Issues, Policy, and Politics – Parts 9 & 10

The following was originally posted on Facebook.

Since some of you don’t follow FB, I thought I would repeat this series here

Part 9

Where is My Roy Cohn?

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were accused spies. They were tried in the early 1950s for giving secrets about the American atom bomb to Russia, convicted, and executed. The only real evidence against them was the testimony of David Greenglass, Julius Rosenberg’s brother-in-law, who admitted to passing the information, and the fact that the Rosenberg’s, who always maintained their innocence, were members of the Communist Party. Many on the left at the time were convinced the only reason they were convicted was that they were communists. The judgement of more recent historians is that they were guilty.

The prosecution team included one Roy Cohn, who was also Joe McCarthy’s chief council and the principle architect of McCarthyism. It could be argued that Cohn was as much or more responsible for the Red Scare purges than his boss. At the least, Cohn has always been known as McCarthy’s “right hand man.”

While the Red Scare is better remembered, there was a parallel movement going on that later became known as the Lavender Scare. McCarthy and Cohn weren’t just afraid of communists. They were also afraid of gays, or “lavender lads” as they were sometimes called.

McCarthy and Cohn linked what they considered to be the madness of communists to the supposed mental imbalances of homosexuals. Throughout government, but particularly in the Department of State, LGBT people were targeted and persecuted. Hearings were held in congress about the homosexual activity within State. People were fired. People were forced out. People committed suicide.

In 1953, President Eisenhower signed Executive Order 10450, which created a laundry list of characteristics as security risks, including “sexual perversion.” This was interpreted as a ban on homosexual employees, and even more firings took place.

It wasn’t until the 1970’s that State Department purges of gays began to end, and it took an executive order by Bill Clinton in 1995 to state that government could not fire someone based on their sexual orientation.

Meanwhile, Roy Cohn resigned from McCarthy’s staff after the Army- McCarthy hearings in 1954 where the army charged that Cohn and McCarthy tried to exert undo influence to the benefit of a friend, G David Schine. These hearings were nationally televised and the conclusions placed blame on Cohn rather than McCarthy, but McCarthy’s popularity suffered and the senate censured him later that year.

Cohn went into private practice in New York. Among his clients were Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno, Carmine Galante, and John Gotti.

In 1973 he took on a new client, Donald Trump.

Trump had been charged by the Justice Department for violation of the Fair Housing Act. They claimed he discriminated against people of color in 39 of his buildings.

Cohn countersued the government on behalf of Trump for $100 million dollars, calling their suit “irresponsible and baseless.” The countersuit failed and Trump settled out of court in 1975 without admitting guilt. In 1978 the Trump organization and Cohn were once again in court to face charges that Trump had violated the 1975 settlement. Cohn dismissed the new case as a rehash of old complaints by a couple of “planted malcontents.”

Cohn’s modus operandi was simple. Once you were his client, you had his complete loyalty. He would do anything, legal or not, to promote your interests. Trump liked that. It has been said that Cohn was Trump’s mentor in the 70’s and that Trump’s admiration for loyalty above all else came right from him. Joe McCarthy’s “right hand man” became Donald Trump’s “mentor.” Michael Cohen, another Trump attorney and fixer, described in congressional testimony the loyalty Trump demanded and GOT from his people.

Cohn introduced Trump to another of his clients, Rupert Murdoch, who became a fast friend of Trump. Cohn also worked for Roger Stone.

In 1986 Cohn was disbarred in the state of New York for unethical and unprofessional conduct, including misappropriation of clients’ funds, lying on a bar application, and pressuring a client to amend his will. (He put a pen in a dying man’s hand and tried to move it to get a signature on a changed will!)

Later that year Roy Cohn died of complications from AIDS. The Lavender Scare crusader was finally out of the closet. Roger Stone was quoted in The New York Times as having said later, “Roy was not gay. He was a man who liked having sex with men. Gays were weak, effeminate. He always seemed to have these young blond boys around. It just wasn’t discussed.”

In the early days of the Trump presidency when Comey refused to put loyalty to the president above loyalty to the country and Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, Trump asked, “Where is my Roy Cohn?”

Where is my hypocritical lawyer with ties to the mob? Where is my gay bashing lavender lad? Where is the guy who taught me that you can lie, cheat, and steal, but if you are loyal, it’s all ok? I need someone like that.

And then, out of the blue, William Barr sends an unsolicited memo to the Justice Department in June of 2018 stating, among other things, that the president doesn’t have to answer the special prosecutor’s questions and the Mueller investigation into obstruction is based on a “legally insupportable reading of the law.”

A few short months later this man is the new Attorney General in charge of the Mueller report.

It has been weeks now and congress still hasn’t seen the report. They may get some of it on Thursday, after most have gone home for Easter break.

It may be that Trump has found another Roy Cohn. A more subtle one, perhaps, but a snake in the grass is still a snake in the grass.


Part 10

The President’s Mouthpiece

William Barr is just another cog in the machinery that keeps us from solving the problems we need to have solved.  Since being confirmed as the Attorney General, he has acted much more like the president’s personal attorney.

In fact, prior to nominating him as AG, Trump sought to secure Barr as his chief defense lawyer regarding the Mueller investigation.

Barr worked with the CIA in the mid-seventies and in the Reagan White House in 1982 – 83 as Deputy Assistant Director for Legal Policy.

Poppy Bush appointed Barr as assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Councel.   In that position he wrote Advisory Opinions justifying the invasion of Panama by the US and the arrest of Noriega.  He wrote a controversial AO in which he claimed that the FBI had the right to enter a foreign country and arrest whomever they liked without the consent of the government of that country.

When congress demanded a copy of this Advisory Opinion, Barr refused to produce it, offering instead to supply a “summary” of the opinion, which he did.  When the full opinion came to light later, after Barr was out of office, it turned out that Barr’s summary and the actual opinion were nothing alike.  His summary was misleading and left out key elements.

In 1991 Poppy Bush nominated Barr as Attorney General and in his confirmation hearings Senate Judiciary Chairman, Joe Biden, said that Barr was a “throwback to the days when we actually had attorneys general that would talk to you.”  Barr was approved unanimously by the committee and confirmed by a voice vote of the Senate.

In 1993 Bush pardoned 6 people involved in the Iran-Contra scandal.  Barr was instrumental in arranging these pardons and urged them on Bush.   Caspar Weinberger, who was ready to testify that Bush himself had knowledge of and participated in the Iran-Contra mess, was pardoned before he was convicted of any crime.  All five of the others pardoned HAD been convicted.

Barr was particularly adamant about getting the Weinberger pardon early since it threatened the office of the president, and Barr was known as someone who saw the powers of the presidency in a much more expansive way than most.

That is also clear in the unsolicited letter Barr sent to the Justice Department in June of 2018 where he said that the urging of Comey to back off the Flynn investigation and the subsequent firing of Comey were within Trump’s powers as the head of the executive branch.

As Attorney General under Trump, Barr’s response to the filing of the Mueller report was to delay it’s release, choosing instead to issue a 4 page “summary,” much as he had done with his opinion during the Bush years.  Now that the majority of the Mueller report is out, we can see that Barr’s summary took Mueller’s statements out of context to try to show that Mueller did not believe Trump committed obstruction of justice.

In his press conference, just before he finally released his redacted version of the Mueller report, Barr continually echoed the president’s mantra of “No collusion!” even though the report itself clearly maintains that the term is not a legal one and that Mueller and his team never investigated “collusion.”

The question has been raised as to why Barr would make all the misleading and false statements he did before releasing the report which makes his statements out to be spin and lies.

The answer is fairly simple.  Most people will NOT read the special council’s report, certainly NOT those who are Trump supporters.

Most people will rely on the media for information about what is in the report, and this administration has continually portrayed the media as fake news.  It becomes easy to discredit the information by referring to the discredited source of that information – the fake news.

Meanwhile, the media on the far right, including Fox News, is free to misrepresent what the report says because they can.  They continue the mantra of “no collusion,” long after it is a moot point.  They insist on “no obstruction” because there were no indictments, even though all of the underlying reasons for that are spelled out in the report and the report clearly states that the president is NOT exonerated from obstruction charges.  But they won’t stress that.  Those who rely on sources like Fox News for their truths will become more misinformed.

In order to have the government we need to solve the problems we have, we MUST have an informed electorate, capable of making clear, rational judgements.

Do not take anything William Barr has said about the report at face value.  Do not quote it.  It is at best, spin, and at worst, simply more lies.  Read the report!  It is long.  It can be boring.  But it is the source document.

If you want to know why some members of the House are calling for impeachment now, read the report.

If you want to see just how much of the case for obstruction has been laid out and documented, read the report.

The Trump administration itself is a problem to be solved.  It isn’t logical to ask a problem to solve itself.  The country has to decide whether they want to see problems solved or not.  If we, as a country, want to ty to solve any of these problems, we have to find the government we need.  Whether that means voting an entire party out of office at once or impeaching a president, or both, we have to do it.

That is a superior answer to blood baths in the streets and another civil war, neither of which should be ruled out of hand.

Remember, we thought Trump could never be elected.

to be continued…

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