What Really Happened to Harry Reid? Part 2

Scott wrote here about Harry Reid’s announcement that he will not run for re-election, a decision which, Reid was quick to say, was not the result of his “elastic exercise band” accident. In January, I wrote OK, So What Really Happened to Harry Reid? I noted the injuries that Reid suffered on New Year’s Day, in Las Vegas: multiple broken bones around his right eye, damage to the right eye, severe facial bruising, broken ribs, and a concussion. Was all of this really the result of losing his balance because an elastic exercise band broke? That seems unlikely, to say the least.

Anyone who saw Reid would say that he looked like he had been beaten up by a guy with a hard left, maybe using brass knuckles:

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Even now, Reid apparently doesn’t have the use of his right eye:

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When a guy shows up at a Las Vegas emergency room on New Year’s Day with severe facial injuries and broken ribs, and gives as an explanation the functional equivalent of “I walked into a doorknob,” it isn’t hard to guess that he ran afoul of mobsters. Yet the national press has studiously averted its eyes from Reid’s condition, and has refused to investigate the cause of his injuries. To my knowledge, every Washington reporter has at least pretended to believe Reid’s story, and none, as far as I can tell, has inquired further.

This hasn’t stopped people from wondering what happened. Every day, thousands of people Google “What happened to Harry Reid?” or “What really happened to Harry Reid?” So far, more than 90,000 such searchers have found their way to my “OK, So What Really Happened to Harry Reid?” post, which is typically the first thing that comes up on Google:

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A friend of mine was in Las Vegas a week or two ago. He talked to a number of people there about Reid’s accident, and didn’t find anyone who believed the elastic exercise band story. The common assumption was that the incident resulted, in some fashion, from Reid’s relationship with organized crime. The principal rumor my friend heard was that Reid had promised to obtain some benefit for a group of mobsters. He met with them on New Year’s Day, and broke the bad news that he hadn’t been able to deliver what he promised. When the mobsters complained, Reid (according to the rumor) made a comment that they considered disrespectful, and one of them beat him up.

Is that what really happened? I have no idea, but it is a more likely story than the elastic exercise band yarn.

What happened to Reid is not just a matter of curiosity. Everyone knows that the Reid family has gotten rich, even though Reid has spent his entire career as a public employee. It is known that a considerable part of his fortune came from being cut in on sweetheart Las Vegas land deals that included at least one person associated with organized crime as a principal. Was the Senate Majority Leader in the pocket of the Mafia? That seems like a question worth exploring, and yet, to my knowledge, not a single investigative reporter has chosen to look into the matter, even with the obvious clue of Reid’s face in front of them.

The deliberate blindness of Democratic Party reporters hasn’t stopped people from speculating about what really happened to Harry Reid, but so far, at least, it has prevented the story from exploding into a major scandal.

Claiming race-victimization — everyone wants to get in on the act

Recently, Taraji Henson, a well-known actress, accused the Glendale, California police of racial profiling after an officer pulled her son over and questioned him. In a magazine interview, Henson stated:

My child has been racially profiled. He was in Glendale, California and did exactly everything the cops told him to do, including letting them illegally search his car. It was bogus because they didn’t give him the ticket for what he was pulled over for.

Henson tweeted to the same effect during #BlackLivesMatter protests:

Racial profiling is VERY REAL!!! It has happened to me but to my son more and he is only 20!!! Something needs to be done. #SERIOUSLY

And:

I worked my butt off 2 break a cycle. Get my son out of the hood. Thinking his privileged lifestyle would protect him from profiling. #WRONG

Henson went so far as to say she was enrolling her son in the historically-black Howard University rather than the University of Southern California because of the incident.

As Chuck Ross reports, however, the video of the incident in question exploding Henson’s oh-so convenient narrative.

It’s true, as Henson said, that the police didn’t give her son a ticket for the offense for which he was pulled over — driving through a lighted crosswalk while a pedestrian was crossing the street. But the officer declined to ticket the young man as a favor, as Henson now acknowledges.

Add another example to the “no good deed goes unpunished” file.

Here, according to Ross, is what the video showed:

After the officer told [Henson's son] why he was stopped, [he] admitted he had some marijuana in his backpack and a Ritalin pill that was not prescribed to him. He said that he had a license for medical marijuana but that he could not find it. He also said he had smoked marijuana two hours earlier.

“I appreciate you being honest with me about the weed. I do appreciate that because I do smell weed,” the cop said. “So thank you for being honest about that.”

“I do appreciate your cooperation on that, I really do.”

Other officers showed up and searched Johnson’s car for the Ritalin but did not find it. They also found a knife during the search but determined that it was legal. Johnson was also given a field sobriety test, which he passed.

The officer appeared to deal with Johnson in a professional manner. He even helped Johnson out by not citing him for the traffic infraction or for having recently smoked marijuana. Instead, the officer wrote him an order to appear in court to produce the medical marijuana license.

“I’m not going to give you a citation for running that yellow because that would actually put a moving violation on your driving license, and you are going to have to go to traffic school and all that stuff, so I am helping you by not giving you a violation on it,” the officer told Johnson. “All I am going to do is take the weed from you.”

After viewing the video, Henson apologized to the Glendale police and thanked the officer for his kindness towards her son. Maybe now she will let him attend USC, though one hopes she imposes some penalty on him for apparently lying to her about the incident and making her look like an idiot.

But how many police officers face bogus allegations of racism — sometimes, as in Darren Wilson’s case, with devastating impact on their career — due to efforts by wrongdoers to deflect blame through bogus racism allegations, and the eagerness of fools and ideologues to assume the truth of such allegations?

Fred Siegel Explains It All, Part 2

In this second installment of our conversation with Fred Siegel, we explore Fred’s roots as a “social democrat” as it was meant in the postwar era (or until, as Fred explains, the New Left destroyed it in the 1960s), and the evolution of his views because of the Vietnam War, his tutelage under Irving Howe at Dissent magazine, and his thoughts about the “Frankfurt School”—a leftist sect of the early postwar years that may have faded somewhat from view today, but which remains a very important background influence for leftist thought.  This installment is about 7 minutes long:

And if you missed Part 1, you can find it right here.

The Hillary “spoliation”

The latest news about Hillary Clinton’s email destruction may take her emails saga to another level. As John and Scott have discussed, Clinton apparently had her server wiped clean of emails after a congressional committee had been established to investigate matters as to which she knew her emails were relevant Even more importantly, Trey Gowdy says that Clinton made this decision after October 28, 2014, when the Department of State for the first time asked her to return her public record.

The destruction of documents after they have been requested by a body authorized to do so is a quite a serious matter. As Scott says, in a court of law such conduct ordinarily result in sanctions if, as must be the case here, the destruction was intentional.

Scott mentions one sanction — the drawing of an adverse inference, i.e., concluding that the documents destroyed contained information that hurts the destroyer’s position in the case. Monetary sanctions in one form or another are often awarded as well.

In extreme cases, courts may go further and rule adversely on one or more of the destroying party’s contentions or claims. Courts may even dismiss the plaintiff’s case entirely or enter judgment against the defendant.

Here, the operative court is the court of public opinion. John asks, “Will the Democrats really hold their noses and nominate Hillary?”

I wonder whether Clinton’s willful destruction of evidence will require nose-holding by partisan Democrats. They are conditioned to view investigations into the conduct of their favored politicians as scorched-earth warfare by “the vast right-wing conspiracy” (to use the phrase Hillary coined). No matter how obstructionist or lawless the response, it will not offend these partisans.

To be sure, the request for Hillary’s documents came from John Kerry’s State Department, no one’s idea of a right-wing conspirator. But this won’t matter to partisans; they will insist that Hillary had to protect herself from vicious right-wingers who wanted to take advantage of the State Department’s information-retention procedures.

Partisan Democrats alone can’t elevate Clinton to the presidency, though. The additional voters whose support she needs might well be influenced by a campaign ad that points out (if it’s accurate) that Hillary Clinton had all traces of her emails as Secretary of State wiped out after the State Department rightfully had requested these emails, and at a time when a bipartisan congressional committee was investigating her actions relating to the attack in Benghazi where four Americans were killed by terrorists.

The public need not draw adverse inferences about Clinton’s actions relating to Benghazi, and most non-partisans probably won’t. But if the public reaches the inescapable conclusion (assuming the facts support it) that Clinton destroyed documents after the State Department, not Republicans, asked her for them, and that controversy was swirling around her at the time, Clinton’s bid for the presidency might well be set back.

NOTE: In the original post, I didn’t place quotation marks in the title. I added them because spoliation is a litigation phenomenon and Clinton’s destruction of evidence didn’t occur in the context of a lawsuit.

As I said, the relevant court here is the court of public opinion. However, it is still interesting, I think, to consider how a court of law would treat Clinton’s conduct.

Hillary’s offense, if any, is obstruction of justice.

The Virginia bar disgraces itself [UPDATED]

The Virginia State Bar has sent the following letter to its members:

March 27, 2015

Dear Fellow Members of the Virginia State Bar,

Certain members of the Virginia State Bar and other individuals have expressed objections to the VSB’s plan to take the Midyear Legal Seminar trip in November to Jerusalem. It was stated that there are some unacceptable discriminatory policies and practices pertaining to border security that affect travelers to the nation. Upon review of U.S. State Department advisories and other research, and after consultation with our leaders, it has been determined that there is enough legitimate concern to warrant cancellation of the Israel trip and exploration of alternative locations.

Undoubtedly, this news will disappoint some VSB members. But we are a state agency that strives for maximum inclusion and equality, and that explains this action. Fortunately, we still anticipate being able to find a suitable location for the November seminar trip, and we will send out further news very soon.

Finally, we are pleased that our members and citizens feel able to express concerns and look to us to protect rights. In the end, we are all part of the same team, and the VSB will continue to stay focused on advancing its primary objectives—public protection, access to justice, and improvement of the profession.

As always, I appreciate having the honor of serving as your president.

Best regards,

Kevin E. Martingayle
President, Virginia State Bar

It’s an odd and perhaps dangerous notion that Virginia’s lawyers are “part of a team.” It’s distressing that the “team” has enlisted in the boycott Israel movement.

The rot is spreading faster than most of us imagine.

UPDATE: David Bernstein, a law professor at George Mason and a member of the Virginia State Bar, offers his thoughts at the Volokh Conspiracy

Losin’ in Lausanne (4)

Omri Ceren writes from Lausanne on the impending deal with Iran:

Fabius arrived at the Beau-Rivage this morning and was marched by reporters at 10:20am. Key lines: “I am coming here with the desire to move towards a robust agreement… We have made progress on certain issues but not enough on others.”

French concerns revolve around centrifuge numbers, the sunset clause, and verification. Verification may prove particularly problematic in the coming days, given the WSJ scoop on PMDs: the Americans are prepared to allow Iran to put off full disclosure of its nuclear infrastructure until after sanctions relief has been granted. This is an old idea that had been put aside because it has the feel of being incoherent: the Iranians are stonewalling IAEA inspectors now while they’re under sanctions pressure; it’s difficult to understand why they’d stop stonewalling after that pressure is lifted.

Meanwhile the statement that drove last night and this morning came from a senior State Department official: “We’re at that point in the negotiations where we really need to see decisions being made. We will test whether that is truly possible over the next several days.” The quote was duly reported as putting the onus on the Iranians – it was the nut graph of yesterday’s CNN post (http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/27/politics/iran-nuclear-talks-kerry-zarif/index.html) – but over here it was read even more definitively. It’s being talked about as a signal that the Americans have more or less made their offer, and now it’s time for the Iranians to accept or decline.

If that holds then the reporting today is going to be slow – no more monster scoops about new collapses – and people will have time to discuss how any deal is going to play back in Washington. The conventional wisdom as of this morning:

The political debate – there’s a growing sense that the Fordow concession revealed by the AP – which would allow the Iranians to run hundreds of centrifuges in their fortified underground military bunker – is going to be a political hurdle for the Obama administration. Even some analysts who don’t think it’s substantively devastating think the administration will have difficulty explaining why it’s letting Tehran spin centrifuges in a military installation impervious to Israeli or American attack. I sent an email around a few days ago about why the administration is particularly vulnerable because of the role Fordow played in negotiations: the Americans wanted it shuttered and told everyone as much, then last spring they shifted to gutting it of centrifuges and leaving it as an R&D facility, and now this. It’s an undeniable and easily explainable collapse.

The policy debate – the direction that the policy debate will take is an open question. Some analysts will focus in a granular way on the new concessions plus whatever the sunset clause turns out to be, since lifting all restrictions supercharges the danger of leaving Iran’s nuclear infrastructure unknown or intact in the meantime. In contrast to the political debate, the emphasis here will probably be more on the PMDs/disclosure concession than on Fordow, if only because disclosure is a fundamental prerequisite to everything else (how can the IAEA confirm the Iranians have given up what they’re supposed to give up, if the IAEA doesn’t know what the Iranians have).

There will also be a broader debate, especially if a deal is brought back and Congress begins debating it. Then the public discussion will in some senses begin afresh, with a renewed focus on all of the fundamental issues involved in the Obama administration’s plan for managing the Iranian nuclear program. To give you a taste of what that might look like, see below for last week’s Washington Post piece from Michael Hayden (former NSA/CIA chief), Olli Heinonen (former deputy director general of the IAEA), and Ray Takeyh (senior fellow at CFR). The argument is that a one year breakout time is inadequate, because real world constraints having to do with intelligence, politics, and diplomacy mean that responding to a Iranian dash across the finish line would take more than one year.

Omri concludes on this optimistic note: “[A]s long as the other European FM’s stay away you’re safe keeping your Saturday night plans.” Reuters tentatively reports, however, that a deal may be imminent.

Hillary destroys evidence [updated]

The House Select Committee on Benghazi sent Hillary Clinton a subpoena for all her emails related to Libya on March 4. The committee statement on the issuance of the subpoena to Clinton is posted here. The committee followed up with a letter dated March 19 formally requesting Clinton’s email server. A PDF of the letter is posted here. After obtaining a two-week extension, Clinton attorney David Kendall responded by letter:

In a letter provided to the committee, Kendall said Clinton would not be turning over the server to a third-party for review and that the emails no longer exist on the private server located in her New York home.

“There is no basis to support the proposed third-party review of the server that hosted the hdr22@clintonemail.com account,” Kendall wrote. “To avoid prolonging a discussion that would be academic, I have confirmed with the secretary’s IT support that no emails…..for the time period January 21, 2009 through February 1, 2013 reside on the server or on any back-up systems associated with the server.”

* * * * *

Kendall said the State Department is “uniquely positioned” to respond to requests for additional documents, a sign from Clinton’s camp that they believe she has fully responded to any standing legal requests.

Kendall added, “Thus, there are no hdr22@clintonemail.com e-mails from Secretary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State on the server for any review, even if such review were appropriate or legally authorized.”

Lauren French’s Politico article, from which I have taken these quotes, provides Kendall’s letter at somewhat greater length than Michael Schmidt’s New York Times story.

I take it that the server has not been thrown into the East River. If the server still exists, the hard drive should be examined by someone acting on behalf of the committee to ascertain whether any of the subpoenaed documents can be retrieved. I take it that they can’t, but I don’t think the committee should leave it at David Kendall’s letter.

The wiping of the hard drive apparently occurred recently. “While it is not clear precisely when Secretary Clinton decided to permanently delete all emails from her server, it appears she made the decision after October 28, 2014, when the Department of State for the first time asked the Secretary to return her public record to the Department,” committee chairman Trey Gowdy said in a statement. The committee has posted Gowdy’s statement here.

Wiping the hard drive was probably at least as effective as throwing it in the East River, but either method of disposing of the originals of the emails is suggestive of culpability. The destruction of the email originals is a form of spoliation of evidence. It seems to me that a federal judge would be likely to instruct a jury that it was entitled to draw adverse inferences against the party destroying the documents.

The circumstances here are highly suggestive of spoliation. The destruction of the documents was willful and performed at a time after they had expressly been sought by the State Department.

Even if the email messages hadn’t been sought by the State Department, Clinton knew that they were highly probative of the issues on which she had already testified before Congress. Indeed, if Gowdy’s statement accurately notes the timeframe, the destruction would have occurred after the establishment of the House Select Committee on Benghazi. The House voted to establish the committee on May 8, 2014.

What good faith reason would support wiping the server under the circumstances? Kendall’s letter does not appear to offer one. (I can’t find the text of Kendall’s letter online.)

Madam Hillary’s behavior brings the memories of the Clinton era rushing back. Sid Blumenthal is in the news again in connection with his intelligence reports to Clinton by email during her service as Secretary of State. How long before we are treated to Bill Clinton’s favorite pick-up lines again?

UPDATE: A reader writes to add:

On the timing of things:

From what I gather from information in the news, Hillary’s personal IT guy setup a Microsoft Exchange server for her. Sometime recently they set her email account to automatically delete after 60 days so they could claim they didn’t delete anything; the system did.

However, while it deletes emails from the individual’s personal account, emails persist in the Exchange Server “Dumpster” (versions prior to 2013) for another 60 days or they remain in the “Recoverable Items” folders (for 2013 and later versions of Exchange*) for another definable period of time which defaults to the individual account auto deletion time.

Since the adjustment of the auto delete was likely done sometime in November and the committee’s request came in early March, the Clinton team’s extension request was likely timed to ensure that both auto-delete functions had time to perform their work. This would support the well-parsed position “We didn’t delete anything. The system did.”

*Starting with Exchange 2013 feature supporting data retention for litigation discovery were implemented, but there are administrator defined policies/capacities that can limit the ability to save information. In this day and age, a well implemented Exchange Server can save essentially all emails sent and received (along with MS instant messages) forever without the user having to be burdened with a massive local mailbox file.

Regardless, I would reiterate that the committee was established in May 2014, at which time Clinton knew that her emails were relevant evidence.