The Anonymous Coward Calling Holder Weak

Time has another one of those Rahm v. Holder profiles. It is notable from the slew of other ones for two reasons.

The anonymous source calling Holder a coward

First, the story features several main sources for this story: Lindsey Graham, speaking on the record.

Holder, issuing no-nonsense statements like this, on the record:

And it’s Holder’s experience in the law-enforcement system that makes him such a strong believer in its ability to put terrorists like KSM away forever. “We should have great faith in the resilience of our systems, the resilience of our people, the toughness that has always separated Americans from other peoples in this world, and that’s what’s made this country great,” he says.

And at least one anonymous White House aide (AKA Rahm).

What I especially love about about that anonymous White House aide is that the guy who is too chicken to speak on the record seems to be parroting GOP attacks calling Holder weak on terror.

Republicans, meanwhile, were busy turning Holder into the poster child for White House weakness on terrorism, and some polls showed that most Americans agreed with them. “The only two people who still believe in civilian trials,” says one of the meeting’s attendees, “are Holder and the President.”

Brave anonymous White House aide!! Singlehandedly fighting terrorism by hiding behind anonymity!!

Lindsey’s July (?) meeting with Holder and December meeting with Obama

The article also provides a useful timeline for two meetings Lindsey had with the Administration, first an July (or August) meeting with Holder.

By July, Obama had asked Holder to decide whether it was feasible to prosecute KSM in a civilian court. Holder chewed on that question for weeks. Meanwhile, Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who opposed civilian trials, asked Holder to meet with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a key centrist vote on matters of counterterrorism. Graham told Holder he strongly opposed civilian trials for the alleged 9/11 conspirators and that they could affect his support for closing Guantánamo Bay prison, a key Obama goal.

And then a December meeting with Obama.

When Obama met with Graham in early December, the Senator laid out his case against civilian trials. But the President said he thought Holder had the better side of the argument. “I just agreed to disagree with the President on that issue,” Graham told TIME.

Those meetings are interesting both for the way they match up to the timeline of the attacks on Holder and Greg Craig (which started in earnest around the time of the first meeting, and culminated in the December meeting after Craig had been ousted.

I’d really love to know the logic for the Obama meeting. After all, this was before the Christmas day bombing, when the Administration was still basking in the success of the foiled Zazi plot. And it came at a time when the Democrats had 60 votes in the Senate.

So why meeting with Lindsey?

It sure suggests the push against civilian trials is more about politics than efficacy.

But we knew that.

66 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    How funny, two guys hiding in the closet calling the guy on the front stoop a coward. How funny.

  2. Mary says:

    anonymous sources, calling Holder weak
    anonymous patriots, destroying torture evidence
    anonymous torturers, laundering for Cheney

    It’s of a piece, I guess, but Brown just reneged on his promise to make torture guidelines public too.

    The Guardian has learned that members of the intelligence and security committee have expressed serious concern to Brown about the lack of clarity and “ambiguities” in the new guidance on interrogation techniques drawn up for MI5, MI6, and military intelligence officers after revelations in the Binyam Mohamed case.

    That’s the other “a” to go with anonymous – ambiguous. The anonymous and ambiguous rule the debates.

  3. MadDog says:

    And then there’s this:

    …One compromise might involve trying KSM and other 9/11 conspirators in a tribunal, or even a new civilian terrorism court with special rules, while permitting other alleged terrorists to be tried, as originally planned, in the existing federal system. Holder doesn’t have a feel yet for where the President will come down on the talks. “I’m just not sure where the President is on this,” Holder says. A senior aide involved in the discussions says, “If there’s a Rahm-Graham deal to be had, we’ll do it…”

    (My Bold)

    Shorter Rahmbo: “A bad deal is always better than no deal.”

    • skdadl says:

      …One compromise might involve trying KSM and other 9/11 conspirators in a tribunal, or even a new civilian terrorism court with special rules, while permitting other alleged terrorists to be tried, as originally planned, in the existing federal system. Holder doesn’t have a feel yet for where the President will come down on the talks. “I’m just not sure where the President is on this,” Holder says. A senior aide involved in the discussions says, “If there’s a Rahm-Graham deal to be had, we’ll do it…”

      Oh, for pity’s sake. Why don’t they just tie their hands and feet and toss ’em in the pond? If they sink and drown, they’re innocent. If they float, they’re witches, and then you can string ’em up. I mean, we’ve known how to do this since the seventeenth century at least.

      • Rayne says:

        I think they tried that toss-in-the-pond bit — about 183 times with one detainee, if memory serves. Apparently doesn’t work the way the ponding administrators expected.

        • skdadl says:

          Rayne, I honestly cannot believe how far North Americans have regressed, and I mean a lot of my peeps as well as yours. Nathaniel Hawthorne would weep if he were reading along with us. (I love Nathaniel Hawthorne. I made a trip to Salem just to see his walking stick in the Customs House, which is very beautiful.)

      • DWBartoo says:

        I was reading someplace, recently, that Justices Thomas and, if memory serves, Alito base THEIR views of proper and appropriate “punishment” on sixteenth century standards. Excellent as your idea may be, skdadl, with all its certain merits, and undeniable charms, including its value as public spectacle, it is simply too modern and much too empathic for those who prefer sketching and halving halfs … besides water-games are passe in general this season, if still official policy, it being unclear where the President is on this …


        • bobschacht says:

          skdadl is on target, because Alito and Thomas are sensitive to the “originalist” theories of Antonin Scalia. In fact, I sometimes wonder why Scalia doesn’t wear a white wig, and doesn’t favor the use of the stock for punishing offenders.

          We have an activist court, now, as Citizens United proved. They want to remake the country in their own image.

          Bob in AZ

    • emptywheel says:

      Oh, thanks for pulling that up. I had to do this quickly before dinner I knew that Rahm our anon friend had said something else offenseive. But I couldn’t find it before I had to run out for dinner.

      That was the other quote I was looking for–thanks!!

  4. alinaustex says:

    Dear Attorney General Holder
    Please try KSM on Govenor’s Island and tell all those sissy neocons including Sen Grahm and that punk Rahm they collectively need to grow a pair.
    If you needed an operational plan to secure the island you can contact Col Patrick Lang this is his big idea-and I bet he has a sound security scheme in mind.
    Furthermore Attorney General Holder pls continue to uphold the Rule of Law -we got your back -make us proud to be Americans by upholding our best traditions. Hells Bells even Ted Olsen and Kenneth Starr are supporting your pushback on the Cheneyites …

  5. Mary says:

    While the victims don’t remain anonymous – Arar, el-Masri, Errachidi, etc. – until they are dumped in unmarked graves, for some unknown reason the kind interrogators who offered up Gifts From Christ during torture have seemed to want to remain anonymous.

    Just too sick.

  6. plunger says:

    Robert Schopmeyer is speaking truth to power in this raw story thread:

    When the FBI Cole bombing investigators accidentally found out on August 28, 2001 that Mihdhar and Hazmi were inside of the US, the FBI HQ and CIA shut down their investigation of Mihdhar and Hazmi, even while knowing by doing so thousands of Americans were going to perish in these attacks as a direct result of their actions to shut down these investigations.

    Let me repeat, when the CIA and FBI HQ knew Mihdhar and Hazmi were inside of the US in order to take part in massive al Qaeda attacks that would murder thousands of Americans they shut down investigations that could have prevented these attacks. All of this information, taken from official US government documents, can be found in a book “Prior Knowledge of 9/11”.

  7. orionATL says:

    i don’t know how much emanuel does with and how much he does without obama’s o.k.

    but i do “know” that rahme is a very aggressive personality, inclined to run over people.

    if he is the leaker, and if he is not doing obama’s bidding, in trying to force holder to leave,

    then he is arm-wrestling with his boss, the prez.

    if so, that is a battlen emanuel will eventually lose.

    in fact, when ew did her traffic-rousing trash-talk post,

    my inclination was to offer up emanuel as the first to go:

    – he has failed the prez on medical “reform”, months of gpofy
    work fell apart in two days in feb.

    – he has been attributed, here, with leaking like a sieve.

    – he appears to be trying to force the prez’s hand on the trials,

    a matter best decided after the first week in november.

    so, ex post facto, i’m picking emanuel as the first to be fired on
    the grounds that obama is finally getting his sea legs and doesn’t need emanuel as much,

    and that emanuel’s is a personality the prez will get tired of sooner than later.

    has there EVER been a major presidential advisor with a goofier visage than rahm emanuel’s?

  8. fatster says:

    EW, I don’t know how to make this appear in tiny little letters, but I wish I could because it consists solely of a small suggestion which in no way should detract from all the excellent work you’ve produced today. At any rate, you might change “the guy whose too chicken” to “the guy who is [or who’s] too chicken”.

    And thank you once again for all you do.

    • MadDog says:

      Hmmm…I thought the typo was the “too”, as in “whose two chicken…”, but what do I know. *g*

      • fatster says:

        I was tripping on the concept of his being chicken squared. Seems appropriate. For sure, he’s foul-mouthed.

  9. BoxTurtle says:

    Frankly, I agree with The Anonymous Coward. I cannot recall a single incident since his confirmation where Holder has stood his ground when confronted.

    Boxturtle (Still, kettle, pot, black)

  10. MadDog says:

    The “Art of the Deal” when Rahmbo is “negotiating” with Lindsey:

    Lindsey: So, you wanna make a deal? What have you got to trade?

    Rahmbo: Hmmm…my Pa gave me this new shiny bike for my birthday.

    Lindsey: I’ll trade you this here skunk for it.

    Rahmbo: A skunk? Hmmm…I don’t know. What will my Pa think?

    Lindsey: It’s a skunk or no deal!

    Later at home…

    Rahmbo: Pa, look at this great skunk I got.

    • emptywheel says:

      Art of the deal:

      [July] Hey Lindsey, we’ve got a perfectly workable plan but mean Greg Craig is being a stickler for rule of law. Can you try to peel Holder off?

      [November] Hey Lindsey, I finally got rid of that rule of law prig Greg Craig. Let’s see if we can’t peel POTUS off yet.

      [January] Hey Lindsey. We’re making great progress with crotch bomber. But since Dick is politicizing it, why don’t we use it as an opportunity to try to dissuade Obama again?

  11. JohnLopresti says:

    Senator LGraham seems to have a snell to his polities. He prefers the stalking horse stratagem. Consider: in the Alito nomination hearings, he uttered what he knew would be an obscenity in the perceptions of the nominee*s familymember, the senator propounding a characterization of a fetishism in the nominee*s juridical impartiality: the Graham comment about **closet bigot**. {Cut to next scene:} the media nearly universally defended the senator*s invocation of a slur, narrating the incident to the newshour listener viewer as, **democrats on panel hit below belt of propriety; Muriel exits in tears; nominee approved by committee; bad democrats**.

    In researching the incident, I located a Republican political science paper which has tallied rhetorical devices in nomination hearings, in an attempt to show Democrats on the judiciary committee are doubly as rude as the Republicans. Yet, the lede of the paper, curiously, is LGraham*s aspersion; paper is proprietary, available only in fractured html format there. Right: trust senator Graham.

  12. JasonLeopold says:

    Obama in August 2007:

    I also will reject a legal framework that does not work. There has been only one conviction at Guantanamo. It was for a guilty plea on material support for terrorism. The sentence was 9 months. There has not been one conviction of a terrorist act. I have faith in America’s courts, and I have faith in our JAGs. As President, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act, and adhere to the Geneva Conventions. Our Constitution and our Uniform Code of Military Justice provide a framework for dealing with the terrorists.

    Our Constitution works. We will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers, and that justice is not arbitrary.

  13. sanpete says:

    Sheesh. The anonymous source doesn’t call Holder weak, or imply in any way that he’s a coward, or anything remotely like that. Judging from the comments, the power of suggestion is pretty strong here.

    “it came at a time when the Democrats had 60 votes in the Senate”

    Not 60 votes for funds to close Guantanamo.

    “It sure suggests the push against civilian trials is more about politics than efficacy.”

    It suggests Graham and a few others are willing to compromise, if that’s what you mean.

    • emptywheel says:

      Well, the entire point is this campaign on Rahm’s part started before there was a need for compromise (even assuming that need is real right now). I know it’s not unusual for Rahm to start negotiations by ceding ground on key points–it seems to be his favorite tactic.

      But that still means he was undermining a plan that would work better at getting terrorists in prison terms or capital sentences quickly. And it, and important principles that this country didn’t used to find optional, was abandoned for sheer political thrills.

      • BoxTurtle says:

        was abandoned for sheer political thrills

        If you’re saying what I think you are, we disagree. I think it was done to protect powerful individuals from the consequences of their actions.

        Their actions were committed for macho posturing and political advantage.

        Boxturtle (And ObamaLLP is still not done disappointing us in the legal/terror arena)

        • klynn says:

          I think “political thrills” is equated to “getting away with it” which is, in the context of torture-terrorism and the rule of law discussions is “a given” that the meaning is “protection of powerful-political advantage.”

          But I’ll let EW clarify.

          • emptywheel says:

            The point is that Rahm went to great, great lengths to solve a problem that was not in fact a problem. You might even say he collaborated in creating the problem, and now offers this solution.

            And then, a year from now, when the first of the appeals or challenges slows the military tribunal, Rahm will be whining about how DOJ or DOD lawyers are failing. When those failures will be predictable consequencse of creating a problem that Rahm decided to solve with a bad political solution.

            • klynn says:

              I agree with you. My point went more to the “why” of Rahm’s bad political solution which appears to be more “protection of the powerful for political advantage.” But my take could be totally wrong in that regard.

  14. klynn says:

    Obama then:

    Our Constitution works. We will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers, and that justice is not arbitrary.

    Then… Marcy observes…

    I’d really love to know the logic for the Obama meeting. After all, this was before the Christmas day bombing, when the Administration was still basking in the success of the foiled Zazi plot. And it came at a time when the Democrats had 60 votes in the Senate.

    So why meeting with Lindsey?

    It sure suggests the push against civilian trials is more about politics than efficacy.

    (my bold)

    Something bigger is brewing here and it may be more than politics. What would be a “uniting” concern that would have Rahm and Lindsey on the same page? From my perspective, the possibilities make a pretty short list and must present a personal threat for Lindsey and Rahm or presents a threat towards something they both carry as a political interest. Unfortunately, both must agree on the counter threat they are throwing at Obama and Holder.

  15. orionATL says:

    “…abandonded for sheer political thrills.”

    now that is a nice summary statement,

    very nice.

    i wonder if there will be any political consequences for such inconstancy?

    i suppose not, since rahme is said to be the epicenter of realpolitik in the administration.

  16. orionATL says:

    my sense of the phrase was that it referred to the sheer pleasure of engaging in political activity absent any commensurate regard for our fundamental political structure or the moral/judicial structures we’ve devoloped over 2 1/2 centuries.

    rahme is rather like a teenager taking dad’s car up to 120 mph because it’s an exciting thing to do and he’s in the driver’s seat – future consequences be damned.

    • BoxTurtle says:

      I see Rahm more as a political Scrooge McDuck. The entire country is his money bin (money and power) and he just can’t stop rubbing his hands and laughing.

      Boxturtle (Rahm likes power and think using it is it’s own reward)

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        Has anyone ever figured out how this fits in with that BAE investigation that was quietly swept under the carpet after a minimally respectable fine?

  17. Leen says:

    No need to even consider the myth that there is or ever was support for the independence of the Dept of Justice. Or the myth that the Dept of Justice, Obama administration, Supreme Court or any of these people are committed to the rule of law

  18. orionATL says:

    box turtle @38

    now there’s an image.

    i can see rahm now throwing coins and bills in the air and crowing “it’s mine, all mine.”

  19. fatster says:

    O/T, from the 9th:

    Fed appeals court won’t rehear Ashcroft lawsuit

    “BOISE, Idaho — A federal appellate court said Thursday it wouldn’t reconsider its ruling that former Attorney General John Ashcroft can be held personally responsible for misuse of the material witness statute after the Sept. 11 attacks.”


    • BoxTurtle says:

      And Bybee had the decency to recuse himself.

      Boxturtle (BRB, need to check and see if hell has froze over)

      • fatster says:

        EW, of course, had the article up yesterday about this case. What do you think the DOJ’ll decide to do (from the article): “The Department of Justice may now appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court or allow the lawsuit to revert back to Boise’s U.S. District Court. If the case goes back to the lower court, the government will likely have to comply with al-Kidd’s discovery requests, releasing documents and files that it has previously maintained were highly confidential and that could pose a threat to national security.”

        • bmaz says:

          They will notice an appeal and then string it out before they actually brief it and use the time to gin up a different obstructive path.

          • BoxTurtle says:

            Ditto. They want time.

            They’ll string the appeal of this all the way to the supremes. They might win with the supremes, suing a government offical personally for carrying out his offical duties is flat out barred and it could be argued with ease that this was offical policy directly from from the White House.

            If they lose, they’ll go back to trial court and challenge every discovery request ala Al-H all the way to the top.

            I’m bettting they’d finally sign an undisclosed settlement rather than allow some of that information to become semi-public in discovery.

            Boxturtle (Good thing pardon authority doesn’t extend to civil liability)

            • DWBartoo says:

              Don’t need no stinking “pardon”.

              What is a little embarrassment, BoxTurtle, for having had one’s way with the law?

              After all, if Ashcroft or Rumsfeld are held liable, assuming none of the other things you mention somehow do not render such liability moot or hidden, it is the taxpayers who will foot the entire bill, the total cost of any successful lawsuit (well, we will anyhow, won’t we, foot the entire “cost”?).


              • BoxTurtle says:

                That’s what makes this interesting. They are attempting to peel back the normal government protections wrt Ashcroft and sue him as an individual. If they succeed, the government would be under no obligation to pay anything.

                Boxturtle (The government might well CHOOSE to pay anyway)

                • bmaz says:

                  Well, that is kind of a legal fiction actually. Unless it is something totally unrelated to job duties (I had a sexual assault/rape of a coworker case where the government truly did not cover, but it has to be about that far removed) the government still covers.

                  • BoxTurtle says:

                    That’s the case the plantiffs are making, isn’t it? They’ve managed to sue him as an individual and that’s the first step.

                    Still, I know the plantiffs have a tough standard to meet to get the government not to have to pay. And the odds are the government would pay anyway in this case.

                    Boxturtle (It looks like Ashcroft will get deposed under oath if this holds. That’ll be fun!)

                • DWBartoo says:

                  The 9th assumes the government will pay.

                  That was part of their refutation of concerns that conviction would ‘chill’ the enthusiasms of those who would be Attorneys General.

                  However, the howling that would ensue were the government not to pick up the tab would be truly amazing to witness (I get all goose bumpy just imagining it …)


          • DWBartoo says:

            You are undoubtedly correct in your prognostication, bmaz, and I have often wondered if courts ever ponder the implications of a legal “system” where such behavior is, first, strictly “legal”, and second, not a rare situation, but commonplace, and indeed the common currency of the executive?

            Sometimes the law appears to be a parlor game for intellectuals with no skin in the game. And insisting upon the actual rule of law, say, as explicitly stated in United States v. Lee, is just simply too much like real work.

            Why, one could end up with callouses on one’s hands and or even a broken finger-nail. Tsk,tsk.


          • fatster says:

            and @ 49 and @ 50-51. Thanks so much to all three of you. I wish we were in a time and place where you’d be able to say something more hopeful–er, positive. But we are where we are and you are no doubt right on target with where this’ll go.

            If I weren’t so allergic to hard liquor, I think I’d give absinthe a whirl.

  20. fatster says:

    Report in rawstory on the bipartisan-y Gitmo closure deal mentions Rahm’s co-supporter.
    Deal near for Guantanamo closure, trials: report

    “The deal’s supporters are led in the White House by counsel Robert Bauer and Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.”


  21. plunger says:

    Edward Moskal bio on Wiki states:

    In 2002, when Rahm Emanuel pursued the U.S. House seat in the 5th District of Illinois, Moskal supported former Illinois State Representative Nancy Kaszak. Moskal called Emanuel a “millionaire carpetbagger who knows nothing” about “our heritage”. Moskal also charged that Emanuel had dual citizenship with Israel and had served in the Israeli Army.[8] Emanuel’s father was an Israeli immigrant. Emanuel was a civilian volunteer assisting the Israel Defense Forces for a short time during the 1991 Gulf War.

    Rahm, a citizen of a foreign country? So which country is Rahm representing when he continues to falsely perpetuate the “too weak on terror” canard?

  22. sanpete says:

    EW, Obama already needed Graham’s support on Guantanamo by last summer:

    “Senate Rejects Funds to Close Guantanamo Bay Prison
    Thursday May 21, 2009

    “By a decisive 90-6 vote, the U.S. Senate yesterday stripped from the Supplemental Appropriations Bill the $80 million requested by President Obama to pay for the closure of the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.”

    Had Obama not inherited such a mess he would probably do a lot of things differently, of course. Emmanuel is known as a tough bargainer. I don’t think he’s likely to give anything up that he doesn’t have to.

  23. Jim White says:

    OT: I have a new diary on anthrax. There now is new, strong proof that the spores used in the attack did not come directly from Ivins’ RMR-1029 flask but instead were cultured and then purified and dried.

  24. fatster says:

    O/T. Apologies, but on an entirely different issue, we did get another good ruling yesterday.

    Federal Reserve Must Disclose Bank Bailout Records (Update2)

    “The Federal Reserve Board must disclose documents identifying financial firms that might have collapsed without the largest ever U.S. government bailout, a federal appeals court said.
    “The U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled today that the Fed must release records of the unprecedented $2 trillion U.S. loan program launched primarily after the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. The ruling upholds a decision of a lower-court judge, who in August ordered that the information be released.”


    • DWBartoo says:

      Thank you, fatster.

      Doubtless, this too will be appealed and sat upon as long as possumable, until the Supremes are ready to sing, or at least hum along.

      To the “tune” which bmaz suggested @48.


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