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What’s it all about, Alcee?

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By Michelle Malkin  •  November 27, 2006 10:24 AM

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Fool

Last week, disgraced and disgraceful Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) fired off an unhinged rant to fellow House Democrats denying he was corrupt and attacking “Newt Gingrich, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Michael Barone, Drudge, anonymous bloggers, and other assorted misinformed fools” who have cited his House impeachment and Senate conviction on bribery and perjury charges.

Hastings complains that there’s “a whole lot of information that is not being discussed at all” about his impeachment and his career. By all means, let’s discuss. I’ve compiled a handy bunch of links and dug up some helpful nuggets to help ensure that Alcee fools no one.

At Thomas, you can look up much of the impeachment record for yourselves. I found these answers from Hastings about whether the impeachment was fair quite illuminating:

Senator Durenberger. . . . As you sit here this morning, whether you slept well or not, what are your feelings about the general fairness of the process of the last three-and-a-half weeks, particularly as you reflect on the people on this side of the table?

Judge Hastings. I feel very good about it, Senator, and it gives me an opportunity to thank you all for your attention. I think through my lawyers and myself I expressed my feelings with reference to the impeachment process, and I think we have reached another plateau that I did not think that we would reach. And I still think it’s a mistake to have reached this plateau, but not as it pertains to the members of this committee. You are doing what I believe you believe is the proper thing.’

* * * * *

[Page: S13795]

Senator Pryor. . . . I think this proceeding has been extremely fair. And I hope and we hope that you feel it has been fair.

Judge Hastings . I do, Senator Pryor.’

* * * * *

Judge Hastings . Mr. Chairman, just one thing. I thank you especially and Vice Chairman Specter and each Senator for all of your courtesy. I really do appreciate it.

`Earlier on one of the Senators asked me about the process. I have immense respect for the process, and I would–and I don’t mean it facetiously–urge upon you that what we have had, regardless of outcome, is a very good impeachment inquiry.’

On Nexis, you can find out what the New York Times editorial board–those rabid right-wing fools–said about the fairness of Hastings’ impeachment. The race card is also torn to shreds. A sample:

The New York Times, Section A; Page 26, Column 1; Editorial Desk October, 24 1989

Judge Hastings, Fairly Judged

Impeachments by the House and trials in the Senate are so cumbersome and distasteful that Alcee Hastings of Florida is only the sixth Federal judge to be removed in this manner. But in convicting and removing Judge Hastings, despite his acquittal of similar charges at a criminal trial, Congress acted responsibly, even judiciously. It vindicated the Constitution’s admittedly inefficent method for purging those who dishonor their offices.

The impeachment power is so mighty and unreviewable that some of the Founding Fathers feared its misuse while seeing its necessity. Judge Hastings said he had been so abused because a jury had already acquitted him of bribery, the key impeachment charge. He asserted also that as one of the nation’s few black judges, he had been disciplined under procedures ”infected by a form of racism.”

But Congress rightly held that the bar against double jeopardy does not prohibit subsequent impeachment proceedings, which measure fitness, not criminality, and can lead at most to removal from office. The charge of institutional racism was abundantly refuted by Representative John Conyers of Michigan, long a leader among black legislators and a civil rights champion, who became one of the judge’s most vocal accusers. Judge Hastings and a lawyer friend, William Borders, were accused in 1981 of conspiring to extract a $150,000 bribe from two convicted drug dealers for reducing their sentences. Mr. Borders, arrested with bribe money from an undercover agent, was convicted and imprisoned. Judge Hastings was acquitted after a separate trial in 1983. Investigations prompted by fellow judges resulted in House impeachment charges that the judge was part of the bribery plot and had also falsified evidence to gain his acquittal. The Senate held its own hearings and convicted the judge on eight impeachment counts.

Some in Congress contend that the present system of impeaching judges is obsolete. They suggest that the task be given to the judiciary itself. They can point to the years it took to oust Judge Hastings, but delay alone doesn’t justify a constitutional amendment.

What if the judiciary, without the credibility of Representative Conyers or the political accountability of Congress, had removed this black judge? Would there not be a lingering suspicion of racism? Those who would ”streamline” the system must answer such questions before scrapping the Constitution’s sound plan.

***

The Editorial Notebook;The Virtue of Impeachment

The New York Times, Section A; Page 26, Column 1; Editorial Desk
July, 28 1988
By JOHN P. MacKENZIE

When Congress removed Harry Claiborne from the Federal bench in Nevada two years ago, it was the first full use of the impeachment power in five decades. Two more judges are now targets of impeachment proceedings. The House Judiciary Committee yesterday recommended the impeachment of Judge Alcee Hastings of Florida. A subcommittee has completed hearings on charges against Judge Walter Nixon of Mississippi.

This sudden cluster of impeachments ignites questions: Is the judicial branch, so long honored for its elegant independence, losing its way? Will the cumbersome impeachment process so engulf Congress that the Constitution must be changed to make removal easier?

The answer to both these questions is no. The Federal judiciary, pride of America’s constitutional system, loses none of its luster when judges who misbehave are removed. It’s a symbol of strength, not weakness, that the system stands ready to cleanse itself.

…Some commentators suggest changes in the constitutional design, like having the judiciary remove corrupt or unethical judges. Congress wisely rejected this idea in 1980 but took a creative step. It empowered the judiciary to investigate complaints against judges and, if necessary, to ask Congress to start impeachment proceedings. Congress has always been free to impeach with or without outside prompting and free to ignore impeachment demands. The recommendation would not bind Congress but it would require the legislators to pay attention. That’s as far as the judiciary need go. The Founding Fathers called for a removal process that would be judicious though handled by politically accountable officials. Congress’s function, quite different from deciding criminal guilt or innocence, is to determine fitness for office.

The case of Judge Hastings vindicates that design. The first black Federal judge in Florida, he says he’s a victim of political and racial persecution, especially by his fellow judges who simply don’t like him. Unlike Judges Claiborne and Nixon, who were first convicted at criminal trials, Judge Hastings was acquitted of conspiring to take a bribe in return for going easy on two convicted hoodlums. His co-defendant, a lawyer, was convicted at a separate trial.

The judge now stands accused of lying at his trial, of leaking the contents of a wiretap order he signed, and bringing the bench into disrepute. Whatever the merits, his countercharge of racism is surely answered by the unanimous vote to impeach by a subcommittee headed by Representative John Conyers of Michigan.

Mr. Conyers, a civil rights champion, is especially well qualified to assure that this impeachment is not motivated by racism. So are many of his politically accountable colleagues. ”We did not wage that civil rights struggle merely to replace one form of judicial corruption with another,” the veteran black Congressman said, explaining his vote. ”In order to be true to our principles, we must demand that all persons live up to the same high standards.” Removal by the independent judiciary alone could never provide such credible assurance.

The Federal judiciary, overworked by litigants and abused by politicians, remains a constitutional success story. A vigilant Congress can help to keep it so, by showing its willingness when necessary to wield the impeachment power.

Bryan Preston reviews Nancy Pelosi’s impending decision on nominating Hastings to chair the House Intel Committee here.

Byron York recaps Conyer’s judgement against Hastings and highlights Article 16, which charged Hastings of using secret information from a wiretap to tip off a friend to steer clear of someone who was under investigation.

York reminds us of Pelosi’s vote (and the votes of Hoyer, Conyers, Rangel, Frank, and Waxman) to impeach Hastings here.

Liberal group CREW has posted transcripts of the House proceedings and a post-trial memeorandum.

Lefty Stephen Kaus reviews the docs at the Huffington Post:

There is damming evidence against Hastings, including (1) rulings that coincided with Borders’ promises to an under cover FBI agent, (2) Borders’ knowledge of Hastings’ future actions (like that he was going to vacate most of a forfeiture on a certain day for no legitimate legal reason), (3) an obviously coded telephone conversation in which Hastings confirmed that Borders had received the money shortly before rushing out his order returning $800,000 to the supposed briber and, (4) engaging in circuitous travel and telephone arrangements for which he has offered no credible explanation.

There is too much evidence to discuss here, none of which seems to point toward Hastings’ innocence. Most famously, Borders volunteered that Hastings would show up in the dining room of the Hotel Fontainebleau at 8 p.m. on September 16, 1981 to show that Hastings was actually in on the plot. Shortly before 8 p.m. on that date, FBI agents saw Hastings and a woman enter the hotel and go to the dining room.

Hastings claimed in his testimony he was there to meet Borders for dinner, but Hastings made a reservation for two and did not look for Borders or ask about him. In fact, Hastings and his friend were seated at a table for four and Hastings said nothing when the waiter immediately removed the other two place settings. Hastings did not mention Borders to his guest or indicate that they were meeting anyone. At the time, Borders was on a prescheduled trip to attend a boxing match in Las Vegas

And again, Borders did not testify, although he had immunity and although Borders testimony could have exonerated Hastings if Hastings were telling the truth.

Jacob Laskin profiled Hastings the corruptocrat in-depth in June at FrontPage Magazine. Also at FPM, Andrew Walden explores Hastings’ pre- and post-impeachment scandals and their implications:

Hastings has also been reported to be the subject of ethics investigations in 2004 by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, the Florida Elections Commission and the Federal Election Commission…

Hastings’ trips often include his “staff assistant”, reputed girlfriend Vanessa Griddine, who “earns” more than Hastings’ Chief of Staff. Griddine is not the only member of Hastings’ staff rumored to be romantically linked. Another “staff assistant” Patricia Williams is believed to “earn” as much as $129,000 per year. Williams, who represented Hastings in the impeachment trial, was disbarred in 1992 for “mishandling client funds” – acts which occurred about the time of the impeachment hearings. She is believed to be owed substantial legal fees by Hastings.

Hastings’ bio on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee website says: “Known to most as ‘Judge Hastings,’ he has had a distinguished career as an attorney, civil rights activist and judge. Appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, he became the first African American to serve as a Federal judge in the state of Florida, and he served in that position with distinction and honor for ten years.”

Here are a few items they left out.

Although Hastings was not impeached and convicted until 1988-89, his criminal activities began very shortly after his 1979 appointment to the federal bench by President Jimmy Carter. In December, 1981 a Florida Grand jury indicted Hastings on the bribery charge for which he was eventually impeached as well as several related felony charges. These charges made Hastings only the third federal judge to face criminal indictment in the 20th century. In 1983 he was acquitted even as his co-defendant was convicted.

Shortly thereafter, three federal judges took the unusual step of calling on the House of Representatives to impeach Hastings on the criminal charges as well as for claiming that the charges were racially motivated. In 1985 Hastings revealed the secret wiretap information to the Dade County Mayor. In 1987 a panel of 27 federal judges recommended impeachment of Hastings. In 1988 Hastings was impeached on charges including 14 counts of perjury during his 1983 trial. In 1989 Hastings was convicted by the Senate. In 1991 Hastings filed suit to overturn his conviction. In 1992, the conviction was remanded back to the Senate by a federal court ruling on a technicality. The timing—two months before Election Day– was perfect for Hastings. Hastings was elected from the newly-created heavily Democratic and mostly black 23rd Congressional District in November, 1992. In January, 1993, just before Hastings was sworn in as a Congressman, the Supreme Court ruled that courts have no authority to review Senate impeachment trials–effectively upholding Hastings’ impeachment.

He “keeps” two female companions—one a disbarred lawyer—on his staff. He was subject to three different investigations in 2004. Are we supposed to believe this person who so quickly fell into corruption after being named to the federal bench suddenly changed his ways in 1993?

Hastings’ well known criminal record and his choice to travel with a paid female “companion” are unspoken invitations to any foreign intelligence official or anti-American journalist seeking access to American secrets. His extensive foreign travels give him access to numerous such individuals. Hastings is already very dangerous to American security as a member of several intelligence-related House committees and sub-committees as well as the OSCE. But apparently Pelosi believes Hastings is not yet doing enough damage.

More on Griddine and Williams. See also here.

Martin Schram sums up the Pelosi philosophy: Ethics, schmethics.

Finally (for now), in his screed last week, Hastings urged his House Dem colleagues to read the floor statement of Senator Arlen Specter, the Vice Chairman of the Hastings Senate Trial Panel, who voted to acquit Hastings (are you surprised–not?). I read through the statement at Thomas, and I recommend this observation from Specter about Hastings testimony, which aptly sums up Hastings’ response to his critics now:

There was a disturbing quality to some of what Judge Hastings said in that he seemed more inclined to offer profuse details about matters that were not truly of interest than to respond to very specific questions on particularly relevant points.

Once a blusterer, always a blusterer.

Once a corruptocrat, always a corruptocrat.

It isn’t just right-wingers objecting to the possibility of a convicted judge for sale chairinng the House Intelligence Committee. In peacetime, Washington can chalk up Hastings’ resurrection to business as usual. In wartime, Washington has no business doing business as usual.

Remember, Nancy: Put the garbage out, not in.

***
Related:
Rep. Barney Frank doesn’t like being asked about Hastings
on Fox News. Seems he doesn’t like being asked about anything on Fox News.

Danny Glover has more at Beltway Blogroll.

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