Posted by DrJohn on 1 February, 2014 at 10:38 am. Be the first to comment!


Harvey Silverglate:

Is Eric Holder’s Justice Department driven by a political agenda, or are the department’s recent prosecutorial decisions simply signs of overzealousness?

The Justice Department has focused on two prominent Republicans, announcing a corruption indictment of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell and launching an active and very public criminal investigation into the antics of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s administration. In doing so, federal prosecutors have created at least the appearance that they are targeting two men who have been touted as plausible candidates for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016.

A reading of the McDonnell indictment raises the obvious question of why the feds are charging someone who, as governor, engaged in conduct that is run-of-the-mill political activity in virtually all jurisdictions, but especially in states, like Virginia, whose laws quite clearly allow it. Certainly Mr. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, don’t come off well in the indictment. She in particular is painted as greedy even by political standards. Both are charged with receiving expensive gifts as well as loans from businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr., whose commercial dietary supplements were promoted by the governor. Mr. McDonnell and his wife also invited Mr. Williams to dinners and events at the governor’s mansion and arranged audiences for him with state health officials.

Mr. McDonnell’s legal team responded to the accusations in a blistering motion in federal court in Richmond on Jan. 21, the day the indictment was announced, asserting that the activities alleged against Mr. McDonnell are no different from those of political figures nationwide. To charge Mr. McDonnell on these counts would, according to the defense, suggest an “untested, novel construction of the federal bribery statutes” that would put every state—and, for that matter, federal—officeholder in jeopardy of federal indictment.

The defense motion points out that Anthony Troy, a former Democratic attorney general of Virginia, “conducted an in-depth investigation into this issue” and concluded that since Mr. Williams and his company “neither sought nor received any special benefits from any public official,” no crime was committed. Defense counsel argue that “political courtesies” extended to campaign donors or to generous friends are not crimes under any reasonable interpretation of the federal bribery statutes.

More at the WSJ

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