Archive for the ‘Congress’ Category

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor

It seems that a week doesn’t go by without news of the latest Big Bank agreeing to pay billions in a settlement with the government over their past and continuing abuses concerning mortgages.  This past week was no exception.

“Preliminary reports say that a $16 to $17 billion settlement will soon be announced between the Justice Department and Bank of America. That would break the record for the largest bank settlement in history, set less than a year ago by a $13 billion agreement between Justice and JPMorgan Chase.” Crooks and Liars

Sixteen billion dollars is not chickenfeed!  However, as we have learned in the many past settlements, the dollar amounts can be a little deceiving.  (more…)

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By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

Disgraced Ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner is giving back  in a big way — or so he claims.  Fresh off a recent loss in New York City’s municipal elections, Weiner held the lead among Democratic mayoral  hopefuls until  disturbing texts with a decidedly lewd overtone were released by a 22-year-old woman he met online. Other women came forward to sink the Weiner warship but Weiner vowed to remain in politics and be active in the community despite another public humiliation for him and his wife, Huma Abedin, a former Hillary Clinton aide.

And alas, now he’s got an idea to rehabilitate his reputation and Rockaway, Queens, a neighborhood that was devastated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Beset by rebuilding delays and high unemployment, Weiner proposes a new restaurant with a social conscience in the still reeling community. The Rockaway Restoration Kitchen is months away from it’s first fryer drop but Weiner plans to open the business and employ persons with substance abuse and criminal issues. He also wants to help the diet of the neighborhood, he claims. Rockaway, says Weiner,  is a “food desert” dominated by fast food chains and pizzerias.  “We want to do something sustainable for the community, while also providing healthy, local food options for the Rockaway population.”

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By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

oehnerobamaOne of the ways we decide how sincere a witness is down at the courthouse is seeing what he said about a topic before there was anything  really at stake and comparing that to what he’s saying now. Watching the scandalous political corruption trial here in Richmond for the past few days, I’ve seen plenty of “I said one thing then, but I’m saying something else now” from the various witnesses taking the stand. Take Governor Bob McDonnell’s friend and stockbroker, John Piscitelli, who upon being asked about a particular sleazy scheme to avoid the state’s gift disclosure laws –cooked up apparently by Virginia’s First Lady — answered that he was not “uncomfortable” with the deal. When his prior grand jury testimony was pushed in his face, the securities peddler cleared his throat, straightened his tie, looked around, and then remembered that , lo and behold, the aborted deal to dump stock right before the disclosure deadline and then buy it back did indeed make him feel ” uncomfortable.” Wonderful thing, a trial.

Pity we can’t put politicians on trial simply for being politicians — especially those who are simply flitting around the flame of geopolitical power hoping to catch it for themselves. Take House Speaker and Republican Party leader John Boehner, for example. The burgeoning crisis in northern Iraq caused by the jihadist crazed theocrats of ISIS has come front and center to the world stage. Crashing in from Syria, the fundamentalists, dedicated to establishing a new world order based on a universal muslim caliphate governed by sharia law, have rounded up non-muslim Iraqis, forced them to convert to Islam, and then quite ceremoniously beheaded them or when the swords got too dull, simply stolen their possessions and run the “infidels” into to the mountains. A direct by-product of the unnecessary War in Iraq II by Bush II, the teetering country is now firmly ensconced in civil war with some added religious crusaders  to spice the mix.

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260px-capitol_building_full_viewI recently wrote on the issue of impeachment that has been reportedly so widely in the media. As I noted in the column and in prior interviews, there is no serious move toward impeachment by the Republicans and most of the impeachment talk has come from the White House and Democrats, including in fund-raising campaigns. Indeed, I was critical of the Washington Post column after one of the hearings in which I testified on executive over-reach. While the issue of impeachment was mentioned only a handful of times and usually to dismiss it as an option, the column was entitled “Republicans see One Remedy for Obama — Impeachment.” It seems that even denying impeachment as an option still constitutes discussing impeachment. Now The Hill newspaper has looked at the congressional record to see who is raising impeachment more often. The result was that Democrats raised the issue 20 times more often than Republicans, who barely uttered the “I” word.

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220px-Richard_NixonPresident_Barack_ObamaThis month, Washington seems caught in some strange time loop. The President allegedly fighting off an attempt to remove him while Members of Congress are denouncing his “Imperial Presidency” and contempt for constitutional law. It must be enough to give Bob Woodword and Carl Bernstein vertigo.
As one of the legal experts who testified during the Clinton Impeachment and lead defense counsel in the last judicial impeachment trial in the Senate, I have been struck by the replication of a number of misconceptions surrounding impeachment. That led to Sunday’s column on certain myths regarding impeachment. According to a CNN/ORC poll last week, some 33 percent of Americans think the president should be impeached. Over a majority now disapprove of his conduct in office according to other polls. However, that is not enough for impeachment. As many of you know, I am highly troubled about the actions taken by President Obama in violation of the Separation of Powers. I testified (here and here and here) and wrote a column on President Obama’s increasing circumvention of Congress in negating or suspending U.S. laws. I ran another column recently listing such incidents of executive over-reach. Some like the violations of the power of the purse in the shifting of hundreds of millions of dollars raise extremely serious challenges to our system. However, I do not believe that these violations have yet reached the point of impeachable offenses. Ideally, a federal court will review some of these violations and show that the system can work in the maintenance of the lines of separation though the Administration is clearly going to fight hard to block any review of the merits by any federal court. That is where such matters should, in my view, be heard and resolved. In the meantime, the President’s threat to continue to act unilaterally is playing a dangerous game of chicken in our system and, if he goes too far in an act defying clear congressional or judicial authority, he could cross over from interpretive disagreements into impeachable offenses. Yet, the current array of conflicts have divided lower judges on the merits. Such interpretive disagreements are not the thing that impeachments are made off. Having said that, one should not take the lack of impeachable offenses to take away from what some of us view as very serious violations by this President — a usurpation of authority that all citizens should denounce in the interests of our constitutional system. (more…)

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President_Barack_Obamatorture -abu ghraibFollowing the admission that the CIA hacked Senate computers and lied to Congress, President Obama today affirmed that it did indeed torture people. This admission (while belated) is an important recognition by the United States of what is obvious from a legal standpoint. However, that also means that CIA officials violated both federal and international law. The question is why Obama began his first term by promising CIA employees that they would not be tried for what he now describes as “tortur[ing] some folks.”

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senate_large_seal200px-CIA.svgIn the same week as the State Department report endorsing findings that the CIA lied to Congress and brutalized suspects, the CIA is now admitting that its recent denials of hacking Senate computers was also false. Once again, however, there is not even a suggestion of discipline, let alone criminal charges, for CIA officials who lied to Congress (or allowed others to lie) and hacked into congressional computers.

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