Obstruction of Injustice

A few months ago (which these days upon reconsideration sometimes turns out to be a few years ago …) I heard a fascinating tape on PBS, the Public Broadcasting System. It was a recording of President Lyndon Johnson, known as LBJ, and J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI. The conversation occurred in the 1960s. LBJ had called Hoover to congratulate him on the FBI finding the bodies of the three murdered civil rights workers, Goodman, Schwerner, and Cheney. Here’s the backstory to the phone call.

In the 1960s when the US civil rights movement was first boiling over, there was a lot of racially motivated violence against black people in the southern US. LBJ asked Hoover what the FBI knew about the KKK (the Ku Klux Klan) and other people committing crimes in the south. It turned out that Hoover didn’t know doodley-squat about the KKK or people committing anti-black violence. He was totally focused on Communists and the Mafia. Plus Hoover didn’t much like black people, particularly Martin Luther King. And to top it off, Hoover and LBJ disliked each other. Profoundly.

As you might imagine, LBJ was double-plus unhappy to hear that nothing was known about the KKK. He told Hoover to pull his thumb out of his fundamental orifice, to take some of his best agents off of the Mafia or the Commies or whatever they were investigating, and to put them all to work posthaste finding the people who bombed the black kids in the church and other such cowardly criminals.

hoover lbj

Now Hoover, to his credit, moved very fast. He flooded the south with FBI agents, who aggressively recruited informants. Within a very short time, he had an informant in most of the “Klaverns” of the KKK. I remember that it was a joke at the time that pretty soon, the KKK would consist of nothing but FBI informants informing on other FBI informants …

In the process, the FBI successfully found the perpetrators of a number of the crimes. The tape recording was of LBJ congratulating Hoover on the job that he’d done. LBJ was a master at that. To hear the two men talk, you’d never know that they roundly hated and despised each other.

LBJ was all Texas oil on the phone, thanking Hoover for the speed with which he’d been able to focus the FBI on a totally new area, saying it was an amazing accomplishment, all the sweet honeyed words. It was a masterpiece of flattery, and Hoover ate it up. It is a most educational recording for any aspiring politician. LBJ was famous for saying that it was better to have the camel inside the tent pissing out than to have the camel outside the tent pissing in … a lesson that President Trump would do well to consider.

============

Now, I’ve told this tale for a modern-day reason. Here’s my question about the story of LBJ, Hoover, and civil rights.

Did you notice the heinous crime that LBJ committed?

… no? …

Well, neither did I.

However, I ask because it seems that there are a number of people out there who think it is somehow “Obstruction Of Justice” if the US President tells the FBI Director who to investigate and who to not investigate. As LBJ showed, this is not the case at all—the FBI works for the President just like everyone else in the Executive Branch. And yes, the President can tell the FBI Director to stop investigating one individual or group and go investigate another individual or group. Ask J. Edgar if you don’t believe me.

A friend of mine used to ask “Is it a law, a regulation, a policy, or a custom”? Regarding the independence of the FBI from the President, it is a custom, and a recent one. There are neither laws, regulations, nor policies that prevent the President from even something as extreme as say pardoning someone under investigation. President Bush pardoned Caspar Weinberger when he was under investigation in Iran-Contra. Was that obstruction of justice? Nope. It’s just another part of the President’s constitutional authority.

Now … is there such a thing as Presidential obstruction of justice? Sure. For example, if the President were to advise his people to lie to the FBI, that would be obstruction of justice. But there’s no evidence of any such malfeasance.

In particular, IF the President said: “I hope you can give Michael Flynn a break, he’s a good guy” (claimed by Comey, denied by the President), that is STILL not obstruction of justice. Nor did James Comey think at the time that whatever was said was obstruction of justice. We know this because if Comey did think that he was being obstructed in his duties, he was REQUIRED BY LAW to report such obstruction to his superiors … which he never did.

Nor did James Comey think at the time that whatever was said was obstruction of justice. We know this because if Comey did think that he was being obstructed in his duties, he was REQUIRED BY LAW to report such obstruction to his superiors … which he never did.

So we know that Comey was clear that he was not being obstructed, and he testified to the same lack of obstruction under oath.

As a Senator said during the hearings, nobody ever went to jail for hoping.

Midnight now. A mother fox has denned up under our kitchen again this year. It makes the cat nervous, but they seem to have established some kind of detente just like last year. I hear the foxes grumbling under the floor, like trolls under the bridge … life is good.

w.

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26 thoughts on “Obstruction of Injustice

  1. you have a couple things repeated as the end of one paragraph and almost exactly as the next paragraph.

    As for Comey, he’s belief or lack of belief about it being obstruction is less reliable now that he revealed that Lynch told him to not call the investigation into Hillary’s e-mail an investigation, and he just went along with it

    Liked by 1 person

      • Sorry Sir, it is 12:52 (00:52) Wed AM 6/28/17 and the double is still up:

        “Nor did James Comey think at the time that whatever was said was obstruction of justice. We know this because if Comey did think that he was being obstructed in his duties, he was REQUIRED BY LAW to report such obstruction to his superiors … which he never did.”

        Jack

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  2. While both Hoover and Comey were FBI bosses, they have very little in common. The job of an “intelligence” officer is to sift the grain from the chaff. Apparently, Hoover could do it. He would probably not participate in a publishing of an unverified “intelligence” report accusing a presidential candidate of being a Russian puppet, “out of an abundance of caution”.

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    • Hoover was very much not above blackmailing politicians. In many ways he was the most corrupt FBI director we’ve ever had. He was also very good at his job (the two are not mutually exclusive)

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  3. I don’t think Trump handled the Comey firing very well, but Comey’s own appearance and testimony before the Senate pretty much eliminated any sympathy I had for him. If Comey was so concerned about the conversation with President Trump that he went home and wrote a personal memo, which he later leaked to the press through a friend, it’s worth asking what other memos he might have written:

    + After AG Lynch ordered him to refer to the Clinton investigation as a “matter”.

    + After the DOJ gave Cheryl Mills immunity while allowing her to continue serving as Clinton’s attorney.

    + After AG Lynch and former President Clinton had a furtive meeting on the Phoenix tarmac, supposedly to talk about their grandchildren.

    + After it was established that IRS Assistant Director Lois Lerner had targeted conservative and Republican organizations, and had improperly shared privileged IRS information using a private email account, all the while making an unusual number of White House visits with President Obama.

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  4. The questions being raised about possible obstruction of justice were never about obstruction of justice. It was all to secure a special investigation by Mueller. His legal team now has 14 attorneys and is growing. Mueller knows that they can’t get Trump on a crime, so they will get him on the process, digging and digging until someone slips up. Then they will have a big trial of the lower level person that everyone will *know* is just a fall guy to keep Trump from going to jail. It has happened before with Scooter Libby and it’ll happen again.

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  5. Since Comey already sat in front of a Congressional committee and publicly admitted neither Trump nor anyone in his campaign colluded with any foreign nationals during the campaign AND that neither Trump nor anyone in his Administration has colluded with any foreign nationals exactly what is this all about? Oh, yea, making the Democrat Party relevant again. They can’t win elections so they are hanging all their hopes on this kabuki dance.

    Now, Comey’s best friend and former supervisor Mueller, who Comey worked so hard to put in charge of this, has hired a string of Democrat Party lawyers/consultants/supporters to be in his little club. It is well past time for DJT to appoint a career FBI AGENT to run the FBI, and his first order of business is to get the FBI’s house in order, clear out the politically motivated bureaucrats and appoint career FBI AGENTS to all senior admin posts in the agency. The FBI’s political neutrality is paramount. Its politicization is a massive problem that MUST be addressed, loudly and publicly.

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  6. Oh, and yes, the FBI is a part of the Executive Branch and the President can exercise direct control of its investigations and activities. According to Comey’s statements before Congress the President, Donald J Trump, ordered him to conduct this investigation quickly and thoroughly no matter where it led. I don’t understand why Republicans are not taking these segments of video from Comey’s testimony and blasting them out to the entire country. Every time a Republican is in front of a camera or reporter they need to ram these facts up the news media’s ass, and then hammer it in with a mallet each time they try to change the subject. Take a clue from how Democrats operate and then do it in spades!!!!!!

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    • The “Republicans” don’t because they do not want Trump as President any more than did they want him as a candidate. It was the party members, not the regulars, that forced Trump on the party. The regulars, on the other hand, “own” most of the “Republicans” in the House and Senate. Trump basically is “a man without a party,” so his administration stands alone. It is the perfect time for a real 3rd party to come into existence, and give him real support. He won’t ever get it from the “GOP” that exists today. I think he selected Pence as VP only because he might get some sort of support from the party since Pence was more like them. Of course, he is also aware that they would like to force him to resign so Pence could take over, but if he truly wants to make a change in the trajectory of the nation, he has to fight on until the bitter end, whatever that may be. Hopefully he won’t end up like Custer at Little Bighorn.

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      • Oh, yea, don’t I know it! Only difference is DJT has an AK with 75rd drum in each hand(twitter), not a single 6 shot revolver, and he is perfectly willing to use them!

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      • The career politicians have totally miscalculated President Trump. They never realized how thick a skin he has. By now, any other politician would have caved in and given up under the onslaught from the left. That’s because all career politicians require reelection to have a job and their speech and actions are most concerned with that. President Trump does not need to be an elected official to survive or prosper. He could walk away right now and go back to his businesses without a blink. He has spent a lifetime facing harassment and criticism and simply ignores it. So now politicians are at a loss about what to do with someone who pushes back harder than they can give it.

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  7. Comey said in his most recent testimony that he believed he was “directed” by President Trump to end the investigation into Mike Flynn. We’ve already established that is was within the president’s power to do so, but is there any evidence that Comey began shutting down the investigation between January and May?

    I know my boss would not let me take 4 months to follow his directive.

    Lost on most is that Trump is essentially a New Yorker. You can hear it in his hyperbolic descriptions of things as the “best”, ‘yuge” ,etc. I can see him making the statement that he hoped Comey “could” let the Flynn thing go.

    Comey’s actions don’t indicate he felt directed.

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    • No, he sat before Congress and stated ” neither Trump nor anyone in his campaign colluded with any foreign nationals during the campaign AND that neither Trump nor anyone in his Administration has colluded with any foreign nationals” That is what the man said, that is what is on the LEGAL record and that is what the f*ck he meant. Say what you mean, mean what you say. He said it under oath, that ends the whole f*cking thing.

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  8. Always enjoy your interesting articles here and at Anthony’s Willis.
    About your foxes – do they carry fleas?
    Here in Australia, foxes are a real problem for wombats. The foxes use wombat burrows and deposit fleas there, which infest the wombats and give them mange.
    Mangy wombats die a long slow wasting death, after going completely blind.
    This is pathetic to see, and the kindest treatment is an up close bullet between the eyes.
    Foxes are beautiful animals, but not so good around wombats.

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  9. Even if there was obstruction that met some legal definition (corrupt intent), a sitting president can’t be indicted. In the political arena, obstruction is whatever the Congress says it is. Trump can be impeached for J walking.

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  10. I find that the events to date can be read in a different light if you accept that Comey himself was wired when talking to Trump, hence the confusion arising from Trump saying he hoped there were no recordings of the meetings.
    I could not ever leave a high intensity meeting, and within a few minutes to hours, do a record of the conversation including bits that could be described as ‘verbatim’. Maybe Comey could. Could you?
    Geoff

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    • I’ve left several meetings where I wrote what we use to call a “memo of understanding” to the participants with copy to file. With one particularly incompetent manager I found this was the only way to keep him honest and me out of trouble. Of course it didn’t help my annual evaluations much, but it probably did keep me from getting fired a couple of times.

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      • but in a “memo of understanding” it’s understood that you are listing the intent of the participants. It would not be expected to include actionable direct quotes (unless you were taking notes during the meeting and wrote down the quote at the time)

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        • Yes, but when you include “As I understand it, you asked me to…” in the memo it is close enough to the direct quote. It gives the other person the chance to either accept your interpretation, refute it or hang him/herself with further documentation.

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          • Remember that Comey didn’t send the memo to the other people in the meeting, he shared it with people outside the meeting (including eventually, the press), so there was no chance for anyone else in the meeting to accept or refute the statements.

            Accepting such notes (especially such notes in purely digital form where timestamps are questionable) as proof that other people in the meeting said specific words or phrases is highly questionable.

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