Now that we have established that even ex-presidents can be tried in the Senate, the time may be right for a fresh look at ex-President Barack Obama’s presidential crimes and misdemeanors. To get the tumbrils rolling, let me suggest the following six areas of investigation, ranked from probably worthy of impeachment to possibly worthy of imprisonment.
The challenge here was not to find six but to whittle the list down to six. Left on the cutting room floor are Obama extra-constitutional DACA authorization, his duplicitous Iran deal, his misadventures in Syria and Iraq, his Nixonian “Internal Threat Program,” his responsibility for the lethal “Ferguson effect,” and his spying on journalists, all of which abuses dwarf any of President Trump’s misdeeds, real or imagined.
Said the late Andrew Breitbart in December 2010, “All I’ve been doing is eating, breathing, sleeping Pigford, researching Pigford … ” Breitbart was referring here to Pigford v. Glickman, a multi-tiered lawsuit that offered a sneak preview of what “reparations” might one day look like.
The money in play was originally awarded as compensation for black farmers allegedly denied USDA loans. Before the Pigford gravy train left the station, however, thousands of random blacks and other minorities, many of whom had not seen a farm since CBS canceled Green Acres, hopped on board.
Reporting on the story seemed to have died with Breitbart in 2012, but in April 2013, with the president safely reelected, the New York Times surprised its readers with a random act of journalism. In a major exposé, reporter Sharon LaFraniere of the Times described Pigford as “a runaway train, driven by racial politics, pressure from influential members of Congress and law firms that stand to gain more than $130 million in fees.”
A Berkeley professor said, “It was just a joke. I was so disgusted. It was simply buying the support of the Native-Americans.”
The Obama administration committed billions to female and minority farmers who had never even filed a bias claim. “From the start, the claims process prompted allegations of widespread fraud and criticism that its very design encouraged people to lie,” wrote LaFraniere, “Those concerns were played down as the compensation effort grew.” The Times estimated the total cost of the swindle at about $4.4 billion, in the words of one USDA analyst, “a rip-off of the American taxpayers.”
The unusually honest Times article tied Obama directly to this race-based boondoggle. As a senator, Obama had supported expanding Pigford compensation. As president, he pressed for an additional billion or so to make this happen. Obama’s billion-dollar demand maddened the career attorneys involved in the case given that the courts, including the Supreme Court, had already ruled against compensating the various female, Hispanic, Native American, and pretend black “farmers” who clamored for a slice of the Pigford pie.
Politics drove much of the decision-making. According to LaFraniere, President Bill Clinton had recruited a politico “known for his expertise in black voter turnout” to help launch the program. The political courtship of Native Americans was even more flagrant. A Berkeley professor who had prepared a 340-page report on the case told LaFraniere, “It was just a joke. I was so disgusted. It was simply buying the support of the Native-Americans.”
LaFraniere concluded her report with a focus on Thomas Burrell, head of an entity called the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association. She recounted his rollicking speech to a group of several hundred African Americans at a Little Rock church. “The judge has said since you all look alike, whichever one says he came into the office, that’s the one to pay — hint, hint. There is no limit to the amount of money, and there is no limit to the amount of folks who can file.”
True to form, Obama does not so much as mention Pigford in his newest memoir, A Promised Land. His readers will not miss it. They have likely never heard of it. The Times story produced not the faintest echo in the echo chamber.
In December 2010, Mexican banditos killed Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in Arizona using two AK-47-style weapons purchased courtesy of a bizarre program known as “Fast and Furious,” the logic of which continues to defy easy explanation 10 years after Terry’s murder.
Most likely, the White House thought that if American-purchased guns were allowed free flow across the border, a steady stream of news about Mexican mass killings with American weapons might persuade the American public to support a crackdown on guns. No other explanation makes sense. Terry’s death forced this covert program into the open. Obama responded by pleading ignorance. Attorney General Eric Holder responded by lying.
In February 2011, Holder’s Department of Justice denied there was any such program. A month later, Obama admitted to Mexican journalist Jorge Ramos that “there may be a situation here which a serious mistake was made.” Although insisting that neither he nor Holder had anything to do with Fast and Furious, Obama noted that Holder had assigned an inspector general to investigate. “And you were not even informed about it?” asked an incredulous Ramos. “Absolutely not,” said Obama.
With the media in his pocket, Holder stonewalled from day one. During a House hearing in May 2011, Republican Darrell Issa asked Holder when he first learned about the program. Said Holder, “I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.” Republican Jason Chaffetz caught the inconsistency. He noted that six weeks prior, on March 22, Obama had told Ramos that Holder had already launched an investigation. “How did it not come to your attention?” Chaffetz asked.
Holder had no good answer. He claimed the DOJ’s inspector general was looking into the program as though that were attention enough. He also showed no particular interest in responding to a House subpoena in anything resembling good faith.
Holder’s testimony on Fast and Furious scarcely made the news. On Comedy Central, reputed comedian Stephen Colbert, reflecting the indifference of Big Media, laughed off Fast and Furious as “the biggest scandal in history I have ever forgotten to talk about.” The family of Brian Terry did not quite get the joke. Nor did the families of the hundred or more Mexicans killed with Fast and Furious guns.
One final postscript, as reported by Politico in June 2012, the House voted to hold Holder in contempt of Congress for his failure to turn over relevant documents, “the first time Congress has taken such a dramatic move against a sitting Cabinet official.” Seventeen Democrats signed on to the resolution. Only 67 Democrats voted against it. The vote may have been the purest bipartisan moment in Obama’s misbegotten first term. In A Promised Land, Obama makes no mention whatsoever of the program or the death of Brian Terry.
In March 2011, President Obama authorized military intervention in Libya without congressional approval. To justify the impromptu attack Obama claimed that if he had delayed just one more day, “Benghazi, a city nearly the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.”
Two weeks later, Alan Kuperman, a professor of public affairs at the University of Texas and author of The Limits of Humanitarian Intervention, did the math Obama still refuses to do. Writing in the Boston Globe, Kuperman made the simple point, “The best evidence that Khadafy did not plan genocide in Benghazi is that he did not perpetrate it in the other cities he had recaptured.”
As Kuperman explained, rebel forces did what rebel forces have been doing since the dawn of the age of mass media: they faked a humanitarian crisis to save their futile cause. Kuperman had no reason to embarrass Obama. A Democrat, he had previously served as legislative director for then-Rep. Chuck Schumer.
Gaddafi, for all his despotic flaws, had recently abandoned his WMD program and his terrorist arm. Obama admits as much. “It’s fair to say that I found the idea of waging a new war in a distant country with no strategic importance to the United States to be less than prudent,” he writes in A Promised Land.
Readers curious about why he intervened may have to wait for Volume II of the memoir. This volume ends with Osama bin Laden’s death in May 2011. The unraveling of Libya that leads to September 2012 attack on the Benghazi consulate goes unreported. Hint: Obama will blame the fiasco on Hillary.
Democrats feared the Tea Party. Having grown used to manufacturing dissent, they had not seen a genuine, grassroots movement of such magnitude in the past half-century. To neutralize it, Obama played a card whose spots would be worn thin by the end of his presidency. Yes, Virginia, the race card.
Almost immediately after the Tea Party emerged, the IRS began using its vast power to suppress it.
“By September ,” Obama writes in A Promised Land, “the question of how much nativism and racism explained the Tea Party’s rise had become a major topic of debate on the cable shows.” The passive-aggressive Obama makes this observation as though the “cable shows” had some mission loftier than race-baiting conservatives.
If blind to the motives of Tea Party members, Obama could see clearly the threat they posed to his reelection. Obama loyalists had no trouble picking up the vibes from the White House. Still unclear is where these loyalists got their marching orders, but what is undeniable is that almost immediately after the Tea Party emerged, the IRS began using its vast power to suppress it.
In a predictably anodyne report issued in 2013, the inspector general of Obama’s Treasury Department traced the beginning of the IRS crackdown to early 2010. As the report conceded, “The IRS used inappropriate criteria that identified for review Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax-exempt status based upon their names or policy positions instead of indications of potential political campaign intervention.”
In 2014, Tea Party organizer Catherine Engelbrecht testified before the House on what “inappropriate criteria” felt like at the ground level. No sooner did she file to incorporate her two groups than she found herself “a target of this federal government.” Although neither she nor the business she ran with her husband had ever been audited before, in the next several years they would undergo more than 15 audits or investigations by governmental agencies.
These audits occurred in addition to the “multiple rounds of abusive inquiries” she endured from IRS agents wanting to see all her Facebook and Twitter entries, the contents of her speeches, and the schedule of her speaking engagements. In concluding her testimony, Engelbrecht asked the Committee “to end this ugly chapter of political intimidation.”
In 2017, the Department of Justice settled with Engelbrecht and other Tea Party groups that had been protesting IRS abuse since 2010. The damage, however, had long since been done. The silencing of the Tea Party helped assure Obama’s 2012 reelection. None of this story makes it past the gatekeepers of A Promised Land.
Much has been written about the various blunders that led to the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. Not until 2016, however, when Kenneth Timmerman released his book Deception, did anyone write in depth about the filmmaker Obama held responsible for those attacks: Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.
Timmerman describes the White House response to Nakoula’s video as “disgraceful, un-American, illegal, and a clear violation of Nakoula’s constitutional rights.” If anything, the major media’s treatment of Nakoula was more disgraceful. In the aftermath of Benghazi, journalists shamelessly conspired with the White House to sell a conspicuously false story that put an innocent man in prison.
The dissembling began while the consulate was in flames and the attack still underway. Needing to draw attention away from the administration’s duplicitous meddling in Libyan affairs, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released a memo on the night of September 11 blaming the attack on some “inflammatory material posted on the Internet.” Obama’s role in the creation of this story line has never been explored for the simple reason that no one knows where Obama was that night or what he did. He has never been asked.
As Timmerman explains in convincing detail, the video had nothing to do with the pre-planned assault on the Benghazi compound. “There were never any demonstrations in front of either U.S. diplomatic facility in Libya. Ever. That was just a full-throated lie,” he writes.
On Sunday, September 16, 2012, National Security Adviser Susan Rice dutifully played her role in the charade. “Our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous — not a premeditated — response to what had transpired in Cairo,” Rice told Jake Tapper on ABC’s This Week. She repeated the same obvious lie on four other shows that morning.
Knowing his base, Obama went looking for a reliably clueless audience to hear his take on Benghazi and found one on the David Letterman Show. “Here’s what happened,” Obama told his wide-eyed host a week after the assault. “You had a video that was released by somebody who lives here, sort of a shadowy character who — who made an extremely offensive video directed at Mohammed and Islam.”
The same president who defended the First Amendment rights of the Ground Zero imam showed a shocking indifference to those of Nakoula, an American citizen of long standing and a Coptic Christian whose co-religionists were being slaughtered by Muslims in Egypt.
With the media cheering on the administration, federal probation officers took Nakoula into custody on September 15 under the pretext of a parole violation. They held him in secret without charge or without access to an attorney — “an extrajudicial prisoner in the United States of America,” writes Timmerman. That a filmmaker was about to spend a year in federal custody for producing a perfectly legal satire inspired not a single Big Media journalist to cry foul.
It is always possible that Special Counsel John Durham will surprise us with his long-awaited report, but even if he does, Barack Obama will almost assuredly escape indictment. Based on recent precedent, impeachment would seem a likely way to proceed.
Obama deserves all the credit for what transpired — arguably the greatest political crime in American history.
Thanks to another Susan Rice misjudgment, we know about Obama’s presence at an unusual meeting that took place in the White House on January 5, 2017. In conference with Obama was his national security team including all the usual suspects: James Comey, John Brennan, Joe Biden, James Clapper, Rice, and acting Attorney General Sally Yates.
Following the meeting, Obama asked Yates and Comey to stick around along with Rice, his trusted scribe and factotum. Obama had a reason for singling out Comey and Yates. Unlike the others, they were staying on in their jobs. On the very day at the very moment Trump was being inaugurated, Rice sent to “self” a peculiar email. It read:
President Obama began the conversation by stressing his continued commitment to ensuring that every aspect of this issue is handled by the Intelligence and law enforcement communities “by the book.” The President stressed that he is not asking about, initiating or instructing anything from a law enforcement perspective. He reiterated that our law enforcement team needs to proceed as it normally would by the book.
What credibility Rice had to spare after her Benghazi dissembling she squandered with this comically disingenuous email. She was trying to absolve Obama of signing off on the coup against President-elect Donald Trump. Unfortunately for Obama, she proved to be just as clumsy and obvious as on the fateful Sunday shows.
Sens. Charles Grassley and Lindsey Graham saw right through the smokescreen. “Despite your claim that President Obama repeatedly told Mr. Comey to proceed ‘by the book,’ ” the good senators responded to Rice upon discovering the email, “substantial questions have arisen about whether officials at the FBI, as well as at the Justice Department and the State Department, actually did proceed ‘by the book.’ ”
If there were a book, CIA Director John Brennan likely ghosted it under Obama’s name. In authorizing a coup against an elected president, as only a sitting president could have done, Obama deserves all the credit for what transpired — arguably the greatest political crime in American history. And if that is not an impeachable offense, what is?
Jack Cashill’s latest book, Barack Obama’s Promised Land: Deplorables Need Not Apply, is now available for pre-order. His recent book, Unmasking Obama: The Fight to Tell the True Story of a Failed Presidency, is widely available.