Martin Gottesfeld defended former figure skater Justina Pelletier when she was maimed in the custody of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at Harvard-affiliated Boston Children’s Hospital. The Obama administration arrested him in February, 2016, and held him without bail on charges he knocked the hospital off the internet during an online fund-raiser, hurting no one.
Republicans shouldn’t celebrate the end of the Obama presidency just yet. Not only has Obamacare survived Trump’s first attempt to repeal and replace it, but many leaders of the former administration still remain and are firmly in control of their offices.
Perhaps nowhere is this clearer than in the Justice Department, where Attorney General Sessions is working to solidify his hold amid leaks, partisan attacks, and the at best half-hearted attempts undertaken by former Obama staffers to supposedly achieve the goals of the new administration. Seriously, do either Republicans or Democrats expect the acting US attorneys and their assistants who were hired during the Obama years from places like his home state of Hawaii, or other Democratic strongholds like Massachusetts, to actually fight for traditional conservative values and Trump’s executive orders? Is it any surprise the ACLU used federal courts and attorneys in Boston to successfully challenge the new administration or that Hawaii’s state attorney general Doug Chin, a Democrat, recently triumphed over his federal counterparts there?
As a winner of two presidential elections, and a Harvard law grad, no other president in living memory better understood the political uses of the Justice Department nor entrenched themselves there more deeply than the former president of the Harvard Law Review. Remember, days into the brand new Trump administration, when acting Attorney General Sally Yates ordered the Justice Department not to defend the President’s executive order, forcing him to fire her? Even with her gone, how many of her former supporters are still loyal to their previous bosses, who hired/promoted them, and are still following their orders? That’s the type of fanatical opposition and sabotage Attorney General Sessions has to contend with in the virtual game of whack-a-mole he’s playing with the remnants of Obama’s Department of Justice (DOJ.)
Except these moles whack back. To be sure though, the Obama administration didn’t pioneer the weaponization of the DOJ for political purposes, but they did innovate the practice to new heights that are still paying dividends to Democrats.
For a recent example, despite potential violations of attorney-client privilege and presidential communication privilege, Yates now wants to testify before the House Committee investigating alleged ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. Her desire to do so made partisan headlines when letters sent to her by the DOJ asserting the impropriety of such testimony were provided to the Washington Post. Given who they were mailed from and to, it’s all but certain they were sent to the Post by Yates or those acting on her behalf. So, knowing the lengths Yates was willing to go to as acting Attorney General in order to damage Trump as well as the circumstances under which those letters surfaced, could anyone really trust a single word she’d utter to the House?
I have some questions I’d like to ask Yates under penalty of perjury regarding her actions and inactions at the Obama DOJ. I hope if she does testify, members of the committee will take the opportunity to ask questions that may illuminate her motives and reflect on her credibility. Questions such as: How did the Washington Post get the letters the DOJ sent Yates? How did her political ideology affect her decision not to defend Trump’s executive order despite her constitutional obligations to do so? Did she or anyone she knew at the Obama DOJ ever (mis)use their roles to damage political opponents?
Perhaps opponents like Republican Representative Aaron Schock of Illinois, who was federally indicted just following the November elections? Apparently, Obama prosecutors wanted to very selectively make federal felonies out of a Congressman having a lavish office and a large dinner tab, but they seem to have forgotten a certain family on which the Simpson’s character Mayor “Diamond” Joe Quimby is based, not to mention numerous other Democrats who basically do the same things. Now, it’s likely the prosecutors in this case knew the indictment wouldn’t stand scrutiny under the new administration, but it’s doubtful that obtaining a conviction was really their goal. Given the timing, it’s far more likely the intent was to damage his reputation and help flip his coveted seat in the House in the upcoming midterm elections.
In another case, the New York Times reported on the sentencing of Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Baroni, two members of Chris Christie’s administration, for supposed roles in “Bridgegate.” Federal judge Susan Wigenton was right to call it a “sad day” for New Jersey, and perhaps “What occurred in September of 2013 was an outrageous display of abuse of power,” as she said, but it might not have been the only one relevant to the case. I only wish that the type of egregious government abuse that held Justina Pelletier captive for 16 months, paralyzed, and nearly killed her, got the kind of instant national headlines and federal investigation that a traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge received. Why did the torture of a child in Massachusetts receive so little attention in the traditional media, and no federal investigation by the Obama administration, while “Bridgegate” received so much of both? Perhaps the New York Times buried the lead when it waited until halfway through its article to say “the political damage to Christie, who saw his presidential ambitions dashed and national reputation tarnished, was both immediate and lasting.”
Ironically, at the “Bridgegate” sentencing Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee Cortes actually said “those are the actions out of the playbook of some dictator of a banana republic” and “it’s incomprehensible such action could take place here in the United States.” I wonder how Cortes would label what happened to the Pelletiers in Boston?
Martin “MartyG” Gottesfeld
ID #71225, Unit BS1, Bed 6
26 Long Pond Road
Plymouth, MA 02360