Archive for the ‘Presidential pardons’ category

Trump Pardons Joe Arpaio

August 26, 2017

Trump Pardons Joe Arpaio, Power Line,  Paul Mirengoff, August 26, 2017

Arpaio was accused by the Obama Justice Department and other left-wingers of targeting Hispanics. Indeed, the legal case that led to his conviction arose from claims of racial profiling. But in Maricopa County, the illegal immigrant population is overwhelmingly Hispanic. Had the County been plagued by mass illegal immigration by Koreans, chances are Sheriff Joe would have targeted Asians. And he would have been right to do so. Sheriffs shouldn’t be expected to check their common sense at the door.

Some may defend the pardon by comparing it to egregious pardons of the past, like President Clinton’s pardon of wealthy fugitive Marc Rich and President Obama’s pardon of a Puerto Rican terrorist. Arguing from these outliers strikes me as misguided. Their pardons were so flagrantly unjust that the same argument could be used to defend a great many indefensible pardons.

No such argument is required to defend Trump’s pardon of Arpaio. It was a reasonable exercise of the pardon power.

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President Trump today issued a pardon to the man he calls “Sheriff Joe” — Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. Arpaio was convicted of failing to follow a court order to end the practice of detaining people based on the suspicion that they lack legal status and turning them over to the border patrol.

The White House provided this explanation of the pardon:

Arpaio’s life and career, which began at the age of 18 when he enlisted in the military after the outbreak of the Korean War, exemplify selfless public service. After serving in the Army, Arpaio became a police officer in Washington, D.C. and Las Vegas, NV and later served as a Special Agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), formerly the Bureau of Narcotics. After 25 years of admirable service, Arpaio went on to lead the DEA’s branch in Arizona.

In 1992, the problems facing his community pulled Arpaio out of retirement to return to law enforcement. He ran and won a campaign to become Sheriff of Maricopa County. Throughout his time as Sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration. Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now eighty-five years old, and after more than fifty years of admirable service to our Nation, he is worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon.

I think there should be a strong presumption against granting pardons. I would prefer that the judicial system, flawed though it is, have the final word on the fate of those who are, or who may be, before it.

But if presidential pardons are going to be granted, and every modern president has granted them, it seems to me that Arpaio is a good candidate, basically for the reasons set forth by the White House. Sheriffs shouldn’t defy court orders. But in a real sense, Arpaio’s crime consists of being overzealous in combating illegal immigration.

It arose in the context of lack of zealousness on the part of the federal government. According to this account, the judge found Arpaio couldn’t detain those who lack legal status because that’s the federal government’s job. But the feds hadn’t been doing that job.

Arpaio was accused by the Obama Justice Department and other left-wingers of targeting Hispanics. Indeed, the legal case that led to his conviction arose from claims of racial profiling. But in Maricopa County, the illegal immigrant population is overwhelmingly Hispanic. Had the County been plagued by mass illegal immigration by Koreans, chances are Sheriff Joe would have targeted Asians. And he would have been right to do so. Sheriffs shouldn’t be expected to check their common sense at the door.

To be sure, the pardon of Arpaio is, at least in part, a political act by a president who campaigned on a tough-as-nails immigration policy and who received Arpaio’s backing. But there’s a pretty good argument that the prosecution of Arpaio was also political.

It was the highly politicized, left-wing Obama Justice Department that chose to prosecute Arpaio in connection with the hot button political issue of enforcing immigration laws. The judge whose order Arpaio defied apparently was satisfied with civil contempt. Team Obama went criminal on the octogenarian sheriff. And it did so, according to Arpaio’s lawyers, just two weeks before he stood for reelection.

The pardon thus can be said to represent a political end to a political case.

Some may defend the pardon by comparing it to egregious pardons of the past, like President Clinton’s pardon of wealthy fugitive Marc Rich and President Obama’s pardon of a Puerto Rican terrorist. Arguing form these outliers strikes me as misguided. Their pardons were so flagrantly unjust that the same argument could be used to defend a great many indefensible pardons.

No such argument is required to defend Trump’s pardon of Arpaio. It was a reasonable exercise of the pardon power.

A Last, Desperate Plea to Excuse Hamas Support

January 12, 2017

A Last, Desperate Plea to Excuse Hamas Support, Investigative Project on Terrorism, January 12, 2017

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As President Obama’s tenure reaches its final days, Islamists in the United States are waging a furious lobbying campaign aimed at securing the freedom of five men convicted of illegally routing millions of dollars to Hamas.

An open campaign urges the president to pardon five former officials from the defunct, Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), casting them as victims of “anti-Muslim hysteria” triggered by the 9/11 attacks. In 2008, a jury convicted the five – Shukri Abu Baker, Ghassan Elashi, Mohammed El-Mezain, Abdulrahman Odeh and Mufid Abdulqader – of using a network of Palestinian charities controlled by Hamas to funneling money to the terrorist group.

It is not clear whether the requests to pardon the five, or to commute their sentences and release them from prison, is being considered seriously. Obama’s pardons thus far involved somewhat less serious crimes including fraud, embezzlement and non-violent drug offenses.

But advocates are pushing social media campaigns and online petitions aimed at securing a pardon, or, short of that, a commutation of the five men’s sentences to set them free. The campaign also has enlisted support from at least one member of Congress.

Left unspoken is an undeniable truth behind the pardon/commutation campaign, and behind any ongoing defense of the Holy Land Foundation: Advocates do not believe Hamas support is wrong.

The Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA) is leading the charge, supported by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and pro-Palestinian groups.

CAIR’s appeal provided a White House switchboard number for supporters to call and request commutations. Some sites even include contact information for key members of Congress, urging supporters to emphasize the “cruelly disproportionate” length of sentences – from a low of 15 years for El-Mezain, to 65-year terms for Baker and Elashi.

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CAIR’s Arizona director Imraan Siddiqui described the prosecution as “a political lynching of charity workers … Its effects still haunt American Muslims.”

After reviewing the entire record in 2011, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals saw it quite differently.

Pleas from the MLFA and Siddiqi ignore the exhibits – many of them internal HLF and related documents – showing the family ties between some defendants and Hamas leaders, a reliance on Hamas officials to speak at HLF fundraisers along with other, consistent pro-Hamas messages.

In addition, records show, HLF (formerly known as the Occupied Land Fund) was part of a network called the “Palestine Committee” in the United States. That committee answered to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s mandate that global chapters create “Palestine Committees” in their home countries. Their task was “to support Hamas from abroad,” the Fifth Circuit noted in upholding the convictions and sentences. In the United States, that task fell in part to Hamas political leader Mousa Abu Marzook, who helped create HLF and two other branches – a propaganda wing known as the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) and a think-tank called the United Association for Studies and Research (UASR).

CAIR was added to the Palestine Committee after its 1994 founding.

“The evidence showed that the long-standing connection between HLF and Hamas began in the late 1980s when HLF arose as a fundraising arm for the Palestine Committee …” the appeals court ruling said. “This fact was notably evident from the … [internal Palestine Committee] documents, which showed that HLF was created along with the IAP.” In addition, Palestine Committee bylaws “specifically recognized HLF as ‘the official organization for fundraising.'”

HLF apologists claim the group was merely interested in helping needy widows and orphans. But, the court pointed out, the orphans included Yehia Ayyash’s children. Ayyash was Hamas’s top bomb maker, nicknamed “The Engineer,” before being killed by Israel.

“An audio tape from 1996 that was seized from HLF’s offices contained songs praising Hamas and discussions of suicide bombers as heroes,” the ruling said.

“We believe that a jury could not help but infer from the above evidence that the defendants had a close association with Hamas and that HLF acted to fund Hamas both before and after Hamas’s designation as a terrorist organization.”

Still, CAIR’s Texas chapter called the five convicted HLF officials “humanitarians,” and described their imprisonment as “an immense wrong.” It cited defense attorney Nancy Hollander’s claim that there was no evidence showing her client, HLF executive director Shukri Abu Baker, breaking the law. “Not a word from his lips that he hated Jews. Not a word from his lips that he supported Hamas. These were fictions,” Hollander said.

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That cannot be said for Mufid Abdulqader, who performed and acted in a singing troupe that helped raise money for HLF at IAP events. In this video, admitted into evidence during the 2008 trial, he is shown wearing camouflage and a kaffiyeh as he sings, “I am Hamas, O dear ones … I swear to wipe out the name of the Zionist. And protect my land, Palestine.” Then, he pretends to strangle an actor portraying an Israeli.

Hollander failed to mention that Baker ran HLF and was responsible for who spoke and what was said at its fundraisers. Those events routinely featured Hamas leaders and activists. She also neglected to mention her client’s participation in a secret 1993 Philadelphia gathering of Hamas members and supporters who schemed about how to “derail” the U.S.-brokered Oslo peace accord without coming off looking like terror supporters.

It was Baker who set a key ground rule for the talks, which were secretly recorded and translated by the FBI: No one should mention Hamas by name, he instructed. Instead, call it “Sister Samah,” which is Hamas spelled backward.

The gathering, Baker said, was “a joint workshop between the Holy Land Foundation and the IAP.” Participants should not mention Hamas by name.

Hollander then compared the HLF case – brought against a handful of men with documented and recorded connections to Hamas – to the mass internment of 117,000 Japanese American men, women and children during World War II.

The current campaign would settle for a sentencing commutation, essentially freeing the men on time served. The sentences, from 15 to 65 years in prison, were overly harsh, advocates say.

But the Fifth Circuit had considered this, too, rejecting defense department arguments. Its ruling noted that the probation office’s presentence recommendations included significant terrorism enhancements because HLF gave money to Hamas “in order to rid Palestine of the Jewish people through violent jihad, HAMAS’ mission.”

It added that “the trial was replete with evidence to satisfy application of the terrorism enhancement because of the defendants’ intent to support Hamas. The Hamas charter clearly delineated the goal of meeting the Palestinian/Israeli conflict with violent jihad and the rejection of peace efforts and compromise solutions. The defendants knew that they were supporting Hamas, as there was voluminous evidence showing their close ties to the Hamas movement.”

Those claiming the HLF defendants suffered an injustice, or that they somehow deserve relief, lie about this record or pretend it does not exist. To acknowledge reality is to shatter their own argument, or to come clean about their true feelings about Hamas terrorism. They know that’s a losing hand. It’s something Shukri Abu Baker talked about in that 1993 Philadelphia meeting.

They need to mislead people if they are going to be successful, Baker said.

“War is deception,” he said. “Deceive, camouflage, pretend that you’re leaving while you’re walking that way … Deceive your enemy.”

Former AG Under Contempt Of Congress: “Deeply Concerned” Over Comey’s Actions

October 31, 2016

Former AG Under Contempt Of Congress: “Deeply Concerned” Over Comey’s Actions, Hot Air, Ed Morrissey, October 31, 2016

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Nothing will start a morning off with a good laugh more than an op-ed from Eric Holder touting his record of fighting public corruption. The former Attorney General, who earned a contempt citation from Congress and who participated in one of the most corrupt presidential pardons in US history, took time out from his retirement to wag his finger at James Comey because the FBI director kept Congress informed. Why, Holder writes, that goes against everything I did as AG!

That may actually be one good argument in favor of Comey:

I began my career in the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section 40 years ago, investigating cases of official corruption. In the years since, I have seen America’s justice system firsthand from nearly every angle — as a prosecutor, judge, attorney in private practice, and attorney general of the United States. I understand the gravity of the work our Justice Department performs every day to defend the security of our nation, protect the American people, uphold the rule of law and be fair.

That is why I am deeply concerned about FBI Director James B. Comey’s decision to write a vague letter to Congress about emails potentially connected to a matter of public, and political, interest. That decision was incorrect. It violated long-standing Justice Department policies and tradition. And it ran counter to guidance that I put in place four years ago laying out the proper way to conduct investigations during an election season. That guidance, which reinforced established policy, is still in effect and applies to the entire Justice Department — including the FBI.

Let’s take a moment to recall the career of the man who issued this scolding. Holder most famously stonewalled Congress over the ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious program, which ran guns into Mexico in an attempt to make political hay over allegedly widespread “straw man” purchases of firearms in the US. Instead, the ATF thoroughly botched the operation and dumped thousands of guns into the hands of the drug cartels south of the border; the weapons were later traced to hundreds of murders, including those of two Border Patrol agents. When Congress demanded records and communications from the ATF and the Department of Justice, Holder refused to comply, offering a specious claim of “executive privilege” that only applies to the President. Congress approved a contempt citation that the DoJ refused to enforce, and a later court rejected Holder’s claims of executive privilege.

But Holder cites his earlier work on “public integrity,” too. What did that look like? Well, Holder’s approach to public integrity was to promote pardons for tax fugitives whose friends and family kicked in a lot of dough to the Clintons. Slate’s Justin Peters recalled the case of Marc Rich after his demise, the multibillionaire who got off scot-free thanks to Bill Clinton’s last-minute pardon while on the run for tax evasion:

Eric Holder was the key man. As deputy AG, Holder was in charge of advising the president on the merits of various petitions for pardon. Jack Quinn, a lawyer for Rich, approached Holder about clemency for his client. Quinn was a confidant of Al Gore, then a candidate for president; Holder had ambitions of being named attorney general in a Gore administration. A report from the House Committee on Government Reform on the Rich debacle later concluded that Holder must have decided that cooperating in the Rich matter could pay dividends later on.

Rich was an active fugitive, a man who had used his money to evade the law, and presidents do not generally pardon people like that. What’s more, the Justice Department opposed the pardon—or would’ve, if it had known about it. But Holder and Quinn did an end-around, bringing the pardon to Clinton directly and avoiding any chance that Justice colleagues might give negative input. As the House Government Reform Committee report later put it, “Holder failed to inform the prosecutors under him that the Rich pardon was under consideration, despite the fact that he was aware of the pardon effort for almost two months before it was granted.” …

Since then, Bill Clinton hasn’t stopped apologizing for the pardons of Marc Rich and Pincus Green. “It was terrible politics. It wasn’t worth the damage to my reputation,” he told Newsweek in 2002—and, indeed, speculation was rampant that Rich (and his ex-wife) had bought the pardon by, in part, donating $450,000 to Clinton’s presidential library. Clinton denied that the donations had anything to do with the pardon, instead claiming that he took Holder’s advice on the matter. Holder, for his part, has distanced himself from the pardons as well. As the House Government Reform Committee report put it, he claimed that his support for the pardon “was the result of poor judgment, initially not recognizing the seriousness of the Rich case, and then, by the time that he recognized that the pardon was being considered, being distracted by other matters.”

The excuses are weak. In the words of the committee report, “it is difficult to believe that Holder’s judgment would be so monumentally poor that he could not understand how he was being manipulated by Jack Quinn.”

Before the Washington Post offered its pages to Holder for this scolding on law-enforcement ethics, perhaps they should have consulted their own Richard Cohen. Not exactly a conservative activist, Cohen argued vehemently that Holder’s participation in the Rich pardon should have disqualified him for the AG position:

Holder was not just an integral part of the pardon process, he provided the White House with cover by offering his go-ahead recommendation. No alarm seemed to sound for him. Not only had strings been pulled, but it was rare to pardon a fugitive — someone who had avoided possible conviction by avoiding the inconvenience of a trial. The U.S. attorney’s office in New York — which, Holder had told the White House, would oppose any pardon — was kept ignorant of what was going on. Afterward, it was furious. …

But the pardon cannot be excepted. It suggests that Holder, whatever his other qualifications, could not say no to power. The Rich pardon request had power written all over it — the patronage of important Democratic fundraisers, for instance. Holder also said he was “really struck” by the backing of Rich by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the possibility of “foreign policy benefits that would be reaped by granting the pardon.” This is an odd standard for American justice, but more than that, what was Holder thinking? That U.S.-Israeli relations would suffer? Holder does not sound naive. He sounds disingenuous.

And he sounds just as disingenuous here, too. Perhaps Holder feels that he has the moral standing to argue that Congress should be kept in the dark about executive-branch operations, especially when they have a potentially large impact on the body politic; Holder himself certainly exemplified that in Operation Fast and Furious. Or perhaps Holder’s convinced that the Department of Justice should direct all its efforts to get potential felons off the hook, especially in cases where it benefits the Clintons, and Holder has definitely made that part of his life’s work. But Eric Holder lecturing James Comey for not following the examples he set at the DoJ qualifies as farce, and would get gales of laughter had the political parties been swapped.

An argument might be made that shows Comey misstepped, but this isn’t it — and Eric Holder is near the bottom of any list of former officials with the moral authority for public lectures on clean government.

PS: The Marc Rich pardon continues to pay dividends for the Clintons, too. They did big business with former Rich partner Gilbert Chagoury, even while the FBI looked into his connections to terror groups. We can thank Holder for that, too — a dividend of his 2000 efforts for “public integrity” that paid off for the Clintons over and over again.

David Sirota offers another reason to doubt Holder’s moral standing on questions of public integrity:

Comey may or may not be screwing up. But Eric Holder is an unconvincing voice on how law enforcement should act https://twitter.com/davidsirota/status/792926441755127809 

I’d say my arguments are more directly on point, but YMMV.