Showing posts with label The Obama Administration. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Obama Administration. Show all posts

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chronicle: Free Clarence Aaron!

In today's San Francisco Chronicle, Debra Saunders calls on President Obama to discover the pardon power and free Clarence Aaron from prison. Aaron was a first-time nonviolent federal drug law offender in 1993, when he was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Saunders notes:
... his life-until-death sentence demonstrates that a system designed to be tough on drug kingpins has been subverted so that big-time dealers can do short time for testifying against their underlings ... Aaron is in prison for the rest of his life, while all but one of the career dealers have served their time and been set free.... because he was a college kid unfamiliar with the courts, Clarence Aaron did not know how to game the system
Aaron is now 41, has taken responsibility for his crimes and has had a good record in prison. Saunder also observes:
In "The Audacity of Hope," Obama wrote that he hoped he could remain honest as a U.S. Senator. As president, he cannot honestly believe that a 23-year-old first-time nonviolent drug offender should be sentenced to life without parole.
See complete column here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The President: Pending Applications. Continuing Problem

The Calgary Herald reminds us that George W. Bush denied the pardon applications of Michael Milken, Randall “Duke” Cunningham, Edwin Edwards, Mario Biaggi, John Walker Lindh and Leonard Peltier before leaving office. But President Bush failed to act on the applications of "corporate felons" Conrad Black and Bernard Ebbers. As a result, their applications are still pending at the Justice Department. Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney says the applications of former Illinois Republican Governor George Ryan and Jonathan Pollard are also "pending" and thus "alive for consideration by President Barack Obama."

With some irony, Bush is described by the Herald as being "tight-fisted" with pardons without observing that President Obama has yet to grant a single pardon or commutation of sentence. As such, this administration is well on its way to becoming the very slowest to exercise the Article II clemency power. See story here.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dowd on Holder's Headliner

Maureen Dowd's most recent column in the New York Times says, among other things:
... Yet Obama is oozing empathy compared with his attorney general, who last week called us “a nation of cowards” about race. Eric Holder, who showed precious little bravery in standing up to Clinton on a pardon for the scoundrel Marc Rich, is wrong. We have just inaugurated a black president who installed a black attorney general. We need leaders to help us through our crises, not provide us with crude evaluations of our character. And we don’t need sermons from liberal virtuecrats, anymore than from conservative virtuecrats.
How very true. See full editorial here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Deputy Attorney General

Barack Obama's choice for Deputy Attorney General, David Ogden, may actually have greater impact on the exercise of the pardon power than the confirmation of Eric Holder as U.S. Attorney General. The Deputy Attorney General has been the functional head of the pardon program for some time now. Indeed, this was the exact position Mr. Holder occupied in the Clinton administration, when he so well facilitated the pardons of Marc Rich and the FALN terrorists. This article at Law.Com provides some interesting background on Ogden, who is a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr. To date, however, the focus of the confirmation process has been Ogden's previous work as an appellate advocate. No attention seems to have been given to how he would perform his duties as the Deputy Attorney General, much less the head of the pardon program.

The Ogden Resume:

1981, J.D. Harvard (Harvard Law Review)
1981-1982, Clerk, U.S. District Court (NY)
1982-1983, Clerk, U.S. Supreme Court
1994-1995, Deputy General Counsel, Department of Defense
1995-1997, Associate Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice
1999 - Attorney Generals Medal, U.S. Department of Justice
1999-2000, Acting Assistant Attorney General
2000-2001, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division, Department of Justice
2006 - National Law Journal, Pro Bono Award

Thursday, February 5, 2009

John Deutch? And Why Not?

Former CIA Director John Deutch (1995-6) was stripped of his security clearances in 1999 and was about to plead guilty to "mishandling government secrets." But Bill Clinton preemptively pardoned Deutch (sound familiar?) just before leaving office in January 2001 (sound familiar?), that is to say before the Justice Department could run the case against him (ringing bells?).

Most Americans have not even heard of John Deutch, much less his criminal offense and pardon. Why? Because more ink was spilt on the expectation that George W. Bush would misuse the pardon power - in the manner of Clinton - than was actually spilt on Clinton's misuse of the power! Now, it is reported that National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair has asked Deutch to sit on an advisory panel on spy satellites. And why not? At least Deutch pays his taxes and had no part in the Marc Rich or FALN terrorist pardons. See story here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Comment: Holder Makes (Some More) History

Today, the politics of "change" was further advanced when Bill Clinton's deputy attorney general (1997-2001) was confirmed as U.S. Attorney General. The confirmation was certainly historic, as Holder is the first individual promoted to the position after being part and parcel of several wildly controversial pardons. PardonPower does not contest that Mr. Holder brings considerable "experience" to the position. The concern is that, under Holder's leadership, the clemency program in the Department of Justice will continue to lose relevance, and wither on the vine, exactly as it did under Mr. Holder during the Clinton administration. The historic Marc Rich pardon and FALN terrorist pardons were egregious lapses in judgment by almost any standard, but the persistent neglect of the constitutional duty to pardon during the Clinton administration was equally historic, and disgraceful.

Now, years later, we simply have no indication whatsoever that Eric Holder (a former prosecutor and judge) understands that clemency is - or should be - a regular feature of our system of justice. We only have his assurances that he knew little or nothing about the controversial pardons he so well facilitated during the Clinton administration and that, when he was partially aware of what he was doing back then, he now wishes that he had asked a few more questions before making critical decisions.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Obama Administration: Another Lincoln You Say?

We have heard numerous comparisons made between our new President and the man who is perhaps Illinois' greatest political son, Abraham Lincoln. At times, it certainly appears that Mr. Obama has invited these comparisons. PardonPower has these observations with respect to what we would like to see of Mr. Lincoln in Mr. Obama.

First, let it be said that we certainly hope that President Obama does not take Mr. Lincoln's cue and set up secretive military tribunals to try American citizens. We hope that Obama does not suspend any prisoner's right to be informed as to why they are being detained within a reasonable amount of time, as did Mr. Lincoln - squarely in the face of two direct rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court. We assume officials in the Obama administration will not shock the world's notions of "war crimes" the way that Lincoln's generals did. And we hope that Mr. Obama does not instruct that his critics in the press be harassed, threatened and prosecuted, the way Mr. Lincoln did, simply because they exercise their First Amendment right to express dissenting points of view. As Mr. Obama said today, we hope that his administration does not sacrifice the Nation's ideals at the expense of the Nation's security.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Louis Freeh on Holder

Slate once noted Democrats "loathed" former FBI Director Louis Freeh and that he never really got along with Bill Clinton. His "accomplishment" as FBI director was "to oversee an almost endless litany of fiascos while successfully ducking responsibility for all of them."

Thus, it was fitting that Freeh testified before Congress in support of U.S. Attorney General nominee Eric Holder. Along the way, Free just took a "minute" to address the pardon of Marc Rich, which was granted while Holder was deputy attorney general and head of the pardon program. Freeh boldly declared the pardon a “corrupt act.” He also stated that Holder made "terrible mistakes” with respect to his "facilitation" of the pardon and that he didn't "understand" it.

But Freeh also described the otherwise independent and brilliant Holder as a victim who was "used" and predicted that Holder, as U.S. Attorney General, “will never allow himself again to be put in that position.” Comforting. See story here and here

Carter - Holder's Standard for "Reasonableness" in Pardon Matters

Yesterday, Attorney General nominee referred to Bill Clinton's pardon of FALN terrorists as "reasonable" and offered up as evidence the fact that it was supported by Jimmy Carter. Now there is a standard for what is "reasonable" in matters related to presidential pardons!

Carter seemed to view pardons as Christmas gifts and granted the highest number in the fourth and last year of his term. He was also especially generous in the final weeks of his term - you know, like a lot of really uptight persons are expecting President Bush to be. Along the way, Carter granted to clemency to Oscar Collazo, who attempted to assassinate Harry Truman at the Blair House. Collazo's co-conspirator and a guard were killed in the attack. Carter also granted clemency to the Puerto Rican nationalists who sprayed the House of Representatives with bullets and hit five members of Congress. Like the FALN terrorists, none of these individuals even applied for clemency because none of them were repentant. Carter's clemency was immediately identified as bare-faced electoral politics so, yes, he could certainly be sympathetic with the potential benefits of the FALN pardons for Mrs. Clinton.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Holder: "Learned" From "Mistakes"

Attorney General-nominee Eric Holder Jr. believes not only that his "experience" qualifies him for U.S. Attorney General, but also his "mistakes" or, more specifically, the "mistakes" he made with respect to Bill Clinton's pardon of fugitive Marc Rich. Holder believes he will actually be a "better" U.S. Attorney General having "learned" from the "experience." Those familiar with the case of Amadou Diallo (the unarmed immigrant who was shot 41 times by 4 police officers) may recall Holder's trite observation that we must "learn" from the "troubling incident." It would stand to reason that this mindset would find the pardon of FALN terrorists "reasonable."

At any rate, with respect to the Marc Rich pardon, Holder outlines his "mistakes" as follows:

1. He should have studied the proposed pardon more before discussing it with President Bill Clinton. Holder claimed he simply knew it was a "substantial tax fraud" case and Rich was a fugitive.
2. He should have consulted with prosecutors
3. He should have "studied" the "issue" more closely before making a statement.

In fact, Holder worked with Jack Quinn in 1999 in an attempt to get prosecutors to sit down at the bargaining table with Mr. Rich, who was a fugitive at the time. Holder thought the prosecutors were being "ridiculous" for their hesitancy to do so. So, when Quinn called Holder with the news that a pardon might be near, Holder said he had "no strong opposition" to such a pardon. He noted, however, that "law enforcement in New York would strongly oppose it" and prosecutors in the Southern District would "howl."

What on earth was there to "study?" What else was there to know?

In addition, it is important to note that Holder did not simply fail to "consult" with prosecutors by "mistake." His failing - if that is the right word - was much, much greater than that. Knowing the views of prosecutors (which Holder also directed as deputy attorney general), he ignored those views, circumvented them, did nothing to keep them informed about the pardon application (thus affording them no opportunity to formally object) and summarily dismissed their work. Merely "consulting" with prosecutors would have accomplished little or nothing if Holder had the disposition and the will to do all of that. Recall, Clinton claimed to have "consulted" all manner of law enforcement personnel regarding the FALN terrorist pardons. But he ignored their almost unanimous opinion and did what he wanted to do.

As expected, Holder has also taken the position of "victim," describing himself as having been "seared" by the pardon. The Rich pardon was not something he facilitated and concealed as deputy attorney general, in charge of the pardon program. It was something he "experienced."

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Concerns Holder Ignored

Readers can see (and download) the DOJ memos between former U.S. Pardon Attorney and Eric Holder, the current nominee for U.S. Attorney General here. The format is .pdf

The second document is particularly revealing. The U.S. Pardon Attorney, Roger Adams goes to great lengths to "describe" several "concerns" that he has for the "rationale" being offered for the pardon of the FALN terrorists. Adams notes that two U.S. Attorneys had filed "strong negative" recommendations against clemency and that the pardons might have an impact on pending prosecutions and investigations. He also notes the Director of the FBI had recently categorized FALN as a "domestic terrorist threat" and explains why Holder's calculation of their appropriate sentence "may not be convincing." The memo makes it clear that the victims of the FALN bombings were not consulted in the decision making process and expresses confusion as to why there was no effort to recover millions of dollars that were stolen from a Wells Fargo office. The extraordinary effort Mr. Holder took to push these pardons become increasingly stupifying!

Holder Bombshells

The L.A. Times is reporting on "details" not "publicly known until now" regarding Eric Holder Jr's involvement in the pardon of the FALN terrorists. The Times reports Holder "repeatedly pushed some of his subordinates" to "drop their opposition" to clemency for the "violent" Puerto Rican nationalist organizations. "New interviews" and "an examination of previously undisclosed documents" indicate Holder instructed his staff at Justice's Office of the Pardon Attorney "to effectively replace the department's original report recommending against any commutations, which had been sent to the White House in 1996, with one that favored clemency for at least half the prisoners." When the U.S. Pardon Attorney, Roger Adams, resisted, Holder's chief of staff instructed him to draft a neutral "options memo" instead.

The Times' article notes Holder was called to testify on the case by the Senate Judiciary Committee but invoked "Clinton's claim of executive privilege" and "declined to say whether the Justice Department had changed its position on the commutations" saying simply that there were "subsequent communications with the White House in the months after that recommendation." Former U.S Pardon Attorney Margaret Love says:
"It certainly sounds to me that he wanted to at least undercut if not overrule my earlier [1996] negative recommendation. It appears that he effectively gave the White House permission to make the grants."
The Times also reports Love was not "aware of Holder's support for commutation before or after he fired her in 1997." Adams has not spoken publicly about the case, but "believes the FALN crimes were so serious" and "is concerned that there had been misrepresentation of his role in the clemency." In mid-1998, he sent a draft report recommending against clemency, but Holder "did not send it to the White House and instructed him to revise it." See the great reporting by the L.A. Times here.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Specter on Holder: Let the Games Begin!

The New York Times reports Senator Arlene Specter (PA) the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee has launched an "attack" on Eric Holder, the nominee for U.S. Attorney General. Specter acknowledges Holder's "outstanding academic and professional record," but has concerns with respect to matters related to "courage" and "character." Democrats respond that Holder has "integrity and independence," but assume everything will come down to the fact that they control the Senate. See article here.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Obama DOJ: Clinton 2.0

President Elect Barack Obama has made the following nominations to key positions in the Department of Justice:

Attorney General: Eric Holder (Bill Clinton's deputy attorney general)

Associate Attorney General: Tom Perrelli (deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Division in Clinton Administration)

Assistant Attorney General: Dawn Johnsen (Bill Clinton's deputy assistant attorney general)

Deputy Attorney General: David Ogden (Attorney General Janet Reno's chief of staff)

Solicitor General: Elena Kagan (Bill Clinton's deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Daily News Bombshell: Up to Obama!

The New York Daily News is reporting here and here that a Justice Department official is saying that the fate of Isaac Robert Toussie's pardon application will be up to Barack Obama and that Toussie won't be eligible for a new pardon until May! How this lines up with recent assertions that President Bush has not "cancelled" or "revoked" the pardon is beyond us. But the historical significance of this statement - if it is accurate - can hardly be overestimated.

PardonPower has uncovered about a dozen instances of clemency warrants (pardons and commutations) that have been cancelled/voided/revoked by several different presidents in the past. We have not have the opportunity to uncover the reasons behind these actions, but we have also noticed that, in every instance except one, the president who deep-sixed a warrant turned around and granted clemency to the same individual at a later date. Even the DePuy brothers - whose revocations were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court - were eventually pardoned by the president who stung them (Ulysses S. Grant). Thus, until we have a chance to further investigate what appears to be the sole exception, we are willing to accept the possibility that that person was pardoned by the same president as well.

Now comes this!

Bush claims to have simply stopped-halted-delayed (something!) the clemency process and is going to leave it up to Obama to decide what to do with the Toussie warrant. So, Obama can grant what would likely be seen as an unpopular pardon (for whatever reason) or he can not grant it and seemingly confirm the power of President Bush to do so. Is it going to be great to see how this unfolds, or what? Is it possible that Obama might turn the Toussie pardon into a PR opportunity extraordinaire? The springboard to a new day of pardon reform? Until then, Toussie goes on the Obama Pardon Watch List!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Quick Review

Just stepping in? All you know is what you read in the newspapers? Here is a quick catch-up course on what is going on what has been going on here with links to important previous posts:

Post One - On December 1st, we shared our view of December pardons.
Post Two - On December 24th, around noon, we identified what we saw as the major problem with the Toussie pardon.
Post Three - At 3:00 we provided further explanation regarding our concerns with the Toussie pardon and offered some speculation.
Post Four - A few hours later, we heard the pardon was revoked.
Post Five - Assuming the media would declare the revocation "unprecedented" or "seemingly unprecedented" or "unprecedented in recent memory" or some such nonsense (because they always do), we established that clemency decisions have been revoked.
Post Six - In response to serious concerns raised by our readers, we developed a completely new list of pardons (not commutations) that were revoked by the same presidents who granted them after only a casual glance through our data (which is to say there may be many more for all we know)
Post Seven - We do not buy the White House's official explanation for its conduct and, even if we were to buy it, we feel 1) ignoring the five-year waiting period 2) ignoring the U.S. Pardon Attorney 3) ignoring the Deputy Attorney General and 4) allowing a former employee of the administration to abuse access to the White House are all much much more important and entirely unacceptable features of this story than the discovery of some stupid campaign donations by a relative of Mr. Toussie.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Holder Confirmation: Warm Up

The Los Angeles Times has provided an over-view of the current state of affairs regarding President-elect Barack Obama's nominee for attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr. Senate Republicans are asking for additional time to scrutinize Holder's experience. This stands to reason as Holder's "extensive" experience will often be cited as his primary qualification for the position. A hearing is scheduled for January 8, but the Republicans are calling for January 26. At present, the primary focus of pardon-related concerns appear to be seen in these passages:
Leading the charge is Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the top Republican on the judiciary committee ... he remained concerned, especially about Holder's key role in the most controversial one of the 177 pardons and commutations that President Clinton issued on his last day in office in January 2001 -- that of fugitive financier Marc Rich, whose ex-wife donated millions to Clinton's campaigns, his library and other Democratic causes.

... Holder also took great personal interest in the politically charged clemencies granted in 1999 to 16 convicted members of a Puerto Rican terrorist group known as the FALN. The commutations came over the vehement objections of the FBI, all of the prosecutors who convicted the terrorists, and even one of the Justice Department's two top pardon officials, Margaret Colgate Love.

And Holder played a murky role in Clinton's commutation of the sentence of Los Angeles-based cocaine trafficker Carlos Vignali, whose father was a wealthy supporter of influential Latino lawmakers who lobbied the White House on his behalf.
In addition to these topics, the Times suggests Republicans are exploring:
the independent counsel's investigation of Clinton and related impeachment proceedings; the controversial Justice Department-approved raid to seize Cuban refugee Elian Gonzalez in Miami in 2000; gun rights legislation; death penalty approvals and rejections; corporations under criminal investigation; and any denial of congressional requests for documents from the executive branch.
One GOP judiciary staffer is quoted as saying, "There is certainly the concern that we don't have the full grasp of what happened" because "we feel like we've just scratched the service in terms of looking at his record." Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) questions Holder's "judgment and independence" in the Rich and FALN cases, but also in the pardons of Linda Evans and Susan Rosenberg (members of the Weather Underground).

Democrats claim Mr. Holder may bring more relevant experience to the table than any nominee in history. At the same time,however, they insist that the committee confine itself to taking only as much time to survey Holder's background as it has with previous attorneys general. See full article here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Obama on Holder, Rich Pardon

Yesterday, Barack Obama made these remarks with respect to Eric Holder, the nominee for U.S. Attorney General:
"With respect to Eric Holder, everybody who looks at his record says the guy was an outstanding attorney, an outstanding prosecutor, an outstanding judge, an outstanding No. 2 at the Justice Department. And Eric has acknowledged that the [Marc] Rich pardon was a mistake on his part, not having caught that earlier. I agree with him. I think it was a mistake. But when you look at the totality of his experience, there is no doubt that he is going to be an outstanding attorney general."
PardonPower is amused with the Clintonian use of language. The "Rich pardon was a mistake?" No, Holder's role in the Rich pardon was a mistake! But, dang it, he just didn't quite "catch" that slippery little feller going by - the millionaire fugitive on the "most wanted" list! Holder also knew (and predicted in advance) that DOJ officials would be furious by a pardon for Rich. Does that knowledge come under the "mistake" category, or the "slippery fish" category?

Otherwise, PardonPower could not agree with the president elect more. A single-minded focus on Marc Rich might very well leave Holder looking "outstanding." If, however, anyone bothers to look "at his record" and asks Holder about his involvement in the FALN terrorist pardons, his insensitivity to the victims of violent crimes, his claims of executive privilege, his politicization of the pardon process, or his role in any other number of controversial pardons ... well, that might be a different story. See news item here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Will Obama Pardon Gov. Blagojevich?

Ah, come on! Let's face it. You know it. I know it. The American people know it. This is exactly the kind of question that would be posed right now, in relation to President Bush, if the just-charged Governor of Illinois were a Republican. CNN, CBS, NBC, MSNBC and ABC would have at least one "expert" or "legal analyst" on tonight to at least raise the question, and then to shoot it down mildly as the stupid inquiry that it is.

For now, by the current standards of media "reporting," it is never a minute too soon to begin the endless speculation that Obama might pardon the fellow Democrat from his home state. If it goes on for years and years, so be it. Let the Ted Stevens treatment begin! Pronto!

Just Dump Holder Now

It seems that almost everyone recognizes how interesting the confirmation hearings of Eric Holder for U.S. Attorney General should be. At the same time, there is the ever-present sense that the hearings will be boring, a mere formality. The Democrats control the Senate and they will never, ever tire of identifying Mr. Holder as the "first African-American" nominated for the position. Let's face it, when that is your lead punch, it says an awful lot! But Republicans will most certainly wilt in the face of the effort to, once again, "make history."

Then, of course, there will be lots of chatter about Holder's extensive "experience" - you know, the stuff that isn't so important in a presidential candidate who is all about "change you can believe in." Ah, here's the rub. One can hardly scratch the surface of the "experience" of Mr. Holder without experiencing the very strong scent of Bill Clinton, pardon scandals, Marc Rich, the FALN terrorists, the Weather Underground, disingenuous evasiveness and constant assertions of executive privilege. Why? Because those are - without any doubt whatsoever - the "highlights" of Mr. Holder's "experience."

An editorial by Dennis Byrne in today's Chicago Tribune says:

And if Obama truly wants to unite us, he should dump Holder now. Or at least make Holder fully explain his role in President Bill Clinton's grant of clemency to 16 terrorists from the Armed Forces of National Liberation, known by its Spanish acronym FALN. It's a question Holder has been dodging for more than a decade, and the one he will have to answer if he expects to be confirmed by the Senate.
Of course, when Byrne says "must" answer, he is being optimistic. And his editorial quickly rebounds into the harsh reality:
Why Obama wanted to resurrect all these troubling memories by nominating Holder is beyond me, especially in light of his campaign rhetoric about "bringing us together." I know, anyone who questions the Holder appointment will be accused of driving us apart, as if we have no right to ask for an explanation.
But, if one dares to not confuse the foggy new-age fear of "divisiveness" with pertinent empirical facts, Byrnes' editorial lays out the case against Holder quite well. He recounts that the FALN pardons were opposed by U.S. attorneys, the DOJ, the FBI and the Bureau of Prisons. But Holder met privately with a Representative from Illinois and other Democratic congressmen with Puerto Rican constituents to discuss the case. Why? Because Holder is just the person to address the current concerns about removing "politics" from the Department of Justice!

While Holder was having the private meetings and ignoring the opinion of a world of law enforcement, he also ensured that no one bothered to question the bombing victims. Adding insult to injury, he steadfastly pleaded executive privilege when asked about his "experience" in committee hearings. The icing on the cake: it was later revealed that Holder's summary of FALN reached Bill Clinton's desk without the standard go or no-go recommendation.

That is to say, Holder served as an advisor and engineered the pardons. He ignored law enforcement and completely ignored the victims of 120 bombs. Then, at the critical moment, when Holder was supposed to perform the primary function of his job in the clemency process as deputy attorney general, he made sure his own fingerprints were nowhere to be found. At best, Mr. Holder mustered up all of his integrity and voted "present." Sound familiar? See full editorial here.

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