Bill Owens: Law And Order

Feb 22, 2018

The Republicans have always touted themselves as the “Law and Order Party”, I am not quite sure what that means. They have branded themselves as the Law and Order Party and Strong Defense Party. It is always interesting to delve behind the facts and see who has been most supportive of defense and veterans rather than simply listening to the rhetoric. You might be surprised.

Back to my main thought for today. The vote to release the House’s Intelligence Committee Republican memo certainly garnered a tremendous amount of media coverage, both before and after the event. Now the full Committee sent the Democratic version to the President. Mr. Trump declared the Republican memo will clear him of all wrongdoing. Will the Democratic memo indict him? Many Republicans shied away from that characterization, but based their decision to vote to release the memo on the fact that it disclosed some bad actors in the FBI and the Department of Justice, supposedly. The Democrats, on the other hand, took the position that the memo was misleading, deleting significant facts. The interesting factor here is that the FBI and DOJ took the same position as the Democrats. In addition, DOJ wrote to Representative Nunes and the Committee that this was potentially a grave threat to national security. In my view, this action is an even greater threat to the domestic rule of law.

Attorney General Sessions’ silence is deafening. I knew Mr. Sessions when I was in Congress, not well, but I did have some interactions with him, and I am not the least bit surprised by his failure to lead. I cannot imagine another Attorney General failing to come to the aid of the Department of Justice and the FBI in a dispute with the President, and taking a strong stand that actions such as those taken by Congressional Republicans were damaging to the Department of Justice and the FBI, two of our leading law enforcement agencies. The FBI’s union indicated they were strongly behind Mr. Ray, and against the release of the memo. One might, of course, argue that the positions taken by DOJ and the FBI may well be self-serving, but I’m not buying it. It appears to indicate that what was being expressed by the agents was a philosophic concern that these actions were broadly damaging, and not narrowly focused.

The attempts to undermine the FISC court is also very perplexing to me. Those proceedings are in camera, and has been discussed in many venues doesn’t provide for the affected parties to be present in court, nor make an argument before the court. This troubles many, but the underlying statute has been approved by Republican majorities and Democratic majorities, as well as signed into law by Presidents of both parties. If, in fact, Republicans are interested in opening up the FISC court process, at least in this instance, then the only truthful way to do that is by providing all of the information which I suspect is unacceptable under the existing statute. All of this is an unfortunate attempt to effectively undermine the rule of law, and demonstrates how deeply partisan we have become, and what a threat this process is to one of the major concepts underpinning this nation.

Mr. Owens is a former member of Congress representing the New York 21st, a partner in Stafford Owens in Plattsburgh, NY and a Senior Advisor to Dentons to Washington, DC.

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