GOP Holds Holder in Contempt

A Congressional committee voted along party lines yesterday to hold AG Eric Holder in contempt.  He is refusing to violate separation of powers by bowing to demands he turn over Justice Department documents.  The failed Fast and Furious gun running operation is under investigation by Congress so the President invoked executive privilege to protect the secrecy of the files.

Barack Obama condemned the invocation of executive privilege and had not used it before this week.  After promising the most transparent administration in history this doesn’t bode well for yet another broken promise.  The House investigation is primarily a partisan witch hunt led by Darrel Issa.  There are legitimate questions about the wisdom and integrity of Fast and Furious however and being open and transparent would be wise.

White House Supports Robosigning Settlement

The Justice Department and Attorneys General from various states came to a settlement with five “too big to fail” financial institutions today for fraudulent actions against homeowners.  The $25 billion amount is deceptive however sine banks are only directly out of pocket by $5 billion.  $20 billion will go to “various forms of financial relief to homeowners.”  What the heck does that mean?  Bankers have agreed previously to engage in practices to perform loan modifications for homeowners just to turn around and rig the system.  Today’s agreement, in part, is a result of that fraud.

What’s to say these Wall Street criminals won’t simply pay lip service to the agreement and use accounting chicanery to show the assistance and do nothing?  We know we can’t trust these people so agreeing to what amounts to a slap on the wrist accomplishes nothing.  Banks will write off the $5 billion as a routine cost of doing business.  This settlement is a joke.  Not one banker has gone to jail for fraudulently tossing homeowners out on the street through fraudulent documentation.

NRA Eric Holder Ad Is Deceptive

The National Rifle Association has launched a deceptive ad attacking Attorney General Eric Holder:

Here’s the problem:  Holder testified he hadn’t learned of the issue until shortly before his testimony.  The NRA allegations say HIS DEPARTMENT was notified at a specific time.  Just because the Department of Justice was notified doesn’t mean Holder knew of it.  It’s impossible for the head of any huge federal agency to know of everything going on there.  No one can micromanage a Cabinet level department.

The NRA is claiming that because the DOJ knew about Fast and Furious therefore Holder committed perjury.  That’s only the case if they can prove he was notified personally and there’s nothing in this commercial which says that.

Do you recall any NRA ads about AG Alberto Gonzales when he corrupted the DOJ?  I don’t.

Obama Appoints Two PA U.S. Attorneys

One of the chief criticisms Democrats have had with President Obama has been his negligence in appointing new U.S. Attorneys.  every new President gets to choose their own federal prosecutors and the “Loyal Bushies” who helped corrupt the Justice Department have largely remained in office.  That is beginning to change as today the White House announced seven people to serve in this capacity, two of them here in Pennsylvania:

Zane David Memeger: Nominee for United States Attorney, Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Zane Memeger is currently a Partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, LLP where he has been since 2006. Previously, Mr. Memeger had served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, from 1995 until 2006. From 1991 until 1995, Mr. Memeger was an Associate at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, LLP. Mr. Memeger graduated from James Madison University in 1986 and from University of Virginia School of Law in 1991.

Peter J. Smith: Nominee for United States Attorney, Middle District of Pennsylvania

Peter Smith, is currently retired. Prior to his retirement, Mr. Smith was the Deputy State Treasurer for the Pennsylvania Treasury Department from 2005 to 2009. Mr. Smith was the Deputy Auditor General for Performance Audits in the Department of the Auditor General for the state of Pennsylvania from 1997 to 2005. From 1994 to 1997, he served as the Deputy Chief of the Environmental Crimes Section in the United States Department of Justice. From 1992 until 1994, Mr. Smith was an attorney for Vaira and Associates, P.C. From 1991 to 1992, he was an attorney with Buchanan Ingersoll. Mr. Smith also served as the State Inspector General for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania from 1987 to 1991. From 1976 to 1987, Mr. Smith worked in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania as an Assistant United States Attorney, where he served as the First Assistant United States Attorney and from 1986 to 1987, and Chief of the Criminal Division from 1985 to 1986. In 1976, Mr. Smith was an Assistant Attorney General in the Attorney General’s Office for the State of Pennsylvania in the Office of the Philadelphia Special Prosecutor. From 1973 to 1976, Mr. Smith was a Staff Enforcement Attorney in the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and he served as an Assistant District Attorney in the District Attorney’s Office for the city of Philadelphia from 1971 to 1973. Prior to entering law school, Mr. Smith served in the United States Naval Reserve, from 1962 to 1966, where he achieved the rank of Lieutenant (Junior Grade). Mr. Smith graduated from King’s College in 1962 and Georgetown University Law Center in 1971.

Who knows anything about these two?  They certainly seem well qualified by their resumes.  Obama pledged to take political prosecutions and considerations out of the process of enforcing the law, investigating people and corporations and the prosecution of justice.  The Western District (Pittsburgh) remains open.  The Senate still must confirm today’s selections.

The enormous scandal which erupted around Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales’ politicization of Justice resulted from action taken by Sen. Arlen Specter.  Without his enabling legislation they couldn’t have fired and replaced a slew of U.S. Attorneys.  This has had little play, as yet, in the Senate primary.

The Rule of Law

Attorney General Eric Holder announced yesterday that five September 11th suspects will be transferred to New York to stand trial for the terrorist strikes which killed over 3,000 Americans.  The controversial decision marks a return to the rule of law.  Either we are a nation of laws or we’re not a civilized society.  To put 9/11 into some perspective over 3900 Americans have died from swine flu since April.  Over 4,000 of our soldiers have died in Iraq because the country was lied to about its involvement in the attacks.  In contrast India chose to pursue a legal investigation and prosecution into those who masterminded the Mombai attacks rather than go to war.

Pursuing terrorists with the power of the law is far more civilized and less harmful to our long term strategic national security than flexing our military muscle and compromising the ideals upon which our nation was founded.  President Obama’s decision to pursue legal prosecutions illustrates a renewed belief in the rule of law.

Unfortunately should the rule of law actually prevail Khalid Sheik Muhammad and the four others will be freed.  The rule of law stipulates that no prisoner can be tortured, denied their right to due process and held indefinitely without charges.  To make this case worse KSM was rendered to a secret CIA prison where he was tortured.  No Judge acting under the law could deny a plea for dismissal of all charges based on the facts of this case.  This was one of the principle reasons people objected to Gitmo, the extraordinary rendition program and torture.  It makes a legal prosecution impossible under our concept of fair trials.

The thought of purely evil people like KSM walking free after the abomination of the attacks of 9/11 is shocking.  This, however, is why our previous national policy was so extreme, misguided and reprehensible.  Once you imprison someone with no right of due process, once you choose to detain them for years with no charges, once you torture them, you cannot bring them to trial in a civilized court.  If the Judges in these cases allow such prosecutions this will be a miscarriage of justice.

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney left no adequate methods for moving forward because of their extralegal policies toward these prisoners.  Indeed most of those imprisoned at Guantanamo were not terrorists and have been released.  The fact not all of them became active terrorists against us for what we did to them in Cuba is a miracle.  Our long term national security was severely underminded by Bush and Cheney and correcting those policies may take generations.  This is a first step back to the concept we are a nation of laws.

Biden, HOLDER ANNOUNCE RECOVERY ACT FUNDING FOR PENNSYLVANIA TO SUPPORT LAW ENFORCEMENT

The White House held a press conference in Philadelphia this morning to announce additional ARRA (stimulus) funds for law enforcement.  Pennsylvania stands to gain significant funding for police.

The Clinton Administration’s COPS program was very successful but was sliced and diced to near extinction by George W. Bush.  President Obama is committed to rebuilding this as part of the economic stimulus.

Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder today announced $1 billion in grants to fund the hiring and rehiring of law enforcement officers all across the country under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.  The grants will be awarded to 1,046 law enforcement agencies from all 50 states, including more than $20,163,683 in grants to fund the hiring and rehiring of 93 law enforcement officers in Pennsylvania.   These funds will provide 100 percent of the approved salary and benefits for these officers for three years.  All police departments receiving the grants will then be required to retain the grant-funded positions for a fourth year.

“A big part of the Recovery Act is about building communities – making them as strong as they can be, allowing every American family to live a better life than the one they are leading now,”  said Vice President Joe Biden.  “And we can’t achieve the goal of stronger communities without supporting those who keep our streets safe.”

Read more to see how many officers this program keeps or creates throughout the Commonwealth:

The COPS Hiring Recovery Program funds were awarded to the following applicants in Pennsylvania:

Agency Name

Officers Awarded

Award Amount

Harrisburg Bureau of Police                      

8

$1,689,552.00

Philadelphia Police Department                  

50

$10,903,350.00

Coatesville Police Department                    

1

$192,716.00

Chester Police Department                        

5

$970,315.00

Homestead, Borough of                            

1

$142,493.00

Erie, City of                                    

6

$1,563,720.00

McKees Rocks, Borough of                        

1

$223,083.00

Norristown Police Department                    

1

$309,540.00

Sharon, City of                                  

1

$194,901.00

Reading, City of                                

4

$1,000,100.00

McKeesport, City of                              

3

$641,763.00

City of Easton Pennsylvania                      

3

$669,768.00

Aliquippa, City of                              

1

$133,008.00

Southwest Mercer County Regional Police Department

1

$165,158.00

Rochester Police Department                      

1

$181,125.00

Williamsport Bureau of Police                    

3

$644,499.00

Beaver Falls, City of                            

1

$167,625.00

Knox, Borough of                                

1

$160,172.00

Wilkinsburg Police Department                    

1

$210,795.00

More ARRA Funding Coming to PA

The White House has announced more Recovery Act funding for Pennsylvania.  While much of the educational programs are being ignored PA is using our funds to help prevent teacher layoffs (if the State House Republicans oblige) and keep our property taxes from further increases.  Now the Department of Justice has announced $45 million for public safety.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder today announced that more than $45 million in Recovery Act funds will go to the State of Pennsylvania to maintain or increase public safety in the state, while creating or retaining jobs within the law enforcement community. These Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program funds are part of more than $4 billion in Justice Department Recovery Act funds available to assist state, local and tribal law enforcement and for other criminal justice activities that help to prevent crime and improve the criminal justice system in the United States while supporting the creation of jobs and much needed resources for states and local communities.

           As submitted in their application, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency plans to support initiatives that focus on the improvement of criminal record databases; the development or adaptation of new technologies for law enforcement, corrections, and the courts; the support of comprehensive, proactive law enforcement programs aimed at reducing crime; the development of victim services leadership training to promote organizational stability; the support of alternatives to incarceration programs and problem solving courts for non-violent offenders and reentry services, that includes resources for juvenile day/evening reporting centers, mental health initiatives aimed at reducing the number of justice involved individuals with co-occurring disorders, and reentry programs that provide jail-based and community supervision and treatment; the sustainment of probation officer positions that would otherwise be eliminated due to agency budget cuts; prevention and intervention programs aimed at truancy abatement, services for at-risk youth, and victim services; and the removal of vacant and blighted properties in an effort to reduce crime and revitalize communities. Pennsylvania is required to provide a portion of the $45.4 million to the local jurisdictions.

You might recall that the Clinton Administration developed a highly effective program for community policing called COPS.  George W. Bush eviscerated the program and now President Obama is reviving the Community Oriented Policing operation.  It helped greatly decrease violent crime, something many state cities have had serious problems controlling between the drop in police numbers, the removal of the ban on assault rifles and the refusal of the state legislature to pass common sense gun safety legislation.

Justice Ends Stevens Prosecution

Ted Stevens is off the hook.  Attorney General Eric Holder threw in the towel at Justice due to the massive prosecutorial misconduct committed by the Bush Administration.  Signaling a return to integrity and ethics in the Department of Justice Holder notified the Judge in the case that Justice will not contest Stevens’ appeal.

DOJ prosecutors were penalized by the Judge for extreme misconduct allowing witnesses to testify to things Justice knew to be wrong and then failing to notify the defense with witness statements which contradicted their testimony.  The witnesses were oil company executives who paid for renovations and furniture for the Senator’s home in return for favorable legislation and representation in Washington.  The wiretaps and other evidence against Sen. Stevens would have been enough to convict the man without the misconduct perpetrated by the prosecution but in our system of justice we have, and should have, zero tolerance for prosecutorial misconduct.

Kudos to AG Holder for standing up for the rule of law, something desperately lacking the past eight years.  We hate to see crooks like Stevens get off but the alternative is worse as we saw recently in Luzerne County with corrupt Judges.

Arlen Specter Is An Embarrassment

Arlen Specter was an embarrassment to Pennsylvania today.  Revealing stark hypocrisy while grilling AG nominee Eric Holder he brought back images of Iran/Contra, Lebanese hostages, the single bullet theory and Alberto Gonzales as he opposed Holder.  At least its nice to see that Republicans have no problem bringing up, examining and prosecuting people for past mistakes.  After eight years of Bush/Cheney I hope they remember this principle in coming days.

Specter voted for John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales for Attorney General but has a problem with Eric Holder?  This is outrageous.  Gonzales and Ashcroft couldn’t carry Holder’s shoes.  The Eric Rich pardon, while horrendous, wasn’t done by Holder but by Bill Clinton.  When Specter railed about Rich’s deals with Iran it reminded me of the secret deals Ronald Reagan had, at the same time, with Ayatollah Khomeini to trade arms for hostages.  While Sen. Specter railed about trading with Iran it also reminded me of how Col. North worked for the White House, against the law, to trade arms for our hostages held by Iranian groups in Lebanon.

Pardons were issued for those crimes.  George W. Bush pardoned Scooter Libby for a very serious breach of national security during a time of war.  Where is Snarlin’ Arlen’s rage against that?  I hope we see this same outrage next week when Bush issues his most egregious pardons.

Arlen Specter is up for re-election and we WILL hold him accountable.