former first lady and secretary of state as ‘Crooked Hillary’ as if she had actually committed a crime. Never mind that the Justice Department decided not to prosecute and that a lengthy State Department investigation, completed during the Trump administration, found ‘no persuasive evidence of systemic, deliberate mishandling of classified information.’”
Boot goes on to cite some specific examples of Trump being careless with security.
“In May 2017,” Boot notes, Trump “revealed top-secret intelligence to the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador during a meeting in the Oval Office, thereby potentially blowing a source of information about the Islamic State. In 2018, he reportedly discussed with wealthy donors at a Manhattan fundraiser the classified details of a battle between U.S. forces and Russian mercenaries in Syria.”
On top of those things, Boot adds, Trump recently “revealed details about the raid on Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi that, as NBC News noted, ‘were either highly classified or tactically sensitive, and their disclosure by the president made intelligence and military officials cringe.’ And, according to a White House whistleblower, Trump overruled the opposition of security officials to grant top-secret security clearances to Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.”
Boot also mentions “Trump’s promiscuous use of a cell phone to conduct top-secret conversations.”
Security experts, in their critiques of Trump, have stressed that a U.S. president needs to take two precautions when having a phone conversation: only speaking via a secured phone line — and making sure the other person is also speaking on a secured phone line.
“Trump has now at least been persuaded to use a more secure government cell phone,” Boot observes, “but it doesn’t matter if he is routinely conversing with people like (attorney Rudy) Giuliani or (Ambassador Gordon) Sondland, who are employing ordinary cell phones. The security of a call is only as good as its weakest link.”
Boot acknowledges that Hillary Clinton was guilty of “security lapses” — but stresses that they don’t hold a candle to Trump’s.
“The only thing more appalling than Trump’s cavalier disregard for the basic requirements of handling classified information is the complete lack of concern by his followers who were once so exercised by Clinton’s far more innocuous security lapses,” Boot asserts. “They are championship hypocrites too. I never want to hear about Hillary’s e-mails again as long as I live.”
The Violence Against Women Act expired in February. While the Democratic House has responded, passing an expanded reauthorization of it in April, Moscow Mitch McConnell has refused to take it up in the Senate. The House bill extends protections for LGBTQ and Native American victims of domestic violence, which Republicans in the Senate (the House bill passed with some Republican votes) just don’t want to allow.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, had been trying to work with Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa to get a version done in the Senate. That didn’t work, so Feinstein attempted to bring up the House bill in the Senate. Ernst blocked her, insisting that she has her own bill and that it’s the only one that can pass the Senate. Except that, so far, it can’t. Jennifer Bendery at HuffPost reports that it doesn’t have Republican support, even among all of the conference’s women. Because her bill eliminates the protections provided for Native American women in the 2013 reauthorization of the VAWA and puts added, unnecessary restrictions on tribal courts, it’s unacceptable to plenty of Republicans and most particularly to Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Murkowski has all but said she’d oppose the bill.
“I want to emphasize the importance of passing a bipartisan VAWA bill with a strong tribal provision which empowers our tribal governments and respects tribal sovereignty,” Murkowski said during a separate hearing on her legislation on missing and murdered indigenous women. VAWA is a separate bill, but she made a point of speaking out in this venue. “I know we’ve got a Democrat version, we’ve got a Republican version out there. There is nothing―there is nothing partisan about making sure that Native women are protected.” That means Ernst’s bill is out for her. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine agrees, her spokesperson told Bendery, saying she wants strong protections for victims and prosecution for abusers “regardless of whether their crimes were committed on tribal or non-tribal lands.” Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi isn’t co-sponsoring Ernst’s bill at the moment because of “concerns raised by some constituents,” and Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona is not a co-sponsor and didn’t respond to Bendery’s request for comment.
In order for the House bill to be passed, the Senate would have to buck the NRA, which isn’t likely to happen. The House bill closes the “boyfriend loophole” in background check laws. As it stands, an abusive romantic partner who isn’t married to or living with or doesn’t have a child with a victim isn’t subject to background checks in purchasing firearms, even if the victim has taken out a restraining order against them. The NRA has vociferously fought this provision and McConnell’s office won’t commit to a time frame for any action on it.
So, thanks to McConnell and the NRA and the bigotry of a majority of Republicans, the VAWA, with the extra funding it provides for the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, is essentially dead.
Former South Carolina governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley stepped in it on Friday afternoon after making the bizarre claim that the Confederate flag was a symbol of “service, and sacrifice, and heritage” until convicted murderer Dylann Roof “hijacked” it.
During an interview with conservative talk show host Glenn Beck, Haley stated, ““Here is this guy who comes out with this manifesto, holding the Confederate flag. And [he] had just hijacked everything that people thought of. We don’t have hateful people in South Carolina — there’s always the small minority, that’s always going to be there — but people saw it as service and sacrifice and heritage, but once he did that, there was no way to overcome it.”
Haley’s remarks were harshly condemned across the board for pandering as well as being historically wrong.
You can see some responses below:
Nikki Haley says the Confederate flag was about “service, and sacrifice, and heritage” until Dylan Roof “hijacked” it pic.twitter.com/pqdhKIezRl
— Jason Campbell (@JasonSCampbell) December 6, 2019
BREAKING: Nikki Haley all in on the David Duke vote.
— larryleclair (@larryleclair) December 6, 2019
— Christine Galea (@chrisgalea) December 6, 2019
It’s about slaves, Nikki. I was always about slaves and your ancestors were dark enough to qualify. You should be ashamed.
— Tom Woods (@realdramaimp) December 6, 2019
This is a deeply insensitive and ignorant thing to say Nikki. There is no room for any defense of the confederate flag. https://t.co/evVfyAeOmg
— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) December 6, 2019
“A student holds a Confederate flag in front of Little Rock Central High School, which had been scheduled to integrate, in September 1957.” There’s a special place in hell for her. pic.twitter.com/2EtLiQl6ic
— The Left (@n0rbizness) December 6, 2019
Pleading to trump to make her the VP right here.
— PCR RitesGood (@pcrritesgood) December 6, 2019
She looks like hell.
Selling out is corrosive.
— Unvarnished Truth™ (@SRMillar3) December 6, 2019
More of a bullhorn than a wink.
— Miro Kujin (@slim_mirokujin) December 6, 2019
Nikki is on a spectacular career destroying losing streak. Doesn’t she have any sane advisers?
— Hank Hampshire (@HankHampshire) December 6, 2019
Seriously? What is she trying to accomplish with that statement? Does it pander to a voter base she’s interested in? Using Haley’s “logic” that the German Nazi flag was also about “service, and sacrifice, and heritage” – until it was hijacked by American Nazi’s.
— Grey Matter (@outofmemind) December 6, 2019
[email protected] is going to go full Lindsey Graham before this is over.
— David Rothschild (@DavMicRot) December 6, 2019
The Confederate flag was never about service, sacrifice or heritage. It’s always been a memorial to white supremacy & slavery.
— And The Tweet Goes On (@lacadri34) December 6, 2019
Ah yes, until Dylan Roof hijacked it. pic.twitter.com/0jSwsWnN8z
— Jared Olguin (@RhymesWithBeans) December 6, 2019
— The Grand Poobah! 👑 (@MrTamhas) December 6, 2019
The amount of money the U.S. government has spent trying to wipe out Afghan opium since it invaded the country in 2002 has now reached $8.94 billion, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) noted in his latest quarterly report to Congress on October 30.
Afghanistan is far and away the world’s largest opium producer and has been for the entire period since the U.S. invaded and occupied the country in late 2001. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) 2018 Afghan Opium Survey, Afghan farmers were cultivating about 150,000 acres of opium poppies in the late 1990s, but around 300,000 acres a year in the mid-2000s.
As the U.S. occupation dragged on, opium cultivation generally climbed throughout the 2010s, peaking at more than 800,000 acres in 2017. That equates to about nine tons of raw opium produced that year, with the heroin produced from it going into the veins of addicts from Lahore to London.
The SIGAR report also noted that although drought had caused poppy cultivation to drop by 20 percent last year, “it remained at the second-highest level since the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) began monitoring it in 1994.”
So, despite spending nearly $9 billion, the U.S. war on Afghan opium has not only not succeeded but has seen the poppy foe steadily gain ground. And even though drought struck the crop in 2018, opium still exceeded the value of all of Afghanistan’s licit exports combined and accounted for between 6 and 11 percent of its Gross Domestic Product.
For Sanho Tree, director of the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and a longtime observer of U.S. policies aimed at drug-producing countries—not just Afghanistan—the SIGAR report spoke volumes.
“Over a similar period in Colombia, the U.S. wasted $10 billion,” he said. “I guess we can conclude the drug war failed more efficiently in Afghanistan.”
To be fair, the U.S. effort against opium has faced huge hurdles. Because of its crucial role in the national economy, providing hundreds of thousands of jobs to farmworkers and incomes to farmers, moves to suppress the crop meet entrenched resistance—and that’s where the national government is in control.
But the Taliban controls roughly half the country, and in those areas, it doesn’t try to repress the opium trade, but to tax it. According to a BBC report, the Taliban generates somewhere between $100 million and $400 million from taxes on opium farmers, producers, and traders. That’s not the bulk of Taliban revenues, but it is a significant boost for the insurgency.
When it comes to suppressing illicit drug crops, there are three main approaches: eradication, interdiction, and alternative development. According to the new SIGAR report, all three have proven ineffectual in Afghanistan.
Interdiction—the effort to suppress the trade by arresting traffickers and seizing drugs—has been the bailiwick of Afghan security forces funded by the U.S. But the SIGAR report notes that despite their “strong performance” and their “improved capabilities over the years,” their activities have had “minimal impact on the country’s opium-poppy cultivation and production.” It notes that all opium seizures since 2002 only add up to about 8 percent of the production of the single year of 2018.
Eradication isn’t going very well, either. With the Afghan government announcing early this year that is was abolishing the Ministry of Counter Narcotics and moving its functions to other government entities, essentially no eradication took place this year, the SIGAR report found. Only about one thousand acres were eradicated last year and two thousand the year before. And Helmand province, the biggest poppy producer, saw no eradication at all between 2016 and 2018.
“Eradication efforts have had minimal impact on curbing opium-poppy cultivation,” the SIGAR report concluded. “The Afghan government has struggled to perform eradication due to the security challenges in poppy-growing areas. Since 2008, on average, annual eradication efforts resulted in eradicating only 2% of the total yearly opium-poppy cultivation.”
That may not be a bad thing, said Tree.
“Forced eradication usually forces peasant farmers into food insecurity,” he explained. “Panic sets in. How will they feed their families next week, next month, or next year? What’s the one crop they know how to grow, for which there are ready and willing buyers, and doesn’t require transportation infrastructure like bulky fruits and vegetables? Of course, farmers replant! But this time, they’ve had to borrow money from traffickers to survive and they become even more ensnared in the drug economy.”
The third leg of the anti-drug effort is alternative development. But of the nearly $9 billion the U.S. has invested in the Afghan drug war, less than 5 percent has gone to such programs. The U.S. AID Regional Agricultural Development Plan has received $221 million since 2002, while another $173 million has been spent on alternative development programs. The Defense Department, meanwhile, spent $4.57 billion on counter-narcotics during the same period.
But alternative development efforts appear to be waning. An important program, the Good Performers Initiative, which sought to encourage provincial level anti-drug efforts, ended this year with the transfer of its last two programs to the Afghan government. But even here, the SIGAR report found, “the program was deemed ‘ineffectual at curbing opium cultivation.’”
It appears that no matter how many billions the U.S. spends to wipe out Afghan opium, its money flushed down the drain. Maybe it’s time to try something different.
Phillip Smith is a writing fellow and the editor and chief correspondent of Drug Reporter, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has been a drug policy journalist for the past two decades. He is the longtime author of the Drug War Chronicle, the online publication of the non-profit StopTheDrugWar.org, and has been the editor of AlterNet’s Drug Reporter since 2015. He was awarded the Drug Policy Alliance’s Edwin M. Brecher Award for Excellence in Media in 2013.
This article was produced by Drug Reporter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
Another day, another truly baffling series of words coming from President Donald Trump’s mouth.
Speaking at a White House meeting on Friday about small business and regulation, Trump went on one of his trademark riffs, touching on a number of subjects with the clarity of a muddy puddle. He seemed to be referring to a series of complaints that have been raised over the years about various consumer product regulations (a favorite topic of Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky) but without making a coherent point about any of them.
Read the whole stream of consciousness rant to get a sense of what it was like:
The light bulb — they got rid of the light bulb that people got used to. The new bulb is many times more expensive and — I hate to say it — it doesn’t make you look as good. Of course, being a vain person, that’s very important to me. It’s like — it gives you an orange look. I don’t want an orange look. Has anyone noticed that? So we’ll have to change those bulbs in at least a couple rooms where I am in the White House. … We have a situation where we’re looking very strongly at sinks and showers. And other elements of bathrooms — where you turn the faucet on, in areas where there’s tremendous amounts of water, where the water rushes out to sea because you could never handle it — and you don’t get any water. You turn on the faucet and you don’t get any water. They take a shower and water comes dripping out, just dripping out, very quietly, dripping out. People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once. They end up using more water. So EPA is looking at that very strongly, at my suggestion. You go into a new building, or a new house or a new home, and they have standards where you don’t get water. You can’t wash your hands practically, so little water comes out of the faucet. And the end result is you leave the faucet on and it takes you much longer to wash your hands. .. For the most part. you have many states where they have so much water, it comes down — it’s called rain. They don’t know what to do with it. … A lot of things we do are based on common sense. If I didn’t get elected you wouldn’t have a steel industry. … We weren’t going to have a steel industry.
So there’s a lot going on here, so much so that we might have to leave it to the historians to unravel what he’s on about. Clearly, Trump seems to be referring to things he’s heard about or discussed over the years or in meetings but with little comprehension. While he lists a series of consumer complaints, he isn’t able to actually point to any specific regulations that they are the result of, or how those regulations were developed or could be improved.
Many observers zeroed in on Trump’s claim about flushing toilets “10 times, 15 times,” a particularly absurd and comical remark:
Uh… what…? https://t.co/gHTirclxbL
— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) December 6, 2019
Trump was just ranting about how toilets don’t flush hard enough and light bulbs don’t make him look the color he wished they would.
It’s like he wants other world leaders to laugh at him even harder next time.
— Liddle’ Savage (@littledeekay) December 6, 2019
Believe me, a guy from Queens knows Flushing. https://t.co/s3Xmz6C1iz
— Robert The Red Knows Rain, Dear (@RobGeorge) December 6, 2019
Just POTUS in WH on an extended harangue about he can’t get his toilet to flush. Normal stuff.
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) December 6, 2019
I thought this was an internet joke. It’s not. Sir Flush-Lot speaks. https://t.co/0PQGA4Som0
— Barbara Malmet (@B52Malmet) December 6, 2019
[email protected] said it best on Trump’s toilet comments: “If a normal person talked like this you’d take their car keys away.”
— Max Burns (@themaxburns) December 6, 2019
Writing for New York Magazine, Josh Barro did the world the favor of explaining what Trump seemed to be talking about, and why he is, in fact, wrong regardless:
President Trump’s attitudes and fixations often seem stuck in the 1980s, so perhaps it’s a step forward that he issued this very 1990s gripe. What the president said is not true anymore. But ‘90s kids know it used to be true — okay, not literally true that you had to flush ten times, but true enough in the sense that the first generation of low-flush toilets, introduced when the regulation capping toilet flushes at 1.6 gallons per flush came into effect in 1994, worked poorly and often required multiple flushes.
Barro continued: “But that was then, and in the intervening two decades, there have been major advances in toilet technology. Now, as far as I can tell, toilets are just as good at clearing the bowl with 1.6 gallons of water as they used to be with 3.5 gallons of water. Modern toilets address the problem that less water means less power by finding ways other than volume to increase flush power, or by reducing the amount of force needed to clear the bowl.”
He added: “Far from being an example of regulation run amok, the history of low-flush toilets is a demonstration of how private enterprises successfully innovate to follow new rules while preserving the customer experience.”
Cody Fenwick is a senior editor at AlterNet. He writes about politics, media and science. Follow him on Twitter @codytfenwick.
After weeks of persistent Republican complaints that the White House was being blocked from defending Donald Trump in the House impeachment inquiry, the White House has apparently decided to take a hard pass on even attempting to defend Trump. About 20 minutes before a 5:00 PM ET deadline to inform House Democrats if they would participate in House Judiciary Committee hearings, White House counsel Pat Cipollone sent a letter lacing into Judiciary chair Jerrold Nadler, mocking the proceeding, and encouraging him to end the inquiry.
“House Democrats have wasted enough of America’s time with this charade,” Cipollone wrote to Nadler, charging that adopting articles of impeachment would a “reckless abuse of power.” While Cipollone failed to state precisely whether the White House would mount a defense of Trump, he seemed anxious to proceed to the trial in the GOP-led Senate, which will presumably provide a more favorable setting for Trump.
“Whatever you choose, as the President has recently stated: ‘if you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate, and so that our Country can get back to business,’” he concluded.
As a nice touch, Cipollone opened the letter by accusing Democrats of violating “basic principles of due process and fundamental fairness” even as he punted on participating.
As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated earlier Friday: “Anything they have that is exculpatory, this is their moment…But they have a consciousness of guilt, and that’s why they may not show up. We’ll see. Maybe they will. They have till 5 o’clock.” In short, Trump’s actions are indefensible.
Check out the letter below.
JUST IN: The White House tells Congress to just get the impeachment over with — doesn’t directly indicate its plans for participating in the House impeachment hearings. pic.twitter.com/nB5rvAwnZ4
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) December 6, 2019
In a column celebrating the first anniversary of Donald Trump declaring himself “Tariff Man,” New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman attempted to explain the president’s love of tariffs and noted that the negative economic impact in the past year has surpassed even the worst expectations.
Wryly noting Trump self-identification as “Tariff Man” was a rare occasion of the president telling the truth, Krugman wrote, “At this point I’ve lost count of how many times markets have rallied in the belief that Trump was winding down his trade war, only to face announcements that a much-anticipated deal wasn’t happening or that tariffs were being slapped on a new set of products or countries.”
Before getting into Trump’s motivation for seemingly arbitrary economic meddling, Krugman took a look at the damaging economic impact.
“A peculiar aspect of the Trump economy is that while overall growth has been solid, the areas of weakness have come precisely in those things Trump tried to stimulate,” he wrote. “Remember, Trump’s only major legislative accomplishment was a huge tax cut for corporations that was supposed to lead to a surge in investment. Instead, corporations pocketed the money, and business investment has been falling.”
Pointing out that U.S. manufacturing is collapsing at the same time that the trade deficit is growing, the economist stated that the president’s critics’ worst fears have come true far beyond what they predicted.
“The truth is that even economists who opposed Trump’s tax cuts and tariffs are surprised by how badly they’re working out,” Krugman explained. “The most commonly given explanation for these bad results is that Trumpian tariff policy is creating a lot of uncertainty, which is giving businesses a strong incentive to postpone any plans they might have for building new factories and adding jobs.”
“So Trump’s trade war is losing, not gaining, support,” he continued, before asking, “Nevertheless, Trump persists. Why?”
Pointing out that Trump has never been one to let facts get in the way of his beliefs, the economist suggests the president is less interested in trade policy and more interested in flexing his muscles in an effort to not only show off how powerful he is but also to reward his friends.
“This system worked well for many years. It turned out, however, to be extremely vulnerable to someone like Trump, for whom everything is partisan and expertise is a four-letter word,” he wrote. “Trump’s tariff justifications have often been self-evidently absurd — seriously, who imagines that imports of Canadian steel threaten U.S. national security? But there’s no obvious way to stop him from imposing tariffs whenever he feels like it.”
“Tariff policy isn’t the only arena in which Trump can practice crony capitalism — federal contracting is looking increasingly scandalous — but tariffs are especially ripe for exploitation. So that’s why Trump is a Tariff Man: Tariffs let him exercise unconstrained power, rewarding his friends and punishing his enemies,” he concluded.
You can read more here.
The GOP mass exodus is continuing. U.S. Rep. George Holding (R-NC) is among the latest Republican members of Congress to announce they will retire rather than seek re-election. For the 116th Congress, there are now 25 Republicans who have either quit or announced they will not seek re-election in 2020.
Congressman Holding, whose record includes opposition to the right of same-sex couples to marry and opposition to the Violence Against Women Act, announced he is retiring rather than running for re-election after a federal court forced the State of North Carolina to redraw its extremely gerrymandered congressional district maps. Holding would have been forced to run in a district that will be less Republican.
Holding supported North Carolina’s attack on its LGBTQ population, veterans, and the disabled. HB2 made it illegal for transgender people to use public restrooms that correspond with their gender identity. It also stripped civil rights protections for LGBTQ people, veterans, and the disabled by nullifying all local ordinances designed to protect those groups.
“It has also been gratifying to work for the ideals and values that I, like many other Americans, believe in,” Holding said in a statement announcing his resignation, The Hill reports. Axios adds that “Holding’s decision to leave Congress is one of the first major impacts of North Carolina’s new maps, which still favor Republicans in eight out of the state’s 13 congressional seats.”
Many U.S. military members publicly disavowed President Trump’s decision to pardon Edward Gallagher, the former SEAL commando convicted of killing a teenage detainee in Iraq in 2017.
Gallagher’s alleged war crimes were nearly universally condemned up the chain of command, from enlisted men to Navy Secretary Richard Spencer. Indeed, it was Gallagher’s SEAL colleagues who reported the former commando’s actions.
This insistence on holding fellow service members accountable for bad behavior sharply differentiates the military from the police.
When police are revealed to have killed an unarmed suspect or used excessive force during arrest, police generally defend those actions. Cops who report wrongdoing are routinely ostracized as “rats” and denied promotions, according to a 1998 Human Rights Watch study. Researchers identify this so-called “blue wall of silence” – the refusal to “snitch” on other officers – as a defining feature of U.S. cop culture today.
Yet both soldiers and police officers put their lives on the line for their team every day. So what explains these two armed forces’ divergent attitudes toward bad behavior?
As a military lawyer and scholar, I’ve studied this unique aspect of American military ethics.
U.S. military culture stresses organizational, rather than personal, loyalty. When Gallagher’s SEAL colleagues reported him, they were doing what Navy SEALs are taught to do: They put the good of the institution before the individual.
And the pride Marines famously feel, for instance, comes from being part of this well-respected Corps. Personal relationships with other Marines are of secondary importance.
Accountability for individual misdeeds is written into U.S. military law. Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, culpability for criminal conduct is not avoided simply because a superior ordered a criminal act to be committed. Only lawful orders are to be followed.
“A soldier is reasoning agent,” a military court explained in the 1991 case U.S. v. Kinder, in which a soldier who killed a civilian was convicted of murder on the grounds that his superior’s order to do so was obviously illegal and should have been reported.
“It is a fallacy of widespread consumption that a soldier is required to do everything a superior officers tells him to do,” the ruling concluded, referencing the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals after World War II.
Not every soldier follows the rules, of course. The U.S. military has covered up atrocities.
The most notorious of these cases include the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam, in which women and children were killed. In 2003, U.S. soldiers badly mistreated detainees at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.
But deeply ingrained military ethics generally make military members wary of the kind of group think that holds up the “blue wall of silence” in police departments.
The police detective Frank Serpico made the power of the blue wall infamous. While working for the NYPD in the 1960’s, Serpico observed his colleagues running racketeering operations and punching suspects for fun. When he brought the corruption to light, he was shot in the face in a set-up orchestrated by fellow officers.
This ethic is alive and well today, as former Baltimore detective Joe Crystal learned in 2011. Crystal was a rising star in the Baltimore police department. But after telling his superiors that a fellow officer brutally beat a handcuffed suspect, he was demoted, threatened and harassed until he quit.
“If you snitch, your career is done,” he was told, according to a 2011 lawsuit Crystal filed against the department for failing to protect him from retaliation.
Police reluctance to report a fellow officer stems from the politicization of police brutality incidents and the widespread perception among police that nobody outside law enforcement understands their dangerous jobs, research shows. Frustrated at being judged by civilians and public officials who don’t face the life-and-death decisions they do, cops tend to close ranks when things go wrong, police monitors find.
No political interference
The military is also wary of political interference in military matters. That’s why it takes internal justice seriously.
The Department of Defense is the only governmental organization allowed to operate its own internal criminal justice system – a privilege as remarkable as it is fragile.
The civilian judiciary has long been skeptical of the military’s judicial system. The courts used to worry about due process, particularly the ability of military commanders to improperly influence the outcome of trials. In 1969, the Supreme Court severely restricted the jurisdiction of military courts.
“Courts-martial as an institution are singularly inept in dealing with the subtleties of constitutional law,” the Court wrote in O’Callahan v. Parker.
That ruling limited the military justice system to handling purely military offenses, such as abandoning their post or behaving insubordinately. Serious allegations like murder and rape had to be tried in civilian courts.
After Congress and the American Bar Association made significant structural changes to strengthen due process in the military, the Supreme Court in 1987 restored the jurisdiction of the courts-martial.
Today, military judicial proceedings are supposed to be free from political interference, even by the Commander-In-Chief.
When Trump turned Gallagher’s court-martial earlier this year into a media spectacle by tweeting his support for the former commando, he almost certainly influenced the outcome of the trial. Gallagher was acquitted of all but one charge and sentenced to time served.
“Glad I could help,” the president later tweeted.
The president also punished the prosecutors who handled Gallagher’s court-martial, revoking their service medals.
When I was the chief of military justice for the California National Guard, I tried dozens of courts-martials, convicting soldiers for larceny, battery and rape.
I could usually get soldiers to level with me, even when telling the truth meant revealing the malfeasance of friends or superiors. They had confidence in the integrity of the military’s legal system, I felt – an understanding that they would be safe if they did the right thing.
In the post-Gallagher era, is that still true? Or will a “camouflage wall of silence” rise?
For months, the names of Michael Horowitz and John Durham have figured in the pounding rhythms of right-wing media in which a heroically afflicted president faces down his perfidious enemies. A steady drumbeat of reports from Fox News, echoed by President Trump and Republican loyalists in Congress, proclaimed these two obscure Justice Department officials would get to the bottom of an alleged conspiracy against the Trump presidency.
They would, in Trump’s words, “investigate the investigators.” It was oh so promising.
“I will tell you this,” Trump blustered on October 25. “I think you’re going to see a lot of really bad things,” he said. “I leave it all up to the attorney general and I leave it all up to the people that are working with the attorney general who I don’t know. … I think you’ll see things that nobody would’ve believed.”
Horowitz, as the DOJ inspector general, had the narrower assignment. He was tasked with investigating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants issued to intercept the communications of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Horowitz had to answer the question: Was Page targeted for political reasons, perhaps based on the famous “Steele Dossier”?
Durham, a senior U.S. attorney in Connecticut, has a broader brief: to review the FBI’s decision to open an investigation of the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russians in 2015. Durham was selected for the job by Barr.
For those inclined to believe Fox News and the president, the “deep state cabal” that allegedly targeted Trump was running scared. In early October, Fox News reported that “Barr and Durham traveled to Italy recently to talk to law enforcement officials there about the probe and have also had conversations with officials in the U.K. and Australia about the investigation.” From this report, the Daily Caller imaginatively extrapolated that Durham’s probe had expanded to include “looking at the activities of foreign intelligence agencies.” (One British official told the Independent that Barr and his minions asked, “in quite robust terms, for help in doing a hatchet job on their own intelligence services.”) On October 22, the Washington Examiner said Durham was “scrutinizing four key figures”; the Spectator, a right-wing British magazine, claimed former CIA director John Brennan was in “Durham’s crosshairs.”
And so on.
‘Things That Nobody Would’ve Believed’
Trump’s words, ironically, are coming true. Horowitz, it is now reliably reported, found that the Trump/Fox News talking points about a “deep state” conspiracy against Trump are, in fact, “things that nobody would’ve believed.”
Horowitz’s report, says USA Today, is “expected to conclude the FBI was justified in launching its two-year inquiry into the Trump campaign and possible ties to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.”
The Washington Post reports that Durham has already disappointed Trump. In the course of Horowitz’s investigation, Durham declined to endorse one key Republican talking point: that one witness, Joseph Mifsud, was actually a CIA or FBI agent deployed to undermine and defeat Trump’s presidential bid.
Durham, according to the Post, has “said he could not offer evidence to the Justice Department’s inspector general to support the suspicions of some conservatives that the case was a setup by American intelligence.” (The Post describes its source as “people familiar with the matter.”)
Those pundits expected Horowitz to side with the president could be detained by mere facts, no matter how public. Remember a couple of hundred news cycles ago—mid-October—when right-wing media was filibustering about the identity of the CIA whistleblower who first brought Trump’s Ukraine pressure campaign to light?
At the time, Horowitz was engaged in a more substantive matter. As inspector general, Horowitz played a leading role in an extraordinary letter, signed by about 70 inspector generals, about the Justice Department’s handling of the whistleblower’s allegation. Although the letter never mentioned the attorney general’s name, its message was a broad rebuke of Barr.
The legal question was far too intricate to generate pleasurable repartee on Twitter. The whistleblower complained in August to the inspector general in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). The DNI is legally bound to pass to Congress only whistleblower complaints of “urgent concern.” Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, passed the buck and asked the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) for guidance. In a secret memo, dated September 3, the OLC decided the whistleblower’s complaint was not an “urgent” matter that had to be passed to Congress.
The OLC, beholden to Barr, took the position that there was no need to tell Congress of the possibility that Trump was withholding congressionally appropriated funds from the beleaguered Ukraine armed forces in order to force the Ukraine president to investigate Joe Biden’s son. The legal logic was fallacious and tortured.
Horowitz’s name topped the list of roughly 70 inspectors general who declared:
“the OLC opinion [written at Barr’s behest] could seriously impair whistleblowing and deter individuals in the intelligence community and throughout the government from reporting government waste, fraud, abuse, and misconduct.”
Of course, the letter was a dud on social media, cable TV, and Fox News. Who cares what a bunch of bureaucrats in Washington think? Horowitz, the hoped-for savior of Trump, had rebuked his boss, along with almost six dozen other senior civil servants in public. His real-world actions were ignored by conservative news outlets hyping imaginative reports on his investigation.
Will John Durham follow Barr’s lead? Or Horowitz’s?
“The modus operandi of this administration is that when they cannot dismiss somebody else’s fact-based conclusions, they create a parallel narrative,” Joel Brenner, a former inspector general at the National Security Agency in the George W. Bush administration, told USA Today.
What kind of narrative will Durham write?
One clue can be heard in “The Report,” a new movie starring Adam Driver about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 2014 report on torture. The name “Durham” is heard exactly once in the movie. And yes, it is a reference to the same John Durham.
Durham is a career Justice Department prosecutor in Connecticut. In 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder assigned him to investigate the CIA’s torture program. It was a delicate assignment. On the one side, he had to poke into the dirty business of a $15 billion-a-year agency that believed it had legal and presidential sanction for “enhanced interrogation techniques.” On the other side, he was working for a popular new president who said the program was abhorrent and a host of lawyers who said it might well be criminal.
Durham, in short, walked into a legal and political minefield. Two years later, he emerged unscathed with a supple, if not evasive, reading of the law. His investigation exonerated the CIA on 99 out of 101 incidents of torture.
Whatever you make of Durham’s report legally and morally, it was politically adroit. The report pleased Obama and Holder, who dodged the need to take on the barons of the national security agencies. His report pleased the CIA, which dodged the bullet of indictments of senior officials who had approved the torture regime, including John Brennan. As a narrative, Durham’s torture report shows that he implicitly shares the worldview of Brennan and other senior national security managers.
He’s also a career prosecutor sure to consider all the facts brought to his attention.
Trump was enraged and threatened by national security leaks, even before he took office. Did Brennan et al commit any technical violations of the Espionage Act in talking to reporters about the president-elect’s Russian contacts? Quite possibly. Would John Durham go out on a legal limb to prosecute former top U.S. officials on behalf of Barr and Trump, who will be gone from Washington in five years at the maximum? That seems highly unlikely.
As Trump sails into the high seas of a Senate impeachment trial, Durham’s report on the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation is not likely to be a lifeline.
Jefferson Morley is a writing fellow and the editor and chief correspondent of the Deep State, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has been a reporter and editor in Washington, D.C., since 1980. He spent 15 years as an editor and reporter at the Washington Post. He was a staff writer at Arms Control Today and Washington editor of Salon. He is the editor and co-founder of JFK Facts, a blog about the assassination of JFK. His latest book is The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster, James Jesus Angleton.
This article was produced by the Deep State, a project of the Independent Media Institute.