From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:
Congratulations to President Obama
I want to start by extending my congratulations to our new president, Barack Obama, who was sworn into office on Tuesday (or was it Wednesday?). Of course, Judicial Watch hopes the new president succeeds by making the right public policy decisions on behalf of the American people.
I also want to congratulate President Obama on one of his first official acts, the move to repeal a 2001 executive order granting former presidents and vice presidents the ability to keep documents secret beyond the time periods allowed by law. Of this decision, President Obama said:
"Going forward, any time the American people want to know something that I or a former president wants to withhold, we will have to consult with the attorney general and the White House counsel, whose business it is to ensure compliance with the rule of law…Information will not be withheld just because I say so."
Judicial Watch takes the president at his word and will hold him to it. Obama also rescinded a Bush administration directive restricting the release of records under the Freedom of Information Act. Obama’s administration will now err on the side of disclosure. Obama has promised the most accountable and transparent administration in our nation’s history. This is welcome and Judicial Watch aims to hold him to his word.
Accordingly, there will be no honeymoon as far as Judicial Watch is concerned.
As anyone who has read this Update for any period of time knows, Judicial Watch has been critical of President Obama on a number of fronts. (They include his associations with convicted felon Antoin "Tony" Rezko and slumlord Valerie Jarrett; his suspicious earmarks and below-market rate home loan; and his penchant for filling his cabinet with corrupt Clinton cast-offs, among other issues). Judicial Watch will continue to pursue our ongoing investigations into Obama corruption.
And we will not hesitate to call out the new president on issues as events warrant. For example, another of Obama’s first official acts was to sign an executive order shutting down Guantanamo Bay along with CIA detention centers around the world. (The president did not articulate his policy with respect to what will happen with all of those terrorist detainees currently being held.) Another executive order signed by Obama will bind the hands of the CIA, restricting the tools they have at their disposal to interrogate terrorist suspects and protect the homeland. It is disturbing that one of Obama’s first acts as president was to kowtow to the terrorist advocates controlling our national debate on the issue on what to do with captured terrorists.
At no point will Judicial Watch take a break from pursuing its mission to hold politicians accountable to the rule of law. President Obama hit the ground running this week. Rest assured Judicial Watch intends to stay right with him stride for stride.
Bush Commutes Sentences of Jailed Border Patrol Agents
It seems that whenever I’ve written about presidential pardons in the past, it has always been to condemn President Clinton (and new Attorney General Eric Holder) for doling out all those last minute controversial pardons to crooks and Clinton campaign contributors. Not this time.
No, this time I have the pleasure of highlighting two wrongly convicted individuals who clearly deserved an assist from the Bush administration, and finally got it.
According to The Washington Post:
"In one of his final official acts, President Bush commuted the prison sentences of two former U.S. Border Patrol agents yesterday who were convicted of shooting a fleeing Mexican drug dealer in 2005.
"The agents, Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos, were working near El Paso, Texas when they shot Osvaldo Aldrete Dávila, a drug smuggler caught with 743 pounds of marijuana. Davila was shot in the buttocks.
"Davila later filed a complaint against the two agents, who said they thought Davila was threatening them with a gun. Compean and Ramos were convicted and sentenced to 12 and 11 years in federal prison, respectively, on weapons charge."
The federal government never should have prosecuted Ramos and Compean in the first place. And, as you’ll recall, Judicial Watch has been active in trying to secure the release of the two Border Patrol agents for two years.
In 2007, Judicial Watch launched an investigation into the government’s decision to prosecute the agents. And when the government stonewalled the release of documents, we filed a lawsuit. Judicial Watch also delivered more than 8,862 signed petitions urging President Bush to release Ramos and Compean from prison.
All of Judicial Watch’s activities led to a barrage of news coverage, which we hope pressured the former president to take action.
In the end, President Bush did the right thing. Or rather, he almost did the right thing. It is important to note that the two men received sentence commutations, not full presidential pardons. And there is a big difference.
A pardon essentially wipes the slate clean as if no crime had occurred, whereas a commutation merely removes the legal penalty, in this case, jail time. In other words, the convictions will unfortunately remain on the records of the two former Border Patrol Agents.
This seems patently unfair but former Border Patrol agents Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos will soon be home with their families, instead of serving unjust prison sentences. For that, we should all be grateful.
Obama’s Cabinet of Misfits
Barack Obama tapped the thoroughly corrupt Hillary Clinton, the nation’s most polarizing politician, to serve as his top diplomat. He selected Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, who has a weak record on illegal immigration, to serve as his Homeland Security secretary. And he appointed an attorney general with a soft spot for terrorists and a penchant for undermining the law for political gain.
So how about a treasury secretary who doesn’t pay his taxes?
According to The Associated Press:
Treasury Secretary-designate Timothy Geithner said Wednesday he was careless in failing to pay $34,000 in Social Security and Medicare taxes earlier this decade but declared "I have paid what I owed" and apologized to Congress.
He told the Senate Finance Committee he was sorry that his past transgressions were now an issue in his confirmation at a time of deepening economic distress and urged Congress to act quickly and forcibly to deal with the crisis. A top administration priority is to foster economic recovery and "get credit flowing again," Geithner testified.
As to his failure to pay the payroll taxes from 2001 to 2004 while he worked for the International Monetary Fund, Geithner said: "These were careless mistakes. They were avoidable mistakes."
Did I mention that Geithner would be in charge of the Internal Revenue Service?
During Geithner’s confirmation hearing, Senator Grassley noted the danger of sweeping the scandal under the rug in the rush to get him confirmed. But that’s exactly what is going to happen. In fact, Kansas Senator Pat Roberts flat out told Geithner "You will be confirmed," while at the same time noting that his senate office phones were "ringing off the hook" with calls from constituents furious about Geithner’s tax problems.
That seems to be par for the course in terms of these Obama appointments. Republicans will bluster for a bit about this scandal and that, but in the end they appear ready to rubber-stamp Obama’s appointees, few questions asked.
As the AP notes, "Although the tax disclosures provided a bump in Geithner’s confirmation process, he appeared to have wide support from both parties." Interesting how for some people not paying taxes is a jailable offense. While for others it’s a "bump in the road" on the way to being confirmed for a top cabinet position. Sure enough, the Finance Committee approved Geithner by a vote of 18-5. He is set to be confirmed by the full Senate next week.
Geithner’s likely approval for Treasury shows this town is as corrupt as it has ever been and that our anti-corruption work will be sorely needed for the Obama administration.
To let your Senators know what you think about the Geithner tax scandal, please call them at 202-224-3121.
Panetta’s Legacy of Corruption
After he was nominated by Obama recently to serve as head of the CIA, the wisdom of appointing Leon Panetta to this critical job was being questioned even by leading Democrats. The chief complaint is that Panetta has no previous direct intelligence experience.
A serious complaint, but Judicial Watch is far more concerned by Mr. Panetta’s history as Bill Clinton’s second White House chief of staff.
Let’s start with the Clintons’ illegal scheme to "sell" taxpayer-financed trade missions in exchange for contributions to the Clinton-Gore re-election campaign. Take a look at what Nolanda Hill, a personal confidant and business partner of the late Clinton Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, had to say about Panetta’s involvement in the scheme. (Hill’s sworn declaration came in Judicial Watch’s lawsuit against the Clinton Commerce Department.) Hill declared:
"I further learned through discussions with Ron (Brown) that The White House, through Leon Panetta and John Podesta, had instructed him to delay the case by withholding the production of documents prior to the 1996 elections, and to devise a way not to comply with court’s orders."
That, my friends, is called obstruction of justice.
Then there were all those "White House coffees," the illegal fundraising events the Clintons actually held in the White House to haul in massive amounts of cash for the Democratic National Committee. The idea, of course, was to sell access to President Clinton and Vice President Gore in exchange for campaign contributions. And it worked. The Clintons held at least 107 such events. The Washington Post estimates $27 million was illegally raised for the DNC between 1995-1996.
The guest list for these coffees included "straw donors" acting at the behest of the Communist Chinese military. The guest list also included then Clinton Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, who attended three of these coffees in February, April and May of 1995. He was also in charge at the White House when the Clintons sold sleepovers in the Lincoln Bedroom to campaign contributors. At the time, The Washington Post called the scandal "crass." I call it "criminal." Under Panetta, the White House was turned into a brazen bazaar of bribes and extortion that would make Ron Blagojevich blush.
And lest we forget, Panetta was in charge of the White House staff when Monica Lewinsky served as a White House intern. (In other words, Lewinsky worked for Panetta while she was carrying on an affair with President Clinton.)
Under Clinton, Panetta opened the White House to foreign governments that were illegally trying to influence our elections and government decision-making. And now he’s up for CIA chief? This could be a disaster and the Senate should stop Panetta’s nomination in its tracks.
Until next week…
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