Down With Tyranny! first published this column

Among the remarkable Mueller probe revelations last week was the claim that attorneys for former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort (shown in a mugshot) have been sharing confidential information paul manafort mugabout the special counsel’s investigation with the legal team of “Individual 1,” aka President Trump.

The New York Times broke the main story electronically on Nov. 27 under the headline, Manafort’s Lawyer Is Said to Have Briefed Trump Team on Mueller Talks. Reporters Michael S. Schmidt, Sharon LaFraniere and Maggie Haberman wrote:

A lawyer for Paul Manafort repeatedly briefed President Trump’s lawyers on his client’s discussions with federal investigators after Mr. Manafort agreed to cooperate with the special counsel, according to one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers and two other people familiar with the conversations.

The arrangement was highly unusual and inflamed tensions with the special counsel’s office when prosecutors discovered it after Mr. Manafort began cooperating two months ago, the people said. Some legal experts speculated that it was a bid by Mr. Manafort for a presidential pardon even as he worked with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, in hopes of a lighter sentence.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of the president’s personal lawyers, acknowledged the arrangement on Tuesday and defended it as a source of valuable insights into the special counsel’s inquiry and where it was headed.

A number of prominent legal pundits soon warned that such cooperation was not only rare but could be regarded as criminally illegal and / or unethical, thereby triggering potential liability for President Trump, Manafort and the lawyers involved.

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)

Potential problems could include obstruction of justice (under the theory that the actions could have the intent and effect of undermining the special counsel’s investigation). The conduct also could provide grounds for impeachment of Trump and potential bar sanctions against attorneys involved.

More importantly, the controversy illustrates continuing tension between the federal enforcement “community” and the opportunists (or worse) who operate within the justice system or on its fringes. Such conflicts are especially important and outrageous as the Trump administration draws upon some of the very worst Bush administration attorneys.

Among the many such shocking situations, this column focuses on three such officials who have become extremely prominent and otherwise newsworthy, in part because of their ties to President Trump and his team.

kevin downing head portraitManafort’s lead defense attorney, Kevin Downing (right), is a former senior litigator within the Justice Department’s tax fraud section, which missed a series of colossal tax frauds, including by Downing’s future client Manafort. Downing reportedly is also one of the attorneys involved in the liaison with the Trump White House that the New York Times reported last week;

• U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta as U.S. attorney for Miami in the Bush administration was involved both in major tax fraud cover-ups and also in whitewashing the federal-state prosecution of billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein is a Trump friend and neighbor who is back in the news this week with the beginning of a major defamation trial in West Palm Beach, Florida; and

• Our third Bush-era former Justice Department official is Matthew Whitaker, whom Trump named as acting attorney general after Whitaker tried out for the job by arguing on cable news shows that Mueller’s investigation are excessive and unwarranted. Whitaker’s career includes a stint as a Bush-appointed U.S. attorney for southern Iowa, where he vigorously prosecuted one of his political enemies whom a jury acquitted in just two hours.

An Overview

Let’s provide some context before exploring more thoroughly the abusive conduct of these three officials-- and the utter failure of watchdog mechanisms, whether in the Justice Department, courts, Congress or the media, to do much about these problems, at least so far.

The problem of rogue officials using their powers within the U.S. Justice Department for political purposes exploded into the national consciousness in late 2006 and early 2007 with the so-called “U.S. Attorney firing scandal.” Bush administration forced the resignation of nine (by some counts eight) of the nation’s 93 powerful regional U.S. attorneys.

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A federal judge on Friday set Dec. 7 as a key date for prosecutors to submit their reportedly explosive evidence of recent wrongdoing by the corrupt former Trump 2016 Campaign Chair Paul J. Manafort.

amy berman jacksonAs evidence mounted of a conspiracy by President Trump's former aides to advance his business and election interests with the help of Russians, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson also set March 5 as a tentative sentencing date for Manafort. He pleaded guilty in September before Jackson, right, to extensive bank and tax fraud charges brought by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Our Justice Integrity Project covered Manafort's earlier trial in Virginia before another federal judge. A jury sitting in Alexandria convicted Manafort of massive tax and bank frauds that occurred for the most part before he joined the Trump campaign in March 2016. The evidence showed that he obtained more than $60 million in income, declared just $13 million, and obtained more than $21 million in fraudulent loans during the Trump presidential campaign.

paul manafort mugManafort, shown in a mug shot, pleaded guilty just before a second trial in Washington, DC of criminal charges based largely on his actions during the presidential campaign. Manafort, who is being held in a federal cell in Virginia pending sentencing, was reported this fall to be cooperating with authorities, seeking leniency.

But prosecutors accused him early last week of lying to them. Then Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani created another surprise by telling New York Times reporters last week that Manafort was coooperating with other defendants by sharing information through his attorneys even after his guilty plea. Commentators said they have rarely if ever heard of such actions, which could create legal problems for defense attorneys.

In sum, this is the week that the public could first see that the Mueller probe has transitioned to one targeting the president, his family and their finances with a ith a "laser" focus by Mueller's team, according to Georgetown law professor Paul Butler, who was speaking to an MSNBC host on Nov. 30.

"The President is in considerable legal jeopardy," continued Butler, a frequent MSNBC contributor who earlier in the day had sat next to this reporter in the public gallery of Judge Jackson's courtroom. The crimes committed by president, Butler said in summarizing the week's disclosures, might include obstruction of justice, fraud and campaign finance violations.

The growing pressures on Trump include those from his former longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen, now a government witness. Prosecutors announced on Thursday an additional guilty plea by Cohen, whose confession implicated both Trump and an unidentified member of the president's family in Russian-linked business planning during the presidential campaign. Cohen's legal team released the next day on Nov. 30 a memo arguing that his cooperation has been so extensive that he should receive leniency.

Trump as reacted to growing pressure by prosecutors and their witnesses by denouncing the Mueller probe and failure of the U.S. Justice Department to imprison Trump's own political enemies.

djt trump train obama clinton holder retweet nov 28 2018Trump retweeted this week, for example, the adjoining graphic by conservative commentators portraying as criminals former Presidents Obama and Clinton, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, among others.

The targets shown behind bars included Mueller and Deputy Attorney Gen. Rod Rosenstein, both of whom are Republicans and career prosecutors who won their current posts under Trump's own administration.

As noted by CNN in Donald Trump, Internet troll, the president's message to his tens of millions of Twitter followers seemingly endorsed the argument "Now that Russia's collusion is a proven lie, when do the trials for treason begin?"

Meanwhile, Trump denounced "McCarthyite" tactics by prosecutors. Trump failed to note that his late mentor, fixer and attorney Roy Cohn had previously served during the early 1950s as the chief counsel of Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-WI), with Cohn using his acknowledged legal skills in such a nasty, vindicative and demogagic manner as to help make term "McCarthyite" notorious at least as much as its namesake.

As president, Trump has complained that he needs a "Roy Cohn" to attack his enemies in the Justice Department, a stance that further undermines Trump's attempt to play the victim of appointees under his own administration.

Such actions and the accumulating evidence against Trump and his inner-circle paint an appalling portrait of the administration's corruption, incompetence and anti-American conduct. The scope is without parallel at high levels of government in recent decades, including the Watergate scandals.

That evidence is fast accumulating in the public eye following a hiatus from mid-September to early November. Justice Department policy discourages politically sensitive indictments shortly before federal elections. But the absence of new disclosures during that period does not mean no evidence exists.

Right after the election, Trump tried to assert new control over Mueller by appointing a new acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker. But critics promptly challenged Trump's ability under the Constitution to appoint a Cabinet secretary without Senate confirmation in a non-emergency situation, especially one involved in so many conflicts of interest and scandals as Whitaker.

The Justice Integrity Project excerpts each day major news articles and commentaries about the Mueller probe for placement on a special subsite here. Shown below this column in an appendix are selected recent news items from that site.

Last week's major developments included continuing revelations regarding Cohen's disclosures against the Trump team and about Whitaker's oft-stated opposition to Mueller and Democrats — and Whitaker's own vulnerability to challenges on both his legal status as an unconfirmed nominee and a director previously of a scam company that the Federal Trade Commission fined $26 million. The Wall Street Journal has reported that Whitaker is now under criminal investigation by the FBI that he ostensibly directs.

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President Trump's replacement of the U.S. attorney general on Nov. 7 has generated a storm of well-merited criticism regarding the appointment's constitutionality, ethics, politics and potential criminality.

matthew whitaker agFor these reasons, the Justice Integrity Project strongly opposes the appointment of Matthew Whitaker, right. The project was founded in 2010 to report on abuses by the Justice Department, courts and those who appoint such officials. That remains the core of our mission even though our reporting has expanded to include news of the U.S. and global consequences of injustice.

Whitaker is a "lackey" of Trump in ways that undermine the independent role of the Justice Department, as many expert commentators have stated recently. Vox also reported Trump loyalist Matthew Whitaker was counseling the White House on investigating Clinton.

Scandal and other criticism of Whitaker arose quickly after his appointment. Trump tried to pretend on Nov. 9 that he did not even know his appointee, as the New York Times reported in Trump Says ‘I Don’t Know Matt Whitaker,’ Despite Several Oval Office Visits. Last month, Trump had even praised Whitaker by name as "a good guy."

Update: Whitaker's conflicts and other scandals and pressures surrounding his appointment appear to have limited Whitaker's ability and/or willingness to interfere with Mueller's investigation. Many commentaries on this point, including one dated on Nov. 20 Opinion: Stick a fork in Matt Whitaker, are excerpted in an appendix below. 

Justice Department logoBy all appearances, Whitaker won his job from Trump by showing as a cable television pundit that he opposes anything but a narrow agenda for Special Counsel Robert Mueller III's ongoing probe of the Trump campaign. Whitaker now supervises that probe because he is not recused, as was his predecessor Jeff Sessions.

On a related issue of even more historic importance, if possible, he opposes also the U.S. Supreme Court's 1803 holding in Marbury v. Madison, establishing judicial review power to monitor unconstitutional and other excesses within the Executive and Congressional Branches.

Aside from such policy views, the circumstances of Whitaker's appointment without confirmation by the U.S. senate and during a crucial phase of Mueller's investigation raise serious constitutional and other concerns, as described in a Nov. 9 New York Times oped Trump’s Appointment of the Acting Attorney General Is Unconstitutional.

This is particularly so because efforts by Whitaker to limit Mueller's probe, particularly further investigation of Trump and the president's relatives, could be construed as obstruction of justice by Whitaker and Trump.

john mitchell croppedAs precedent, President Nixon's attorney general John Mitchell, shown at left in a file photo, served a prison term on obstruction charges for conspiring to hide details of the 1972 Watergate break-in. Obstruction was also one of the three impeachment charges that the House Judiciary Committee approved against Nixon in 1974 shortly before he resigned rather than face the charges before the full House.

Also prompting criticism is Whitaker's involvement during recent years with lobbying for a dark money group called the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT).

ftc logoEven more seriously, he was a director of World Patent Marketing (WPM), a scam company recently forced to pay a $26 million fine after an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, an agency located a block from the Justice Department headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue and with overlapping jurisdiction in some cases of fraud and consumer protection.

The Wall Street Journal reported late Nov. 9 in its electronic edition: FBI Is Investigating Florida Company Where Whitaker Was Advisory-Board Member. The Guardian reported also, Trump's acting attorney general involved in firm that scammed veterans out of life savings.

Regarding Whitaker's relatively brief stints in federal law enforcement:

President George W. Bush appointed Whitaker as U.S. attorney for the Southern district of Iowa, where he brought a controversial corruption prosecution against a prominent gay Democrat, whom a jury promptly acquitted in a case summarized this way on Wikipedia: "From 2005 to 2007, he was responsible for the unsuccessful investigation and prosecution of Iowa State Sen. Matt McCoy, a liberal Democrat, on charges of attempting to extort $2,000. The jury took less than two hours to return a not guilty verdict.

CNN reported this week recounted the tale in more detail in Whitaker's controversial prosecution of a gay Democrat: When Iowa state Sen. Matt McCoy learned Donald Trump had appointed Matthew Whitaker to be acting attorney general of the United States, he was aghast — he believes Whitaker was behind a politically motivated prosecution that was personally "devastating" to him.

It started in 2007, when McCoy was a rising Democrat in state politics, and the state's first openly gay lawmaker. Whitaker was the US attorney for Iowa's Southern District at the time.

matt mccoy iowaA grand jury indictment accused McCoy, right, of using his elected office to try to extort $2,000 from a Des Moines home security company where McCoy was a consultant. The charges came after an elaborate undercover investigation in which the FBI had McCoy's business partner wear a recording device. McCoy demanded money he says he was owed for his consulting work.

The trial lasted more than a week, with prosecutors trying to prove the business partner never agreed to pay McCoy for his consulting and the defense torpedoing the partner's testimony because he couldn't recall many details and admitted he had trouble with sobriety, according to Des Moines Register articles on the trial.In the end, the jury reached a not guilty verdict in an hour and a half, including time for lunch, according to the Des Moines Register.

"I believe it was a political prosecution, there's no doubt in mind, I'm 100% certain that it was," McCoy said, adding he believes he was targeted not just because he's a Democrat, but also because he's gay. "As US attorney (Whitaker) spoke at Christian Coalition events and would often refer to bringing God into his decision-making process and being guided by God's hand," McCoy said, "and so I believe that he was very much resentful of my lifestyle and I believe that played a factor in it."

sam clovis fox news CustomWhitaker has long been active in partisan politics, raising other concerns. In 2012, Whitaker served as campaign manager for Samuel Clovis, left, later a Trump campaign official and a witness in the Mueller inquiry who was forced to leave his Trump administration post under a cloud.

In an unsuccessful race for the U.S. Senate representing Iowa, Whitaker argued that he would not "support ‘secular’ judicial nominees and courts should be ‘inferior branch."

Shown below are excerpts and hot links to a number of these and other news reports and commentaries on these issues.

As these revelations unfold, the Justice Department's ethics office, congressional leaders and ordinary members of the public must continue to speak out and demand that the Justice Department's vital functions be run by a proper appointee vetted in a constitutional and otherwise appropriate manner.

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Massive voting by Americans in the midterm elections on Nov. 6 is the best way to respond to Republican campaign lies, fear-mongering, racism, and voter suppression intended rig elections for the foreseeable future.

If successful the effect of the tawdry GOP tactics would be to continue the massive tax cuts enabling rule by the GOP donor class, which reacts to increasing budget deficits by advocating austerity conditions that would kill tens of thousands of Americans by reducing the safety net on health care. Those are facts, easily verified.

mitch mcconnell2So, it's not enough to document abuses and read about them. It's time to vote in such overwhelming numbers that would-be tricksters are intimidated, overwhelmed and otherwise rendered ineffective for the plan announced by GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, right, to cut the increasing budget deficit after these elections by attacking Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

New restrictions on the Affordable Care Act's "Obamacare" protections for pre-existing conditions would likely be attempted also. There have been 70 previous attempts by congressional Republicans (no matter what their election season rhetoric).

Congressional Republicans could also help President Trump end the threats against them posed by the continuation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Trump campaign election rigging and other corruption.

The scope of the crisis has finally become too grave for the major media to ignore. One indication is Paul Krugman's New York Times column A Party Defined by Its Lies: At this point, good people can’t be good Republicans and the Washington Post's Judge rules against Brian Kemp over Ga. voting restrictions days before gubernatorial election. .

Krugman, a Nobel-prize winning economist and political commentator, wrote in that when he began his oped column in 1999 the Times forbade him from using the word "lie" for any American politician, no matter what the circumstances. Times have changed, as indicated by the title of his column, A Party Defined by Its Lies: At this point, good people can’t be good Republicans.

In similar fashion, the mainstream media have for years virtually ignored even well-documented instances mass voter suppression and electronic election-rigging.

Fortunately, investigative reporter and author Greg Palast is among those who have fought hard against those tactics via columns, books and litigation.

Palast has documented GOP election cheating in such news reports as GOP’s Brian Kemp Purged 1 in 10 Georgia Voters: I’ve Got the Names for Truthout. He and his team also undertook eve reporting and with photos (at the top of this article) showing the impact of Trump's bigotry at his Nov. 5 rally. The Palast team was working undercover at a Trump rally in Georgia.

"All my East and West coast liberal friends are telling me not to worry, thinking the Dems have got  #Midterms2018 in the bag," Palast wrote on Monday via Twitter.

"What they're not seeing is stuff like this. This is what much of America looks like. ...Went undercover at yesterday's #Trump/#Kemp rally at the Middle #Georgia Regional Airport in Macon, GA. It was scary as shit: QAnon, Proud Boys, and a safe-zone for white supremacists. Just a patriot hate fest."

Palast is shown below left with the cover of his book Vultures' Picnic exposing techniques of ruthless billionaire "vulture" hedge fund power players like Paul Singer who pour vast amounts of unaccountable "dark money" into campaigns to fund deceptions, dirty tricks and other anti-democratic tactics to continue their tax cuts and vision of a nation run by billionaires via puppet officials and an uninformed and gullible electorate.

greg palast cover profileOne former Washington Post political reporter unsuccessful in publishing allegations about electronic cheating that proved decisive in the 2004 presidential election confided to me that his newspaper had required years ago "one hundred percent proof" of any such fraud to before it would publish a story that might undercut public confidence in election integrity and official "results." That is a near-impossible standard to achieve publication on almost any news topic.

By contrast, this investigative site and our 2013 book Presidential Puppetry documented, as have many others in the alternative media, how candidates (primarily Republicans in the major races) have won elections via a variety of voter suppression and vote-rigging techniques. Those tactics would be in addition to such long-standing tactics as dark money, misinformation and such dirty tricks as hoked-up sex scandals.

Puppetry showed, for example, how investigative reporter Greg Palast proved that Republicans and their election contractors stole the 2000 presidential election by quietly removing the voter registrations of more than 100,000 Floridians (mostly Democrats) shortly before the election that cost Democrats far more lost votes than the "hanging chads" that riveted the media.

presidential   puppetry coverThe massive confusion and lack of congressional concern and news coverage allowed the Republican majority on the U.S. Supreme Court to vote 5-4 on a party line vote to stop a vote recount and award the presidency to their fellow Republican George W. Bush.

The book reported also on how Alabama political operative Dana Jill Simpson had sought to describe as a whistleblower to Congress, the FBI and the news media how her former Republican colleges such as Bush White House Senior Advisor Karl Rove won many elections nationally by a variety of dirty tricks.

These included, by her own account and our subsequent investigations, frame-ups on corruption charges of prominent Democrats, such as former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, electronic tampering of election results (victimizing Siegelman in his 2002 re-election bid, and then others such as the Kerry presidential bid in 2004), and grooming with the help of dark money donors unethical politicians to ascend to secretary of state positions where the most devious pols could rig elections for others and, if they proved successful enough, ascend to higher office themselves.

Simpson was largely unsuccessful in winning congressional, Justice Department or media interest in her evidence, although CBS 60 Minutes did feature some of her allegations regarding the Siegelman frame-up in a 2008 broadcast and best-selling House of Saud, House of Bush author Craig Unger heavily quoted her findings in his important 2012 book Boss Rove: Inside Karl Rove's Secret Kingdom of Power.

Meanwhile, Palast and other authors, litigators and activists sought to maintain visibility for relevant issues, particularly regarding the core civic function of fair elections. In addition to the well-known civil rights groups, Ohio-based author-litigators Bob Fitrakis, Harvey Wasserman and Clifford Arneback, Code Red author Jonathan Simon of the Election Defense Alliance, and the editorial teams of Russ Baker at WhoWhatWhy and Rob Kall of OpEdNews have been tireless in documenting election shenanigans in the alternative media and to the courts. 

But Republican majorities on the Supreme Court have significantly worsened these election problems by two activist decisions rewarding the GOP majority's radical right base.

In a 2011 5-4 party line vote, the court overturned the nation's federal campaign finance law in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, thereby enabling major donors to fund campaigns in many ways by avoiding previous limits.

Then in Shelby County (Alabama) v. Holder, court Republicans substituted their opinion in 2013 for that of Congress by removing the extra Justice Department scrutiny that lawmakers had ordered for localities tarnished by their history of illegal voter suppression and similar tactics to reduce minority vote. The court's Republicans theorized that officials would no longer act in biased fashion.

"Five years after the ruling, nearly a thousand polling places have been closed in the country, with many of the closed polling places in predominantly African-American counties," according to research published in September by the Pew Trusts. "Research shows that the changing of voter locations and reduction in voting locations can reduce voter turnout."

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Federal authorities released on Wednesday a long-secret grand jury "road map" of Watergate evidence that prompted President Richard Nixon's 1974 resignation — and could provide a precedent for the current investigation of President Trump by a special counsel.

robert mueller waving armThe National Archives released the documents following recent litigation before a federal judge by scholars who successfully argued that the grand jury's 1974 work is too important to remain secret, especially in view of current investigation of the Trump Administration by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, a former FBI director shown in a file photo.

The road map is here. It consists of a two-page summary with 53 numbered statements. The statements are supported by 97 documents, such as interviews and tapes.

District Judge Beryl A. Howell, chief judge of the District of Columbia court, ordered release of the report prepared under the supervision of then-Independent Counsel Leon Jaworski and then-Chief Judge John J. Sirica.

nara logoThe report is known as the “Sirica road map” because Sirica approved the report's creation and transmission to lawmakers. The judge regarded such transmission as the best solution to the knotty but rare constitutional problem of what prosecutors should do with extensive grand jury evidence suggesting probable cause that a president committed serious crimes.

Such evidence is normally used to indict a suspect, who is then brought to a criminal trial. Courts have not tested whether a sitting president could be criminally tried and sentenced while in office outside of the impeachment process provided by the U.S. Constitution.

leon jaworskiJaworski, shown at right on a Time cover, and his predecessor, Archibald Cox, had developed evidence sufficient to indict more than 50 persons associated with the Nixon administration and/or the cover-up of the Watergate break-in during the 1972 presidential campaign. Washington, DC police arrested  operatives burglarizing the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office complex in the city.

Federal prosecutors finessed the constitutional issue of whether a president can be indicted in office by passing their "Sirica road map" developed with grand jury information to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. The committee used the materials to begin drafting articles of impeachment against Nixon that citing his administration's actions in covering up Watergate-related crimes by additional crimes, such as obstructing justice.

Nixon resigned office after fellow Republicans advised him that he could no longer count on enough GOP support to thwart an impeachment vote in the House conviction in the U.S. Senate after a trial of charges brought by the House.

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)Mueller, a "special" counsel slightly different than the "independent" counsel during the Watergate or Kenneth Starr's "Whitewater" probes of President Clinton and his administration during the 1990s, has functioned in somewhat similar fashion by amassing evidence much like the plea deals or other inducements to obtain evidence against Trump (shown in a Pentagon photo), his administration personnel and their allies.

Mueller's probe began with a focus on suspected Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election but has expanded to cover a number of arguably related topics, including potential obstruction of justice in covering up evidence and otherwise seeking to thwart investigation.

A significant part of the Watergate materials became public via criminal trials and other proceedings in the 1970s but some material was restricted because of the traditional secrecy of grand jury materials.

Geoffrey Shepard, a California lawyer who once worked for Nixon, years ago sought release of the materials via litigation before U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth in Washington, beryl howellDC. But the case languished until a team of three legal experts filed a parallel action two months ago that led the Howell, the chief judge (shown at right), to assume control of the litigation and move for prompt release via the Archives.

The three scholars, as described in their pleadings and commentaries, were Brookings Institution senior fellow Benjamin Wittes; Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard University law professor who led the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel under President George W. Bush; and Stephen Bates, a professor at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, who co-wrote the Starr report with Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh years before Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court.     

Wittes, Goldsmith and Bates published reports about their litigation on the blog Lawfare, an influential DC site co-founded by Wittes, a former Washington Post editorial board member who last year called for Trump's impeachment. The reports are excerpted below, as are such other commentaries as a Washington Post news story Wednesday by Spencer Hsu, U.S. archivists release Watergate report that could be possible ‘road map’ for Mueller.

richard nixon desk archives

President Richard Nixon in the White House Oval Office (Photo via Wikimedia and the National Record and Archives Administration).

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Three Americans who have visited Syria multiple times amid the ongoing civil war provided detailed briefings this month to the McClendon Group at a special dinner presentation at the National Press Club.

The speakers presented their observations about the people, the government, and the civil war in Syria that differ sharply with mainstream media accounts in Western and Gulf monarchy-controlled news media.

The presentation, “Syria: Three Personal Accounts,” was delivered on Oct. 12 to nearly 30 attendees of the McClendon Group, a speaker society that presents alternative views of important issues. It is named for the late White House correspondent Sarah McClendon

janice korthkamp richard black carla ortiz img 5490Speakers were: Virginia State Senator Richard Black, an attorney with a long military background in the U.S. Marines and the U.S. Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps; Carla Ortiz a Bolivian-born film documentary maker and film star who is a naturalized U.S. citizen; and Janice Kortkamp, an American who describes herself as a "housewife" who felt obligation to learn more about the war-torn nation.

The adjoining photo shows the three, with Ortiz on the right.

They gave first-hand reports of their experiences with the Syrian people, the Bashir al Assad government, and the civil war.

Each speaker offered a unique and deeply personal account of their on-the-ground experiences, traveling around Syria, interviewing people from all backgrounds and walks of life (including many internally displaced persons), and meeting with military and humanitarian group officials.

First to speak was Black, who has visited Syria twice since 2014. He noted that his engagement in a personal effort to bring an end to the war began with a letter he sent to President Bashir al Assad. The letter thanked Assad for the Syrian military’s defense and rescue of the Christian communities in Syria from the brutal terrorists’ torture and murders victimizing that religious community.

wesley clark oBlack gave a long-term overview of the war in Syria. He noted that as far back as 2001 the Pentagon was planning for regime change in Syria.

Black cited for this the statements of former U.S. Army General Wesley Clark — former Supreme Allied Commander in Europe (SACEUR), shown at right in a file photo. During Clark's campaign for the U.S. presidency in 2004, he recalled that he had been told in confidence by a former high-level military officer of secret plans for regime change in Syria as one of governments in seven Middle East countries that were to be overthrown by a U.S.-led effort. One of Clark's widely viewed video clips of his recollection is here.

Black also gave details of reports of U.S. smuggling weapons from the regime change effort in Libya in 2011 to Syria directly into the hands of jihadi groups, including Al Qaeda, to overthrow President Assad.

In pursuing this war with these allies, Black said, the U.S. adopted an “empire” policy that is alien to the nation’s true interests and which is aiding the same terrorists carla ortiz ghoutathat attacked the U.S. on 9/11.

Following him was Ortiz, an internationally known actress, producer and philanthropist. Born in Bolivia, she began her acting career at age 15.

After achieving stardom in Latin America and Hollywood, she turned to documentary filmmaking and has produced several documentaries on the plight of the victims of the Syrian war. She has spentg much of the past two years on the ground in Syria visiting some of the most devastated war zones.

She is shown with a child in Douma [aka Ghouta] in May 2018 shortly after Syrian government forces offered reconciliation deals to rebels or transported them north to rebel-held territory following years of rebel occupation of Douma and bombardment of civilian populations of nearby Damascus.

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