Justice Integrity Project
Attacks on Ted Cruz’s eligibility for the presidency have seriously undermined his campaign in the crucial days before the Feb. 1 caucuses in Iowa.
Today, we describe that eligibility as an open question that cannot be resolved easily, in part because the Cruz campaign is withholding the facts about his birth in Canada that are necessary for clear-cut resolution.
We explore also recent revelations that the first term Texas senator won his upset victory in his 2012 campaign with the help of $1.2 million in Goldman Sachs and Citigroup loans that he failed to report as required by federal election law.
Both issues are important because they coincided — and probably helped cause — Cruz’s decline in the Iowa polls over the past month. Donald Trump now leads in the most recent Iowa poll, as of Jan. 30, by a 5 point margin, according to the prestigious Des Moines Register poll conducted with Bloomberg News.
Trump held a 6.3 margin over Cruz in a RealClear Politics average of six recent polls, as of Jan. 30. Cruz had led or tied in four straight Iowa polls between Dec. 17 and Jan. 7, according to the RealClearPolitics summary.
But on Jan. 5, GOP rival Donald Trump used a New York Times interview to question Cruz’s eligibility for office under the U.S. Constitution’s requirement that a president must be a “natural born” citizen. The Founders did not define the term in the Constitution. But it was widely understood at the time of the Revolution to require birth on a nation’s own territory for the most part.
In crafty fashion, Trump (shown in a file photo by Gage Skidmore) did not raise the question as an outright attack on Cruz, but floated it in response to a reporter's question more as a concern that Democrats would litigate the issue for years, thereby damaging the Republican Party and the nation.
Whatever Trump’s intention, he has since moved more into outright attack mode on the question and prompted a massive pro-and-con constitutional debate among legal scholars and pundits. The leading arguments are excerpted below in an appendix, enabling anyone to form at least a preliminary judgment.
Shortly afterward came the revelation of Cruz's unreported campaign loans from two top Wall Street investment banks. Most came from Goldman Sachs, which employs Cruz’s wife Heidi Cruz as a managing director in its Houston office.
Cruz dismisses both matters as non-issues, as described more fully below.
But each accusation put his campaign on the defensive, particularly they both undercut his campaign image. For one thing, he opposes leniency in immigration law and favors “strict construction” of the Founders’ language in the constitution. Additionally, Cruz memorably opposed “New York values” supposedly embodied by Trump – but surely also by the top financial institutions that control so many leaders in Congress and the Executive Branch via lavish donations and other payments to officeholders.
The Goldman Sachs taint became especially newsworthy this month because federal authorities imposed $5.1 billion in fines and other penalties on Goldman Sachs for its actions helping cause the 2008 financial crisis that so deeply hurt so many Americans.
The senator, a star student at Harvard Law School and former Texas solicitor general, has dismissed the loans as a bureaucratic oversight of scant importance. He thereby suggests what his fans regard as commendable anti-regulatory focus – and what opponents regard as additional reason for deep suspicion and scrutiny.
Key GOP party leaders are assisting Donald Trump by denouncing his chief rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, just before the Iowa caucuses Feb. 1.
Recent developments show high stakes, intrigues, and back-stabbing as Trump seems to be winning one of the most remarkable momentum turnarounds in recent political history.
A new poll by Fox News Jan. 24 shows Trump with an 11 point lead in Iowa over Cruz, who was ahead by four points in the same poll just two weeks ago. A CBS/YouGov poll of likely voters shows Trump with a five-point lead.
Cruz opponents, some using harsh words far beyond normal criticism, include six-term Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, former GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole of Kansas, senior Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, New York Congressman Peter King, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Iowa's senior U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley made a surprise appearance at a rally Jan. 23 that generated coverage by a London newspaper half a world away under the headline Legendary Iowa senator speaks at Trump rally.
That followed former Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin's mid-week endorsement of Trump. as shown below (credit: Alex Hanson). Even a pro-Cruz SuperPAC fund leader, longtime GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway, described the Palin endorsement as a plus for Trump.
Perhaps most remarkable, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (shown below in an official photo) trashed Cruz last week even though Trump had shocked conventional Washington last summer by questioning McCain's Vietnam War record.
Even so, two major conservative opinion journals, the National Review with a cover shown at left and the Weekly Standard, are denouncing Trump in their current cover stories. Each assembled numerous pundits unified in opposition to a Trump nomination.
As recently as Jan. 12, the Republican Party’s national elected hierarchy attacked their party’s frontrunner Trump by orchestrating South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s sneers against Trump's "siren call of the angriest voices" during her nationally televised response to President Obama’s State of the Union address.
This was in the same spirit as the party leadership's secret meeting in December to hold, in effect, a "Stop Trump" strategy session. Those attending included campaign representatives of GOP contenders Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, a clearly unfair advantage for them.
That was then.
These days? GOP Party Chairman Reince Priebus, who vetted Haley’s veiled attack on Trump Jan. 12 (as did Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan), responded to the National Review by dismissing the magazine from co-moderating the next GOP debate this week because of its coverage.
Nothing remotely like these kinds of gyrations have occurred in modern presidential politics, at least since the 1964 GOP internal jousting between the Goldwater and Rockefeller factions.
Today's column is the second in our series on the GOP nomination contest, where Trump and Cruz are the current frontrunners in both Iowa and nationally. Our overview set the stage with, Cruz Campaign Peaks Early, Faces Brutal Counterattacks, arguing that Cruz's campaign is doomed if he fails to win Iowa, given his advantages there.
What’s going on?
Many of these new Trump endorsers and Cruz critics see their party’s viability endangered if Cruz wins the nomination.
Yet Trump's opponents see risk also. "If Trump were the nominee," conservative syndicated columnist Michael Gerson wrote in the Washington Post Jan. 7, "the GOP would cease to be."
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz seemed poised for victory in the Iowa caucuses over most of the past month but has suffered tough counterattacks from critics within his party at the worst possible time for him.
As often happens in presidential politics, Cruz's difficulties arose from rivals in his own party.
Setbacks cascaded just as he began leading several polls beginning in December for the first national contest, the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1.
Cruz's momentum in Iowa is fueled by its strong base of evangelical Christians and tea party enthusiasts, along with his other logistical advantages over rivals. These include Cruz's unusually strong and controversial initiative to use data harvested from Facebook users to target them with pinpoint precision.
But a cascade pf sudden attacks during recent days are hurting Cruz and could doom his candidacy because of the primary calendar, which magnifies the importance of a few states in ways especially harmful to the Texas senator if he slips in Iowa.
In fact, the Trump ascendancy in recent days arguably represents the most astonishing reversal of fortune among presidential candidates in modern history during a two-week period.
Today's column provides an overview of these developments, which are explored more fully in a series to be published here over the next few days. Topics include:
- GOP fears of a Trump nomination, illustrated by establishment attack on Trump during the Jan. 12 party-vetted GOP reply to President Obama's State of the Union address;
- Cruz's growing strength illustrated by his controversial data mining operation and rejection of Trump's overture to join a Trump-led GOP ticket next fall;
- Trump's challenge to the eligibility of the Canadian-born Cruz to be presidency under the Constitution's requirement of "natural born" citizenship;
- Revelation that Cruz received $1.2 million in loans from Goldman Sachs and Citibank that he failed to report as funding for his successful campaign that year for a U.S. senate seat for Texas;
- Opposition to Cruz from GOP leaders, including Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, former GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole, and others.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is forever enhanced by discovery of a 24-minute recording of his first meeting with the national media, which occurred during a 1962 speech that was the first ever by an African American at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
To help celebrate King’s birthday on the Jan. 18 national holiday, the club unveiled the long lost recording last week along with riveting commentary by other civil rights pioneers.
They included Simeon Booker, 97, an African-American reporter who arranged the speech as a member of the club in the still-segregated nation's capital.
King’s speech and the panel’s context provide an inspiring perspective about the unjust and otherwise dire conditions they helped change.
In 1952, Booker became the first black reporter at the Washington Post. Later, and sometimes at great risk to his safety, he went on to report iconic stories about the civil rights movement during his five-decade career writing for the JET and Ebony magazines.
Booker, whose stories for JET about the 1955 torture and lynching in Mississippi of 14-year-old Emmett Till outraged black communities nationally, took the lead in urging the press club's speakers committee to invite King. The club had never previously invited even such black luminaries as Thurgood Marshall, Ralph Bunche, Jesse Owens or Jackie Robinson. Booker himself was just the second press club member who was of African-American descent. Another man joined briefly in the mid-1950s but never became active in the club’s activities.
Civil rights leaders Simeon Booker, Carol McCabe Booker and Judy Richardson at the National Press Club Jan. 12, 2016 (Justice Integrity Project photo)
The club's program focused heavily on racial conditions at the time of King's speech and less so on the progress that King helped inspire. Neither did it dwell on King's horrid and still-suspicious assassination in 1968. The murder and its investigation have been the subject of lingering questions by his family, others in the civil rights community and many other researchers who still question whether the late convicted assassin James Earl Ray acted alone in shooting at King while he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. The murder prompted riots in cities across the nation and many setbacks in the civil rights-antiwar-labor alliance that King was helping lead then.
Those chapters of American history were just a few years removed from 1962 when, as described by the press club's panel, even the nation’s capital was so segregated that blacks (called “Negroes”) faced great difficulty in finding a place to eat downtown, much less in renting a hotel room or obtaining a lecture audience before a racially mixed audience. Legal, medical, dentistry and other national professional bodies were still segregated at that time for the most part.
Gilbert Klein, a journalism professor at American University and former club president, helped arrange the Jan. 12 program about the 1962 King lecture. To open last week's program, Klein took the stage in the same club ballroom where King had spoken. Klein described how the 1962 invitation was so controversial that the club’s speaker committee chairman resigned in protest.
An audio recording was made of the speech and filed away in the Club’s Archives and later transferred to the Library of Congress. No television footage of the speech in its entirety exists. The Club's History and Heritage Committee recently retrieved the recording and found it is of significant historical value. Coming just days after Dr. King was released from jail in Albany, Ga., the civil rights leader outlined his vision for non-violent protest as the best way to achieve racial equality. The 1962 audiotape of 24 minutes was played below as part of the panel discussion.
Club president John Hughes of Bloomberg News described the discovery of King’s long-long audio recording and the creation of last week's program as the highlight of his year-long term that ended last week as the press club's volunteer president. "Martin Luther King's 1962 speech was one of the most important events to ever happen at the National Press Club," Hughes said. "I am honored this event at long last is getting proper recognition with such distinguished guests."
With the presidential debates scheduled to resume Jan. 14 after holiday recess, voters are running out of chances to hear sustained discussion of the most difficult foreign policy issues before the first voter selections.
So far, candidates have almost entirely avoided meaningful comment, particularly before the smaller and more interactive audiences in Iowa and New Hampshire. These smaller states enable more candid exchanges about some of the hardest war-related choices the next administration will face. When campaigns move to larger states candidates have far less hazard of encountering tough questions from unvetted, independent sources, such as individual voters and donors, and local journalists.
Three examples below show the problem, including dangerous shared assumptions between candidates, the mainstream media, and the major corporations that control them both.
On CNN’s “State of the Nation” Sunday interview show, for example, substitute host Dana Bash (shown at left) questioned GOP candidate Carly Fiorina Jan. 3 about her Middle Eastern foreign policy.
Bash asked Fiorina about Saudi Arabia’s execution of a Shia cleric, thus antagonizing Iran and leading to severed relations before scheduled peace talks later this month. Fiorina's extended response included the following, according to a CNN transcript:
“….when Russia and Iran combine together in an unholy alliance, we cannot, as, for example, Donald Trump suggests, outsource leadership, our leadership in the Middle East, to Russia or to Iran. They're not our allies. They are our adversaries.”
Fiorina, a former high-tech CEO who led the CIA's external advisory board from 2007 to 2009, repeated several times her language about “allies” and “adversaries.”
But she failed to describe what shared interests should constitute on alliance or what the United States should do about actions by "allies" that undercut this country's announced foreign policies on, for example, thwarting terrorism.
Saudi Arabia, for example, funded accused 9/11 hijackers according to widespread reports, and is heavily implicated along with U.S. ally Turkey in enabling the ISIS/ISIL terrorists based in Syria and Iraq.
The exchange on CNN typified other vapid interviews there and elsewhere sidestepping vital topics apparently too sensitive for in-depth treatment.
The return to solitary confinement of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman for 57 days this fall underscores President Obama's duty to provide clemency to a victim of America's most disgraceful recent political prosecution.
At a minimum, Obama (shown in a White House file photo) should commute the remainder of Siegelman's sentence, now scheduled to extend until mid-2017.
Far better, the president should issue a full pardon to the former governor and his co-defendant Richard Scrushy, the founder and former CEO of HealthSouth Inc. Update: High court won't hear appeal from former Alabama governor, Jan. 11, 2016.
Scrushy and Siegelmen were convicted of corruption charges in a 2006 federal trial. Scrushy has completed his sentence but is at least as much of a civil rights victim as Siegelman, Alabama's governor from 1999 to 2003 and its last Democrat in that office.
Scrushy, a Republican, has consistently argued that his company's donation to defray costs of a 1998 state referendum proposal was a routine expense for his billion-dollar company and that he was imprisoned only because he refused to take a prosecutors' plea deal to perjure himself to implicate Siegelman.
Alabama Attorney Gen. William Pryor, a Republican, began investigating Siegelman immediately upon the Democrat's assumption of office in 1999. Pryor's crusade was joined by the Bush administration after it took office in 2001. Their massive investigation ultimately ended Siegelman's viability as a statewide candidate or potential presidential contender. For nearly a decade, Pryor has been a federal judge on the Atlanta-based appellate court hearing Siegelman and Scrushy appeals.
Beginning immediately after Siegelman's sentencing in June 2007, he has been a repeated victim of solitary confinement for no apparent reason aside from the demonstrated animosity from his presiding trial trial judge Mark Fuller, Bureau of Prisons personnel with unknown motives, and indifference at best by a politically timid Obama White House.
Siegelman is shown in prison Dec. 11 at left with a fellow inmate, Charles Cloud, just after the former governor's release from "The Hole" at Oakdale's federal prison in Louisiana.
Siegelman's family members said they tried unsuccessfully to contact him during that period and could not learn from authorities why he was being held incommunicado as punishment. It is suspected, however, that Siegelman's response to a question on a phone call with radio personality Thom Hartmann triggered the reaction. Siegelman was discussing prison conditions generally in America but Hartmann asked how he was doing.
Last year at this time, Siegelman also was kept in solitary confinement for more than a month and shunted around the prison system, part of a pattern that first occurred when he and Scrushy were hauled away in chains at their 2007 sentencing by order of their judge, then Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller of Montgomery, even though most white collar defendants are granted bond during appeals.
Vast numbers of legal experts, whistleblowers, journalists and members of the public have denounced the many irregularities of the Siegelman-Scrushy prosecution, as summarized below.
Fuller (shown in his 2013 mug shot after an evening of drinking), had to resign his lifetime appointment to the bench in disgrace this summer.
Although the most public reason was a wife-beating arrest in 2013 not linked to the Siegelman-Scrushy case in obvious ways, little-reported aspects of the judicial scandal involve a longstanding pattern of Fuller's abusive supervision of the court system. That is directly relevant to the trumped up charges and kangaroo court procedures that convicted Siegelman and Scrushy and financially ruined the families of those two other co-defendants, who were falsely charged but acquitted at the trial.
Thousands of columns, including dozens by this editor, have documented prosecution irregularities and illustrated why the prosecution has become a notorious human rights scandal.
A system that mistreats Siegelman so often so badly with only whitewash oversight by the courts, congress and Justice Department underscores the problems facing 2.3 million other American prisoners and their families. The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world and one of the largest prison populations. The systems cost taxpayers vast amounts of money for overcrowded facilities and unaccountable procedures that help keep many inmates, especially street criminals, angry and difficult to reform prior to release.
For such reasons, every American who values the Constitution and a rule of law would benefit from presidential leadership in rectifying the injustice in the Siegelman case, as such prominent commentators as George Will of the Washington Post and Jeffrey Toobin of the New Yorker have written, along with many others.
So, the president and his legal advisors face a tainted legacy on human rights grounds, whatever their efforts and political posturing on other rights issues. Below, we examine the facts, including recent developments in Alabama and at the White House.
- An oped in the Montgomery Advertiser by columnist Josh Moon Dec. 16 directed at President Obama: End the Embarrassment and Pardon Don Siegelman;
- A rebuttal Dec. 24 by former Siegelman prosecutor Stephen Feaga justifying his treatment, Siegelman column riddled with 'inaccuracies; and
- A recap Dec. 28 by blogger Roger Shuler, who has published hundreds of columns about irregularities in the Siegelman case, Prosecutor Steve Feaga reportedly once pushed for false testimony in the Siegelman case, and now he tries to convince public that convictions were legitimate