‘Equal Justice Under Law.”
What a joke!
Those four stirring words, chiseled into the marble atop the U.S. Supreme Court’s portico, were transformed into a punchline Thursday. That statement in stone is now the legal equivalent of a cream pie tossed in Shemp’s face, in a vintage Three Stooges comedy short.
U.S. district judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced President Donald J. Trump’s friend and informal adviser Roger Stone to three years and four months in prison for witness tampering, obstruction of justice, and lying to Congress. Stone’s penalty emerged just six days after the Justice Department dropped its inquiry into Trump foe, former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe. Never mind that Justice’s inspection division filed a criminal referral when it “became concerned that McCabe may have lacked candor when questioned by . . . agents about his role in the disclosure” of inside information to the Wall Street Journal. “Lacked candor” is Potomac for “failed to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”
So, 40 months behind bars for Stone, while McCabe enjoys airtime and paychecks as a CNN commentator and royalties from his book The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump.
This is Washington’s nauseating new reality: A two-track justice system offers political insiders on the left impunity and income from publishing and broadcast deals. However, political outsiders on the right face crippling legal fees and incarceration. The much-ballyhooed Kremlin-kollusion theory proved thinner than a bowl of cold borscht, as Robert Mueller’s Russiagate probe searched from rooftops to ravines and found no underlying crime. Regardless, Mueller and his band of anti-Trump Democrat prosecutors nailed several scalps to the wall:
• President Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, is doing seven and a half years at the Federal Correctional Institution in Loretto, Pa., for his pre-Trump tax and bank fraud. Manafort has endured solitary confinement.
• Former campaign aide George Papadopoulos served twelve days in the slammer for false statements to FBI officers. His steep legal bills and spooked clients drove him back into his parents’ house.
• Former national security adviser Michael Flynn awaits sentencing, and wants his charges dropped, after pleading guilty to false statements. Flynn reportedly took a plea after selling his house to pay his lawyers. DOJ prosecuted Flynn, although no less than Andrew McCabe acknowledged that “the two people who interviewed [Flynn] didn’t think he was lying.” Indeed, the G-men who spoke with Flynn later reported: “Throughout the interview, Flynn had a very ‘sure’ demeanor and did not give any indicators of deception. He did not parse his words or hesitate in any of his answers.” Never mind those details; Flynn still could wind up in an orange jump suit.
Compare the plight of these Trump allies with the charmed lives of just a few of his and the Right’s tormentors.
• Former FBI director James Comey was the subject of a criminal referral by DOJ inspector general Michael Horowitz. Comey removed several memoranda from his office related to his conversations with President-elect and, subsequently, President Trump. He stashed these in his home safe and clammed up, the OIG said, “even when his Chief of Staff, the FBI’s associate deputy director, and three SSAs [supervisory special agents] came to Comey’s house on May 12, 2017, to inventory and remove all FBI property.”
Comey then sent one memo to his friend, Columbia University law professor Daniel Richman, specifically so that he would leak it to America’s so-called Paper of Record. Comey hoped that news of his notes on Trump’s Flynn-related statements would trigger a special-prosecutor probe. And it did.
As the OIG concluded:
Comey violated applicable policies and his Employment Agreement by failing to either surrender his copies of Memos 2, 4, 6, and 7 to the FBI or seek authorization to retain them; by releasing official FBI information and records to third parties without authorization; and by failing to immediately alert the FBI about his disclosures to his personal attorneys once he became aware in June 2017 that Memo 2 contained six words (four of which were names of foreign countries mentioned by the President) that the FBI had determined were classified at the “CONFIDENTIAL” level.
So, Comey did spill state secrets.
“By not safeguarding sensitive information obtained during the course of his FBI employment, and by using it to create public pressure for official action,” the OIG concluded in August, “Comey set a dangerous example for the over 35,000 current FBI employees — and the many thousands more former FBI employees — who similarly have access to or knowledge of non-public information.”
So, is Comey breaking rocks? Awaiting his prison sentence? Preparing for trial?
“He’s been traveling the country giving six-figure paid speeches on leadership, as well as gratis appearances at universities,” Business Insider’s Alex Morrell reported. Comey also secured a $3 million contract with Bridgewater Associates to write the best-selling A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership. “And then there’s the forthcoming CBS Studios miniseries,” Morrell added, “in which he’ll be portrayed by actor Jeff Daniels.”
As for legal trouble, that remains even more invisible than the contents of Comey’s safe.
• Despite 588 security violations that the State Department attributed to Hillary Clinton and her associates in the Emailgate scandal, as well as her role in purchasing the “dirty dossier” that triggered the Russia hoax, the former first lady has suffered zero consequences for an entire career of professional misconduct. Anyone who survived her husband’s presidency recalls Hillary as a latter-day Ma Barker, or Bonnie to Bill’s Clyde. Regardless, Hillary always walks away, Scot-free. And she always gets paid.
Her 2014 book Hard Choices scored her some $14 million. The next year, Business Insider reports, she made $12 million in speaking fees to well-connected organizations and huge corporations. A sample of these for 2015 included:
California Medical Association: $100,000 (via satellite!)
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce: $150,000
Institute of Scrap Metal Recycling Industries: $225,000
National Automobile Dealers Association: $225,500
United Fresh Produce Association: $225,000
eBay Inc.: $315,000 (for a 20-minute speech)
Cisco: $325,000 (She reportedly sat onstage with the CEO)
Biotechnology Industry Organization: $335,000
Qualcomm Incorporated: $335,000
GTCR Private Equity: $780,000
Atop this steady cash, Hillary never stops playing presidential-campaign hokey-pokey: She puts her left foot in, she takes her left foot out, she puts her left foot in, and she shakes it all about. Rumors that Michael Bloomberg is considering her as a potential running mate gives this entitled woman yet another opportunity to show some West Wing ankle.
• Lois Lerner ran the IRS unit that perpetrated the systematic political profiling of conservative groups that sought tax-exempt designation. IRS’s wingtip-dragging, relentless demands for paperwork, and Orwellian questions (“please provide the percentage of time your organization spends on prayer groups”) all subjected to extra scrutiny 94 percent of center-right and Tea Party groups that sought 501(c)(3) and (c)(4)status, versus 6 percent of analogous liberal outfits, the House Ways and Means Committee found in August 2013. Consequently, rather than educate citizens on limited-government principles before the 2012 election, scores of these organizations either failed to launch or did so, only to run out of fuel and tumble back to earth.
Lerner supervised this virtual gag-the-Right scheme. When GOP congressional overseers sought Lerner’s laptop hard drive, they learned that it was shipped to a Federal Bureau of Prisons recycling facility in Florida. As the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration testified in 2015, “this shipment of hard drives was destroyed using an AMERI-SHRED AMS-750HD shredder.” The industrial-strength machine chopped the drives into quarter-sized pieces. The Feds then sold this material as scrap.
Was Lerner punished? Reprimanded? Ordered to stand in the corner for 20 minutes?
Lerner was placed on administrative leave. This is Potomac for “paid vacation.” She received her $177,000 annual salary while she stayed home and relaxed. (If she were U.S. senator Lois Lerner, she would have earned $3,000 less.) According to the Washington Post, “Lerner has received a $100,000 annual pension since retiring from the IRS in September 2013, and she and her husband, an attorney with a national law firm, live in a $2.5 million home in Bethesda,” Maryland, where she walks her dogs and gardens outside her 6,500-square-foot house.
There is a strong argument for mercy toward Roger Stone, 67, who has no criminal record. But Stone was convicted of obstruction, lying to the House Intelligence Committee, and intimidating a witness (who laughed off Stone’s threats to kill his cat). Love or hate Stone, these are major offenses.
America needs equal justice, but neither undue leniency nor undeserved cruelty toward Stone.
Given Stone’s sentence, McCabe, Comey, Clinton, and Lerner should be locked up.
But since those four got zero prison time, plus book deals, TV contracts, and a hefty pension, then Roger Stone deserves to walk into a green room at Fox News Channel. I would expect to congratulate him there on his new contributor agreement and hear all about his upcoming memoir.
Fair is fair.
Bucknell University’s Michael Malarkey contributed research to this opinion piece.