Category Archives: Justice Department

Sneaky — Filosofa’s Word

This, my friends, is how democracies die … “The Justice Department has quietly [emphasis added] asked Congress for the ability to ask chief judges to detain people indefinitely without trial during emergencies — part of a push for new powers that comes as the coronavirus spreads through the United States. Documents reviewed by POLITICO detail […]

Sneaky — Filosofa’s Word

SNOPES ON Project Veritas’ Election 2016 ‘Rigging’ Videos

Project Veritas’ Election 2016 ‘Rigging’ Videos
James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas released four 2016 election-related videos supposedly depicting rampant election fraud and misconduct on the part of Democrats.

Kim LaCapria
https://www.snopes.com/news/2016/10/18/project-veritas-election-videos/

In October 2016, Project Veritas released a series of videos that they alleged demonstrated misconduct, impropriety, and vote “rigging” on the part of Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff or other Democrats.

Project Veritas’ YouTube channel displayed four “undercover” videos released in October 2016. The first video involved a surreptitiously recorded conversation between a covert operative for Project Veritas and Manhattan Board of Elections Commissioner Alan Schulkin at a December 2015 Christmas party. In the clip, Schulkin surmised voter ID would prevent voter fraud and discussed the possibility of “bussing” voters to polling places:

The second video purportedly evidenced a culture of ambient misogyny at a Clinton field office, framed as a response to concurrent controversy over lewd remarks by Donald Trump captured on tape in 2005:

The third video involved a hidden recording of Democratic candidate Russ Feingold opining that Hillary Clinton “might issue an executive order” pertaining to guns:

The fourth and most controversial video purportedly depicted evidence that the Clinton campaign’s field offices were tampering with Republican voter registrations and conspiring to incite violence at Trump rallies:

The videos are, as is typical of O’Keefe’s, work somewhat of a gish gallop, comprising a constellation of allegations and assertions that is virtually impossible to fact check without complete clips of the involved conversations. Nearly all the videos used stitched-together, out-of-context remarks with no indication of what occurred or what was discussed just before and after the included portions.

The framing and style of videos created by James O’Keefe is well known due to his 2009 “sting” in which he and accomplice Hannah Giles visited ACORN offices and pretended to be seeking advice on how to run an illegal business that included the use of underage girls in the sex trade. The resulting videos — which were edited to create the impression that O’Keefe and Giles had spoken to ACORN representatives while dressed as a pimp and prostitute — dealt that organization a mortal blow before reports publicizing the deception in O’Keefe’s videos came to light:

How quickly things seem to fall apart when James O’Keefe is the person who put them together.

O’Keefe’s incriminating ACORN video was shown to have been heavily edited — neither he nor Hannah Giles were actually in pimp and prostitute get-up when they spoke to ACORN employees, for example — and no criminal prosecutions of ACORN followed. While not letting ACORN off the hook for showing “terrible judgment” in the video, California’s then-attorney general Jerry Brown noted after an investigation into the tapes and the organization that “sometimes a fuller truth is found on the cutting room floor.”

Those same words now seem applicable to the latest O’Keefe sting, which further tarnished NPR’s reputation and took down its CEO. As we noted, Glenn Beck’s conservative website, The Blaze, was first to report on discrepancies between the first edited eleven-and-a-half minute video released on the Project Veritas website and a later, unedited two-hour version … NPR media reporter David Folkenflik addressed the dubious editing on Morning Edition and in a written report for NPR’s website. Folkenflik reviewed the two tapes himself, along with some NPR colleagues and outsiders like The Blaze’s editor-in-chief Scott Baker and Poynter’s Al Tompkins. They home in on many of the same problems The Blaze pointed out. And they basically come to the same conclusion: the tape is still a problem, but the impression it leaves is different.

“I tell my children there are two ways to lie,” Tompkins said. “One is to tell me something that didn’t happen, and the other is not to tell me something that did happen. I think they employed both techniques in this.”

Columbia Journalism Review reiterated assessments and warnings about O’Keefe’s methods in a 2011 piece targeting NPR. That article noted that the time-consuming nature of fact-checking (particularly when source material is obscured) has led to Project Veritas efforts skating past cursory review:

From where might we have learned such a lesson? From video scandals past. Think ACORN and think Shirley Sherrod: job- and organization-crippling scandals in which the media blindly aided and abetted. Note too that O’Keefe is a political point-scorer, and here he is scoring from a soft-target.

We knew all of this, and yet few of us slowed down. Including the NPR brass.

It is telling that The Blaze was the first to point out O’Keefe’s context-stripping editing and that its report came out two days after O’Keefe’s video release. (And, yes, we at CJR should have been doing just as The Blaze did, searching for the discrepancies they found.) It’s telling because, as The Blaze showed, it takes time to vet a source.

We can only hope that, next time, the order in which this scandal and others like it have unfolded — headlines and drama first; reporting and vetting later — is reversed. Given the pattern that just repeated itself, we’re not optimistic.

The Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) organization also regularly covered O’Keefe’s efforts in 2011 and 2012, lamenting how often the details of the purported stings are misreported before being thoroughly investigated:

USA Today has a long piece by Martha Moore about video hoax artist James O’Keefe’s NPR project. The article does a pretty good job of running down the deceptions in O’Keefe’s video. That’s good. This, however, is not:

… The sting’s impact was magnified by the quick dissemination-without-scrutiny that is a hallmark of Internet-driven media.

O’Keefe’s video has nothing to do with muckraking. And please don’t blame the Internet for the fact that journalists apparently can’t be bothered to care whether a source is reliable.

From NBC Nightly News, courtesy of reporter Lisa Myers:

We last saw O’Keefe wearing a fur coat and playing a pimp when he managed to take down the liberal group ACORN.

No we didn’t … As should be well-known by now, O’Keefe used footage of himself wearing a “pimp” costume in his ACORN videos — but didn’t wear the ridiculous costume during his “undercover stings.” Media accounts acted as though he did, though — it took a lot of effort to get the New York Times to finally admit its errors on this count.

If reporters don’t know these facts, they’re bound to get fooled by O’Keefe again.

After his fraudulent ACORN videos, the lesson media should have learned about right-wing “citizen journalist” James O’Keefe is not to trust him. But they didn’t, so here we are with his NPR stunt, which allegedly shows NPR fundraiser Ron Schiller saying mean things about the Tea Party in a meeting with phony Muslim Brotherhood-connected donors.

But it appears that, once again, O’Keefe’s videos are not be what they seem. The first serious questions about them were raised on (I swear!) The Blaze, a Glenn Beck-affiliated website. Over there, Scott Baker pointed to a few problems. In one part of the video, NPR‘s Schiller seems to laugh about the phony Muslim group’s position on Sharia law. Baker says it’s out of context.

NPR has done at least two reports on the video. It’s not quite a Shirley Sherrod moment — where the right-wing video was edited to totally turn her message around — but it’s clear that things aren’t exactly what they first seemed. O’Keefe’s history should give media outlets serious reservations about taking him at face value on anything … which goes to show you that the argument that the media is tilted to the left remains totally unconvincing.

As Exhibit A, look at James O’Keefe, who famously and proudly passed off his partner as a prostitute while secretly videotaping ACORN staffers. Who in the debate over O’Keefe’s work took the position that because the colleague was not actually a prostitute, the entire project was unethical and therefore all of his videotapes should be ignored? The actual objection to O’Keefe’s work was that he deceived the public — misleadingly editing his footage to create false impressions, including the popular delusion that O’Keefe had gone into ACORN offices wearing an outlandish Superfly costume. Nevertheless, he got overwhelmingly positive coverage from right-wing and centrist news outlets alike, with the result that his mendacious reporting had the successful result of helping to bring ACORN down.

In a 2011 op-ed, a Washington Post writer laid out the reasons why videos released by Project Veritas should initially sound numerous ethical alarms:

It is now clear that O’Keefe’s editing of the raw video from his interview with NPR’s top fundraiser, Ron Schiller, was selective and deceptive. The full extent of this distortion was exposed by a rising conservative Web site, the Blaze. O’Keefe’s final product excludes explanatory context, exaggerates Schiller’s tolerance for Islamist radicalism and attributes sentiments to Schiller that are actually quotes by others — all the hallmarks of a hit piece … In this case, O’Keefe did not merely leave a false impression; he manufactured an elaborate, alluring lie.

Interest in the four current Project Veritas videos has run high on social media. Politico addressed them from the perspective of legality, such as whether Project Veritas violated the law in Florida by ostensibly not adhering to the state’s wiretapping laws. The article also included a statement from Florida State Democratic Party spokesman Max Steele regarding the allegations about voter registrations:

According to Max Steele, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party, Mao or anyone else would lose their jobs for destroying voter-registration forms.

“Sexual assault and harassment, and destruction of voter registration forms, are serious offenses,” Steele said in a written statement. “There is no question that a staff member who engaged in this kind of behavior would be immediately terminated, and we are investigating the claims. Remarks like these do not represent the Florida Democratic Party and are completely inappropriate.”

The video neither shows nor alleges that anyone affiliated with Clinton’s campaign actually destroyed any forms. Florida Democrats are surpassing Republicans in signing up voters. The state party has submitted 503,000 voter registration forms for this election; the state Republican Party only 60,000. The Florida Democratic Party said it trains volunteers on proper handling of the registration forms and tracks the documents to make sure none is destroyed in violation of state law.

Under state law, a “person may not knowingly destroy, mutilate, or deface a voter registration form or election ballot or obstruct or delay the delivery of a voter registration form or election ballot.” The third-degree felony carries a maximum five-year-prison term and $5,000 fine.

However, the video itself could constitute a third-degree felony on the part of Project Veritas because of Florida’s law that requires consent before someone is recorded. A person must give explicit consent or give “implied consent” by continuing to talk after being told he or she is being recorded.

As the piece noted, the “rigging” clip and claims of voter registration form destruction did not stem from activity surreptitiously recorded by Project Veritas. Instead, the viral video simply depicts an operative of the organization attempting to bait campaign workers into “admitting” they would tolerate such behavior. And as with the video involving Manhattan Board of Elections Commissioner Alan Schulkin, what Project Veritas’ targets appeared to be doing was going along with leading questions rather than disputing them.

Schulkin himself provided comment to that effect, telling the New York Post that he had played along with a young woman he described as a “nuisance”:

The videographer asked point-blank, “You think they should have voter ID in New York?”

Schulkin responded, “Voters? Yeah, they should ask for your ID. I think there is a lot of voter fraud.”

Schulkin defended his videotaped remarks, with slight revisions.

“I should have said ‘potential fraud’ instead of ‘fraud,’” he said.

But he reiterated his support for a voter ID requirement.

He recalled a woman asking him a lot of questions the night he was recorded.

“She was like a nuisance. I was just trying to placate her,” he said.

The October 2016 releases weren’t Project Veritas’ first foray into the 2016 elections and the political climate of the day. In March 2016, O’Keefe infamously bungled an attempted “investigation” by failing to hang up his phone after calling a target (thereby exposing his plot to those whom he was trying to fool). A May 2016 New Yorker article about that aborted sting examined the forces behind Project Veritas and the diminishing impact of deceptive videos:

Many O’Keefe operations, however, have fallen flat, including his repeated efforts to prove that voter-identity fraud is pervasive. “It seems like most of the fraud O’Keefe uncovers he commits himself,” Richard Hasen, a professor of election law at the University of California, Irvine, says. A sting aimed at Hillary Clinton was considered especially feeble. Veritas operatives persuaded a staffer at a rally to accept a Canadian citizen’s money in exchange for a Hillary T-shirt — a petty violation of the ban on foreign political contributions. Brian Fallon, the communications director for the Clinton campaign, says, “Project Veritas has been repeatedly caught trying to commit fraud, falsify identities, and break campaign-finance law. It is not surprising, given that their founder has already been convicted for efforts like this.”

It may be that the shock value of such exposés is diminishing. A recent series of sting videos against Planned Parenthood, created by a group called the Center for Medical Progress, involved deceptions so devious — including an attempt by undercover operatives to buy fetal tissue — that the campaign backfired. Pro-choice activists united in anger at the sting’s perpetrators, and a Texas grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing and indicted the C.M.P.

Project Veritas’ October 2016 election-related sting videos (embedded above) reveal tidbits of selectively and (likely deceptively edited) footage
absent of any context in which to evaluate them. Unless his organization releases the footage in full, undertaking a fair assessment of their veracity is all but impossible.

‘The American people cared. And I care.’ Top lines from Judge Amy Berman Jackson during the Roger Stone sentencing

‘The American people cared. And I care.’ Top lines from Judge Amy Berman Jackson during the Roger Stone sentencing
By Dan Berman CNN
https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/20/politics/amy-berman-jackson-quotes/index.html

Washington (CNN)Judge Amy Berman Jackson, as she sentenced Roger Stone to 40 months in prison, gave a lengthy speech extolling truth and the rule of law to a rapt courtroom on Thursday.Jackson appeared to criticize President Donald Trump and others promoting conspiracy theories about the Russia probe. And she decried what she saw as efforts to undercut truth and democracy.Here are some of Jackson’s key lines, as recorded in a court transcript:

On the truth and the foundation to democracy

“At trial, the defense appropriately questioned Randy Credico’s credibility and Rick Gates‘s credibility, but it was largely Stone’s own emails and his own texts that proved the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt. So what did the defense say to the jury on his behalf? So what? So what?”Of all the circumstances in this case, that may be the most pernicious. The truth still exists. The truth still matters. Roger Stone’s insistence that it doesn’t, his belligerence, his pride in his own lies are a threat to our most fundamental institutions, to the very foundation of our democracy.””And if it goes unpunished, it will not be a victory for one party or another. Everyone loses because everyone depends on the representatives they elect to make the right decisions on a myriad of issues — many of which are politically charged but many of which aren’t — based on the facts.

“Everyone depends on our elected representatives to protect our elections from foreign interference based on the facts. No one knows where the threat is going to come from next time or whose side they’re going to be on, and for that reason the dismay and disgust at the defendant’s belligerence should transcend party.”The dismay and the disgust at the attempts by others to defend his actions as just business as usual in our polarized climate should transcend party. The dismay and the disgust with any attempts to interfere with the efforts of prosecutors and members of the judiciary to fulfill their duty should transcend party.”Sure, the defense is free to say: So what? Who cares? But, I’ll say this: Congress cared. The United States Department of Justice and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia that prosecuted the case and is still prosecuting the case cared. The jurors who served with integrity under difficult circumstances cared. The American people cared. And I care.”

On the need for an independent judiciary

“This case also exemplifies why it is that this system, for good reason, demands that the responsibility falls to someone neutral. “Someone whose job may involve issuing opinions in favor of and against the same administration in the same week, and not someone who has a longstanding friendship with the defendant. Not someone whose political career was aided by the defendant. And surely not someone who has personal involvement in the events underlying the case. The court cannot be influenced by those comments. They were entirely inappropriate, but I will not hold them against the defendant either. “It would be equally improper to be buffeted by the winds blowing from the left, the enthusiastic callers who object to what the defendant stands for. I cannot and will not sentence him for the behavior of those he supports. Sentencing is personal, and it’s based on the evidence.”

On the responsibility of sentencing

“The only people who think this is easy are the ones who don’t have to make the decision. Many people weighed in, formally through letters, informally by calling chambers, pontificating on cable TV, and in blogs, op-eds, and tweets.”

On Stone covering up for Trump

“I have received letters urging me not to silence an important voice in the public arena, but that will not be an element of this sentence in any way. I expect he will keep talking. And as you’ve just heard when I went through the elements of the offense, he was not convicted and is not being sentenced for exercising his First Amendment rights, his support of the President’s campaign or his policies. “He was not prosecuted, as some have complained, for standing up for the President. He was prosecuted for covering up for the President.”

I very much admire everthing that Judge Amy Berman Jackson said in her sentencing of Roger Stone. She absolutely destroyed Stone, Trump and called out both parties. But of course? Traitor Trump did not care about any of this and continued his psychotic tirade on Twitter and at his Klan Rally.

We are in serious trouble with this bozo in the White House. We have to do everything we can to soundly defeat this ass-clown. We all know Russia is gonna go psycho on social media like Fascistbook, whose CEO’s Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandburg have proven they don’t give a flying fuck about honesty and truth on their platform, they are going to allow all the same shit to happen that got Traitor Trump such a fan base of liars and con-artists and scumbags. All Fuckerberg and Sandburg give a shit about is the bottom line of profits, not the truth and they have proven firmly in Traitor Trump’s side. Jack Dorsey of Twittler is allowing that piece of shit to use his platform to spread his lies and bullshit as he too rakes in the billions and goes to live on some isolated place away from all the trouble when the shit does finally hits the fan.

So we all gotta do what we all gotta do. Legally until it comes down to when the Mental Midget Moron Trumpanzees who have been spewing their white supremacist racist bullshit since a real President, Barack Obama was in the White House how they are going to drop their micro nuts and pop off and start their Civil War.

Yeah, it would suck if the mental midget morons did, a whole lot of innocent people have been hurt and even murdered by these psychopaths of Traitor Trump, and a lot more probably will be harmed before these violent, generational inbred, farm animal fucking, deluxe outhouse dwelling, sister and momma marrying shitstains on the underwear of humanity Trumpanzees learn another lesson of loss like their ancestral losers learned in the first Civil War and in WWI and WWII and don’t make a mistake, if they finally drop their micro nuts and pop off? There is going to be a whole lot of problems for us. But I also believe our greatest asset, the US Military and our Federal Law Enforcement are on it and it sure sounds like they are with all the Reich-Wing psychopaths they been rounding up for their crimes of hate, bigotry, misogyny, and pure fucking evil.

But we got to get off our asses. I love ya Bernie, but we need fresh blood and your influence does not go as far as others really. I loved ya when I lived in Burlington Vt when you were mayor. You proved you were a man of your word, though you got a few skeletons in your closet that will prove your own hypocrisy? I think Bernie Bros should sthu and stop their vile bullshit and bullying of others. What the fuck, you idiots act like the Trumpsters and you bring bad shit on Bernie himself. So why don’t you morons grow the fuck up and stop acting like the same mental midget moron Trumpanzees we are fighting? Unless you love being thought of as wasteless assholes???

For me? I am looking more for Mayor Pete, now that would piss off the Righteous Hypocrites ChristoTaliban wouldn’t it? And Traitor Trump and his minions. And I love Mayor Petes policies too and he has a damn good chance to defeat Traitor Trump. I also loved Tulsi Gabbard, both these people, Tulsi and Pete are the kind of leaders we need for our country, especially seeing they actually served in our military honorably and with sacrifice.

Biden is a fool, Bloomberg thinks he can beat Traitor Trump but he is another version of Trump with his misogyny and racism and bullshit and because he is a billionaire, another of those rich fucks who do not care about you or I.

So hold onto your hats ladies and germs, prepare for the occasion if these mental midget moron Trumpsters finally drop their micro nuts and pop off, especially if Traitor Trump does lose re-election, HUGELY!!!!

Trump says he’s the nation’s top cop, a debatable claim

Trump says he’s the nation’s top cop, a debatable claim
By Mark Sherman
https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/trump-says-he-s-the-nation-s-top-cop-a-debatable-claim/ar-BB10aAdA

President Donald Trump asserts that he is the nation’s top cop, a title more typically accorded the attorney general.

Even the Trump-cheerleading White House website sides with the attorney general, describing him as the “chief law enforcement officer of the federal government.”

But the president’s claim is consistent with the robust view of executive power that Trump and his supporters have put forth since he took office in 2017. And some conservative legal minds think Trump is right, but that it’s better public policy to keep law enforcement at arm’s length.

Several veterans of President Barack Obama’s administration described Trump’s assertion as dangerous and simply wrong on the law.

Since the Senate impeachment trial ended with his acquittal, Trump has urged leniency for convicted confidant Roger Stone, pushed impeachment witnesses out of their jobs, verbally attacked a federal judge and complained that a juror who voted to convict Stone was biased.

The president has denied that he intervened to force the Justice Department to withdraw a recommendation of seven to nine years in prison for Stone. Attorney General William Barr has backed Trump up, saying he did not consult with the president before ordering a call for a shorter prison term.

But Trump said there would have been nothing wrong if he had stepped in. “I’m allowed to be totally involved. I’m actually, I guess, the chief law enforcement officer of the country. But I’ve chosen not to be involved,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

That’s essentially the same message Trump’s lawyers sent special counsel Robert Mueller in January 2018, as they offered to provide written answers to Mueller’s questions to the president about possible obstruction of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“It remains our position that the President’s actions here, by virtue of his position as the chief law enforcement officer, could neither constitutionally nor legally constitute obstruction because that would amount to him obstructing himself, and that he could, if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired,” Trump lawyer John Dowd wrote.

John Yoo, a University of California at Berkeley law school professor and Justice Department lawyer during President George W. Bush’s administration, said the Constitution gives the president the power Trump claims.

“But while the President is in charge constitutionally, as a matter of good policy, presidents have kept law enforcement at arms length. Neutrality in law enforcement is important if the government is to have the credibility and integrity to convince judges and juries, who are the ones who ultimate render the verdict,” Yoo wrote in an email.

Josh Blackman, a South Texas College of Law professor, agreed with Yoo about Trump’s authority over criminal prosecutions. “The President can delegate that power to the AG, but ultimately the President has the final call,” Blackman wrote in an email.

But the latest actions by Trump drew condemnation from more than 2,400 former Justice Department officials who served in Democratic and Republican administrations. In an open letter, they said that the department’s rule book for its lawyers calls for impartial decision-making that is insulated from political influence.

“All DOJ lawyers are well-versed in these rules, regulations, and constitutional commands. They stand for the proposition that political interference in the conduct of a criminal prosecution is anathema to the Department’s core mission and to its sacred obligation to ensure equal justice under the law,” the department alumni wrote.

Martin Lederman, a Georgetown law professor and former Obama Justice Department official, said on Twitter that Congress, not the president, gives the authority to prosecute to the attorney general. It’s also the attorney general’s responsibility, Lederman said, to stand up to a president who charts an unlawful course, “knowing that it might … lead to removal.”

Chris Lu, who managed Obama’s Cabinet in his first term, said the Obama White House followed its predecessors in adhering to strict rules on who could communicate with the Justice Department and on what topics.

“What Trump is suggesting is at odds with this longstanding precedent and dangerous to the principle of impartial justice,” Lu said.