There was a short piece in the Wall Street Journal on July 7th in the “Notable and Quotable” section that should really be much more publicized. It documents how the FBI intentionally undermined the case against Senator Ted Stevens in 2008, thanks to a brave whistleblower.
The reason that this revelation is so incredulous is that the political aftermath of the case had long-lasting consequences on this nation, particularly through the passage of several controversial bills which may never have passed if the balance of power had not shifted in the Senate.
How did this happen? Prosecutors in the Department of Justice chose to indict Stevens on flimsy charges three months prior to the pivotal 2008 elections. Stevens himself pleaded not guilty and requested a swift trial in order to clear his name before the November elections:
“This case is about concealment,” the Department of Justice’s lead lawyer stated in her opening statement, claiming that the senator had concealed that he had not paid full value for renovations to his modest Alaska cabin. In fact, Ted Stevens and his wife had paid more than $160,000 for renovations that independent appraisers valued at less than $125,000 at the time.
But relying on false records and fueled by testimony from a richly rewarded “cooperating” witness that the senator was merely “covering his ass” when he wrote a note stating that his desire to comply with all Senate rules, government prosecutors convinced jurors to find the him guilty just eight days before the general election, which he lost by less than 2 percent of the vote. The cooperating witness, wealthy Alaska businessman Bill Allen, was testifying for his own freedom (he was guilty of unrelated crimes), that of his children (who received immunity from prosecution after the government apparently threatened them) and the ability to sell his company for hundreds of millions of dollars.”
The FBI failed to divulge that, during the initial interview with the contractor, he stated he was overpaid — then later changed his testimony to underpaid. Only because of a whistleblower did the knowledge come out that the FBI intentionally hid information that would have been damning to their case.
As a result of the FBI’s tactics, Ted Stevens was convicted of a crime. Stevens, at the time of his conviction, was the longest-serving Senate Republican in congressional history and the Senate at the time was evenly split. His defeat by a Democrat merely days after his conviction contributed to a multi-seat gain by the Democrats in the Senate.
The case was later invalidated and thrown out by another judge; however, the damage had been done. The loss of this seat changed the makeup of the Senate, meaning that a series of questionable Congressional decision were able to be passed at a later date. Now we have Dodd-Frank, we have Obamacare, and we have the worst recovery in the history of this country — all because the Department of Justice interfered with and ousted a sitting Senator that was perceived to be an impediment to “progress”.
Those at the FBI that withheld the evidence were punished, but not fired. But to add insult to injury, due to procedural error involving their disciplinary case, they “later had their review thrown out and punishment lifted. The board did not clear the attorneys of wrongdoing, it found that justice officials committed a “harmful procedural error that likely had a harmful effect on the outcome of the case before the agency,” according to the board’s 18-page decision.”
The Wall Street Journal had a fine summary of the whole sordid affair: “Did the government react in horror at having been caught with its hands in the cookie jar? Did Justice Department lawyers rend their garments and place ashes on their head to mourn this violation of their most fundamental duty of candor and fairness? No way, no how. Instead, the government argued strenuously that its ill-gotten conviction should stand because boys will be boys and the evidence wasn’t material to the case anyway. . . . Instead of contrition, what we have seen is Justice Department officials of the highest rank suffering torn glenoid labrums from furiously patting themselves on the back for having “done the right thing.”
The “right thing” in this case was removing a high ranking Republican Senator in order to help secure a Democrat majority and pave the way for transformative, unpalatable legislation to be passed in this country.