Category Archives: Justice Dept

Obama’s Kabuki Nomination of Dawn Johnsen

What he said.

[T]he failure of the Johnsen nomination is NOT and NEVER WAS about a lack of votes. No, it is completely and unequivocally about the failure of Barack Obama and his Administration to support their own nominee and stand up for the values she proffered which led them to select her in the first place. This is about Obama, not the Senate, not Republicans and not about obstruction.

And him:

The Office of Legal Counsel is the former home of legal hacks/moral monsters Jay Bybee and John Yoo and Dawn Johnsen is unacceptable to head up the OLC because she was critical of legal hacks/moral monsters Jay Bybee and John Yoo? Really?

And also him:

If you were Barack Obama and were pursuing the policies that he ended up pursuing, would you want Dawn Johnsen in charge of the office which determines the scope of your legal authority as President?

Why FISA Is Such a Bad Idea

 “Because I say so,” said the Red King.
For years I’ve been following and writing about the absurd paucity of evidence the Bush Administration considers sufficient to lock your ass up indefinitely. Ashcroft was forced to try two of his Gitmo defendants in Germany in front of a court not made up of Bush loyalists or conservative ideologues, andn the judge demanded access to the proof Ashcroft’s DoJ insisted was too sensitive to be made public. When the dossier was opened anyway, despite their protests, there was nothing in it but raw data – unsubstantiated romors, gossip, innuendo. What Ashcroft was protecting wasn’t sensitive information but his own butt, which has come to be known as a standard trait for Bushies.
Now the same damn thing has been repeated under Michael Mukasey.

In the first case to review the government’s secret evidence for holding a detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a federal appeals court found that accusations against a Muslim from western China held for more than six years were based on bare and unverifiable claims. The unclassified parts of the decision were released on Monday.

With some derision for the Bush administration’s arguments, a three-judge panel said the government contended that its accusations against the detainee should be accepted as true because they had been repeated in at least three secret documents.
The court compared that to the absurd declaration of a character in the Lewis Carroll poem “The Hunting of the Snark”: “I have said it thrice: What I tell you three times is true.”
 

 

This Administration appears to lie about everything, even the evidence – or lack of it – that it claims justifies holding men and even children in prisons withiout trial for 6 years. Like Ashcroft in Germany, the Bush Administration wasn’t refusing them their day in court because they were dangerous but because Bush didn'[t want us to know they weren’t, that the whole detainee thing had been a bust from the git-go. So why in heaven’s name should we believe them when they claim yet another detainee ought to be killed because he was behind the attack on the Cole?

 

 

A Pentagon official announced war crimes charges Monday against a detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, suspected of helping to plan the attack on the Navy destroyer Cole in 2000 that killed 17 American sailors.

 

Military prosecutors said they were seeking the death penalty against the detainee, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi who has long been described by American officials as Al Qaeda’s operations chief in the Persian Gulf and the primary planner of the October 2000 attack on the Cole.

Mr. Nashiri is one of three detainees who the C.I.A. has acknowledged were subjected to waterboarding, the interrogation technique that simulates drowning. Mr. Nashiri was interrogated in the agency’s secret prisons before he was transferred to Guantánamo in 2006.

(emphasis added)

There hasn’t been a shred of evidence, ever, that Nashiri weas guilty of anything except by the Bush Administration’s unsupported word for it – a word that is worth less than nothing considering its total lack of credibility. Yet the Bush lawyers are demanding the death penalty. For war crimes. Talk about the pot and the kettle.

If one word of that so-called “evidence” came from Nashiri’s being tortured, then legally it has to be thrown out. A co-erced confession IS NOT ADMISSIBLE, not in a civilian court. Maybe in the Kangaroo tribunals the Bushies have dreamed up, but nowhere else in the civilized world. If that’s how they came by it, it’s hopelessly tainted and so is their whole case. Not that they seem to care. They’re going ahead with the trial despite the CIA’s admission, and after all, what do they really have to fear in the way of consequences? Not much, it seems.

A federal appeals court on Monday dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Syrian-born Canadian man who had accused the United States of violating the law and his civil rights after he was detained at Kennedy Airport and sent to Syria under what he claims was an act of “extraordinary rendition.”

The man, Maher Arar, tried to win civil damages from United States officials in his suit, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York ruled that because he was never technically inside the United States, his claims could not be heard in the federal courts.

 

 

 

While stating that “threats to the nation’s security do not allow us to jettison principles of ‘simple justice and fair dealing,’ ” the majority opinion ruled nonetheless that Mr. Arar, who had been seized as he tried to change planes at Kennedy Airport while flying back to Canada from Switzerland, had no federal standing in his case and that the government did not violate the Torture Victim Protection Act by sending him abroad.

I can hear Lil Dick and Dave Addington chuckling over it now. They got away with it again – on a technicality. They arranged to keep their bloody hands clean even though they arranged for an innocent man to be tortured because technically he wasn’t in the US at the time theyn had him picked up. Giggle giggle. What fun. Put it over on us again, didn’t you?

FISA should never be passed if for no other reason than because the govt can’t be trusted to look at any interests but its own or nopt use its power – whatever powers we give it – to get what it wants. Our experience with Bush proves it’s a HORRENDOUSLY BAD IDEA TO GIVE ANY PRESIDENT THAT KIND OF POWER.

So why is our Democratic Congress giving it to them? Hmm?

Gonzo the Scrivener

Here’s something you may never see again: a political cartoon from Pat Oliphant based on Herman Melville.

oliphant-bartleby.gif

Not true, of course, Gonzo is right where the Emperor wants him – covering his Master’s ass. Still, the reference is clever.

White House Proves Alzheimer’s a Virus

There has been no scientific evidence of it up to now but recent developments in the Congress have, I believe, proved fairly conclusively that Alzheimer’s is viral in nature and suggests that the carrier of this dread disease is none other than Alberto Gonzales.

Consider: ever since Gonzo’s first appearance before the House Judiciary Committee when he uttered the phrases “I don’t remember” or “I can’t recall” some 55 times in the course of the first 2 hours, a rash of Administration witnesses have appeared who were unable to remember key sections of their lives.  Monica Goodling, GSA Administrator Lurita Doan, Kyle Sampson, and what seems like dozens of others appear to have lost access to their memory centers, saying they “can’t recall” who they are, what they’re doing in the White House, or what exactly the “Constitution” might be. 

Mr Gonzales’ case seems from his latest testimony to have advanced to the stage where he can barely remember his own name. He can’t describe his position, his duties, or his role in the government, answering as if he thinks he works for Karl Rove in the political office. He became confused whenever anyone referred to him as the “Attorney General”, insisting that he worked for the president directly in much the same capacity as Bebe Rebozo used to work directly for Nixon – getting him coffee, fluffing his pillows, and answering “Yes sir” to anything Bush says.

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House Pubs Argue Against Imperial Presidency

In the “I’m Holding the Top of My Head to Keep It From Exploding, That’s Why” Dept, via TPMmuckraker, comes this Republican rationale for NOT handing out the subpoenas:

Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT) laid it all out. There is “no evidence” of wrongdoing by the White House in the U.S. attorney firings, he says. And since there’s no wrongdoing, it’s likely that Congress will lose its battle with the White House in court. And if they lost, he says, future claims of executive privilege by the White House would be much stronger, since they’d be resting on the Supreme Court’s decision. And that would “make the presidency in America, a much stronger, imperial office.” Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) agreed, saying that Congress was in danger of handing the White House “a blank check.”

There oughta be a sign over the entrance to the Republican side of the House chamber that says, “Abandon All Reason, Ye Who Enter Here” since that is clearly their reigning philosophy these days.

Either that or it has finally dawned on them that the next president is going to be a Democrat.

Genarlow Wilson 6: DA McDade Releases Sex Tape

mcdade This story just gets weirder and weirder. On Tuesday, Douglas County DA David McDade, the birdbrain who’s responsible for letting County Prosecutor Eddie Barker try Genarlow as a sex offender because he didn’t like Genarlow’s attitude and has been trying to cover his ass ever since, making things infinitely worse in the process, released the videotape someone made at the party of the girl in question going down on Wilson.

Now, before we go all boggly at the notion that a Georgia District Attorney would make public the tape of a sex act by two teenagers, let’s first note that the tape is evidence in an on-going case. The legality of doing such a thing a week before a scheduled hearing in front of the Georgia State Supreme Court on whether or not Judge Thomas Wilson’s order to free Genarlow is legally valid (State AG Thurlow Baker is trying to protect McDade and Barker by arguing that the judge had no right to make such a decision), is highly questionable if not downright illegal. The only possible motivation for it is as an attempt to prejudice public opinion and possibly the court’s judgment. Apparently McDade knows that in Georgia, judges on the Supreme Court can be swayed by porno.

In any reasonable state – any state driven by law rather than racism, puritanical sex-hysteria, and prosecutorial hissy fits, that is – McDade would right now be walking the streets without a job at the very least, or possibly in jail.

Not in Georgia.

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Griffin Quits

Not that we could possibly have had anything whatever to do with it, BUT….

Three days after this blog explained to the world why Rove pinboy Tim Griffin had to be installed in Arkansas as US Attorney, Rove pinboy Tim Griffin quit.

The U.S. Justice Department has notified Arkansas’s congressional delegation that Interim Eastern District U.S. Attorney Tim Griffin is resigning effective Friday, June 1. Jane Duke will become acting U.S. attorney. (This is the assistant in the office who the Justice Department once had said had to be passed over as an interim appointee because of her pregnancy. Since it’s illegal to discriminate on account of pregnancy, Justice had to back off this statement.)

Still no word from the White House on selection of a nominee to put through the Senate confirmation process from a slate sent up by Rep. John Boozman.

“This is long overdue and a positive development,” said Michael Teague, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor. “Credibility is being restored to the leadership postion at the U.S. attorney’s office. We have confidence Jane Duke will do a good job.”

Yeah, it is. And she probably will. So whassup? Was Pryor putting the heat on? And why would anybody, least of all Griffin, care if he was?

I would certainly like to hear the 411 on this development. At this hour, nothing in the big papers or at TPM. Could we have – ?

Noooo……. Could we?

(Link courtesy Avedon Carol)

Stealing ’08: Why Tim Griffin’s Appointment Was So Important

I have been hinting (here and here) that the Gonzo tumult is a distraction from the main event: Karl Rove’s use of the Justice Dept to provide cover for his planned theft of the 2008 election. While the Congress – and the country – wastes its time and energy trying to get Gonzo Al to resign (we know Bush won’t fire him under any circumstances), Rove’s USA replacements are gearing up for an election full of dirty tricks and illegal rights-embezzling.

Why, for example, was it so damned important to get a legal non-entity like Tim Griffin into a USA spot in a potential swing state that Harriet Miers was willing to pressure top Rove political aide Sara Taylor (who resigned today, perhaps feeling the investigators breathing down her neck and seeing the writing on the wall) to lean on Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling to fire Bud Cummins so Timmy could have his job?

Let’s see, shall we?

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Pub Campaign Dirty Tricks in Md, Gonzo Shrugs

You know, Gonzo just don’t seem to give a damn any more and he’s no longer even pretending he does.

The Baltimore Sun reports that Republicans Gov Bobby Erlich and Lt Gov Mike Steele passed out campaign brochures in minority-heavy areas on election day last November that identified them as Democrats.

The full-color brochures, which were sponsored by the campaigns of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele – Cardin’s opponent in the November election – listed the Republican candidates for governor and U.S. Senate as the top choices on a “Democratic sample ballot.”

The fliers were distributed outside polling places in predominantly African-American precincts in Baltimore and Prince George’s County.

They also appeared to suggest that Ehrlich and Steele had been endorsed by former Rep. Kweisi Mfume and Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson. Mfume and Johnson, both black Democrats, were in fact supporting Cardin.

When the Democratic challenger asked AG Alberto “I don’t know, I just work here” Gonzales to investigate the incident, Gonzo didn’t see there was much he could do.

Gonzales said federal law did not provide tools for “going after campaign tactics or rhetoric by candidates.”

Excuse me? The man who fired 9 US Attorneys because they weren’t going after voter fraud – a problem which doesn’t exist – with sufficient zeal can’t think of a law that might be relevant here? Misrepresentation? Fraud? Discrimination? Do none of these apply?

Not if you’re Gonzo and the targets are Republicans. If Democrats had been lacing well-to-do suburbs with brochures wherein they identified themselves as Republican candidates endorsed by Jerry Falwell and Grover Norquist, you can bet your ass Gonzo would all over it like one of those cheap suits he wears. The Maryland USA would lose his/her job behind it if s/he didn’t have them behind bars by sundown.

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The Bush Privacy Board 2: Davis Resigns Over WH Revisions

This will undoubtedly be buried by the sudden resignation of Paul McNulty, Gonzo’s No 2 in Justice and the man who seems increasingly to be at the center of the USA firing scandal, due to what he calls “‘financial realities’ brought on by ‘college-age children and two decades of public service'” (of course that’s the reason), but there was another resignation today, and it’s potentially more significant than McNulty’s expected bail-out.

Lanny Davis, the only Democrat on the five-member White House Privacy and Civil Liberties Board (you can find brief profiles of the other Board members here), released his letter of resignation to the press, citing what amounts to a charge that the WH watchdog group with Congressionally-mandated responsibility for protecting civil rights has instead been subverting them for months, abandoning its oversight role to see itself instead as “wholly part of the White House staff and political structure.”

In recent months, Davis has had numerous clashes with fellow board members and White House officials over what he saw as administration attempts to control the panel’s agenda and edit its public statements, according to board members who asked not to be identified talking about internal matters. He also cited in his letters criticisms by the former co-chairs of the September 11 commission, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, that the board had interpreted its mandate too narrowly and was refusing to investigate issues such as the treatment of detainees in Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere around the world.

Davis’s frustration reached a peak last month when White House lawyers engaged in what he described in his letter as “substantial” edits of the board’s annual report to Congress. Davis charged that a majority of the board sought to remove an extensive discussion of recent findings by the Justice Department’s inspector general of FBI abuses in the uses of so-called “national security letters” to obtain personal data on U.S. citizens without a court order. He also charged that the White House counsel’s office wanted to strike language stating that the panel planned to investigate complaints from civil liberties groups that the Justice Department had improperly used a “material witness statute” to lock up terror suspects for lengthy periods of time without charging them with any crimes.

That White House Counsel is, of course, Fred Fielding, who cut his teeth on president-protecting in the Nixon WH during Watergate, refined his skills in the Reagan WH during Iran/Contra, and is currently behind the claim that every conceivable piece of paper or electronic transmission that ever passed through a WH office is protected from Congressional scrutiny by “executive privilege”, even the Secret Service-kept logs recording who went in and out. Mr Fielding’s definition of the ground covered by executive privilege is so broad, so all-encompassing, that if Bush’s tame SCOTUS were to uphold it, no president would ever again have to divulge anything or comply with Congressional subpoenas in any way, shape, or form. Ever.

In Fielding’s view, the royal prerogatives of a King and the executive privileges of a president are synonymous.

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Wolfowitz, Gonzales, and Conservative “Ethics”

This is almost too perfect.

Paul Wolfowitz (AP photo by Yves Logghe), along with Richard Perle one of the main architects of the Iraq invasion and shoved upstairs to be President of the World Bank, may be about to lose his job for using his influence to get his girlfriend a job in the Bush Administration for which she was, shall we say, marginally qualified. Brought before a World Bank investigating committee, Wolfie promptly blamed…the World Bank.

In a 10-page statement addressed to the chairman of the investigating committee, Wolfowitz reiterated his assertion that he was merely following the instructions of the bank’s ethics committee when he arranged a job transfer and substantial pay raise for his companion, Shaha Riza, shortly after arriving at the bank.

But in a new characterization, Wolfowitz asserted that the ethics dispute, far from an indictment of him personally, amounts to a shared institutional breakdown. He portrayed the crisis as a misunderstanding — the product of decent intentions gone awry, combined with vague and dubious bank rules.

“While I am prepared to acknowledge that we all acted in good faith at the time and there was perhaps some confusion and miscommunication among us, it is grossly unfair and wrong to suggest that I intended to mislead anyone, and I urge the committee to reject the allegation that I lack credibility,” Wolfowitz wrote. “Rather than attempt to adjudicate between our conflicting interpretations of the events that occurred here, the board should recognize that this situation is the product of ambiguous bank rules and unclear governance mechanisms.”

Amazing, isn’t it? The president of one of the most complex financial organizations in the world didn’t realize that nepotism was wrong because the WB’s ethics rules confused him.

There are two things you can say about the conservative American oligarchy and their elitist enablers that are undeniably true.

  1. There is no bottom to their greed. They want it all, and they want it without so much as a smell of accompanying responsibility or risk.
  2. They can’t tell right from wrong without a scorecard.

Maybe that’s why corporations and the out-of-control rich don’t like rules: they don’t understand them.

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The Gonzales Massacre in 4-Part Harmony

Well, I watched some of the Gonzales hearing yesterday and what I saw was an unholy mess. This guy’s a lawyer? Really? He seemed to have no idea what he was doing there. After all, went his defense, he’s just keeping a seat warm:

  • He had no idea what Sampson was doing, The “updates” he’s finally admitted to getting were, he now says, along these lines: “How’s it coming, Kyle?” “Fine. Still working on it.” End of discussion.
  • He didn’t decide who went onto the list and he doesn’t know who did.
  • He doesn’t know what criteria was used by whoever used it to decide who was going to be fired but he knows it wasn’t improper. Feingold: “If you don’t know what it was, how do you know it wasn’t improper?” Gonzo: “I know I didn’t do anything improper.”
  • He doesn’t know who was in charge of the “process”. He thought it was Sampson. Told that everybody, including Sampson, said they weren’t, he was at a complete loss.
  • He never evaluated the attorneys’ performance and he didn’t know who did or if anyone had.
  • He didn’t know if a performance review had ever been done by anyone on any USA. If it had, nobody told him about it.
  • He can’t remember making the decision. That is, he can remember making it but he can’t remember when or why or how.

He gave his favorite answer – “I don’t know, Senator” – more than 50 times in the morning session alone. Yet, despite insisting he knew nothing that was going on in the agency he’s supposed to be running, he claimed he was too busy in his supervisory role to supervise the firing process.

Yah gotta love these Bushies.

One came away from his testimony wondering just what the hell he did do? He seems to have delegated virtually every normal duty of the AG to inexperienced underlings and then walked away to play Pong on the computer. Or something. We don’t know what he was doing except whatever it was, it wasn’t his job.

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What’s Really Behind the DoJ Politicization: Creating a Theocracy

On both sides of the political aisle now, you hear the same dumb question: “What’s wrong with putting religion into government?” This has to be in the Top Ten List of the Stoopidest Questions of All Time. It may be Number 1.

The argument, such as it is, goes that one’s faith, as expressed by religion, makes one a better, more humane, more thoughtful, more generous, more forgiving, etc etc etc person who will bring those fine qualities to govt where they will do some good. In the eyes of many people, having politicians and govt officials bring their religion into a central decision-making role can only be positive. Even moderates and centrists initially supported Bush’s program to ladle out govt contracts – and therefore public tax money – to faith-based organizations for any number of social functions, from rehabilitating criminals to combatting teen pregnancy. What harm could it do? they wondered.

The problem here is that virtually all religious folk see their faith as exclusively positive. In theory, that’s true of almost all religions – they all preach brotherhood, tolerance, respect, charity, and peace – but in practice, any institutionalized religion can be turned into an instrument of intolerance, meanness, sanctomonius arrogance, and/or authoritarian rigidity, any one of which characteristics can – and usually does – devolve fairly quickly into a warlike antipathy toward infidels and unbelievers.

The framers of the Constitution knew this, even though they were religious themselves (sort of – they were primarily Enlightenment Deists, which is kind of a religion and kind of not a religion). They had reason to: they had seen what happened to Britain when the monarchy allied itself with the CofE to create a state-sponsored, state-enforced religion. Wisely, they wanted no part of it, thus the Establishment Clause.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

The Establishment Clause has been interpreted by various Supreme Court decisions as forbidding the US govt from actively supporting a single religion or denomination, thus separating religion from law. In his letter to the Baptist Church of Danbury, CT, Jefferson (then President) explained:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

To make a long story short, the letter was written in response to a concern expressed by the leadership of the Danbury Baptist Church that “in their state, the religious liberties they enjoyed were not seen as immutable rights, but as privileges granted by the legislature – as ‘favors granted.'” At the time there was a movement by so-called “Establishment Religionists” to declare a state religion in Connecticut – an early attempt at legalizing a theocracy at the state level. The Baptists were worried because theirs wasn’t the religion that would be picked – that honor would go to the Congregationalists – and they were afraid that it would be outlawed.

As, indeed, it might well have been if the Connecticut legislature had gone along with the Establishmentarians, but it didn’t. The movement never gained much political traction and died out in only a few years, but the Baptists were right to be concerned. They were a distinct minority in Congregationalist New England, and the establishment of a state religion would make them criminals, subject to fines and possibly either jail or banishment from the state. Certainly their form of worship would be banned at the very least. Worse, laws could be passed demanding their adherence to practices they considered to be forbidden by their faith.

And therein lies the connection between Jefferson’s famous phrase and the supporting cast of the US Attorney controversy now raging.

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Libby, Doan, and Sampson: Systemic Firewalls?

The key to understanding Kyle Sampson’s testimony yesterday is this:

For all the nonsense being written in the MSM about his “dramatic” appearance contradicting – or “challenging” as the WaPo’s Dan Egger has it – Gonzo’s pathetic attempt to pretend he knew nothing about all this attorney-firing business, the plain fact is that Sampson gave the Committee absolutely nothing it didn’t already have. Every opportunity he had to expand the Committee’s knowledge about the process – who said what, when they said it, who they said it to, etc – Sampson rejected with the litany we have come to know so well from all the Bushies:

“I don’t know.”

“I can’t remember.”

“It wasn’t my job.”

Dana Milbank is much closer to the truth of it when he points out:

Sampson seemed content to fall on his sword rather than naming names when he was questioned about the prosecutor mess. Only the red felt on the witness table concealed the blood. “I could have and should have helped to prevent this,” Sampson offered. “I let the attorney general and the department down. . . . I failed to organize a more effective response. . . . It was a failure on my part. . . . I will hold myself responsible. . . . I wish we could do it all over again.”

The witness fessed up to an expanding list of sins. He admitted that the Justice Department was trying to circumvent the Senate confirmation process. He confessed that he proposed firing Patrick Fitzgerald, the prosecutor in the Valerie Plame leak case. “I regretted it,” he explained. “I knew that it was the wrong thing to do.”

But this blood-letting was severely confined, a pin-prick rather than a deep incision. Continue reading

The Gonzo 8: Sampson’s Testimony

Spent most of the day watching the Judiciary committee hearing with Kyle Sampson and wanted to jot a quick observation before I have to leave for work.

I have now spent two days in a row – and many more going back to January – watching Bush Admin figures testifying in front of Congress, and the pattern is always the same, what I call the Sgt Schultz Defense:

1. “I don’t remember.” “I don’t recall.” “I have no memory of that.”

This was the way Reagan answered questions in the Iran/Contra trial, but he had Alzheimer’s. What’s everybody else’s excuse?

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