Weiner Roast: He Lied, But Was It a Criminal or Ethical Violation?

Well, as you probably know by now, Rep. Weiner was . . . well . . . less than frank. (ok, I have used up my one allowed pun). I do not see a basis for criminal allegations, but Weiner is likely to face an ethics investigation. Minority leader Nancy Pelosi has called for an ethics investigation. There does appear to be grounds for such a charge, though the House has historically not used its rules to punish members for reprehensible acts committed in a members’ personal life.

Weiner was careful to avoid calling for an investigation for two very good reasons. One was that he was lying and the other is that he would have to lie to investigators (which is a commonly charged crime under 18 U.S.C. 1001, as in the case of John Edwards).

Calling for an investigation is a smart move. It deflects blame from the House leadership for failing to act and, if cleared, lessens the scandal by confirming that it is a personal matter. Both Republicans and Democrats on the Ethics Committee have an interest in narrowly construing the rules, which they have historically done. I have been a long critic of the congressional ethics rules and process.

Weiner’s conduct is baffling, bizarre, and utterly reprehensible. He only “came clean” when reporters located a host of pictures sent to as many as six different women, including the picture showing himself in full face with a handwriting note reading “Me” with an arrow pointing at his face. To magnify the disaster for Democrats, he not only degraded himself but resurrected the image of Andrew Breitbart.

Weiner was careful to note that he did not use congressional resources in the matter — though obviously his staff has been busy with the scandal for a week. In some ways it has the same profile as the scandal involving Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), though Ensign not only slept with the wife of a former aide but used his authority to find a job for her husband. However, a comparison shows more serious acts committed by Ensign in terms of his engaging in proscribed conduct. The Senate ethics committee recently found substantial evidence to support allegations that Ensign: (1) conspiracy to violate, and aiding and abetting violations of the post employment contact ban, 18 U.S.C. § 207; (2) false or misleading statements to the Federal Election Commission regarding a $96,000 payment; (3) unlawful and unreported campaign contribution and violations of federal law and a Senate Rule prohibiting unofficial office accounts; (4) spoliation of documents and potential obstruction of Justice violations; (5) gender discrimination; and (6) violation of his own senate office policies.

Weiner in comparison does not appear (thus far) to have used official resources. The photos appear to have been sent from AnthonyWeiner@aol.com on his BlackBerry .

Some use of staff to deal with such controversies is allowed. The House rules tend to focus narrowly on insular aspects of a member’s use of campaign and congressional resources. The only violation at this time would appear a broad view of personal misconduct that undermines the integrity of the House. Rule XXIII, Clause 1, of the House Code of Official Conduct states that “a member . . . officer or employee of the House shall conduct himself at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.” However, such a standard for prosecution would require the Ethics Committee to multiple its work 100 times over. The problem with applying such a general rule is that it can be used to punish members for lifestyles that the majority finds unacceptable. Such morality codes often raise serious problems for free speech and association. In Weiner’s case, he has made the matter more serious by lying repeatedly for over a week and alleging potentially criminally conduct by his accusers. He insistence that he was “the victim” involved attacking both reporters and critics to try to extinguish the scandal — which of course had the opposite effect. Lying is nothing new for members of Congress but this record would make Joe Izuzu blush.

Source: CNN

Jonathan Turley

151 thoughts on “Weiner Roast: He Lied, But Was It a Criminal or Ethical Violation?”

  1. Mike S:

    Read it and laughed out loud, even though I’m alone today.

    *****************

    Highest praise I’ve gotten all week. Gratefully accepted.

  2. “It isnt like it was back in 100 BC. The good people go into business or academia or the military. the scum bags go into politics.”

    Roco,

    Name me the profession and I’ll name you the scumbag. Even my own, Social Work and psychotherapy, are loaded with them. It’s the human condition.

  3. “I just reserve the right to impugn”

    Mespo,

    Read it and laughed out loud, even though I’m alone today.

  4. Elaine M:

    “I know how I’d react if a member of Congress sent my daughter a picture of his penile erection when she was a college student.”

    *****************

    I’d finish up the elegy for the creep and then make sure it was needed.
    Perhaps as a title: “A Valediction Forbidding Porning.’

  5. rafflaw,

    “I don’t know if we can honestly hold politicians to a higher degree of conduct than the rest of us.”

    I don’t think that all of “the rest of us” participate in Weiner’s type of behavior. IMO, the man has a serious problem.

    Call me a fart or an old fuddy duddy. I think Weiner’s behavior goes beyond the pale of acceptable behavior–for anyone. I have a daughter. I know how I’d react if a member of Congress sent my daughter a picture of his penile erection when she was a college student.

  6. random from each district. give them a background check and make sure their taxes are paid and there are no felonies in their closet and send them to Washington.

    We would do better. the “elites” in government have really screwed up.

    It isnt like it was back in 100 BC. The good people go into business or academia or the military. the scum bags go into politics.

  7. rafflaw:

    Oh, I’d leave the decision to his voters. I just reserve the right to impugn.

  8. Mespo,
    I don’t know if we can honestly hold politicians to a higher degree of conduct than the rest of us. I agree that Weiner’s actions are sick, but unless he crosses the line of criminality as suggested in another thread or House rules, it should be his voters who decide.

  9. Roco:

    Oh, really? You want to be governed by 435 Philadelphia Eagles’ fans? How about that intellectual lot of spike lovers over in the Oakland Coliseum? The crowd in Cleveland’s Dog Pound? Hapless Cub Fans? That bunch at the Heritage Foundation? Any random 435 folks from West Virginia — a full set of teeth not required? Duh Bears fans?

    I truly detest what we have excepting only all the alternatives.

  10. time to get out the phone book and start randomly choosing people to run for office. We cant do any worse than we are now.

  11. Mike S:

    I was always surprised from my undergraduates days onward that the people who ran for any office, no matter how mundane, were the biggest self-serving schmucks. Funny that politics attracts them. Itis hard work after all.

  12. “if we can’t find 435 people of character and principle, then we’d better start prinitng that big “Going Out Of Business” sign for that lady in New York Harbor to hold.”

    Mespo,

    Of course you’re right. To me the unfortunate thing is that the people who run for office tend to be the sociopaths, narcissists and greedy of this world. I really don’t think that’s changed much throughout history. Was Cincinnatus really the man of honor history makes him out to be?

  13. MIke S:

    “Jesus had it right when he said “He who is without sin should cast the first stone.”

    *****************

    I notice He didn’t say ” … and let that poor rock-dodging soul stay in public office, too.” Your point is well-taken that the voters will ultimately decide how much they will tolerate, but holding politicians to the standard of simple criminality insures that we will perpetually have the morass we now find ourselves within. if we can’t find 435 people of character and principle, then we’d better start prinitng that big “Going Out Of Business” sign for that lady in New York Harbor to hold..

  14. FWIW, I agree with Former Fed. Some of the recipients of Weiner’s weiner pictures were willing participants in cybersex (i.e., the woman from Las Vegas), but not all. The woman who came forth with the bulging underwear picture claims that she did nothing to provoke the receipt of this picture.

    His congressional district is going to disappear in 2012 due to re-districting after the 2010 election. Even the NY dems think that he would not be re-elected in any of the new districts, which is why he was aiming for mayor of NYC. We can argue until our faces turn blue over whether he violated any legal or ethical restriction, but the fact is he’s got a short shelf life as a congressman. He’s now too much of a distraction for the democrats and needs to just disappear. Most of his problems are due to his own mishandling of his exposure. I have no sympathy for him. Very stupid.

  15. “Surely mere criminality cannot be the standard for those holding public office.”

    Mespo,

    I would suggest that it has to be the standard if any kind of democracy is to exist. While from a moral and ethical standpoint you judge Weiner unfit to hold office, barring illegality, his remaining there is up to the voters in his district. Were this not the case one could imagine what havoc would be wrought by those who would judge the morals lacking in officeholders if those morals didn’t conform to their own. Such a situation has and would open new routes of attack by such as the Fundamentalists.

    Weiner’s actions are offensive to me and I am a supporter. However,
    in my experience the majority of males have always behaved piggishly when dealing with their own sexuality and females. This is especially true the higher a particular male gets in the pecking order. The only solution to this is for society to finally recognize its patriarchal nature and for males to understand that their hormonal longings cannot be allowed to rule their social interactions.

    In the sake of honesty I must admit that it took me a long time to learn that lesson and narcissism has never been one of my pathologies. While I’ve never acted in a manner approaching Weiner’s, I’ve known too many otherwise estimable males who have and I have had my own peccadillos. While those occurred long ago in my life, I’m still embarassed today by my behavior.

    The decision should be left to the voters in his district. While being Jewish, I think Jesus had it right when he said “He who is without sin should cast the first stone.” Come to think of it that was about sexual behavior also.

  16. FFLeo:

    I disagree as well.

    From Greenwald:: “Millions upon millions of people at some point do what Weiner did. I know that’s a shocking revelation that will cause many Good People to clutch their pearls in fragile Victorian horror, but it’s nonetheless true. It’s also true that marital infidelity is incredibly common.”

    Sorry, Greg, but the old “everybody does it” defense cuts no mustard. Everybody doesn’t do it for one thing, and the simple point is that we have every right to expect more than base character and crude desire from our leaders. They are not “like us”; they are elevated to lofty positions because they supposedly exhibit the judgment and character to lead a great people. When they prove they don’t, they forfeit our trust and our sympathy. That goes for conservatives and progressives. Any other position is mere parochialism, intellectually dishonest, and the postulating of a defense where one doesn’t exist. Weiner had NO expectation of privacy here, and our revulsion for the revealer of Weiner’s sins in no way detracts from the vileness of the revelations. He should go and go quickly, lest he render more damage to the cause he claims to love. There is a reason humiliated Roman generals fell on their swords.

  17. I rarely disagree with Glenn Greenwald, but I do regarding this subject.

  18. Examine men’s ruling principles, even those of the wise, what kind of things they avoid, and what kind they pursue.

    ~Marcus Aurelius, (Meditations, Book 4, 40)

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