Extortion is Not Supposed to be a Fad, Senators

(photo: plastic lemonade)

First, Sen. Richard Shelby put a blanket hold on all executive branch nominees to extort the executive branch into rigging procurement to guarantee that the company he favored won a bid on a defense contract. Oh, and he wanted the FBI to build a crime lab in his state, too.

And now Sen. Lindsey Graham is copycatting, placing a hold on the closing of Gitmo hostage to extort the Department of Justice into not having a civilian trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. And Graham’s not being subtle about it. In a well-researched piece for The New Yorker, Jane Mayer breaks some amazing scoops:

“Rahm had a good relationship with Graham, and believed Graham when he said that if you don’t prosecute these people in military commissions I won’t support the closing of Guantánamo. . . Rahm said, ‘If we don’t have Graham, we can’t close Guantánamo, and it’s on Eric!’ ”

[snip]

Graham told [Mayer], “It was a nonstarter for me. There’s a place for the courts, but not for the mastermind of 9/11.” He said, “On balance, I think it would be better to close Guantánamo, but it would be better to keep it open than to give these guys civilian trials.” Graham, who served as a judge advocate general in the military reserves, vowed that he would do all he could as a legislator to stop the trials.

Okay, Senators Graham and Shelby? This is the U.S. Senate, not middle school. This blackmail thing?  It‘s not like, “Oh, the cool kids are wearing Hello Kitty wristwatches” and you need to follow the fad.

There is zero logical nexus between whether or not to close Gitmo and whether or not to have civilian trials, so the only reason for making the kind of statement quoted above, is quid pro quo. While I’m not suggesting that this is a Hobbs Act violation (read the link, trust me), it certainly smells just as bad.

Kate Martin, the Center for National Security Studies director, warns, “We can’t have a situation where political pressure forces the federal government to forgo criminal prosecution. That would mean the system is fundamentally broken.”

Message for Rahm, from Marcy Wheeler:

Remind me. Didn’t Rove and the Bush White House get in trouble for this kind of tampering with DOJ issues?

Really, the White House needs to BACK OFF and let the Department of Justice and the federal courts do their job. And a bunch of non-lawyers with ZERO expertise in this area should NOT be part of the decision making process, much less driving that process. Hasn’t Rahm done enough damage to the President with his mishandling of the healthcare bill? Why do you want him to screw up something he knows even less about?

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