Protecting the Republic

Author: Gary Hart

The Department of Justice, where I once worked in the National Security Division, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is the principal federal law enforcement agency, are, together with the Central Intelligence Agency and a dozen or so related intelligence service and, of course, the Department of Defense, responsible for the security of our nation.

What weakens them, weakens our nation.  That is why those of us who served on the Senate Select Committee to Investigate the Intelligence Services of the United States (the “Church Committee”, 1975-1977) took extraordinary care to fairly treat these agencies while building Constitutional barriers to unlawful behavior.  Veterans of those agencies agree that they were made stronger by constraints placed upon them.

Virtually non-stop since legitimate questions were raised by the Justice Department about Russian tampering with our 2016 election, universally confirmed by all intelligence services, the President of the United States has conducted open warfare against his own Department of Justice and the FBI which works with it and under its direction.

There is no precedent for this in American history.

The President fires the Director of the FBI, rants that his own Attorney General will not do what he is told, and claims that the FBI is in “tatters” even as he directs the tattering.  Knowing nothing of American history or our Constitution, he enters the White House believing that the Department of Justice is his personal law firm and he can order it to do, or not do, what he wants.

Once again, there is no precedent for this.

It is paranoid mendacity for the President and those around him to claim overtly and covertly that the Department of Justice and FBI are riddled with Democrats out to get him.

To prove there is no end to this, on top of it all he approves the release of a report by the staff of one Member of the House of Representatives that claims to prove this preposterous assertion, against the appeal by the Director of the FBI that national security will be compromised (this is the sources and methods claim), and without the common decency and traditional decorum to permit his Committee’s minority members to issue a rebuttal to the false and misleading claims it makes.

Despite the media sound and fury surrounding this issue, this phony report is already falling of its own weight and will not achieve its intended purpose of distraction from the Mueller investigation and attempt to discredit the Department of Justice and FBI.  But the damage, which seems to characterize most of this Administration’s actions, will have been done to two critical agencies upon which our security depends.

For the better part of a year, as misstatements and misrepresentations (credible journals have called them lies) have mounted, a student of Jefferson could not help but wonder what he and his founding colleagues would make of a former reality television host dismantling years of bipartisan progress at home and abroad with the ignorance of an undisciplined child.  They feared, and rightly so, an oligarch or authoritarian who would directly and indirectly deconstruct and disregard the Constitution and balanced governing system they created.  Unsuccessful attempts have been made here and there, usually by presidents facing retribution, but none on the scale of what we see now.

I imagine Jefferson and the others whispering in the ears of those who will listen: Be careful.  Be very careful.  Do your duty and be on guard.

 

[Anyone questioning the author’s credentials on national security is free to do so.  But the author has a fifty-year record in response.]

12 Responses to “Protecting the Republic”

  1. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    Senator Hart,

    President Trump said today that what is happening in your country is disgraceful and that those responsible for this disgrace should be ashamed.

    How does one react to that?

    I trust that Democratic leaders are using every waking moment understanding and strategizing on how to win elections and choosing a presidential candidate for 2020 who is well-equipped to beat Trump (or whomever the Republican party sees fit to run) and put a stake in Trumpism.

    Perhaps all of us here can offer up a few suggestions because, if past performance is indicative of future performance, then I’m sure they’re going to need some help.

  2. LORENZO CHERIN Says:

    Those who might be daft enough to criticise our valued host,Senator Hart, or denigrate him on these issues, have the Clint Eastwood – like warning at the conclusion ot the piece, I’e always thought of our good Senator that was, as the Robert Redford of politics but he’s made my day , with that bit of good robust putting the opponent right!

    I think we have the way forward often as a result of the forensic examination of our host, in the terrific Elizabeth responses. We look to and work to defeat him, Trump must be voted out.

    This week I found, and began the commentary on my part for, the man , and yes it is a man, who can do this task I believe, Representative, Congressman, Joe Kennedy ! Without a doubt the bloated and bombastic president needs a complete opposite to beat him. Younger by far where he is older and tired, moderate and sensible where he is extreme and unpredictable, decent and likeable where he is a disgrace and horrible…

    Watch this space…

  3. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    Lorenzo,

    You are spot on to say that the next Democratic presidential candidate must be the exact polar opposite of President Trump.

    But, more important that even that, the next democratic candidate for president should be someone who is more than capable of appealing to all voters – Democrat, Independent and Republican leaning – through good old-fashioned persuasion, a lost art, some might say.

    I think one of the reasons Democrats have not fared well electorally is primarily due to their less than stellar communication skills and the fact that many of them underestimate the intelligence of the average American voter.

    When does the 2020 campaign begin!? 🙂

  4. LORENZO CHERIN Says:

    Elizabeth

    Yes in every respect, agreed. My feeling having watched Joe Kennedy, here is the completely different candidate. Young, warm, untainted. More importantly even than personal elements that are though very crucial, political ones, progressive,open, brighter. He , with say a black or female or older contrasting very different vp, would be the sort of candidate who could inspire and offer fresh ideas , and win.

    The country is horribly split and needs a healer.

    I am not biased though a strong admirer of his family greats. I like the guy!

  5. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    I’ll have to take a closer look at Joe Kennedy (III?), Lorenzo, for all of the reasons you cite.

    I also agree that your country is extraordinarily divided with many of your fellow citizens in a place that seems impermeable to facts or to the truth of any given matter. Which makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to bridge the divide.

    And so, the next American president has a lot of work to do in terms of just uniting the country on the fundamentals, let alone policy directions.

    Which is why I still believe that the Democrats should consider a hybrid or fusion ticket. And, I think the top of that ticket needs to be a Democrat with experience and impeccable credentials, domestically and internationally. The other half of the ticket should be a moderate Republican who cares about people and puts country before party. The ticket needs to campaign as a team, focused on the needs of the people and nation, using creative and effective means of persuasion.

    No one will be surprised to know that I believe Joe Biden should top the ticket but, I am quite open as to who the moderate Republican should be. 🙂

  6. Eric Jacobson Says:

    Although I revere the Church Committee and its estimable work Senator, in my humble opinion it is no use applying the standards of the 1970s to the baleful present. Would that the investigation and reforms you and your colleagues on the Church Committee conducted and catalyzed still pertained in our modern Scoundrel Times. The truth is that institutions are only as good as the people who work in them, and the caliber of American government personnel has plummeted since January 1981 when the leadership of the “vast right-wing conspiracy” took up residence in Washington DC. (Credit where it’s due: This just quoted incisive turn-of-phrase is Hillary Clinton’s single lasting contribution to the American political vernacular.)

    On March 18, 1987 I wrote the host a letter in which I referred to the bizarre nature of what Reagan had wrought (which letter holds up pretty well almost 31 years later and reads in part):
    ———-
    “If there is a moral for Democrats to the long, national political nightmare of the past quarter century it is this: never let a vacuum develop because you never know what might fly in to fill it. Since the deaths of John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., Democrats have defaulted on their responsibility for charting and vigorously defending an enlightened, progressive, inspirational course for our nation, the world, and future generations. What filled the vacuum were some of the darkest, and most jaundiced, mean, stunted, ugly, duplicitous and regressive beliefs and practices that have ever reached the highest levels of national policy and discourse in America’s 200 year history. I predict that in a few short years, we will be as ashamed of the prevailing thought and goings-on of the 1981-1986 period as we are today of the McCarthy years, particularly if the whole truth comes out over the next 18 months.”
    ———-
    Obviously, that was overly optimistic. But thanks to intrepid journalists such as Robert Parry, who recently left us (of natural causes, if pancreatic cancer can be called such) far too soon age 68 (see https://consortiumnews.com/2018/01/28/robert-parrys-legacy-and-the-future-of-consortiumnews/#comment-307046 including the outpouring of comments grieving his passing including my own of Feb. 4th), SOME of the truth about the Reagan-Bush era came out and some Reagan-Bush officials were prosecuted and served time over the Iran-contra scandal. But the conservative rightist contours of America’s political economy and foreign and war (not just defense) policies became entrenched and have endured through Democratic and Republican administrations alike ever since.

    Nowadays Senator, Bob Dylan’s 1999 lyrics to the song titled Things Have Changed have become the cynical creed of all advantaged Americans particularly including our once-at-least-somewhat-patrician financial, political and legal elites:

    “People are crazy and times are strange
    I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range
    I used to care, but things have changed”
    https://bobdylan.com/songs/things-have-changed/

    Respectfully Senator, those senior federal law enforcement personnel you extol are part of the problem. A good test of a person’s or institution’s true colors is to observe their response when they are called on a mistake they’ve made. Beginning in 2007 I saw “up close and personal” the DOJ’s telling (asinine) response to being called on such an error when I earnestly tried to hold 2 FBI agents (who were part of a task force that also included local officers) liable for a warrantless house-wide residential parole search that unequivocally violated the Fourth Amendment rights of at-least 3 of my clients, 2 African-American and 1 Latino cohabitants of a parolee. The parolee wasn’t home at the time of the search, during which search the officers illegally “tossed” 2 of the cohabitants’ private bedrooms. Guess who was the head of the FBI during those 7 years of bitterly contentious federal court litigation which concluded in a denied Supreme Court certiorari petition ( https://www.supremecourt.gov/search.aspx?filename=/docketfiles/12-7858.htm )? His name starts with an M.

    Sen. Fulbright’s axiom “the arrogance of power” is a polite term for the persecution (term used advisedly) Mr. Mueller (at least titularly) and all the U.S. Attorneys who represented his 2 FBI agents in a horrendously oppressive manner. (The 2 FBI agents themselves seemed perfectly decent people when I took their depositions and conscious they had erred but were obviously under the complete control of the savage U.S. Attorney representing them.) “Black matters mattered” not one whit to the U.S. Attorney’s office. Indeed they sharp-practiced-to-win and fanatically sought sanctions and costs from my low-income minority clients.

    In resisting for 7 years a civil rights exposure these DOJ employees disgraced themselves and sullied our country’s honor. In Dec. 2014 I laid out all that had happened in a 49 page letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and over-nighted it to him by FedEx (paying extra for first morning delivery): https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5ilXuTzT1mlWnJtSGc3UnBLWEE/view?usp=sharing . That was over 3 years ago. I never receive a peep in reply! Our tax dollars at work? I’m afraid so.

    Forgive me then for taking essentially a “pox on both your houses” attitude towards the battle-royal between senior federal law enforcement personnel and the Trump White House. (But see below.)

    Further, there was and is a big difference between attacking Trump for the total phoniness of- and infidelity to his populist rhetoric (as I recently did here: https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/01/12/hello-i-must-be-going-is-michael-wolffs-book-fake-populist-trumps-exit-strategy/ ) which alone impeaches his legitimacy as president and merits his political removal from office, and attacking Trump for proclaiming (albeit dishonestly) a desire to practice the politics of “creative destruction” (a variation on Joseph Schumpeter’s economics doctrine) of the old financial-elite-supremacist economic and political order — which was what “draining the swamp” of Wall Street’s, K Street’s and the 1%’s domination of America’s political economy was supposed to be all about!

    In an epic act of political malpractice, in the 2016 general election campaign and beyond the Democrats and their donor class essentially did neither: Instead they and their government-embedded political operatives concocted the daft idea that: Donald Trump received outcome-determinative help during the 2016 campaign from “the Russians” and still is receiving such help to the present day.

    To be fair, watching RT America’s main news show (hosted by Ed Shultz, for whom evidently “things have changed” from his younger progressive incarnation) slowly morph into a Fox News-lite pro-Trump propaganda forum, lends some credence to the Russians-are-still-helping-Trump narrative. Overall however (and alas) the “Russiagate” narrative and the so-called liberal media hysteria surrounding it (eg. MSNBC aka MSDNC see https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/02/02/msnbc-a-trainload-of-fools/ for a wry take) smacks of 1960s burlesques of the Cold War during my youth. Eg. “The Russians Are Coming!” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Russians_Are_Coming,_the_Russians_Are_Coming . When I can bear to watch MSNBC et al. declaim non-stop the-Russians-decisively-influenced-the-2016-election trope (surprisingly even Bernie Sanders, who knows better, now so alleges), mostly I just shake my head and think: “Where are film stars Carl Reiner, Eva Marie Saint, Alan Arkin, Brian Keith, Jonathan Winters and Theodore Bikel to mock such histrionics when you need them?”

    Over the decades I’ve “had a very keen sense of the yearnings of the American voters” (as the host’s 1984 campaign manager Oliver “Pudge” Henkel once put it in a kind reference letter https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5ilXuTzT1mlanUtV1FxN2stNXM/view?usp=sharing when I repaired to graduate school in political science to better prepare to help the host govern if he saw fit to hire me so to do beginning in Jan. 1989). And in this instance I’ve followed the teapot-tempest saga closely enough to recognize that the main contours of “Russiagate” is a pulp-fiction type account and a proverbial “dog that won’t hunt” factually, legally, politically or otherwise. And unlike an over-matched left-coast sole practitioner civil rights attorney, the FBI and DOJ are in no position to similarly steam-roller an opponent with the world’s biggest megaphone and a crack (cracked?) team of White House-based enablers who know that they will never work again in politics or government when (not if) Trump is forced out of office.

    So, what is to be done?

    Trump’s steeply regressive (self-enriching) tax cut bill, his trip to Davos to hobnob with those very designers of the capitalist (and neo-feudalist-trending) one-world-economy Trump righteously (if fraudulently in his case) REVILED during the campaign (see his closing argument ad here: http://time.com/4559597/donald-trump-closing-argument-campaign-ad/ ), and the daily (get-the-rich-richer-quicker at the expense of the common good) machinations of his “swamp Cabinet” demonstrate Trump’s economic-populist policy promises are now entirely “inoperative” (in the old phrase of Nixon’s press secretary Ron Zeigler). Even mainstream CNN commentator Fareed Zakaria agrees. See his commentary ending with “Is this what the laid-off steel worker in Ohio voted for?”: https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2018/01/15/trump-populist-platform-fareed-zakaria-gps-sot.cnn . Although Trump ran as blue-collar billionaire and would-be bridler of his own super-rich class, AGAINST a large field of conservative Republican would-be leaders of “the vast right-wing conspiracy” it is now crystal clear that Trump plainly did so merely to take over its leadership and put an ugly-American face on it.

    With the possible exception of Woodrow Wilson, who promised the American people he would keep U.S. troops out of World War 1 during his 1916 reelection bid, Donald Trump’s campaign on the blatantly false pretenses he was an “economic populist” is the the only time a winning presidential candidate has so totally traduced the voters. We dare not allow this massive legerdemain (what I called in my Counterpunch article “the larceny-by-trick” of the hearts and minds of the American electorate), to stand.

    Accordingly, we can only hope and pray that Mr. Mueller and his “dream team” (ahem) will find a tax crime in the president’s past (for which, fortunately, there is no statute of limitation) with a Russian nexus, and force the president to pre-arrange a pardon and resign. Indeed I believe this precise end-game will occur sooner rather than later.

    Although our “long national nightmare” will not then be over (a president Pence will be no picnic), there will be poetic justice in seeing Don the Con ousted from the presidency (if not brought to justice) the same way Al Capone (a gangster who likewise posed as a benefactor of the multitudes) was “taken off the streets”. It can’t happen soon enough.

  7. Eric Jacobson Says:

    Typos are inevitable for all avocational blog commenters and often they’re not significant enough to bother correcting. In this instance though they are. The following paragraphs and sentence (respectively) in my Feb. 6th comment should have read:
    ————–

    Nowadays Senator, Bob Dylan’s 1999 lyrics to the song titled Things Have Changed have become the cynical creed of almost all advantaged Americans particularly including our once-at-least-somewhat-patrician financial, political and legal elites:

    ————–

    Sen. Fulbright’s axiom “the arrogance of power” is a polite term for the persecution (term used advisedly) Mr. Mueller (at least titularly) and all the U.S. Attorneys who represented his 2 FBI agents in a horrendously oppressive manner subjected-my-clients-to. (The 2 FBI agents themselves seemed perfectly decent people when I took their depositions and conscious they had erred but were obviously under the complete control of the savage U.S. Attorney representing them.) “Black lives mattered” not one whit to the U.S. Attorney’s office. Indeed they sharp-practiced-to-win and fanatically sought sanctions and costs from my low-income minority clients.

    ————–

    I never received a peep in reply!

  8. Brian C McCarthy Says:

    Senator, none of us who know you and your career would doubt your credentials to say any of what you have said. You have OUR ears. But, how do we get the remainder to see this farce of a presidency for anything other than what it is? Whom do we have on the shelf that will defeat this demagogue in 2020, and can we do it without sacrificing decency and principles? How do you beat the kid who shows up to the party and pees in the punch bowl? To the loud approval of 40% of the electorate? How can we reach out to the Trump voters to win them back? It seems the explosion of information that the Internet and 24 hour cable news has provided has resulted in people being less, rather than more, informed. Is it even possible now, with partisan and ideological websites and news channels providing people with their daily news intake, to ask that reason and thought,,, rather than ideological spin, guide their decisions?

  9. gary hart Says:

    Responding properly to Brian McCarthy’s penetrating questions would require more space than is available here. Though dated, The Courage of Our Convictions still stands as the best roadmap I can provide for a Democratic resurgence. The Party needs to define itself with a brief manifesto stating its core principles and convictions. It must still fill the vacuum left by transition from manufacturing to information as the base of our economy. It must re-establish, post-Trump, a new internationalists foreign policy that unites Western democracies on security and trade. It must reform our military institutions, strategies, tactics, and doctrines to address sub-national, not nation-state, wars. Much work now must be done to repair the serious Trump damage to the environment and public resources. Most of all, Democrats must sever ties to special interest money and truly clean up corruption in Washington which Trump promised but will never do. Until integrity in government is restored, any serious restoration of our republic will not happen. GH

  10. LORENZO CHERIN Says:

    Elizabeth

    My country is England, my state, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, I married a wife of American birth and upbringing, and culturally and personally , as well as politically feel very much kin ! We British feel that , in many ways historically too with you lovely maple leaf folk !

  11. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    Lorenzo,

    I have actually been paying attention and knew that your country is England.

    In many ways, we’re all in the same boat. 🙂

  12. Tim Conner Says:

    The bottom line of this terrible situation is:
    If the law will not protect us from these criminals and foreign agents, then what will?
    I submit that the Constitution does not give us an answer, but the Declaration of Independence does.

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