Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Smashing Siegelman interview: Shining light on Charlton Heston, Jeff Sessions (gov. in '06?), and a new GOP whistleblower (in addition to Jill Simpson)

Don Siegelman
(Image by Marc Parker,
A 2002 endorsement from actor and NRA president Charlton Heston might have been the spark that caused Republicans to concoct a political prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.

Jeff Sessions, then a U.S. senator and now Trump attorney general, might have played a larger role in the Siegelman prosecution than generally is realized, partly because Sessions was interested in running for governor in 2006.

A new Republican whistleblower has emerged to state under oath that Alabama GOP officials scheduled a meeting to discuss a plan to indict Siegelman in the midst of the 2006 election; this sworn statement, which we have not yet seen, appears to largely confirm Jill Simpson's testimony about a similar meeting, involving Bill Canary, Rob Riley, and other GOP luminaries.

Those are three key takeaways from a fascinating new interview with Siegelman by Marc and Melissa Parker, who publish Smashing Interviews (SI) magazine from their base in Calera, Alabama. This interview truly is smashing, in the most positive sense of the word. It's one of  the most insightful interviews I've read or heard with Siegelman. The former governor seems most comfortable in the print-interview environment, where he can explain himself without commercial interruptions. The Parkers prove to be top-notch miners, searching for journalistic gold among the ruins of a once promising political career, hijacked by Karl Rove and other Republican thugs. They come away with a number of gleaming nuggets, items that are not widely known about the Siegelman odyssey. For example:

Charlton Heston is onboard

Siegelman became the only Democrat in 2002 to receive an endorsement from Charlton Heston. That, Siegelman believes, had major repercussions. Siegelman provides rather lengthy background on what led to the Heston endorsement. But the big story involves the possible fallout. From SI:

It’s a long story. But I honestly think that was when Rove said, “Get that son of a bitch! Kill him!” They were so shocked and could not believe I pulled that off.

My wife and I flew down to Mobile and met Charlton Heston at the hotel. The next morning, he stood before the cameras and endorsed me. I swear I think that’s when they went crazy and said, “We need to make sure we have plan B in place.” Plan B was to steal the election. Having done a pretty good job as governor and having woven my way through the political landmines, I thought it was time for me to challenge Bush on education, the economy and those stupid wars that he got us in that was going to bankrupt us and stir up a hornet’s nest. This was in December of 2002. I made the same speech to the Democratic Governors Association, but obviously I hadn’t been elected, but I was still determined.

Jeff Sessions for governor in 2006?

After Republican operatives stole the 2002 election for Bob Riley, the GOP governor promptly fell into disfavor because of his attempts at tax reform. With Riley cratering in the polls, another Republican thought about jumping into the breach for the 2006 race. That, Siegelman says, was U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions. Siegelman is asked, "So all the dots definitely connect back to Karl Rove?" Here, in part, is Siegelman's response:

All I can say is Karl Rove had to vet Bill Pryor for his judgeship for the Eleventh Circuit. Interestingly enough, as soon as he was appointed, Jeff Sessions made the comment, “We would’ve gotten Bill on the bench earlier, but we needed a Republican governor in place first.” That was 2003. You will remember that Bob Riley pushed his $2 billion tax bill and his popularity sank. My popularity rose. The political surveys in 2003 showed that I was going to just beat the stew out of him in 2006.

At that point, the state Republican Party chairman, Marty Connors, was summoned to Jeff Sessions’ office in Washington where they had a discussion about the parameters under which Jeff would run against me in 2006. Sessions told Connors, “I want a close field for the Republican primary. If Riley is out of there, I’ll leave my Senate seat. I’ll run for governor.” Maybe the discussion centered around who he’d appoint as governor to fill his unexpired term in the US Senate. At that point, Sessions was interested in running for governor in 2006.

Did Sessions want Siegelman out of the way to enhance his own ambitions for the governor's office? Siegelman doesn't go quite that far in the SI interview, but one gets the feeling he is holding some ammunition in reserve. Sessions already is reeling from his connections to Trump and RussiaGate. Being unmasked as a criminal conspirator in the Siegelman case could prove devastating for the man who is supposed to be the nation's top law-enforcement officer.

We suspect the name Marty Connors will come up again in the Siegelman story. He was Alabama GOP chair from 2001 to 2005. Our advice? Remember that name.

Move over Jill Simpson, here comes another GOP whistleblower

Siegelman is asked if Alabama Republicans launched his political prosecution or if it came from Washington, D.C., via orders from George W. Bush to Karl Rove. Here, in part, is Siegelman's reply:

I’m not sure what came first. I do know that Karl Rove said his job was to protect the president politically, and we’ve got sworn testimony that he had directed the Department of Justice to pursue me. There’s another Republican whistleblower that said Rove was invited to a meeting by the Alabama Republican Party chairman where it was to be discussed how they could use Leura Canary to indict me in the middle of the election. He said that Karl Rove was supposed to be in the meeting along with Bob Riley and some other people. I think he mentioned Michael Scanlon.

We think the identity of the second Republican whistleblower -- notice Siegelman's use of the pronoun "he" -- will become known before too long. The whistleblower's statement could become a central part of the former governor's effort to seek justice for having his career ruined and his life (and his family members' lives) turned upside down.

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