Pelosi's intel committee plan unraveling?

The story so far: Pelosi hates Harman and wants to suck up to the CBC; she proposed to install Hastings as HIC chair; Hastings was a crooked judge; lots of folks have been saying Don't do it!

I've tracked the saga here since May.

All this time, there seemed to be a safe compromise candidate available: Silvestre Reyes, #3 Dem on the HIC now. I had no information on the guy - mostly because I never looked - and was happy to pencil him in as the tertium quid (or should that be deus ex machina?).

However a commenter in a thread topped by a piece earlier today by Chris praising Pelosi's sagacity in dumping Harman flagged a TAPPED piece by Laura Rozen with some alarming news (if it's kosher) about Reyes.

It starts like this:

One thing you may not know about Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tx), now being considered as a compromise candidate to chair the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), is that he joined his friend and colleague, outgoing congressman Curt Weldon at a meeting with infamous Iran Contra arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar, against the advice of the Agency, and without informing the U.S. ambassador in Paris, as is proper protocol.

This may not yet be lifting your skirts up. But the more you dig - or, in my case, scraped with a toothbrush - the more names with alarming bios come out of the woodwork.

Ghorbanifar, for instance, was the middleman dealer in the Iran Contra business.

More recently, he has, it seems, been touting his intelligence wares - shades of Ahmed Chalabi - among impressionable Yanks since December 2001.

None more impressionable than GOP rep Curt Wheldon, who apparently used Ghorbanifar's best stuff for a book under the scholarly title Countdown to Terror: The Top-Secret Information that Could Prevent the Next Terrorist Attack on America... and How the CIA has Ignored it.

Weldon, who has troubles of his own - a fat novel in themselves - seems at one stage to have run a virtual one-man State Department.

Also cited by Rozen as present at the Ghorbanifar/Weldon/Reyes meeting was Dem rep Solomon Ortiz.

Why should two TX reps (Reyes in the 16th, Ortiz in the 27th) cultivate an interest in Iranian exiles?

Ortiz is ranking member on the Readiness subcommittee of Armed Services - I don't know if there's a plausible connection there.

One line of enquiry may be the infatuation that loads of reps of both parties have for MEK, the anti-Tehran insurgent group that I've written about a couple of times before.

(The names of neither Reyes nor Ortiz crop up in the pieces: perhaps they're there in the stuff the pieces link to - I've not checked.)

What all this needs is someone to do a whole lot of actual journalism on it.

But - it wouldn't take evidence of unethical or criminal conduct by Reyes to make him unworthy of being on the list for HIC chair: already what Rozen tells us about the meeting with Ghorbanifar - on which I'd be looking for corroborative sourcing - suggests a lack of judgement on Reyes' part.

The more fundamental question, however, is of what the Reyes case tells us about the judgement of the presumptive Speaker.

What did Pelosi know, and when did she know it? I'm not prejudging the answer - but, if the Rozen piece checks out, there will certainly need to be one.

Update [2006-11-18 13:5:15 by skeptic06]:

Rozen's piece has a couple of updates.

I'm staying well clear of anything that might be thought to be an attempt to corroborate her story.

The bottom line seems to be that she has not fully tied down Reyes's presence at the Ghorbanifar/Weldon/Ortiz meeting, though she

had understood from a reliable source that he was there.

But that Reyes's office has resoluted declined to tell her where he was at the time of the meeting, if, indeed, he wasn't at said meeting.

Oh - and in case you were wonder who the #4 guy on the HIC for the Dems is - Leonard Boswell of IA-3.

And he's a Blue Dog. (Just saying...)

Update [2006-11-19 17:24:30 by skeptic06]:

Under the heading of hostages to fortune, general web mooching comes up with a nice quote from Pelosi on the occasion of Jefferson's ejection from Ways and Means:

This is not about a court of law. This is about a higher ethical standard, and you know when it isn't being met.

You certainly do.

Tags: Alcee Hastings, Curt Weldon, House Intelligence Committee, Jane Harman, Leonard Boswell, Manucher Ghorbanifar, Pelosi, Silvestre Reyes, Solomon Ortiz (all tags)



Re: Pelosi's intel committee plan unraveling?

Hastings was a crooked judge

Would you be so kind as to provide some evidence a rational observer would find convincing or should we just believe you?

The outcome of the proceeding -- eight years after Hastings was first accused and five years after a jury found him not guilty -- was unclear until nearly the end of the first roll call. Both the chairman, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), and the vice chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), of the 12-member panel that heard the evidence in the case voted for acquittal. The 12 members of the panel voted 7 to 5 for conviction.

[The article in the Washington Post does not mention that not one of the 7 senators voting for conviction actually read the evidence as Bingaman and Specter took it upon themselves to do. Concluding:]

committee Chairman Bingaman said that "the evidence, although furnishing grounds for investigation and trial, does not provide a sound basis upon which I can vote for conviction." itics/campaigns/junkie/links/hastings102 189.htm

But like the 7 senators, skeptic takes it upon himself to judge the judge guilty without examining the evidence.  Shouldn't liberals demand a bit more than unexamined charges to determine an accused (one of their own yet but that is immaterial) is guilty of a crime of which he was acquitted?

I have no comment about Reyes because I haven't really looked at the evidence.  

Best,  Terry

by terryhallinan 2006-11-18 12:30AM | 0 recs
It's a burden of proof thing

So what if he's not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt?

That's the standard in a criminal court. When the accused can go to jail if found guilty.

The standard in the court of politics is rather lower! No one goes to jail; some of them, like Hastings, even get reelected over and over.

By that standard, I'd say Hastings was a crook. In an ideal world, I'd probably want some fancy circumlocution to make the burden of proof point clear.

But, for short, among the savvy aficionados round here who know life (especially political life) is messy and murky, I think, as shorthand, crook will do.

by skeptic06 2006-11-18 02:27AM | 0 recs
Re: It's a burden of proof thing

So what if he's not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt?

I don't give a damn about that.  I do give a damn when honest men and women are smeared and want no part of those who do so without good evidence.

Now would you like to present evidence that Hastings is guilty of accepting bribes and lying about it?

I haven't seen any and have noted that those senators who actually looked at the evidence found it wanting.  That was not a criminal trial and was even of dubious constitutionality.  (A committe made the judgment instead of the Senate as provided in the Constitution.)  The standards were about as loose as you can get.

Is Swift Boating of politicians good enough for you?

Best,  Terry

by terryhallinan 2006-11-18 02:54AM | 0 recs
Pelosi's competence is what matters here

Let's take it from the top.

Hastings does not matter a rat's cojones in and of himself. That's why I'm not terribly interested in retrying his case of 18 years ago.

The only reason he gets star billing now on the stage of Congressional politics is his contribution to the test of Pelosi's judgement that is the decision on the HIC chair for the 110th.

Now, what Pelosi did was, months before the election, let it be known that, if the Dems organized the 110th, her enemy Harman was going to be kicked off the HIC and Hastings was going to be installed in the chair.

At that stage - back in May - there was a two-fold explanation that fitted the facts as they were known:

  1. Pelosi was letting her personal animus towards Harman drive her actions in a crucial election year, regardless of the best interests of the Dem party; and

  2. Pelosi was making a payoff to the CBC to soothe them in anticipation of needing to kick Dollar Bill off Ways and Means before the general (the FBI raided Jefferson's house in August 2005).

This move - months ahead of the election - tracks with another dubious move presumably orchestrated by Pelosi, Murtha's announcement in June of his run for Majority Leader.

And Pelosi's leak of her 'decision' on the HIC chair came whilst (as I recall) the Dems were still using the (later quietly dropped - and thank Goodness!) culture of corruption line. Talk about your mixed messages!

Then came the Jefferson eviction from Ways and Means - in which the CBC fought tooth and nail to let their guy keep his place. (If Pelosi thought her early announcement of Hastings' promotion was going to smooth things over with the CBC on Jefferson, she had been sorely misled.)

But that didn't matter: Hastings was in the on-deck circle.

Then the Dems got into winning position; and the leadership apparently started leaking about Reyes as a compromise - that I wrote about on October 23.

To which the CBC says,

The CBC would not look kindly on that.

Who's leading this party?

And now we seem to have a Reyes problem.

And I'm not aware that, in the last few days, we've had any solid steer from the Dem leadership on how it's going to go down.

How is Hastings a crook - politically speaking? Because he got tried and convicted in impeachment hearings in which CBC icon Conyers was one of the prosecutors.

That's the banker here: if Conyers felt that this was the Scottsboro Boys all over again, why didn't he shout it from the rooftops at the time, rather than going on the prosecution team?

The constitutionality, quality of the evidence, whether the guy was actually guilty is irrelevant: politically, he's guilty.

Let's take a more recent example for comparison: Tom DeLay. Last time I looked DeLay had been indicted, but no trial had begun on the charges.

So, according to the law, he's innocent. Innocent until proven guilty: that's the Constitution, right?

Google up "tom delay" crooked and you get - wait for it - 284,000 items returned!

See, according to lefties, politically, DeLay is crooked!

Will that change if he's found not guilty? I somehow doubt it.

So what, since the election, do we have? First off, we have Pelosi insisting on backing her guy Murtha loudly and publicly (that letter last Sunday), despite knowing (I hope she knew - leaderships need to count!) that he was most likely to lose, and lose badly.

An error of judgement - but not the most serious in the world.

Now, straight off the back of Hoyer/Murtha, we're looking at the prospect of her putting Hastings in the HIC. A guy who is, politically speaking, a crook.

For no apparent compelling reason, other than to shaft Harman and goose the CBC.

If she does that - and, last time I looked, she hadn't announced her decision - her credibility takes a serious hit.

The likely result: the Blue Dogs and their friends among the mods will be bitterly resentful, and motivated to look across the aisle to cause mischief; the CBC will be high-fiving at their success in coercing the Speaker-Presumptive, and looking for other opportunities to tighten the rack a notch or two more.

And the rest of the Dem reps, previously rejoicing at being part of a Dem-controlled Congress at long last - what will they be thinking? How impressed will they be right now at the navigational qualities of the Captain of the good ship SS Democrat?

by skeptic06 2006-11-18 07:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Pelosi's competence is what matters here

Hastings does not matter a rat's cojones in and of himself.

I beg to differ.

It matters a great deal if people are smeared and trashed in the interest in some perceived higher good.  Smearing opponents in the interest of some higher good has been the tactic the Republicans have used for a lengthy period to keep from having to discuss the gaping flaws in their rule and ruin.

Alcee Hastings was appointed by Jimmy Carter as the first African-American federal judge in Florida.  It was a significant milestone for a people still looked down on by many and certainly for an area that did not have a pretty history.  His views are a beacon of light in many dark areas.  I would note one vote in support of gay rights though his own constituency is among the most backward in that regard.  Alcee Hastings voted against the Patriot Act, he has consistently supported civil rights for all.

Judge Hastings was an obvious target for those who didn't cotton much to the uppity former slaves getting their share of the pie.  There has never been much but the sworn word of FBI agents that their target was bribed and then Judge Hastings was charged with lying about it.  The criminal jurgy acquitted.  The senators who actually read the evidence that you won't found the jury did good.  Those who would not read the evidence, who pay no heed to the record, care nothing about the history of the area and the people determine Alcee Hastings is unfit to chair Intelligence.  I personally can't think of anyone better than someone who actually cares about rights and knows how they can be abused.

Best,  Terry

by terryhallinan 2006-11-18 11:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Pelosi's competence is what matters here

What I'm talking about here is Pelosi's decision on the HIC for the 110th, the effect it will have on the fortunes of the Dem House party, and the test that it constitutes of her judgement as leader of that party. It's Pelosi who is under the microscope, precisely because she is the Speaker-Presumptive, and how she manages the party over the next two years will have a good deal of influence on whether the Dems retain control in the 111th.

Hastings is only significant to those questions as being Pelosi's presumptive pick for the HIC chair.

What he did or didn't do 20 years has no effect on current politics, except in connection with the HIC chair selection. It's dead and buried; it evidently has no effect on his standing in his district; I'd be fairly sure that a lot of folks who are pretty clued about Congressional politics weren't aware of the ins and outs of the case - until Pelosi propelled him onto the political stage back in May.

First of all, she leaked that she was canning Harman, apparently for no good reason. Which automatically called her judgement into question straight off the bat - about the timing and the motive.

And naturally put her replacement under scrutiny: when folks found out that the beneficiary of Harman's ejection was an ex-judge who had been impeached and convicted of bribery - well, that gave a separate ground for their doubting Pelosi's judgement.

In politics, appearance often (usually?) matters more than substance. Stuff about a pol which is either trivial or a flat lie can be lethal to his career. Ask Gore (Love Canal, Love Story) or Kerry ('looks French', cheesesteak with Swiss cheese - or the Swifties).

And appearances with Hastings look really bad. But only because Pelosi decided to shine the spotlight on him.

She takes the spotlight off, by crossing him off her HIC dance-card - Hastings' impeachment goes back to being a footnote in history.

Except then, of course, she has the CBC to deal with.

by skeptic06 2006-11-18 03:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Pelosi's competence is what matters here

What I'm talking about here is Pelosi's decision on the HIC for the 110th, the effect it will have on the fortunes of the Dem House party, and the test that it constitutes of her judgement as leader of that party.

So it is best to throw the black man under the bus because it will look bad to white folk if she doesn't?

Is that what you are saying or is there something I am missing?

appearances with Hastings look really bad.

Not to me.

Not to everyone.

I like those who stand for something and let the - ahh, ummm - appearances go hang.

Joe Lieberman's fine crew was said to be absolutely delighted that Ned Lamont was bookended by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton when he gave his victory speech.  Is that the kind of appearances you are talking about?

I would be thrilled if Nancy Pelosi chose a liberal concerned with civil rights to chair Intelligence no matter what people think.  The bad guys will think badly about whoever she chooses.  Sometimes it is even good politics to do the right thing.

Take care, skeptic.

Best,  Terry

by terryhallinan 2006-11-18 03:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Pelosi's competence is what matters here

As I've said, the only interest anyone has in Hastings's activities of 20 years ago derives from Pelosi's apparent choice of him as HIC chairman.

And, for the moment, at a national level, only political aficionados know him from a hole in the ground.

Only if Pelosi gives him the HIC chair will the impeachment-related stuff get wide coverage.

I've not seen polling - but I suspect that if you put the basic facts to voters you'd get an overwhelmingly negative response.

If anyone is throwing Hastings under the bus, it will be Pelosi if she insists on giving him HIC!

He would likely be one of the GOP's most potent weapons in the 08 campaign - as well as a continual source of hope of GOP recovery in the meantime.

All thanks to Pelosi's decision - if that's the way it goes - to give him the HIC chair.

Is there a racial element to this? I think so.

I think it's hard to believe that a white man with the same record as Hastings would have been considered for the HIC chair.

The only plausible reason why Hastings might get the gig is for Pelosi to curry favor with the CBC.

And - if wiser counsels prevail, and he does not get the gig, Pelosi will have landed herself in a whole heap of trouble with the CBC for failing to deliver what she never should have promised.

So, either way, she starts off her tenure as Speaker with an unnecessary mess of her own making.

And, as for Hastings - I've not interested myself in historical events.

But I see from his 2005 financial disclosure (via Judicial Watch) numbers in need of some explanation: on page 2 of the form are listed Hastings's assets: between $1,000 and $15,000 in the Congressional Credit Union.

Whilst on page 3 we find a list of his liabilities: between $2.13 million and $7.35 million - described as legal fees.

Now, even allowing for the fact that personal residences are not declarable, it inevitably leads one to wonder how he has escaped bankruptcy.

What exactly are these legal fees? Do they relate to the impeachment in 1989?

And - one of the creditors is listed as Patricia Williams. This apparently is the same Patricia Williams who was disbarred in 1992 (PDF) for mishandling client funds.

And, perchance, the same Patricia Williams who is Deputy District Director in Hastings' Congressional office.

This rightie rag says Williams is Hastings' long-term girlfriend.

So already, with half an hour's Googling, there's some material, some of it official, some of it rather less credible, none of it proof of wrongdoing, but providing fodder for further investigation.

No one's going to think it worthwhile investigating if Hastings remains an obscure rep from FL.

But, if he becomes one of those MCs made privy to the nation's secrets (or some of them), chances are that will change.

by skeptic06 2006-11-18 05:24PM | 0 recs
Crime and Punishment

according to lefties, politically, DeLay is  crooked!

Will that change if he's found not guilty? I somehow doubt it.

I am no more in favor of political trials than I am in any kind of witch trials.

DeLay should be found guilty or not guilty based on the evidence rather than on his politics.  Why do you disagree?  What kind of country do you wish to live in?

You are quite right that I will not accept a jury's word alone in case of a finding of guilty or not guilty.  No one should.

Google up "tom delay" crooked and you get - wait for it - 284,000 items returned!


Best,  Terry

by terryhallinan 2006-11-18 11:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Crime and Punishment

My point was that DeLay is accounted to be crooked in the court of politics, while still to be tried in the criminal court.

Two different arenas, two different standards of proof, two different sets of purposes and effects for the judgement made.

No one's saying that DeLay shouldn't get a regular trial under the criminal law.

But, in politics, there is no trial. It's public opinion that counts, conditioned by the media that lefties love so much and the pols who live and die by its favors.

by skeptic06 2006-11-18 03:11PM | 0 recs

The Google, it's an amazing thing.

by Michael Bersin 2006-11-18 05:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Pelosi's intel committee plan unraveling?

Question: If Alcee Hastings were a Republican, would we criticize his being personally hand-selected by the Republican Speaker of the House over the more senior member of a committee and installed as chair?  I'm pretty sure that Mydd and dailykos would be raising a mile-high red flag about corruption, rather than defending him because he was never indicted or sent to jail.  And they'd be right to question the ethics behind the Speaker's choice. Hastings was "impeached on bribery charges and removed from the bench"!  Let's not have a lower-standard when it comes to judging the ethics of our guys than we do for theirs.

This is the wrong fight for Pelosi at the wrong time for the wrong reasons.

by maconblue 2006-11-18 06:36PM | 0 recs
Dems change rules re black reps

"The CBC is an influential player in Pelosi's 202-member Democratic caucus, and its members are sensitive on this issue. They remember that black lawmaker Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) lost his January 2003 bid to be the intelligence committee's ranking Democrat when Pelosi gave the post to Harman. Bishop and his allies said he had greater seniority, noting that Harman had quit the House in 1998 to run unsuccessfully for governor. But Democratic leaders, in persuading Harman to reclaim her seat in 2000, had restored her committee seniority." tent/article/2005/09/26/AR2005092601395. html

Jane Harman got her seniority back, but Cynthia McKinney didn't.

"McKinney's goal was to get 51 percent and leave the lobby in the starting blocks, and that's what happened. With grassroots support and little money, and no help from the national party, she staged what should have been called the political comeback of the year. But as she found out, the party wasn't ready to deal with her back in office. One of the most obvious expressions of this was its refusal to give her back her 10 years of seniority."


"As it happens, Pelosi was in San Francisco two days later speaking at a packed town hall meeting at the Marina Middle School in the wealthy Marina district, as far away from Bay View Hunters Point as you can get without stepping in the Bay. At what turned out to be an abbreviated press conference, I told her what McKinney had said and asked her why she hadn't given her seniority back when she was re-elected to Congress. It was not a question she was anticipating.

"As a matter of course," she responded, "seniority is not given back when members come back to Congress."

I informed her that other members of Congress who had been re-elected after leaving office had been given their seniority and asked her who made the decision in McKinney's case: "It's a decision of the steering committee of the leadership," Pelosi coolly replied.

And so, I said, it was decided not to give Cynthia McKinney back her seniority, and that's when Pelosi became a bit flustered.

"Cynthia got ... uh ... Cynthia chose to leave the.... She chose, she left Congress ... uh ... she was voted out," Pelosi stammered, "But there's nothing, nothing there that says, when members come back, that other members should be disrupted in terms of their seniority."" blankfort_mckinney_seniority.html

by Sonya 2006-11-18 11:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Pelosi's intel committee plan unraveling?

Question: If Alcee Hastings were a Republican, would we criticize his being personally hand-selected by the Republican Speaker of the House over the more senior member of a committee and installed as chair?

What liberal on earth would criticize a choice of a civil libertarian over a Bush stooge as chairman of Intelligence in the unimaginable event it was done by a Republican Speaker?

I don't know who "we" is.

Best,  Terry

by terryhallinan 2006-11-19 12:17AM | 0 recs
The point is clear

I think the guy's question is pretty clear and reasonable, and you're avoiding it.

He says who 'we' is in context: it's the folks at MyDD and DKos.

And that 'we' have been pretty hot on calling GOP wrongdoers without observing the niceties of innocent until proven guilty.

Whatever good he may have done in the past, Hastings as HIC chair is a humungous liability to the Dem House party in 2007, and Pelosi must have known that going in.

It's her call now.

by skeptic06 2006-11-19 06:04AM | 0 recs
Re: The point is clear

He says who 'we' is in context: it's the folks at MyDD and DKos.

You now speak for the opinion of all "the folks at MyDD and Dkos?"  You sure none of them care about civil rights and justice and all side with Bush and his stooges?

Could be.  It hasn't been fully apparent to me but then I am kinda slow as you know.

Now finally could you provide some evidence of wrongdoing by Alcee Hastings?  I don't take mere charges and star chamber proceedings as meaningful. Hope you understand.

Best,  Terry

by terryhallinan 2006-11-19 08:42AM | 0 recs
Re: The point is clear

I think I'll leave you to snuggle up with your straw men.

by skeptic06 2006-11-19 08:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Pelosi's intel committee plan unraveling?

Hastings was "impeached on bribery charges and removed from the bench"!

We've been over that travesty - over and over it.  Do you really need a repeat?

Perhaps you would like to look at Matt Stoller's post with pictures of striking janitors in Houston being trampled by horses.  

Well truthfully I don't know if a single striker was actually trampled though an 83-year-old felon may have had her hand stepped on but the pictures tell a story.

I hope Pelosi does the right thing and does appoint Hastings.  What a great blow for justice and common decency that would be.

I don't have great hope she will.

Best,  Terry

by terryhallinan 2006-11-19 12:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Pelosi's intel committee plan unraveling?

Well, a lot of us had become beyond weary with regards to the Republicans' corruption.

So now we are supposed to reward Alcee Hastings for being an impeached judge?

Yes, it was a long time ago.
But an integral part of our victory involved cleaning up Congress.

And making Hastings a committee chair doesn't move this forward by a long shot.

by v2aggie2 2006-11-19 05:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Pelosi's intel committee plan unraveling?

now we are supposed to reward Alcee Hastings for being an impeached judge?

Of course not.

Hastings should be treated like anyone wrongly accused.

You do not clean yourself up by getting dirty.

Best,  Terry

by terryhallinan 2006-11-20 10:35PM | 0 recs


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