Attorney General Eric Holder is under increasing fire from Congressional Republicans for a variety of alleged lapses.
As a progressive blogger, I normally would come to the support of a relatively competent official in a Democratic administration. But Holder has been an abject failure as "the people's lawyer," and if right wingers can force him out, they have my full support.
To put it in blunt terms, Holder is getting what he deserves for allowing a fiasco like the political prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman to remain intact. For that matter, Holder's boss, President Obama, also is having a pretty horrific month of June--and he deserves it for failing to support investigations into gross justice-related abuses during the George W. Bush years.
Andrew Kreig, of the D.C.-based Justice-Integrity Project, puts it in perspective with a splendid piece titled "Obama, Holder Merit Scant Pity After GOP Attacks on DOJ." Writes Kreig:
Republicans on Capitol Hill this week escalated their attacks on Obama administration for alleged national security leaks, fatal lapses in gun-control and supposed interference with state power to curtail voting fraud lapses. Some Republicans are questioning the integrity of Attorney General Eric Holder . . . and calling for his resignation.
Democrats are used to relying on the civil liberties community for support in such battles. But here the facts are still largely hidden. Also, Obama officials who have pooh-poohed domestic civil rights issues for most of their administration don't deserve much support as they withstand attacks, fairly or not, for their own conduct.
Led by Holder, the Obama administration has whitewashed bogus Bush-era political prosecutions in Alabama, New Jersey, North Carolina and elsewhere. Also, it has crushed civil rights protections for torture victims and other detainees and whistleblowers. Further, it has fostered an unprecedented crusade against news reporters such as James Risen of the New York Times who are covering such issues. The DOJ's overall strategy clearly came from high levels at the White House. Why, therefore, should civil rights advocates grieve if Republicans hound Holder and snipe at the White House?
Sounds like a case of "what goes around, comes around." And to answer Kreig's question, civil-rights advocates should sit quietly and let Holder and Obama twist in the wind.
After all, this is an administration that argued against U.S. Supreme Court review of convictions in the Siegelman case, even though public documents raised serious questions about bias from the trial-court judge--and the case was decided on bogus jury instructions. This also is an administration that argued citizens "do not have a right to not be framed" by rogue prosecutors.
Kreig provides important context related to the Siegelman case and other political prosecutions:
Criticism of Holder and Obama from grassroots Democrats and independents on a variety of regional domestic due process issues may have even more impact in undermining perceptions that Obama is committed, as a former law school instructor, to due process and other fairness under the law. The mainstream national media defer to the wisdom of courts and Congress on such matters. But the alternative independent media are filled with reports suggesting that Holder's Justice Department is highly political and self-serving, and willing to sabotage the rights of Democrats and others for short-term reasons.
Such claims are percolating around the country, often involving allegations that our Project has previously documented. The gist is that the Obama Justice Department is pursuing transparently unfair prosecutions trumped up by predecessors in the Bush Justice Department for political reasons.
The most notorious of these cases is the federal prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, convicted of corruption charges in 2006 and this week denied by the Supreme Court of what may be his final appeal before he is resentenced by federal judge Mark Fuller in Alabama. Other notorious cases pursued by the Obama/Holder DOJ include the failed prosecution of former New Jersey assemblyman Louis Manzo initiated by Bush U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, now the state's governor. Another is the failed campaign finance prosecution in North Carolina of former Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards. That case was initiated by Bush U.S. attorney George Holding, now a GOP congressional candidate.
Kreig cites new commentaries that address the Supreme Court's recent decision to deny certiorari review in the Siegelman case. One of those is a Huffington Post piece titled "Corruption, Bribery, and the 'Quid Pro Quo' Conumdrum," by Bennett Gershman, a law professor at Pace University. Writes Gershman:
One point is abundantly clear: a prosecutor's charging power is the most dangerous power of all, because it can be used by prosecutors to target for prosecution almost anyone a prosecutor wants to get. Indeed, a Congressional Committee investigating allegations of selective prosecution by the Bush administration's Justice Department heard abundant testimony supporting that claim by Governor Siegelman -- that he was the most powerful Democrat in Alabama, that state republicans desperately wanted to take him down, and according to a former U.S. Attorney in Alabama, federal prosecutors knew the case was weak but went on a "fishing expedition" to "find anything they could find against [Siegelman]." The Siegelman case may be one of the most egregiously bad faith prosecutions by the Justice Department ever, maybe even worse than the bad faith prosecutions of the late Senator Ted Stevens and John Edwards. Indeed, 113 state Attorneys General of both political parties decried the Siegelman prosecution and supported, unsuccessfully, review by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Judges also make a difference in corruption trials, and the stark difference in verdicts in cases 1 and 2 may be attributable, in part, to the competence and ethics of the presiding judges. Alabama court observers have claimed that the judge in the Siegelman trial -- Mark Fuller -- harbored a strong bias against Siegelman. His bribery instruction to the jury has been assailed for diluting the quid pro quo requirement for bribery -- he did not advise the jury that it had to find an explicit promise or understanding -- before it could convict. Even with that deficient instruction, the jury deliberated 11 days and reported itself deadlocked several times before finding guilt on only a few of the numerous counts.
Ironically, the Supreme Court's decision to deny review of the Siegelman case was announced on June 4. And that seemed to kick off a dreadful month for the Obama administration. How bad has it been. Dana Milbank, of The Washington Post, sums it up succinctly in a column titled "Pileup at the White House." Writes Milbank:
It has been a Junius Horribilis for President Obama.
Job growth has stalled, the Democrats have been humiliated in Wisconsin, the attorney general is facing a contempt-of-Congress citation, talks with Pakistan have broken down, Bill Clinton is contradicting Obama, Mitt Romney is outraising him, Democrats and Republicans alike are complaining about a “cascade” of national-security leaks from his administration, and he is now on record as saying that the “private sector is doing fine.”
Could it get any worse?
It might get worse for Obama on November 6. It might get worse for Holder sooner than that. If it does, they will have nobody but themselves to blame.