Friday, January 19, 2018

Brittmarie Janson Perez, "Sen. Dianne Feinstein and the American Civil Spirit"

It's my privilege today to share with you another essay by Brittmarie Janson Perez, in which she lauds Senator Dianne Feinstein for her many extremely important contributions to sustaining the American civil spirit — contributions that Brittie thinks the mainstream media have continued to overlook as recently as this month, when Senator Feinstein released Glenn Simpson's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Brittie's essay follows:

In the days after the Republican Convention, the mainstream media failed to censure Rudy Giuliani, Chris Christie, and Mike Flynn. A former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the governor of the state of New Jersey, and a three-star general had descended to the political gutter. Screaming like crazy caudillos, they had judged Hillary Clinton, sentenced her, and turned convention delegates into a lynch mob shouting "Lock her up!" The choir of reproof against this dangerous behavior should have been so loud and immediate as to discourage any repetition. But the mainstream media let them get away with it.

This failure was important because the American civil spirit—the sense of what's good and what's bad for our civil society—needs to be reinterpreted and strengthened continually. Currently, President Trump's racist remarks have evoked a tsunami of reproof. In the early '50s thousands were scared of Senator McCarthy—even President Eisenhower was reluctant to confront him—until the tide of public opinion against his anti-Communist excesses started turning with the words of Joseph Nye Welch: "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

This time, we should not ignore what Senator Dianne Feinstein has done to boost a vital component of the American civil spirit: to resist the abuse of power by exposing it.

On 9 January, Senator Feinstein, in a bold and unexpected move, released the transcript of the testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committte on 22 August 2017 of Glenn Simpson, whose firm, Fusion GPS, had hired Christopher Steele, a retired MI6 specialist on Russia, to look into Trump's odd relationship with Russia. The results of this investigation were a number of memoranda, called a "dossier," which spoke of the Kremlin's collusion with the Trump campaign. Simpson's testimony comprised the questions and answers put to him in a 10-hour session but, though Simpson had repeatedly pleaded for the transcript of the session to be made public, the Judiciary Committee's chair, Sen. Chuck Grassley, refused.

For months, in the committee, Senator Grassley had been peddling the tabloid-type conspiracies spun by Trump and his brownshirts in Congress. They alleged that the "dirty dossier" put out by Fusion in 2016 had been used by the FBI to kickstart its Russia investigation. What they hoped to achieve was a total discrediting of the FBI and Special Counsel Mueller's investigation.

While it is true that part of Steele's Moscow research was paid for by lawyers of Hillary Clinton's campaign, it was never used in her campaign. It was Steele, alarmed at the threat for our national security of his findings, who had contacted the FBI. However, the FBI had already begun investigating the Trump campaign's relationship with Russia. 

On 4 January, five days before Feinstein released Simpson's testimony, Jake Novak of CNBC reported that Grassley, in Trump's war with the FBI, was reputed to be his most important and staunchest ally. "This is a fabulous development for the Trump team because it now has a respected and powerful ally joining it in its criticism and suspicions about Comey, the Justice Department and the FBI," Novak wrote. He added:

It's important to note here that Grassley has already been perhaps the most effective ally for President Trump since he took office. It was Grassley who cleared away the last vestiges of Democratic Party obstructionism against the Trump judicial nominees back in November. That move helped President Trump set the record for most federal judges appointed in the first year of a presidency. No matter how long Donald Trump remains as president, the continuing pace of judicial nominations coming out of the White House will have a very long lasting and important impact. Without Grassley, that simply doesn't happen.

It must have been personally difficult for Feinstein to go behind Grassley's back not only because she was known to be very respectful of the Senate's traditions, but because she sits beside him at the Judiciary Committee hearings. However, in this, Feinstein was not alone, as she had the support of committee Democrats. Her office released the following explanation on 9 January 2018:

Washington—Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today released the transcript of Glenn Simpson's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee with the support of committee Democrats. Simpson is the co-founder of Fusion GPS. 
"After speaking with majority and minority committee staff for 10 hours, Glenn Simpson requested the transcript of his interview be released publicly. The American people deserve the opportunity to see what he said and judge for themselves," said Senator Feinstein. "The innuendo and misinformation circulating about the transcript are part of a deeply troubling effort to undermine the investigation into potential collusion and obstruction of justice. The only way to set the record straight is to make the transcript public."

The mainstream media has glossed over Feinstein's bold act. CNN even suggested that Feinstein's dramatic action might save her in a coming primary. President Trump called her "sneaky." Actually, for once Trump wasn't wildly off the mark because Dianne had been sneaky. She held his attention at the bipartisan meeting on immigration in the White House by proposing a "clean DACA bill," while her staff released the transcript despite the fact that the Judiciary Committee's chairman, Chuck Grassley, wanted it kept secret.

Counting on this secrecy, Trump's supporters had been weaving fables to discredit the FBI. One of the most improbable was by James S. Robbins in USA Today claiming that the dossier prepared by Steele was an anti-Trump document which—rather incredibly, given Trump and Putin's extended bromance—was compiled with input from Russian intelligence sources "to persuade a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to authorize government surveillance of members of the Trump team during a political campaign."

Glenn Simpson's testimony tore into the web of lies that Trump's acolytes had woven. Yet releasing it was actually one more instance of Senator Feinstein's resistance to the abuse of power by exposing it.

Dramatic and risky was the dogged investigation of the CIA's torture of prisoners in its "dark sites" by Feinstein and her staff. Their struggle to expose the scandal to the American people was obstructed by the CIA and she got no help from President Obama. Though he ended the program on his second day in office, because he had to continue working with the CIA's Counter-Terrorism Unit, Obama would not hold the C.I.A. accountable for the past. Her determination in the face of these obstacles can be appreciated in a New Yorker article published in 2015: "The Inside War: To expose torture, Dianne Feinstein fought the C.I.A.-and the White House."

"Lioness in the Winter," by Gail Sheehy, published by Mother Jones in its May/June 2017 issue, relates not only how Dianna Feinstein survived childhood abuse, assassination attempts, and a brutal fight with the CIA. Sheehy gives an account of the senator's initial skirmishes with the Trump administration. She was ahead of her peers on 7 March 2017—two months before Trump fired FBI Director Comey—when she pointedly asked for a special prosecutor to look into the political and financial interconnections between Trump, his associates, and Russian officials, oligarchs, and cyberwarriors. If this had been done, our current political scenario could have been very different than it is now.

Senator Dianne Feinstein's contribution to the American civil spirit, her tradition of bravely battling the abuse of power by exposing it, should not go unnoticed. 

Brittmarie Janson Perez, in memory of Inga Collins

(The photo of Dianne Feinstein is her official Senate photo, which is in the public domain and has been uploaded by to Wikipedia.)

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