Schiff, Nadler and Mueller Have Reincarnated McCarthyism
I was listening to a book recently that covered Robert F. Kennedy’s metamorphosis from supporter to foe of the infamous McCarthy hearings during the “Red Scare” of the 1950s. I was struck by the parallels to the current targeting of President Donald Trump and his associates.
House Democrats like Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who are in the midst of launching multiple investigations following the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report, would do well to learn from RFK’s experience.
Though a lifelong Democrat, Kennedy took a position on Republican Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations as an assistant counsel early in his legal career in 1952.
McCarthy was a friend of the family and Kennedy strongly believed in the committee’s mission of rooting out communists and Soviet sympathizers believed to be lurking within the federal government.
There were legitimate concerns at the time that the Soviets (Russians) were actively trying to undermine the U.S. both at home and abroad.
The Senate hearings were taking place in the aftermath of the criminal trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted in 1951 and later executed for spying on behalf of Moscow, activities that included handing over vital nuclear weapons technology.
A pivotal moment in the McCarthy hearings came in 1954 when the Wisconsin senator targeted the U.S. Army.
Kennedy had left his position working for the lawmaker the previous year (having served for only six months) because he was disgusted by the tactics being employed by the senator and chief counsel on the committee, including some baseless accusations being made against American citizens.
In February 1954, during the McCarthy-Army hearings, Kennedy returned to the committee, but this time working for the Democratic minority.
The televised hearings served to greatly discredit McCarthy. According to Kennedy biographer Larry Tye, RFK spent the proceedings feeding questions to Democratic senators meant to undermine the allegations being made by McCarthy.
The Army’s chief counsel, Joseph Welch, confronted McCarthy after the senator accused the attorney of trying to hire an alleged communist sympathizer for his legal staff, saying to McCarthy that the man would “always bear a scar needlessly inflicted by you.”
When the senator persisted in the line of questioning, Welch fired back, “Let us not assassinate this lad, further. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last. Have you left no sense of decency?”
“Mr. McCarthy, I will not discuss this further with you,” he added. “And if there is a God in Heaven it will do neither you nor your cause any good. I will not discuss it further.”
The gallery erupted in applause at Welch’s takedown of McCarthy.
According to Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in his 2018 book, “American Values: Lessons I Learned from My Family,” his father would ultimately help draft the censure resolution against McCarthy for conduct unbecoming a senator, which passed the Republican-controlled chamber in December 1954 by a vote of 67-22.
McCarthy was stripped of his chairmanship and his reign of intimidation and terror ended.
Schiff, Nadler and Mueller and his investigators would do well to revisit this history. They have engaged in McCarthy-like tactics during these last many months.
Schiff faced his own, “Have you no decency, sir?” moment when Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee unanimously called for him to step down as chairman during a hearing late last month.
Rep. Michael Conaway of Texas read a letter to Schiff signed by all nine of the GOP members, stating they have “no faith” in his leadership in light of his past and present promotion of a “demonstrably false narrative” that the president and his campaign colluded with Russia.
The Republicans recounted Schiff’s repeated public statements “implied knowledge of classified facts supporting the collusion allegations.”
They reminded the California Democrat that in addition to the Mueller investigation, the Intelligence Committee had “conducted a thorough investigation related to the 2016 Russian efforts to interfere in the elections,” finding no evidence that Trump or his campaign colluded with Moscow.
Schiff has continued to lob allegations against Trump and pledged to continue to investigate him, tweeting on Sunday, “Did the President obstruct justice? Yes. Was it worse than Watergate? Yes.”
Interestingly, the chairman would not commit to looking into whether the Steele dossier is the product of Russian disinformation, “a theory that has gained traction in the wake of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report,” according to The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“In an interview with Fox’s Chris Wallace, Schiff largely refused to discuss the dossier, a remarkable shift for the Democrat, who endorsed Steele’s unverified allegations about Trump associates during a public House Intelligence Committee hearing more than two years ago,” Chuck Ross wrote for TheDCNF. “Schiff favorably cited dossier author Christopher Steele by name six times during his opening remarks at an Intelligence Committee hearing on March 20, 2017.”
Like Schiff, Nadler is on the investigate-Trump warpath.
On Monday, he issued a subpoena to former White House Counsel Don McGahn to testify.
“The Special Counsel’s report, even in redacted form, outlines substantial evidence that President Trump engaged in obstruction and other abuses,” his subpoena reads in part.
Nadler has also called for Mueller to testify before the Judiciary Committee. The New York Democrat is further demanding a fully un-redacted Mueller report and all of its underlying evidence.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Nadler suggested impeachment of Trump is on the table in regard to obstruction of justice, despite Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein finding the president had not done so, based on the special counsel’s report.
It should be noted Rosenstein launched Mueller’s probe in the first place.
Finally, the special counsel’s team engaged in McCarthy-like strong-arm tactics during the course of their investigation.
Trump associates — such as retired Army Gen. Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos — were smeared and forced to plea to process crimes that had nothing to do with Trump’s alleged collusion with Russians.
Additionally, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and friend Roger Stone were subject to pre-dawn, weapons-drawn FBI raids at their homes for alleged white-collar crimes.
Last May, a federal judge upbraided Mueller’s prosecutors for the targeting of Manafort for wrongdoing unrelated to Russian collusion.
“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort,” U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III told Mueller’s team. “You really care about what information Mr. Manafort can give you to lead you to Mr. Trump and an impeachment, or whatever.”
Ellis pressed Mueller prosecutor Michael Dreeben about how the charges brought against Manafort — stemming back over a decade — can legitimately be tied to the special counsel’s mandate to investigate Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election.
“Our investigative scope does cover the activity” in the indictment, Dreeben told the judge.
“Cover bank fraud in 2005 and 2007? Tell me how!” Ellis fired back.
In an inexplicable move, the report finally generated by Mueller’s team, which included no known Republicans, stated they could not “exonerate” Trump of obstructing justice. Quite a statement, given they found he had not colluded with Russia. In other words, the president had nothing to hide!
Further, Trump allowed the investigation to proceed unfettered, not claiming executive privilege over his staff, despite some of Mueller’s team having glaring conflicts of interest.
I graduated from law school and passed a couple of state bar exams, but it doesn’t take three years of legal education to know that in the United States the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Former U.S. attorney Andrew McCarthy made the point well in a scathing Op-Ed regarding Mueller not exonerating Trump on obstruction.
“This is unbecoming behavior for a prosecutor and an outrageous shifting of the burden of proof: The constitutional right of every American to force the government to prove a crime has been committed, rather than to have to prove his or her own innocence,” he wrote.
While Andrew McCarthy is right on the money, history has not treated Joseph McCarthy kindly.
According to RFK Jr., his father was often questioned how he ever could have worked for the senator.
Kennedy had a detailed defense for his actions at the ready, but many times, his son related he simply responded, “I was wrong.”
It’s time to bring this McCarthy-like targeting of Trump and his associates to an end.
The question is will Schiff, Nadler and other congressional Democrats be big enough to follow in the footsteps of a liberal icon and admit they are wrong?
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