Allow Jeff Sessions To Do His Job
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus
The Democrats in Congress have a new target – Attorney General Jeff Sessions. They didn’t want him as Attorney General, but he won Senate confirmation with a slim vote of 52-47. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) provided the only Democrat vote as he joined with 51 Republicans to approve the former Alabama senator.Almost immediately, other Democrats pounced on Sessions claiming that he lied during the confirmation hearings. Asked during the proceedings if he had any recent contact with Russian officials about the November election for President, he said he did not. Later, Democrats claimed that he twice met with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s Ambassador to the United States. Sessions explained that he wasn’t trying to hide anything; he thought he was being asked about meetings with Russian officials to discuss the coming U.S. election.
The apparent Sessions falsehood turned out to be a lack of precision in his answer to Senator Al Franken’s question. But the steam from the Democrat-generated charges that Sessions lied, exploded to the degree that the Department of Justice will now determine if the Russians were trying to influence the November election, if Sessions played a part in such a scheme, and if he then lied about it.
After a few days, Attorney General Sessions recused himself from the coming inquiry. In effect, he told the senators who opposed his selection as Attorney General, “Go right ahead and investigate but your investigation will not find that I had anything to do with any Russian meddling in the election. If indeed there was any.”
Sessions is a good and truthful man. His claim that he misunderstood the question he was asked rings true. He said later, “I should have slowed down and said, ‘But I did meet one Russian official a couple of times. During the period under question.’” He claims the matters he discussed with Kislyak had nothing to do with the Trump-Clinton election.
Now let’s contrast what the Democrats and the media have sought to do to Sessions with the way Congress dealt with Obama-era Attorney General Eric Holder. Under his watch, the U.S. government conducted an operation known as “Fast and Furious” that supplied thousands of weapons to Mexican drug cartel criminals. The name “Fast and Furious” evolved when it was found that many of the Mexican recipients of the guns belonged to a motorcycle club with that name. Holder’s Justice Department initially labeled the operation “Project Gunrunner.”
The scheme arranged for the sale of weaponry in the U.S. to highly questionable individuals. U.S. officials knew that the guns would end up in the hands of drug dealers and murderers in Mexico. There was supposed to be some method of tracking the weapons and learning more about the operations of the Mexican drug cartels.
But two of the Fast and Furious guns led to the death of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry. Estimates place the number of Mexicans slain with those guns well into the hundreds. U.S. Immigration and Customs agent Jaime Zapata’s life was snuffed out with another of these weapons. More guns ended up in the hands of drug merchants in Honduras, Puerto Rico, and Colombia. Approximately 2,000 firearms (AK-47s, sniper rifles, and revolvers) were transferred and fewer than half have ever been recovered.
The entire scheme came to the attention of the press and some concerned government officials when whistleblowers within the Department of Justice bared details about the scheme. As far back as 2013, more than 130 members of Congress called for Holder’s resignation. Called before a Senate panel, Holder said he knew nothing about the program, but documents later showed he knew about it as far back as 2009. He lied to Congress, and there was an effort to charge him with criminal contempt of Congress.
Instead of offering his resignation, Holder went on the offensive and called for more gun control aimed at the American people and their rights. He is no longer Attorney General, and it seems likely that he will never be held accountable for Fast and Furious, for lying, and being cited for contempt of Congress.
In Congress, there are many who allowed Eric Holder to walk away unprosecuted but are now hounding Jeff Sessions. They should be reminded of their negligence regarding Holder and leave Sessions free to carry out his important responsibilities.
Stonewalling About Fast and Furious Will Soon End
by JBS President John F. McManus
On September 23rd, federal district judge John D. Bates ruled that documents related to the federal government’s Fast and Furious operation that led to the slaying of U.S. Border Control agent Brian Terry, could no longer remain secret. The judge gave the Department of Justice until October 22nd to submit the documents, explain why they were being withheld, and indicate how their release could supposedly harm someone. Two days later, Attorney General Eric Holder announced his resignation from the high office he has held for almost six years.
Fast and Furious was a program carried out by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF). It purposefully allowed firearms dealers in the U.S. to sell weapons to individuals known to be planning to ship them to Mexican drug cartel leaders. The BATF claimed that this “gun running” would enable its agents to track down and arrest Mexican drug pushers and gun-trafficking individuals. During the operation, however, U.S. Border Agent Brian Terry became a victim of one of the guns found at the scene of the crime. An estimated 2,000 weapons changed hands during Fast and Furious and only 700 were ever recovered. In simple terms, the program was a colossal and deadly failure.
The Obama administration has insisted that documents pertaining dealing to the operation must be kept from view. More than two years ago in the midst of his consistent stonewalling, Attorney General Holder refused to cooperate with a congressional investigation of the matter and, as a result, became the first sitting member of the U.S. Cabinet in history to be formally declared in contempt of Congress. But that didn’t stop him from continuing his efforts to keep secret the documents that now must be produced.
Fast and Furious began on October 31, 2009 when an Arizona gun dealer reported that four individuals purchased a quantity of AK-47-style rifles. Another suspicious gun purchaser bought 244 weapons within a two-month period. But BATF agents were required to do nothing. Some eventually complained about the scheme but were ignored as guns fell into the hands of people they knew were about to commit crimes. Some agents have even reported that they were ordered by high-ranking personnel within the Attorney Generals’ office to look the other way at this increase in gun-trafficking. Soon, even BATF agents stationed in Mexico were voicing their complaints about the program.
When agent Terry and his companion agents spotted suspected illegal immigrants on that fateful night, they fired non-lethal beanbag guns as a warning. But the suspects responded with rifle fire and a firefight resulted with Terry being killed. Four of the suspects were arrested and two of the seized AK-47 rifles were immediately traced to a Phoenix gun store involved in the Fast and Furious operation.
For several years, Eric Holder and President Obama have steadfastly refused congressional requests to release DOJ documents related to this fiasco. The President claimed executive privilege to impede the investigation. One can only conclude that the two surely have something to hide. As of October 22, 2014, there will be no more secrecy. Thanks are due to Judge Bates for his decision and to the Judicial Watch organization that has doggedly pursued this matter and finally won in their demands for an end to the stonewalling.
The founders were clear on the point of an individual’s right to keep and bear arms. The John Birch Society believes that gun-control laws and agencies do nothing but control the responsible individual and aid criminals. Also, the JBS opposes a monopoly of power on the part of government.
Mr. McManus joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966 and has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and now President. He remains the Society’s chief media representative throughout the nation and has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs. Mr. McManus is also Publisher of The New American magazine and author of a number of educational DVDs and books.
Nullification of Oppressive Federal Laws is Catching On
by JBS President John F. McManus
Earlier in 2014, the Kansas state legislature enacted a law stating that some federal gun control regulations would not be obeyed in Kansas. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder immediately notified Governor Sam Brownback that this new state law was unconstitutional. He cited Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, specifically its “Supremacy Clause,” to support his stand.
As is customary among federal officials, Holder relied on only a portion of this clause, the part stating that laws of the United States “shall be the supreme law of the land” binding all the states. But a more complete look at this clause shows that federal laws are legitimate only if “made in pursuance thereof” of the Constitution. In other words, if a federal law is not in keeping with, or exceeds, the powers granted in the Constitution, it can rightly be declared illegitimate and not obeyed.
Though not employing the word, Kansas actually issued a decree of nullification regarding the pertinent gun control regulations issued by the federal government. Is nullification of a federal law permissible? Thomas Jefferson thought so. In the 1798 Kentucky Resolutions he penned to help the Kentuckians gain statehood, he wrote:
That a nullification, by those sovereignties [states] of all unauthorized acts done under the color of that instrument [the Constitution] is a rightful remedy.
After he served as President, James Madison offered his view about a state’s power to nullify a federal law in 1834:
… nullification of a law can … belong rightfully to a single state as one of the parties of the Constitution; the state not ceasing to avow its adherence to the Constitution.
Though Attorney General Holder expressed his objection to the Kansas law, he hasn’t taken any action. But the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a private organization, has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn what Kansas has done. In keeping with the Holder view, this anti-gun ownership group is relying on only a portion of the Supremacy Clause while ignoring the requirement that a federal law must be “in pursuance thereof” of the Constitution.
The actual Kansas law being challenged calls for prosecution of any law enforcement official (federal, state or even local) who seeks to enforce federal regulations over firearms made, sold and owned in Kansas. Attorney General Holder will surely watch this case from the sidelines. But so too will millions of Americans who value the private ownership of weapons, a right protected by the Second Amendment.
A related matter may become an issue in this case. It is who shall determine the meaning of constitutional clauses. America has long relied on a belief that the federal judiciary alone has the power to state what any portion of the Constitution actually means. But nowhere in the document itself can any such attitude be found. Leaving such an important matter to the federal judiciary has resulted in judicial mischief.
State nullification of unconstitutional federal laws and regulations is based on the recognition that sovereign states created the national government and delegated to that government only those few powers enumerated in the Constitution. It would surely be helpful for the cause of liberty for this intent to be reinforced along with acceptance of a state’s right to nullify a bad federal law. We can hope that the Brady Campaign’s suit against Kansas will lead to a reaffirmation of state power and a diminution of federal overreach. Like Eric Holder, we shall be watching this very important case.
Learn more about nullification by reading Thomas E Woods Jr.’s book, “Nullification”.