The Revenants’ Return: Former Obama Officials Shed Earlier Controversies To Denounce Trump Administration

220px-James_R._Clapper_official_portraitJonathan-Gruber-1Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on the reappearance of Obama officials in the contemporary debates over surveillance and health care.  Here is the column.

In the midst of the raging controversies over secret surveillance and new healthcare plans, there were some curious and unsettling sightings in the coverage.  Individuals once thought to have passed from political existence reappeared to hold forth on the very subjects of their demise.

In ancient times such figures were called druagr or, in Old Norse, revenant.  The two most recent revenants were James Clapper and Jonathan Gruber.  They are ample proof that no one really dies in Washington; their scandals just fade away.

Clapper on Surveillance Programs

James Clapper is being widely quoted as proof that President Donald Trump was lying in saying that there was surveillance of Trump Tower carried out by President Barack Obama.  Clapper went public to say categorically that no such surveillance operations occurred. That ended the issue for many in the media.  After all, as the former Director of National Intelligence, Clapper would know right?

Of course, all of the members of Congress and media widely quoting Clapper as the final word on the issue are ignoring that, in the Obama administration, some felt that Clapper should have been indicted for perjury in denying the existence of the most massive surveillance program in the history of the country.  Not one FISA warrant intercept (like the one alleged by Trump), mind you, but a whole program that literally put every citizen under potential surveillance.

When then-National Intelligence Director James Clapper appeared before the Senate, he was asked directly, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper responded, “No, sir. … Not wittingly.”

Note this was not a situation like the controversy over Attorney General Jeff Sessions who went beyond a question asked him about how he would respond to any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.  Sessions voluntarily stated that he had no interaction with Russians in responding but failed to mention two brief meetings with the Russian ambassador.

Sessions insisted that he was thinking of campaign discussions not any meeting with any Russian at any time.  In comparison, Clapper denied a direct question about the existence of a program that he was fully aware of and the question itself was all too clear.

Clapper later admitted that he did not want to answer the question and said that his testimony was “the least untruthful” statement he could make. Yet, of course, that would still make it an untrue statement — which most people call a lie and lawyers call perjury.

What was particularly disturbing was the portrayal of Clapper — and the Obama administration generally — as denying that the administration would ever surveil political opponents in such a matter.  This is the same administration that hid the massive secret surveillance program and put journalists under surveillance.  Clapper himself played the most controversial role in misleading Congress on the existence of the program.

Unless media is looking for “the least untruthful” answer, Clapper would hardly seem a compelling witness on the existence of surveillance operations.  This is not to say that the media was wrong in asking Clapper about the alleged surveillance given his earlier position. However, he has emerged apparently shed of his highly controversial history.

Gruber on Healthcare

With the move to repeal and replace ObamaCare, various media outlets turned to MIT professor Jonathan Gruber who is widely referred to as “an architect of Obamacare.”  Gruber promptly denounced the replacement of the law and warned that it could result in 30 million people losing health insurance coverage.  He previously juxtaposed “a strong and coherent health care agenda” of President Obama as opposed to Trump’s “garbage salad of right-wing talking points.”

Gruber’s resurrection as “an architect” of ObamaCare is impressive even by Washington metrics. It was not long ago that no one in the Obama administration appeared to know Gruber’s name.  While a key person in the drafting of ObamaCare (who received $400,000 to work on Obamacare and made over $2 million from the Department of Health and Human Services), Gruber became persona non grata after he spoke frankly about what was something of a bait-and-switch used to pass Obamacare.


Gruber told an audience at the University of Rhode Island in 2012 that they were able to pass Obamacare because of “the lack of economic understanding of the American voter.”

In another view from at an October 2013 event at Washington University in St. Louis, Gruber said “that passed, because the American people are too stupid to understand the difference.”  Likewise, in 2009, Gruber denied that they were really trying to reduce costs as opposed to increase coverage — saying that Obamacare might not produce lower cost health care for many citizens. This statement was made five months before the passage of the Act but not publicly known until long after passage.

Following these and other remarks, Democratic leaders suddenly began saying “Gruber who?” Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi expressed a complete lack of knowledge of who Gruber is, was, or will be.  The Obama administration denied that he was really all that important after all.

So, with the move to repeal and replace, who surfaces to evaluate the proposals? The man who said that he and others secured passage of ObamaCare in part on the basis of the “stupidity” of the American citizen.  Suddenly he is an architect again and a reliable source.


What is fascinating is that there are ample reasons to question both the surveillance allegations and the proposals for a new healthcare system. Yet, there is no interest in the rather checkered history of either of these key players from the prior administration.

There are, of course, Republican revenants who seemed to rise Phoenix-like from their political ashes like Gov. Chris Christie or Gov. Rick Perry.   Yet, the use of revenants like Clapper and Gruber reflects the limited attention span of modern media coverage.

It is too much to expect that the credibility of a former official would be relevant for a revenant, particularly when they fit a narrative of a story.  It is Washington’s version of soap opera characters: major figures can suddenly return to life with a simple change in storyline like being found on a desert island or defrosted in some cryogenic lab.

The Obama administration itself had controversies of the veracity of statements on surveillance and health care.  That does not make the statements of Trump or his administration any more true. As the “New York Times’” new ad campaign states, “Truth is hard to find.” But it is all the more difficult when you are looking in all the wrong places.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University.

The Hill Newspaper, March 8, 2017

117 thoughts on “The Revenants’ Return: Former Obama Officials Shed Earlier Controversies To Denounce Trump Administration”

  1. Squeeky – I have decided that anyone except whites using English is cultural appropriation and must be punished!!!!

  2. Amidst all the bad, sad (and fake) newz there is a glimmer of light that the public is waking up from the D vs R charade. The number of folks identifying as “independent” has increased. Dims lost major support – but then they don’t need funding from the ordinary people – the corps, Soros and Hollywood has taken care of that so the Establishment will remain wealthy. But they can’t buy votes! =)

  3. Saudi King Salman blamed 9/11 attacks on Israel: US official

    Ex-Italian President: Intel Agencies Know 9/11 An Inside Job
    “Man who blew the whistle on Gladio tells Italy’s largest newspaper attacks were run by CIA, Mossad”

    “All the [intelligence services] of America and Europe … now know well that the disastrous attack has been planned and realized from the CIA American and the Mossad with the aid of the Zionist world in order to put under accusation the Arabic Countries and in order to induce the western powers to take part … in Iraq [and] Afghanistan.”

  4. An email on Cloud 9 from someone named Gorwhine warns people not to board planes in Berlin today.

  5. What a great article.

    It’s a madhouse out there. The press is essentially using Brutus as a credible witness to testify about friendship and loyalty.

    Clapper’s statements about the lack of espionage carries no weight, nor does Gruber’s about healthcare. Both have a documented history of lying in those exact areas.

    That said, I think we do need to weigh the pros and cons of any healthcare plan. The very problem that we had with Obamacare is that it was passed on a lie, written to stack up 6 feet tall to render it unreadable, was passed without reading it, and was shoved down everyone’s throats without the opportunity to find its flaws.

    A positive aspect of Mitt Romney’s plan in Mass was that it was a conservative approach to stop the free ride of those who could afford to pay their way, but it was unanimously passed after rigorous bipartisan discussion. It was on a much smaller scale, did not force insurance companies to sell one single policy with only slight differences in astronomically unaffordable premiums and deductibles (thank you, Gruber, for admitting that saving money was not a goal of the ACA. I wish that urban myth that it saves money would die.) And it addressed helping the poor get access to healthcare.

    I won’t go further into why Obamacare was a disaster for me. I believe I’ve beaten that subject into the ground.

    Gruber’s comments have absolutely no bearing, either positive or negative, on the merits of the proposed plan. He gleefully sneered at fooling the stupid American public. So I frankly could care less what he says. The plan needs to be debated and any flaws found and rectified ahead of time. How refreshing from the previous despicable act, which “we had to pass to find out what’s in it.” What was that, Pandora’s Box? You have to open it to find out what (horrors) lie inside?

    Secondly, Clapper’s statement can have no bearing on whether Trump was actually spied on or not. He’s a confirmed liar on the topic of espionage. I understand the NYT wrote an article months ago about a FISA application for Trump. And of course we’ve all read about investigations into Russia interfering with the election. Are we now to believe that they did not spy on Trump when the Administration specifically alleged that he benefited from Russia? We know, for example, that they illegally listened to Flynn’s phone call with the Russian ambassador, and then leaked that information to the press. If we had asked them 90 seconds before the disclosure, they would have likely blithely assured us that a warrant is required to listen to any recorded phone calls. But that’s not actually what happened, is it? (And for the record, although I’m unhappy with the means, I’m always happy to get the information. Flynn erred in not disclosing that sanctions were even obliquely mentioned, and so eroded trust.)

    If Trump was going to make the assertion that he was spied upon by a misuse of power, then I hope he had proof beforehand. When you make an allegation like that, you had better be right. I am open to the possibility, with the misuse of power by the IRS, NSA, DOJ, and the rest of the alphabet soup in targeting conservatives. But he’s got to prove it.

    Ignore Clapper and Grubber, laugh when they are held as expert witnesses, and move on to the meat of the meal.

    1. From the article”And so they did this to President Obama. They — 1,227 times eavesdrops on President Obama’s phone calls. Then they mask him. But here is the problem. And General Hayden said this the other day. He said even low-level employees can unmask the caller. That is probably what happened to Flynn.

      They are not targeting Americans. They are targeting foreigners. But they are doing it purposefully to get to Americans.”

      1. And there’s much more to it than what Greenwald has been able to describe.

  6. I charge the Trump administration with lying to us about 9/11. They are Zionist War Criminals in Cover-up of 9/11 Truth.

    Israelis forewarned of 9/11 attacks – ODIGO INSTANT MESSAGES
    well-known Israeli instant messaging application
    Many Israelis maybe thousands, who worked in the WTC, were evidently forewarned of the attacks hours before they occurred through an Israeli instant messaging service called Odigo. This is very clear evidence of Israeli prior knowledge of 9/11 attacks.

  7. Revetment or Resentment Here is the Prize Winner for Stupidity as Stuff For Brains demonstrates how to punish the voters.

    “Pelosi says Congress must read ObamaCare replacement before vote”


    “To make sure they are getting a good deal.”

    Excuse ME?

    Sorry Witch witch it is you have to vote for it first. You didn’t show up for th ecommittee meetings etc. That WAS your time. Now you can cry.

    What an amazing dumb a**

    Lets see what you Collective Clone Chorus have to say from their Programmers.

    Bwa HA HA HA HA HAHA HAAAHahaaaaaa

    Who needs you?

  8. Jewish Senator Al Franken Admits Being Warned About 9-11 Beforehand
    by Chris Bollyn

    In his book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, Sen. Al Franken admits to having been warned not to go to work at the World Trade Center on 9-11. Why have the government and “free press” in the United States not investigated this report? Senator Al Franken admits in his book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them (2003), that he received a call from the former mayor of New York, Ed Koch, warning him not to go to his office in the World Trade Center on 9-11, using the Hebrew calendar as a reference for the date, which was September 11, 2001.
    Franken refers to this warning call as the “Jew call.”

    Franken said he was warned in advance by former NYC Mayor Ed Koch, a fellow Jew.

    1. FalsePatriot, you are either among the most stupid people on the planet or you are simply a lying skumbag, and, more likely, both. In case you didn’t know, Al Frankin was formerly a comedian. The book that you got that citation from is Franken’s attempt at POLITICAL SATIRE. Although you are probably so dumb, you don’t know what is, I will simply summarize that Franken is attempting to make fun of people precisely like degenerate lowlifes like YOU, who think the Jews are behind everything pernicious thing in the world.

      Franken has written a number of political satire books in addition to “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them,” he’s written other satirical books like “Why Not Me? The Inside Story of the Making and Unmaking of the Franken Presidency” and “Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations.” While one could take issue about whether Franken’s attempts at political satire here are funny, one thing is absolutely certain: they were intended to be funny or humorous.

      But keep posting your BS. Regardless of what anyone thinks of Franken’s sense of humor, there’s clearly a reason why Franken titled the book where you got your citation from “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.” He’s talking about people like YOU.

  9. Jonathan: you’ve been defending Kellyanne too long now. Now, you’re doing the pivot and fingerpointing to Democrats instead of focusing on the scandal du jour. Did you teach her these techniques? You and she make your law school look bad.

    When did Trumplethinskin say there was a FISA warrant? I didn’t see this referred to anyplace in his tweets. He just said that President Obama wiretapped him. Nothing about any warrant. Nothing about the CIA, FBI or another agency doing the tapping. Nothing about what telephone line was actually tapped. Isn’t there a Russian bank there? If the FBI or the CIA tapped the phones of a Russian bank pursuant to an FISA warrant, why doesn’t Tangerine Man blame the “so-called” judge. Who says that President Obama was responsible, ordered it, or even knew about it? President Obama denies it. Comey denies it.

    Most importantly, why won’t Agent Orange simply disclose the alleged source behind his accusations, instead of wasting taxpayer resources on an “investigation”? Since when is a bald accusation from a chronic, habitual liar enough to start a Congressional investigation? Also, what is blatantly obvious is that this is just another distraction away from the growing scandal about the Russian involvement in the election.

    1. Your reply is typically lacking in logic and coherence but full of name calling. I question if Progressives like yourself ever left Jr. High, mentally and emotionally that is.

      1. Why is it illogical to ask Tangerine Man the grounds for his accusation?

    2. it’s apparent Natacha you and others would prefer to just ban Trump for the same reason Carleton University is banning scales.

      1. No, Tangerine Man needs to go away because he’s simply unfit for office, he is causing nothing but chaos, he chronically lies, most of his appointees are unfit for office, he grabs women by the genitalia and brags about it, he is arrogant, he won’t release his tax returns so we can vet his conflicts of interest, he tweets irresponsible false accusations about his predecessor, when things go badly, he blames President Obama, when things go well, he takes credit. The list goes on and on and will continue to do so.

        1. You’ll appreciate this humor:

          “One sunny day in January, 2017, an old man approached the White House from across Pennsylvania Avenue where he’d been sitting on a park bench. He spoke to the U.S. Marine standing guard and said, “I would like to go in and meet with President Obama. ”The Marine looked at the man and said, “Sir, Mr. Obama is no longer President and no longer resides here. ”The old man said, “Okay,” and walked away. The following day the same man approached the White House and said to the same Marine, “I would like to go in and meet with President Obama. ”The Marine again told the man, “Sir, as I said yesterday, Mr. Obama is no longer President and no longer resides here. ”The man thanked him and again just walked away. The third day the same man approached the White House and spoke to the very same U.S. Marine, saying, “I would like to go in and meet with President Obama.” The Marine, understandably agitated at this point, looked at the man and said, “Sir, this is the third day in a row you have been here asking to speak to Mr. Obama. I’ve told you already that Mr. Obama is no longer the President and no longer resides here. Don’t you understand? ”The old man looked at the Marine and said, “Oh, I understand. I just love hearing it.” The Marine snapped to attention, saluted, and said, “See you tomorrow, Sir!””

          Guess what Natacha, if you are a United States citizen, then Donald J. Trump is your President.

          Your welcome!

    3. “Also, what is blatantly obvious is that this is just another distraction away from the growing scandal about the Russian involvement in the election.”

      Or, Natacha, it may be just the opposite. The Russia story is a blatantly obvious distraction away from the turmoil and disarray within the Democrat party.

      And the Russia story is proving to be a ratings booster for left leaning cable shows, therefore it is ALL they talk about. The brainwashing propaganda campaign will continue as long as it is profitable and effective. You, Natacha, are Exhibit A as to its effectiveness.

      Get help. It’s not too late.

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