Editor’s Choice: Scroll below for September 2014 news in our monthly roundup
Washington Post, Robert McDonnell guilty of 11 corruption counts, Matt Zapotosky and Rosalind S. Helderman, Sept. 4, 2014. A federal jury Thursday found former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, guilty of public corruption. U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer set a sentencing hearing for Jan. 6. The moment the first guilty verdict was read, Bob McDonnell closed his eyes tightly, shaking in his seat as he wept. Maureen McDonnell seemed to cry, too, though with her back to the courtroom, her tears were less obvious. At the eighth guilty count, Bob McDonnell buried his face in his hands. By the end, he was slumped in his chair, still crying. The former governor was convicted of 11 corruption-related counts pending against him, though acquitted of lying on loan documents. The former first lady was convicted of eight corruption-related charges, along with obstruction of justice. The jury’s verdict brings to a close a trial that seemed to grip the nation since it began in July with the shocking revelation by defense attorneys that the McDonnells’ marriage was shattered, and that would be a core element of their attempt to beat the charges. (Photo via Flickr.)
New York Times, New Book Says C.I.A. Official in Benghazi Held Up Rescue, David D. Kirkpatrick, Sept. 4, 2014. Five commandos guarding the C.I.A. base in Benghazi, Libya, in September 2012 say that the C.I.A. station chief stopped them from interceding in time to save the lives of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and an American technician during the attack on the diplomatic mission there. In a new book scheduled for release next week and obtained by The New York Times, the commandos say they protested repeatedly as the station chief ordered them to wait in their vehicles, fully armed, for 20 minutes while the attack on the diplomatic mission was unfolding less than a mile away.
Intercept/First Look, The CIA’s Mop-Up Man: L.A. Times Reporter Cleared Stories With Agency Before Publication, Ken Silverstein, Sept. 4, 2014. A prominent national security reporter for the Los Angeles Times routinely submitted drafts and detailed summaries of his stories to CIA press handlers prior to publication, according to documents obtained by The Intercept. Email exchanges between CIA public affairs officers and Ken Dilanian, now an Associated Press intelligence reporter who previously covered the CIA for the Times, show that Dilanian enjoyed a closely collaborative relationship with the agency, explicitly promising positive news coverage and sometimes sending the press office entire story drafts for review prior to publication. In at least one instance, the CIA’s reaction appears to have led to significant changes in the story that was eventually published in the Times. Dilanian’s emails were included in hundreds of pages of documents that the CIA turned over in response to two FOIA requests seeking records on the agency’s interactions with reporters. They include email exchanges with reporters for the Associated Press, Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and other outlets. In addition to Dilanian’s deferential relationship with the CIA’s press handlers, the documents show that the agency regularly invites journalists to its McLean, Va., headquarters for briefings and other events. Reporters who have addressed the CIA include the Washington Post‘s David Ignatius, the former ombudsmen for the New York Times, NPR, and Washington Post, and Fox News’ Brett Baier, Juan Williams, and Catherine Herridge.
CNN, Feds launch probe of Ferguson police department, Shimon Prokupecz, Pamela Brown and Greg Botelho, Sept. 4, 2014. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday a Justice Department investigation into the Ferguson, Missouri, police department, which has come under fire for its past practices in the uproar over the shooting of Michael Brown. “In Ferguson, our investigation will assess the police department’s use of force, including deadly force. It will analyze stops, searches and arrests. And it will examine the treatment of individuals detained at Ferguson’s city jail,” Holder told reporters. Such probes typically focus on paving the way for systemic reform going forward, rather than punishing misconduct from the past.
Washington Post, BP’s ‘gross negligence’ caused Gulf oil spill, federal judge rules, Steven Mufson, Sept. 4, 2014. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier ruled BP’s “gross negligence” and “willful misconduct” had caused the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
National Press Club, Ideological foes Nader, Norquist spar, but sometimes agree at NPC luncheon, Wes Pippert, Sept. 4, 2014. Two unlikely colleagues — consumer advocate Ralph Nader and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist — said they agree on many things but continued to disagree over campaign finance and governmental regulation in a joint appearance at a National Press Club luncheon Sept. 4. Nader also had sharp criticism of fellow Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. For his part, Norquist’s sharpest reaction came in response to a question from the audience, “Why do you hate government?”
Washington Post, ‘No one won in this,’ says chef who sparked McDonnell case, Rosalind S. Helderman and Matt Zapotosky, Sept. 3, 2014. The man responsible for sparking the investigation that could send former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife to prison is now waiting at his home some 900 miles away. As the executive chef at the governor’s mansion, chef Todd Schneider was a daily presence in the lives of Robert and Maureen McDonnell for nearly two years, until he was fired in March 2012, accused of stealing food from the mansion.
Consortium News, Who’s Telling the ‘Big Lie’ on Ukraine? Robert Parry, Sept. 2, 2014. Official Washington draws the Ukraine crisis in black-and-white colors with Russian President Putin the bad guy and the U.S.-backed leaders in Kiev the good guys. But the reality is much more nuanced, with the American people consistently misled on key facts. Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.
FireDogLake, Court: Releasing Images of Guantanamo Prisoner Would Incite Violence, Especially Since He Was Tortured, Kevin Gosztola, Sept. 2, 2014. A federal appeals court has ruled that the United States government can keep video and photos of high-profile Guantanamo Bay prisoner Mohammed al-Qahtani secret because it is well-known that he was tortured and abused and any future release of information depicting him could be used by terrorist groups to incite anti-American violence. The Center for Constitutional Rights filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. At issue are at least 58 FBI videos “depicting Qahtani’s activities in his cell and his interactions” with Defense Department personnel. Judge José A. Cabranes, shown in a file photo via Creative Commons, wrote the decision.
Center for Public Integrity via Huffington Post, Russian Bank Hires Former Senators Trent Lott, John Breaux To Lobby Against U.S. Sanctions, Alexander Cohen, Sept. 2, 2014. Gazprombank GPB (OJSC), a Russian bank targeted with sanctions by President Obama over the Ukraine crisis, has hired two former U.S. senators to lobby against those sanctions, according to a new disclosure filed with the Senate. Gazprombank is controlled by Russia’s state-owned energy company Gazprom, the country’s largest gas producer; it supplies about a third of Europe’s natural gas. In a filing submitted Friday and effective that day, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and former Senator John Breaux, D-La., are listed as the main lobbyists under the Gazprombank account for the firm Squire Patton Boggs, lobbying on “banking laws and regulations including applicable sanctions.” On July 16th, the U.S. Treasury Department added it to a list of Russian firms barred from debt financing with U.S. institutions.
Washington Post, McDonnell jury begins deliberations, Rosalind S. Helderman and Matt Zapotosky, Sept. 2, 2014. Jurors have begun deliberations in the federal corruption trial of former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen.
FireDogLake, Eric Cantor’s $3.5 Million Wall Street Job Isn’t Just for Cantor, It Is for Everyone Still in Congress, Jon Walker, Sept. 2, 2014. The perfectly legal way to influence policy makers is to simply let it be known that if they hold favorable voting positions, they will very likely be rewarded with lucrative jobs. There is no need for a quid pro quo or even explicit promise as long as a clear and consistent norm is established. This is what happened to Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA).
Washington Post, Post names Frederick J. Ryan Jr. as new publisher, Craig Timberg, Sept. 2, 2014. Washington Post owner Jeffrey P. Bezos is replacing Publisher Katharine Weymouth with Frederick J. Ryan Jr., a former Reagan administration official who was part of the founding leadership team of Politico, a primarily digital news organization that competes with The Post on political coverage, the company announced Tuesday. The departure of Weymouth, 48, ends eight decades of Graham family leadership of The Post, which her great-grandfather bought in 1933. Bezos, who acquired The Post for $250 million in a sale announced in August 2013, initially kept the senior leadership team intact. Ryan, 59, an attorney, spent years rising in the Reagan administration, eventually becoming a top presidential aide and key leader in the construction of his presidential library and numerous other initiatives after Reagan left office in 1989.
Justice Antonin Scalia has criticized the court’s acceptance of data found in amicus briefs. Photo by Noel St. John.
New York Times, Seeking Facts, Justices Settle for What Briefs Tell Them, Adam Liptak, Sept. 1, 2014. The Supreme Court received more than 80 friend-of-the-court briefs in the Hobby Lobby case. Most of these filings, also called amicus briefs, were dull and repetitive recitations of familiar legal arguments. Others stood out. They presented fresh, factual information that put the case in a broader context. The justices are hungry for such data. Their opinions are increasingly studded with citations of facts they learned from amicus briefs. But this is a perilous trend, said Allison Orr Larsen, a law professor at the College of William and Mary.