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Protecting Favored Politicians?

Updated: Sep 5, 2018


By: Donald V. Watkins

©Copyrighted and Published on September 4, 2018; Updated at 5:20 p.m. EST


Yesterday, President Donald Trump lashed out at U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and blamed him for the recent indictments of “two very popular Republican Congressmen”. Trump was referring Representatives Duncan Hunter of Alpine, California, who was charged last month with spending campaign funds on personal expenses and falsifying federal reports on his political finances, and Chris Collins of New York, who two weeks earlier was accused of insider trading and lying to the FBI.


Hunter and Collins were the first members of Congress to endorse Trump after he announced his long-shot bid for president in 2015, at a time when few others did. Sessions was the first U.S. Senator to endorse Trump’s candidacy.


According to Bob Woodward's new book titled, "Fear: Trump in the White House," Trump views Sessions in a very negative light. "This guy is mentally retarded," Trump said of Sessions. "He's this dumb southerner," Trump told former aide Rob Porter, mocking Sessions by feigning a southern accent.


Against this backdrop, Trump's criticism of Sessions highlights this simple fact: The U.S. Department of Justice has historically used the prosecutorial powers of the United States government to silence dissent and manipulate the political process. This abuse of prosecutorial power continues to this day.


Exposing COINTELPRO and Other Government Lawlessness


In 1976, the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities of the United States Senate, commonly referred to as the "Church Committee", launched a major investigation of the FBI and COINTELPRO, the Bureau's official, centralized campaign from 1956 to 1971 to smear and harass activists for social justice and equal opportunity in America.


Under COINTELPRO, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover ordered FBI agents to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize" individuals and organizations targeted by the program. During the COINTELPRO campaign, the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies routinely lied, cheated, and framed targeted individuals and organizations.


The Final Report of the Church Committee confirmed the primary methods used by the FBI to carry out the objectives and abuses of COINTELPRO. They included:


a.Infiltration:Agents and informers did not merely spy on political activists. Their main purpose was to discredit, disrupt and negatively redirect action.


b.Psychological warfare:The FBI and local police used a myriad "dirty tricks" to undermine progressive movements. They planted false media stories and published bogus leaflets and other publications in the name of targeted groups. They also forged correspondence, sent anonymous letters, and made anonymous telephone calls aimed at disrupting legitimate, peaceful protests.


c.Harassment via the legal system:The FBI and local police abused the legal system to harass targets and make them appear to be criminals. Officers of the law gave perjured testimony and presented fabricated evidence as a pretext for false arrests and wrongful imprisonment. They discriminatorily enforced tax laws and other government regulations and used conspicuous surveillance, "investigative" interviews, and grand jury subpoenas in an effort to intimidate activists and silence their supporters.


d.Illegal force:The FBI conspired with local police departments to threaten dissidents; to conduct illegal break-ins in order to search dissident homes; and to commit vandalism, assaults, beatings and assassinations. The object was to frighten or eliminate dissidents and disrupt their movements.

e.Undermine public opinion:One of the primary ways the FBI targeted organizations was by challenging their reputations in the community and denying them a platform to gain legitimacy. COINTELPRO created and/or controlled negative media for the purpose of undermining civil rights and political organizations. In Alabama, the Birmingham News and Montgomery Advertiser were dedicated and willing participants in these COINTELPRO activities.


COINTELPRO was successfully kept secret until 1971 when Director Hoover declared that the centralized COINTELPRO campaign was over, and that all future counterintelligence operations would be handled on a case-by-case basis by local FBI field offices.


The FBI and DOJ have publicly admitted that Congress and the American people rightfully criticized COINTELPRO for abridging First Amendment rights and for other reasons.


Unofficial COINTELPRO Activities Persist


The FBI continued its abusive COINTELPRO practice of interfering with and stifling freedom of speech well after 1971. "The problem persists after Hoover….", stated U.S. Magistrate Joan Lefkow in 1991, "The record before this court shows that despite regulations, orders and consent decrees prohibiting such activities, the FBI had continued to collect information concerning only the exercise of free speech." 


On February 28, 1988, noted Washington Post journalist Gwen Ifill published an article titled, “Black Officials Probes and Prejudices” that based upon a review of the raw data involving 465 public corruption cases handled by the U.S. Department of Justice over a five-year period. The review showed that black officials were being prosecuted far more heavily than their representation in the population of elected officials. Among 465 public corruption probes reviewed, which were limited to high-ranking politicians above the level of school board, 14 percent were targeted on black officials. Yet, blacks made up only 3 percent of the nation's elected officials at the time. 


The Justice Department was never able to adequately explain this gross level of disparate treatment. Many attributed it to unofficial COINTELPRO activities that were still at play, particularly in Southern states.


The FBI’s targeting and harassment of Birmingham, Alabama’s first black mayor, Dr. Richard Arrington, Jr., was detailed in the Congressional Record-Senate at S2533-2546 (March 9, 1990). Then-Alabama Senator Howell Heflin, who was appalled by this prosecutorial misconduct, placed it in the Congressional Record for historical purposes.


Arrington became a COINTELPRO target in 1972 following his election to the Birmingham City Council in 1972. The FBI’s Birmingham field office continued COINTELPRO operations for many decades after the Bureau’s Washington headquarters ended its centralized COINTELPRO activities in 1971. Dr. Arrington was one of 1,897 civil rights activists targeted by the FBI for "neutralization".


Despite his mistreatment by rogue federal prosecutors and local FBI agents, Mayor Arrington was never indicted for any criminal offense. In 1992, Department of Justice officials in Washington cleared Mayor Arrington of all allegations of wrongdoing, and issued the first-ever public apology to a sitting public official for smearing his name. 


Dr. Arrington’s case was the first documented FBI-led attempted coup d'etat of a duly elected mayor on U.S. soil.


In 1996, federal prosecutors formally notified Birmingham U.S. District Court Judge U.W. Clemon of their intent to indict him on various fraud-related charges arising from his sister’s operation of a non-profit school in Los Angeles. The local office of the FBI despised Judge Clemon because of his long history as a civil rights activist and his fairness on the federal bench. As was the case with Mayor Richard Arrington, FBI agents constantly looked for ways to "neutralize" Judge Clemon and force him off the judicial bench.


The lead political group responsible for Judge Clemon’s judicial appointment to the federal bench in 1980 immediately launched an investigation into allegations of prosecutorial misconduct in Clemon’s case. This investigation produced a comprehensive report to the U.S. Attorney General on the prosecutorial misconduct. Based upon this report, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno terminated the criminal investigation of Judge Clemon with no charges filed.


Judge Clemon went on to become the chief judge of the federal bench in Birmingham for ten years. He served with distinction on the bench until his retirement on January 31, 2009.


The DOJ’s Inspector General (“IG”) has found that the FBI improperly opened investigations on American activist groups between 2001 and 2006, even though they were planning nothing more than peaceful protests and civil disobedience.


Epilogue


The Department of Justice is experiencing a real problem with “rogue” federal prosecutors and law enforcement agents. Their ranks are growing. In Birmingham, for example, a handful of “skinheads” and other far-right extremist groups have invaded the ranks of federal law enforcement officials and are wielding the reigns of national government power to advance their bigoted personal agendas.


By now, it is apparent to all Americans that Donald Trump does not have a problem with politically motivated investigations and prosecutions. He just hates it when federal prosecutors target and abuse his political allies, family members, and him.


PHOTO: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is under fire again. This time, President Donald Trump is blasting Sessions for not protecting two indicted Republican Congressmen from criminal prosecutions.


© 2020 by Donald V. Watkins, P.C.