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Joe Lieberman for FBI Chief? Oh, Hell No!!

May 22, 2017

devos-with-lieberman

Trump has a well-established record of appointing people as heads of federal agencies for the specific purpose of destroying those agencies or subverting their mission. And now we are informed that Joe Lieberman is Trump’s top choice to head the FBI after he fired James Comey. Wonder why?

There are so many things wrong with this, but let’s start with the fact that Lieberman is a senior counsel with the law firm of Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, whose founding partner Marc Kasowitz happens to be Donald Trump’s lawyer on litigation matters. Indeed, Kasowitz put being Trump’s litigator first on his list of “notable representations” on the firm’s website. That is an enormous red conflict-of-interest flag.

Update (5/23/17):  The Washington Post reports that Trump has retained Marc Kasowitz as counsel to represent him in dealing with investigations regarding RussiaGate. This means that if Lieberman were FBI chief he would be in charge of an investigation into Trump and his campaign, where Trump’s chief lawyer is principal partner of the law firm that currently employs Lieberman (and very likely hired him).  This alone should be enough to disqualify him to head the FBI for glaringly obvious reasons, even if Lieberman resigned from the firm, as he almost certainly would.

Then there was Lieberman acting as a shill for Betsy DeVos during her confirmation hearings for Secretary of Education. She was a nominee so obviously unfit for that post that it took a tie-break vote by the vice president to get her confirmed, and yet there was Lieberman speaking for her and sitting side-by-side with her day after day during the hearings, presumably to lend her some shred of bi-partisan credibility.

The problem is that Joe Lieberman no longer has any credibility to lend. His journey from Democratic vice-presidential candidate in 2000 to Trump supplicant today is a sad tale of political narcissism and opportunism.

During the infamous Florida recount to determine the outcome of the 2000 election, Lieberman infuriated Democrats by undermining their legal argument that overseas votes that lacked postmarks or signatures should be disqualified, saying that all military votes should be given “the benefit of the doubt.” That alone would probably have been enough to tip Florida’s electoral votes to Bush in that razor-thin race.

Lieberman effectively bolted from the Democratic Party after he lost a primary challenge to run for senator from Connecticut in 2006. He then ran as the de facto Republican candidate (officially as an “independent”) and narrowly managed to win in a three-way race.  He capped his defection by endorsing John McCain against Barack Obama in 2008 and speaking on McCain’s behalf at the Republican national convention. During the Bush years, he was also an enthusiastic cheerleader for the Iraq War.

While Lieberman was still in the Senate, the Democratic leadership held its collective nose and continued to allow him to caucus with them, largely because they needed his vote for the battle to pass the Affordable Care Act. Characteristically, Lieberman double-crossed them, refusing to provide the crucial vote needed to extend Medicare to everyone 55 and over.

After the parties made their nominations in 2016, Lieberman did not endorse Trump and even did a little campaigning for Clinton, targeting Jewish voters in Florida who didn’t think she was pro-Israel enough. He might well have done her more harm than good especially among Bernie Sanders supporters and progressive Democrats who were already leery of Hillary, hated Lieberman for his betrayals, and thoroughly distrusted him. (Clinton lost Florida by about 113,000 votes.) One might suspect that Lieberman fully expected Clinton to win and was trying to mend bridges with Democrats and curry favor with what he thought would be the incoming administration.

Lieberman still continues to call himself a Democrat, though virtually no one else–including his former senate colleagues–considers him to be one any longer. Since leaving the Senate, in addition to working for Trump’s law firm, he has been the co-chair of No Labels, a supposedly non-partisan political advocacy group which urges politicians to put party affiliations aside “and do what’s best for America.” Yet during the campaign, when pressed to say something for No Labels about Trump’s racism, misogyny, and anti-science rants, Lieberman dissembled and avoided answering. No Labels includes Trump among its list of prominent “problem solvers“.

As Rolling Stone has pointed out, there has never been a politician appointed as head of the FBI. “Every past director served as either an agent in the bureau, a federal prosecutor or a federal judge prior to their nomination.” Lieberman has done none of those things. (He was attorney general of Connecticut for 6 years some 30 years ago.) Moreover, he is now 75 years old, which would make him 85 if he were to serve a full 10 year term.

The argument for Lieberman will be that he is independent and non-partisan, rather than that he has experience and competence in law enforcement.  However, his actions over the last 10+ years give ample reason to think that he would be about as “fair and balanced” as Fox News and that he would bend over backwards to accommodate Trump and his new buddies in this administration.

I think a more compelling reason for picking Lieberman, if Trump indeed decides to nominate him, is that this would be just another spite nomination and another jab at the Obama legacy. What could be better than to put the FBI under a turncoat who rejected Obama in 2008 and again in 2012? The Trumpies may believe Lieberman still has Democrat friends in the senate who will vote for him–and, who knows, they may be right. If they do, they will be making a terrible mistake.

 

 

 

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