A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
Mukasey is obstructing justice, which is a crime. He can either resign if he feels that his oath of office is too cumbersome for him to adhere to, or he can be removed. Either we are a nation of laws or we are a nation without a democracy.
-- Larisa Alexandrovna, Managing Investigative News Editor, Raw Story
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As we noted in our last interview with Larisa Alexandrovna, she is an investigative reporter for The Raw Story and maintains her own blog at At-largely. She is distinguished by a passion for justice that is as palpable as her exhaustive research is accurate.
Alexandrovna was born in the Soviet Union and knows a thing or two about people getting framed by the state.
In this interview and the first, we explore at length her investigative reporting into what has become the nearly forgotten backwaters of partisan prosecution by the Bush Department of Justice. Specifically, she and her investigative crew have spent countless hours looking into politically-motivated injustices committed by Republicans in Alabama and Mississippi.
At BuzzFlash, we didn't want this still unrectified episode in the assault on our legal system to be forgotten.
So we returned to Alexandrovna for an update.
BuzzFlash: Larisa, you've done a tremendous job keeping light focused on the ongoing and still-existing injustices of what had become known as "Prosecutorgate," the partisan prosecutions of the Justice Department at the direction of Karl Rove. Alabama and Mississippi are two areas that you continue to spotlight. Let me first ask you: In Congressional testimony last weekend, our current Attorney General, Mr. Mukasey -- and Senator Joe Biden was quite tenacious when asked why no one will be prosecuted in the partisan hiring scandal in the Justice Department. He basically said these people have been punished enough. Two of them had left, and one of them is in a new job. Biden kept trying to nail him on this issue of the rule of law. What did you think as you were watching that?
Larisa Alexandrovna: I was not surprised by Attorney General Mukasey's take on this whole thing. But I was surprised at the level of his refusal to examine the rest of the political DoJ scandal. It's not just the hiring practices, although as we now know, that activity violated EOE laws and civil rights, to say the least. There is a broader, wider scandal, which itself has sub-scandals. The U.S. attorneys who were not fired, for example, using their positions to be part of political campaigns and timing their prosecutions for elections, as well as cooking evidence and prosecuting people based on politics is entirely illegal and unprecedented in this country. The US Attorney scandal is just one sub-scandal in the larger politicized DoJ scandal.
So there was this whole slew of things. But I was not surprised at his refusal to honor his oath of office. That behavior has become a hallmark of the Bush administration. Where I was surprised was that he was so dismissive and so publicly contemptuous in front of Congress. We can definitely thank Senators Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein for helping put this man into his office, because I don't think that without them, he would have been confirmed.
BuzzFlash: Of course, it has gone way beyond Prosecutorgate. on several fronts he has fallen short, including enforcing subpoenas from Congress.
Larisa Alexandrovna: Yes, that's another thing. From my vantage point he sort of looks like a “cleaner” coming into tidy things up, as the Bush administration is about to leave office. Not enforcing something as basic Congressional subpoenas, that is pretty brazen.
BuzzFlash: He's not very different from Gonzales in terms of protecting the administration.
Larisa Alexandrovna: Unlike Gonzales, Mukasey is incredibly intelligent. Gonzales refused to answer questions as well or just played stupid and MIA when it came to his job. But at least he appeared somewhat respectful of the other branch of government -– Congress -– during his questioning. Mukasey, on the other hand, reminds me of David Addington, Cheney’s Chief of Staff, who appeared before Congress and behaved with total contempt, as though he had better things to do and they were annoying him. Mukasey’s behavior is what fully surprised me.
BuzzFlash: This is not a minor case, but Mukasey dismissed it as though he thought these were minor indiscretions.
Larisa Alexandrovna: Well, if they can all use that kind of excuse, then the American people should be able to use it as well. We are talking about government officials breaking the law, committing perjury, and abusing the power of their office. To say that they have suffered enough or that somehow a bit of good old fashioned embarrassment is enough punishment is astonishing.
Next time any American is indicted for perjury (to name but one of the alleged crimes committed by Monica Goodling, for example) they can all just say, “Hey, we have been embarrassed, so that will be our punishment.”
Mukasey has a choice to make. If he is not comfortable upholding his oath of office, then he should resign. But if he continues to hold this office and continues with these shenanigans, then he is obstructing justice and that is a crime too.
BuzzFlash: The Washington Post adopted the Justice Department spin on this. Their headline, basically was that Mukasey was offering a magnanimous gesture to re-interview anyone who had been turned down for partisan purposes.
Larisa Alexandrovna: Has everyone lost their minds?
BuzzFlash: What was so ridiculous about the Washington Post headline was that Mukasey didn't talk about dismissing any of the people who were put into place for partisan purposes. They just talked about the PR spin, which the mainstream press let him get away with -- that he was kind of being a nice guy. He "rectified" the problem by re-interviewing these people, and if there were positions available. Of course, there would be plenty of positions available if he fired the people that were hired for partisan reasons.
Larisa Alexandrovna: That's right. You also have to remember one very important thing, and I don't think anybody thinks to about this in the broader sense. The political hiring was not just in the Department of Justice. These sort of loyalists, or as they call themselves “loyal Bushies” were placed in all sorts of agencies and in all sorts of positions. That should be the primary concern. Who are these people? What is their skill-set, other than being experienced “loyal Bushies?” What have they been doing with their office? We don’t know who these people are, where in government they are, and what types of damage their inexperience, or worse, their politics have caused. These people carry over into the next administration, because these are professional positions.
How can the public trust any part of this government when, for example, something as basic as the independence of law enforcement is compromised? And these people carry over into future administrations, because these are professional positions.
BuzzFlash: Civil service positions.
Larisa Alexandrovna: Right. They are not traditionally political appointments. Although now there is no difference, and that is the problem. I agree that if you fire the people who need to be fired, there would be plenty of positions left for the qualified candidates. But again, I point to Schumer and Feinstein. I think it's up to them at this point to rectify the monster that they created by forcing the Mukasey nomination through.
BuzzFlash: Schumer and Feinstein have been missing in action in terms of being accountable for Mukasey. They've just sort of faded away, as if they're thinking, we got that wrong, but we're not going to say anything about it.
Larisa Alexandrovna: The public can say and should say something about it. Your readership, for example, can call their Representatives and Senators and demand that they push the Senate Judiciary Committee to remove Mukasey. He can be impeached.
BuzzFlash: Rove keeps wiggling out of the issue of the subpoena. Again, Mukasey is obstructing justice in not supporting the subpoena for the Congress. Even Judge Bates, whom we've criticized in the past and who is a George Bush appointee -- he approved the subpoenas for Harriet Meyers and Josh Bolton. Now they're just running out the clock.
Larisa Alexandrovna: Mukasey is obstructing justice, which is a crime. He can either resign if he feels that his oath of office is too cumbersome for him to adhere to, or he can be removed. Either we are a nation of laws or we are a nation without a democracy.
BuzzFlash: Again, Judge Bates made some very partisan decisions in the beginning. For him to side with Congress is all the more compelling, given how partisan Bates had been earlier in his short career on the federal bench as a George Bush appointee.
But a lot of people get confused about contempt and Congress' capability to actually arrest Karl Rove and hold him in a basement room of the Capitol. Who would do that? It is within the power of Congress to issue a charge of inherent contempt and to have the Capitol police go and arrest Rove. But, realistically, this is not going to happen. No one's going to turn a room in the basement of the Congress into a holding cell for Karl Rove.
Larisa Alexandrovna: The other option is to impeach Mukasey for not enforcing the Congressional subpoena. That is obstruction of justice. Congress has the power, actually, the responsibility to investigate and call witnesses. If witnesses don’t show up, then Mukasey must bring the full force of the DoJ on them for thumbing their nose at Congress and the rule of law.
But ultimately Congress has to do something, because if they don't, then it really does not matter who wins the next election or the election after that. The damage will be so great that I cannot imagine what it would take to repair our system of government. The damage to the Constitution and to our democracy I mean. Congress can’t just abdicate without declaring that democracy is null and void.
The foundation of our very government is that we have three, co-equal branches of government that check and balance each other. When the Executive Branch has gone off into a dictatorship, can stack the courts and the US Attorneys offices against the people, and Congress does nothing, they have abdicated their duty and that is no longer a democracy. They can’t just say “Hey, let’s suspend the Constitution for now and pick it up later, under a different administration.” You can’t have a recess from the very foundation of our government because you don’t think the other team will play fairly. You adhere to the rule of law, no matter what you think the other team will do. Your job is not to calculate political risks, it is to balance and check the other branches of government. In essence, Congress becomes accessories to the various crimes after the fact. And that cannot be repaired. We are losing our democracy. Period.
BuzzFlash: They are running out the clock, too. They are saying we're doing what we need to do, but we won't push it to the limit. If Mukasey wants to go ahead and obstruct justice, we aren't going to initiate impeachment. We'll leave the status quo around. We subpoenaed these people for the record. We couldn't get them to appear because we didn't push the question.
Larisa Alexandrovna: Right. That is the other issue for me. Either no one is above the law and we are a nation of laws or the contract between the governed and the government is null and void. Why should everyday Americans have to follow the law if the very people they have entrusted to create those laws, enforce those laws, and adhere to those laws are actually doing the opposite? Doesn't that open the door for anyone else to say I don't want to honor a subpoena? I realize that only a few people can make the Executive Privilege argument and the rest of us cannot. But is that not exactly the point? They seem to think they have the privilege to be above the law, no matter what the issue is.
Karl Rove says the President was not involved in the US Attorney Scandal and political prosecutions. So what privilege is he calling forth when he does not show up for a Congressional subpoena? From my vantage point, the only privilege I see is that of somehow being above the law by virtue of being in government. If Karl Rove won’t honor his subpoena, then why should anyone else honor?
BuzzFlash: That was the other part that the Washington Post completely didn't get into. The Attorney General was completely evading his responsibility in the enforcement of the rule of the law. At some point, Joe Biden just gave up. He said this makes no sense.
Larisa Alexandrovna: But here's my question. When one is a sitting Senator, especially someone with a seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, don’t they have the power to do more than just throw up their hands in frustration? I can throw up my hands in frustration because I have no power to do anything else. But these people have power, standing, and a national platform from which to express their position.
BuzzFlash: Well, we have a Constitutional crisis. This administration has gone so far as to knowingly dismiss the Constitution and the balance of powers. Cheney doesn't believe in them, and he has set the tone.
Larisa Alexandrovna: That is exactly it. We are in a crisis while the nation holds its breath for the next administration, as though the Constitution can be temporarily suspended.
Congress appears to be compromised. That is what it looks like to me. I don’t understand why they are so willing to give up their own power, to violate their oath of office, to go against their own best interests because their constituents are not happy about these choices. That to me indicates that there is some sort of corruption that is beyond just party politics. It is systemic.
BuzzFlash: Let's move on to. We have talked previously about what's gone on in Alabama and Mississippi. A small band of people including yourself, Mark Crispin Miller, and others, worked very hard to get an injustice brought to the attention of the corporate media. As a result, Governor Don Siegelman was finally released on bail. On a positive note, it shows the power of a small group of people who worked very hard.
Larisa Alexandrovna: Right.
BuzzFlash: Siegelman hasn't been exonerated yet because Rove won't appear before Congress. We can't legally start handcuffing people for what happened to Siegelman. But the facts are basically known. But I do think that justice sometimes comes in small steps. Don Siegelman would still be in jail if it weren't for your prosecutorgate reporting, and other people who kept hammering away at this injustice. His family issued appeals on websites in any way they could. But he's still not exonerated.
Larisa Alexandrovna: Right, right. Although I do think that the 11th Circuit will overturn this, because they have alluded to it in their response, when they granted him an appeal bond. So I think eventually that will be resolved. But I agree in that the larger issue of justice is not resolved by any measure.
I think real justice would be to hold the people accountable – people who were involved in orchestrating an innocent man to be put in jail for political reasons. That would be justice. Merely setting someone free and letting the people who've created a corrupt process of imprisoning people for their political views does not really resolve the issue. It doesn't in any way rectify the situation. I mean, even though Siegelman is free and will likely not be sent to prison, it does not really rectify everything that has happened to him. He's lost all of his money. He's lost a life-long career. He has lost friends. His family has suffered greatly. His health has suffered greatly. Most importantly, he lost his freedom. What has been done here to Siegelman and his family is a series of crimes ranging from intimidating witnesses to jury tampering to even allegedly fabricating evidence. These crimes have to be addressed and they have not been.
BuzzFlash: Once again there is a pattern. Prosecutions by the tainted US attorneys were very frequently tied to the issue of likely Republican voter fraud. In Siegelman's case, government ownership was snatched away from him at an early morning hour, when suddenly -- how many thousand Republican votes showed up out of nowhere?
Larisa Alexandrovna: Right. And the then-Attorney General of Alabama, William Pryor seals the ballots, despite Alabama law with regard to automatic recounts. Then Pryor suddenly gets a recess appointment to the 11th Circuit. By all appearances, it would appear that a quid pro quo has taken place.
BuzzFlash: Of course, was a controversial appointment, as most of Bush's appointments are, but he was particularly one of those that was controversial. But if Siegelman hadn't complained about the stolen election, and the sudden appearance of these votes, I assume it's your speculation that he probably wouldn't have been prosecuted.
Larisa Alexandrovna: It's that, and if he hadn't tried to run again. Because if he had run again and won and gotten into office, he could then subsequently order these ballots to be unsealed or order an investigation into the previous election. So it was – it's two-pronged. He made both mistakes in the collective mind of the people targeting him. They initially appear to have let him off the hook by giving the impression that if he backs away from the recount issue then they will stop investigating him and harassing his family. So he sort of didn't fight the inevitable, as the cards were stacked against him and the local media was also put against him. But then he decides to run again, and that decision was pretty much what sealed his fate in my opinion. It is as though the people targeting him thought, how dare he not be intimidated?
BuzzFlash: A case in Mississippi involved the imprisonment of attorney Paul Minor, whose wife has cancer, and they wouldn't let him out of prison to visit her.
Larisa Alexandrovna: Yes. In fact, I have a new article out about that. Basically, Paul Minor was a really big presence in Mississippi. He was the biggest donor to Democratic candidates in the state and made his fortune taking on big tobacco. He was friendly with a lot of judges and a lot of people, and over the years, he provided lots of loans and loan or guarantees to all sorts of people running for office. Not just judges.
In Mississippi it was not at that time illegal to give money (cash, check, etc.) to judges or to guarantee loans to judges. I think a good many people see that as unethical, and I tend to have issues with it as well. So a law should be passed to deal with this issue. But since there is no law, no matter what anyone feels about it, it is something that is legal to do.
So, a particular group of judges and Paul Minor were all targeted by a Bush-appointed US Attorney with some serious conflicts of interest and who was himself under FEC investigation when he was plucked from obscurity and installed as the US Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi. His name is Dunnica Lampton.
No crime had been committed, but immediately after taking office, Lampton started investigating Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz, Judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield, and attorney Paul Minor. I am no lawyer, but my understanding is that a suspicion of a crime or a tip that a crime may have been committed or something improper has occurred is what generally sets off an investigation. This was not the case here. The four defendants were targeted and investigated in hopes of finding a crime. No crime, however, was committed. Remember, giving money to judges is not illegal in the State of Mississippi.
So an investigation starts for no reason at all other than politics. It's like start digging under these guys and see if you can find something. What they, Lampton and his office, came up with is that Minor violated the Honest Services and Mail Wire Fraud federal law, which is like a garbage can for filing indictments you can’t stick anywhere else, but that allows the federal prosecutor to get involved instead of a local prosecutor. The allegations were that the judges, Diaz, Whitfiled and Teel were bribed by Minor and that those bribes were delivered over federal channels. Now, Justice Diaz never sat in on any cases in which Minor or his clients were involved. He recused himself from anything relating to Minor. Apparently, Lampton’s office did not care much about reality. Teel and Whitfield, however, did not recues themselves. But if you look at the cases that they sat on, it was like six digress of separation, and Minor did not benefit financially as a direct result. In any case, all four are acquitted. Diaz on all of the charges, and the other three on most of the charges. Then boom, fresh indictments are unsealed and all four are again brought to trial.
The judge in the case changes his rulings and instructions to the jury from the first trial – for reasons no one has yet explained. Remember, Minor is alleged to have bribed these judges. But in order to prove bribery, you have to prove quid pro quo. Well, for reasons no one has yet been able to explain to me, the judge instructed the jury that no quid pro quo had to be proved for bribery. That is like saying that in a homicide case, the murder does not have to have killed anyone. So based on these instructions, based on the inabilities of the defense to present relevant evidence, something the judge changed from the first trial - and even though the jury deadlocked twice - they came back with a guilty verdict. Diaz was again acquitted, but the other three, including Minor were found guilty. During all of this by the way, Minor’s wife developed breast cancer and a hurricane had destroyed his home. So as you could imagine – as anyone could imagine – Minor began to drink heavily. He had problems with alcohol in the past, but things really got bad during these two trials, and the addition of cancer and the hurricane.
Sylvia Minor’s cancer has now spread to hear brain and lungs. She is dying. She is in the last stages of her illness.
I know this is long, but I want to make sure to provide the background. Minor has been in prison for 2 years now, serving 11 years of his sentence. He is not allowed out on appeal bond, the way Siegelman was not allowed out.
So the latest in this saga is the fight to get him out on appeal before his wife dies, so he can be there and care for her. The US Attorney's office is arguing that he is a danger to the community because of his drinking. A judge on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, Priscilla Owen, has ruled that Minor is a danger to the community because he didn't prove that was not a danger. How you can disprove a negative? I don't know.
So she's denied his appeal bond, and he's not going to get to see his wife unless the Bureau of Prisons grants him a furlough, which he applied for, but he still has not gotten. So it's likely he's not going to see his wife again.
But the story is about this judge, Priscilla Owen, who made the ruling, and her ties to Karl Rove. By all appearances she should have recused herself. Her entire career is due to Karl Rove. She hired him for $250,000 in 1994 to put her on the Supreme Court in Texas. And as late as 2006, Rove was referring to her as “my friend” in public. He's the one who pushed her nomination to the 5th Circuit. So, here's a woman who is specifically tied to Karl Rove, and Karl Rove is specifically named by Minor in his letters to Congress, and the court documents point to the corruption of the DoJ by the White House.
Although the documents don’t name Rove specifically, there is no mistaking the allegations. He is alluded to and the political prosecutions are discussed at length. Minor specifically mentions him in his letter to Congress, which is also part of the court documents. The House Judiciary Committee’s report specifically mentions Rove in relation to the Siegelman case and alludes to his involvement in the Minor case.
In other words, she should have recused herself because of her close relationship to Karl Rove, and the already serious allegations of corruption surrounding this case. When you have a case this visible and this criticized already, then the judge should show that no impropriety exists.
I should point out, too, that these cases are supposed to be randomly given to judges. There is no evidence to indicate that Owen got this case through some interference with this process. I don’t believe that she did anything to get this case, actually, as such an action would implicate the Clerk and at least one other judge in a conspiracy, and I just don’t think this would have happened.
BuzzFlash: So we're at a situation where his wife may die. He will not be allowed to see her basically due to the partisan appointment to the judiciary which is, in a way, insuring that a partisan victim of the Justice Department doesn't get out in a position to visit his wife or be accessible to the news media.
Larisa Alexandrovna: I don’t think she was ruling on the wife’s illness or that that, in and of itself, was the material point -– although her ruling does create the same end result in that he won’t see his wife unless he gets a furlough. But basically your assessment is accurate. I think it is also important to say – because people are likely wondering – that I do not think Rove had to or did call in any favors. He does not have to. If you go back to our earlier interview where I explained that Rove’s goal was always about the courts and stacking the courts with certain types of judges, then you will see that such a ruling is the natural result of corrupting the judicial system.
By stacking the court with his clients, cronies, and people seen as sympathetic to authoritarian positions, you create a system that will always act to protect itself and its own. Rove did not have to do a thing to ensure this outcome. This outcome was insured the moment she was confirmed to the court.
I also want to point out too that consider what the mechanism is protecting here. This case is not just about a single victim of a single case. If this case was simply about Siegelman, then in the court of public opinion, it could be argued – spun – as a few bad apples in Alabama who were overly enthusiastic with their law enforcement toys. But if you have multiple victims or targets, in a number of states, and a number of law enforcement officials behaving in a way that appears to be orchestrated, then that is no longer a few bad apples. That is a criminal conspiracy across state lines and reaching to the highest levels of the federal government. So the mechanism is acting to protect itself in this drama and keep the appearance that the corruption is really just limited to this one guy being prosecuted, Siegelman. This is my opinion of course. But this is why I believe they cannot let Minor out. If there is another Siegelman out there making the same allegations, from another state, with a different US Attorney, then Rove is going to have a difficult time trying to explain this.
BuzzFlash: Another example involves Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz, Jr. He is the Supreme Court justice in Mississippi who was not allowed to issue his dissent. That is just an extraordinary story. Could you just quickly recap that, because it is mind-boggling.
Larisa Alexandrovna: I don't fully understand the particulars as I am not an attorney. But in speaking to various Mississippi attorneys and others in various states, it appears something remarkable has happened. Basically, Justice Diaz is, if you recall, one of the judges tried along with Minor and the others. He was tried and acquitted twice and still sits on the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Last Thursday a case came before the court that by all appearances was nothing scandalous or spectacular or really news worthy outside of Mississippi really. In other words, it is not like an Enron case or something of that nature. As I understand it, this was an injury case and the question before the court was about what happens to injury damages awarded or sued for if the person who was injured dies. It is something like – and this is my understanding, so I may not have this entirely right – does someone who is suing a company for injuries sustained on the job no longer get damages awarded should they die of their injuries. In other words, does the family no longer have the right to sue for damages. Again, I may be wrong, but ultimately, what happened last Thursday is not really about this case at all. It is about the actual court.
Justice Diaz, who was presiding over this particular case, did not agree with the rest of the court on this question of damages being awarded. So he wanted to, is supposed to, write a dissenting view because the rest of the court agreed. Well, the rest of the court decided that he could not write a dissent and would not allow the clerk to include the dissent in the ruling. It is remarkable when you think about it really.
BuzzFlash: I've never heard about this happening before.
Larisa Alexandrovna: Neither had I. Justice Diaz told me he's never seen it before in the State of Mississippi, and he thought this may be a first in the history of US jurisprudence.
BuzzFlash: Because a majority of a court is basically censoring the dissent. It cannot be disseminated. It cannot be discussed. The majority court ruling is the only ruling, and it is prohibited to criticize the majority court ruling.
Here we started with Mukasey. He kind of said, well, there's some partisanship going on, but there's no big deal now. Well, here are the implications. People were hired and others rejected for partisan reasons. Next, Karl Rove had a hand in the appointment at the Mississippi Supreme Court, even though it is not a federal court, but Rove in that and his whole game has been to control the courts and control the Justice Department.
And even further, now we have a case of the majority of the Mississippi Supreme Court, and Diaz who has been and continues to be victimized by the partisan politics of the DoJ federally.
Larisa Alexandrovna: Right.
BuzzFlash: And DoJ has a relationship, it so happens, that even though he's on the state court, he just is told kind of to forget about what the justice system is. We run this court.
Larisa Alexandrovna: That's right. It's about bullying and disallowing any form of dissent.
BuzzFlash: We're squashing you. You can't even tell anyone you disagree with us. Even though our whole legal system is based on the right of anyone on the court, Republican, Democrat, or whatever, to issue a dissent. They're saying, Soviet Union style, we are only going to have one opinion.
Larisa Alexandrovna: And the majority can say, if you try to apply the law to investigate us or subpoena us, the judges we have in positions that are supposed to be autonomous and independent and ethical will protect us and their positions on the court.
BuzzFlash: It was just a pure assertion of basically a coup d'etat on the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Larisa Alexandrovna: That's right. The fact is that they couldn't steal the election from Diaz. They couldn't put him in prison. And boy, have they tried. They've been trying to remove him from the court ever since. And as a last result, they've just muzzled him. And even if that wasn't their intention, that's what it looks like. And the appearance is just as bad as if they had intended it. That's the problem.
BuzzFlash: How could that have been their intention?
Larisa Alexandrovna: As I have said, the appearance of impropriety is important because it creates the impression that the system is corrupt, not to be trusted, political, and that we are a nation of men, not laws. Our system works because we trust it. It works because we trust that there's an independent judiciary. And whether they intended it or not, their political actions and behavior have resulted in the appearance of impropriety. The end result is the same. We lose faith in the system, in the independence of the judiciary and the fairness of that we claim in our democracy.
BuzzFlash: It has the same effect, which in this case is to stifle the system of jurisprudence in this country. In a Supreme Court, sometimes you have three or four dissents and more than one minority opinion. But the Mississippi Supreme Court simply said: We are censoring any minority opinion. It is enormously chilling.
Larisa Alexandrovna: Well, for me, it's almost anticlimactic, given the rest of what's been going on. Frankly, we sort of surpassed "chilling" a few years back. When we are a country where the president can throw out laws he does not like, arrest people for any reason as long as he can decide, violate the Geneva Conventions, use the DoJ as its own personal political police, then an incident on a state Supreme Court is really a pebble in this sky high mountain of authoritarianism that has been built by this administration.
It used to be that if the system failed, there would be a correction of it. To be sure there are plenty of examples of cases where the cops were corrupt or the FBI was corrupt or the judge was corrupt. But these were generally the exception, not the rule. It is unprecedented when you consider that such corruption is now policy -- the rule, and not the exception. Consider it. This is a federal policy, federal law enforcement, and so forth. It is unprecedented.
But Congress thinks that they can simply wait it out until the next administration. We are well beyond a Constitutional crisis. We are in the death throes of democracy.
BuzzFlash: Rove is sometimes made out to be Machiavellian. He's controlling everyone ...
Larisa Alexandrovna: He doesn't have to control everything because the mechanism he's created is self-contained. It will respond the way it's supposed to respond, so he doesn't need to do anything.
BuzzFlash: But he did create a two-pronged approach. It impacts the federal bench and the Department of Justice. And then he set up this pattern of aligning himself with the Chambers of Commerce to basically buy elections to supreme courts in many states, including West Virginia and Mississippi. We also saw that sort of power play in Wisconsin recently.
Larisa Alexandrovna: Georgia, Alabama, Ohio, etc.
BuzzFlash: And Georgia. And so, in Mississippi what we've seen in our discussion with you is these two or three areas of control, leading basically to what one can call a unitary authority system. akin to the Soviet Union, communism or fascism, or whatever one wants to call it. It's not democracy. It's not constitutional. The people with the most power prevail.
Larisa Alexandrovna: That's right.
BuzzFlash: In Mississippi, the DoJ prosecution of Minor intersects with a federal judge like Patricia Owens. Then you have the Diaz connection to Minor as a person the Republican right marginalized in an unprecedented step to prohibit him from stating his dissent.
Larisa Alexandrovna: To go one step further, iIf you recall, what started the whole Watergate scandal was a break-in. Even though the Watergate scandal was a series of crimes, most people think of the Watergate scandal as the break-in at the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate building. But what was remarkable about that break-in is that you had federal law enforcement and spies breaking in to bug an opposition party.
In other words, when you look at what is going on now, it is not just that honest investigations are being killed or that innocent people are being framed. But this appears to have gotten astonishingly aggressive. The body that is law enforcement is not reacting, a scandal in and of itself, but actually acting, which is by far more dangerous.
Just to give you an idea, in both Alabama and Mississippi -– the two states where there is significant evidence indicating political prosecutions for political ends -– all of the government targets had break-ins and/or fires during their trials.
For example, of the four defendants in Mississippi, Minor, Diaz, Whitfiled, and Teel, three had either multiple break-ins and/or a fire during the trial. Whitfield’s office burned down. Diaz and Minor both had break-ins. Adding to that, Whitfield’s attorney was burglarized three times. In all cases, nothing of value was taken. If anything was taken, it was documents. Otherwise, nothing was taken.
In Alabama, Don Siegelman’s home was broken into twice, his attorney’s office was broken into multiple times, and the whistle-blower in their case had her house burn down. She was also driven off the road and had an accident. I tracked down the man who drove her off the road. He was a former cop who was allowed to leave the scene of the crime without questioning, and he never surfaced again.
Now I am not saying that anyone in the federal government is doing this. I am not even saying that these cases are for sure related. But you would have to be living under a rock to not find these events suspect -- especially when the same people who cut their teeth in Watergate, like Karl Rove, are allegedly involved with these investigations to begin with.
Yet despite the fact that I have all of the witness statements, police reports, etc., no one cares. Now at The Washington Post, which in its best days was doing the Watergate story, no one cares. I am baffled. No other media outlets care. Congress does not care. These are crimes and in they appear to be related. Does no one want to investigate this?
BuzzFlash: Larisa, thank you.
Larisa Alexandrovna: For ruining your day? (laughs)
BuzzFlash: I do recall an element of hope, based on our having interviewed Daniel Elsberg many times. In reading his book from a few years back, what really broke the Watergate scandal wide open and really kind of started the unraveling, was that the case against Elsberg for stealing the Pentagon Papers fell apart when it was revealed that his psychiatrist's office had been burglarized for information by the government. The government had not revealed this, and the judge declared a mistrial. That is what then started to blow up, exposing the whole strategic plan of using the offices of the Executive Branch to spy on dissenters.
Larisa Alexandrovna: Now, I should say for the record there is no proof connecting these series of crimes to Karl Rove or to the White House, or to any other government body. But when you already have a great deal of smoke, and an arsonist already involved in past fires, it is hard to look at it and say there is no fire.
Nobody's looking, and people should be looking. I provided all the police reports. I had statements. I had all the evidence collected. And I brought it to where I was supposed to bring it, because I can't be privy to a crime and not report it to authorities. So I gave everything to people in DC and said, here.
I talked to former Chiefs of police from various precincts and private detectives and security experts. They all said these are related crimes, this needs to be investigated by the FBI because the crimes cross state lines. One security expert I consulted, picked randomly from an expert database, actually said to me, something along the lines of, although he did not have all the evidence or specifics, it almost looked like Watergate-type stuff to him. He is quoted in that article. I sent him the article so he could see the full specifics. He nearly fell over.
Anyway, no one cares. I am telling you that when I have to work this hard to ask people to work at a crime, I am no longer being a journalist, I am being a citizen worried about the safety of my fellow citizens. The one person who covered the Siegelman case in the mainstream media, Dan Abrams, never touched this … not with Siegelman’s break-ins and he never touched the Mississippi cases at all. Why not? Why does nobody care? Does that not concern you? It really concerns me, because these are American citizens. For me, that is the most obvious indication of just how screwed we really are. When things like this can happen and everyone just looks the other way, we are –- for lack of a better word -– screwed.
BuzzFlash: Larisa, thank you so much.
Larisa Alexandrovna: Thank you.
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Resources:Larisa Alexandrovna's Blog, Huffington Post
The Raw Story: Larisa Alexandrova staff profile
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW