Email #266: “failure at the highest political level”?

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination monitors implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which the U.S. ratified in 1994. The Committee sometimes issues statements through its Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedures.  Last year, it issued two about Burundi. It also warned about Iraq in 2014, Côte d’Ivoire in 2011, and Kyrghystan and Nigeria in 2010. The Committee issued its first warning statement of 2017 just last week. It was about the U.S.

The Committee was responding to “the horrific events in Charlottesville of 11-12 August, 2017 leading to the death of Ms. Heather Heyer, and the injuries inflicted on many other protestors, as well as the terrible beating of Mr. Deandre Harris by white supremacists.”

It was alarmed “by the racist demonstrations, with overtly racist slogans, chants and salutes by individuals belonging to groups of white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan, promoting white supremacy and inciting racial discrimination and hatred.”

It was also disturbed “by the failure at the highest political level of the United States of America to unequivocally reject and condemn the racist violent events and demonstrations led by the aforementioned groups, thereby potentially fuelling the proliferation of racist discourse and incidents throughout the State party, and deeply concerned by the example this failure could set for the rest of the world.”

The Committee reiterated the United Nations position that “there should be no place in the world for racist white supremacist ideas or any similar ideologies that reject the core human rights principles of human dignity and equality and seek to degrade the standing of individuals and groups on the grounds of race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin.”

As a result, it called on the U.S. “to fully respect its international obligations and in particular those arising from the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination to combat and eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.”

It also called upon our “high-level politicians and public officials, not only to unequivocally and unconditionally reject and condemn racist hate speech and racist crimes in Charlottesville and throughout the country, but also to actively contribute to the promotion of understanding, tolerance, and diversity between ethnic groups, and acknowledge their contribution to the history and diversity of the United States of America.”

The Committee urged the U.S. “to ensure that all human rights violations which took place in Charlottesville, in particular with regards the death of Ms. Heyer, are thoroughly investigated, alleged perpetrators prosecuted and if convicted, punished with sanctions commensurate with the gravity of the crime, and provide effective remedies to victims and their families.”

Since you are the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, the UN’s urging is directed especially at you. Oversight of the Justice Department is your obligation, and so it falls on you to ensure that the Department investigates these human rights violations and prosecutes them accordingly. Have you contacted Attorney General Sessions to request information about the death of Ms. Heyer yet? You have written multiple similar letters to the Attorney General when criminal cases were of particular interest to you—when, for instance, an immigrant teen was accused (though later exonerated) for raping a fellow high school student in Maryland last year. The murder of Ms. Heyer took place right here in Virginia, just a few miles from your own district.

I am alarmed and disturbed that our country has joined the very short list of countries that have received the attention of the United Nations for failing to abide by the Elimination of Racial Discrimination convention. How did we become like Burundi and Iraq? I assume you are alarmed and disturbed too and will take appropriate action.

Fortunately a Republican member of your House Judiciary Committee has already begun this important oversight process. Representative Issa wrote to you on August 17: “As members of the committee of jurisdiction on issues related to civil rights and democracy, we too have a unique duty to examine the impact recent displays of hatred from white supremacist groups have on civil rights in America. Therefore, I write today to call for the full Committee to hold a hearing on this topic when we return in September.”

Rep. Issa’s suggested hearing would help to meet the UN’s recommendation that the U.S. government “take concrete measures to address the root causes of the proliferation of such racist manifestations, and thoroughly investigate the phenomenon of racial discrimination targeting in particular against people of African descent, ethnic or ethno-religious minorities, and migrants.”

Like a majority of your constituents, I share Rep. Issa’s and the UN’s concerns and look forward to your announcement of a hearing next week.

Email #173: “I simply don’t think he did”?

The Washington Post reported last week that President Trump asked Daniel Coats, Director of National Intelligence, and Michael Roger, Director of the National Security Agency, to make false public statements denying the existence of evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the election. Neither Coats nor Roger complied.

Although the President’s requests could be construed as evidence of obstruction, the White House responded that it “does not confirm or deny unsubstantiated claims based on illegal leaks from anonymous individuals.” But, like former FBI Director Comey, Roger documented the President’s request in an internal memo, which, along with eventual sworn testimonies, will likely be part of Congressional and FBI investigations.

My concern is whether some members of Congress are impartial enough to accept such evidence. Republican Rep. Trent Franks, a member of your House Judiciary Committee, publicly stated his bias last week:

“I don’t think the president told James Comey to end any investigation … I don’t think any memo would convince me. I don’t think any of us are going to be able to know that for sure. But I simply don’t think he did that.”

How can Rep. Franks serve on your committee if he allows his unsubstantiated opinions to outweigh documented evidence? If the Comey memo does not “convince” him, will he also disregard Comey’s testimony? Will he disregard the testimony of other FBI employees if they corroborate that the President asked Comey to end the Flynn investigation?

Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, another member of your House Judiciary Committee and the former chair of the House Oversight Committee, asked you to hold hearings on the President’s firing of Director Comey and “make sure that Mr. Mueller has the assets, the independence, and an understandable breadth of the initial investigation and a timeline that he anticipates based on his decades of experience.”

I agree with Rep. Issa:

“We need the facts. So let’s get the facts. This is the Judiciary Committee, this is a Justice Department issue. We’re talking about the guy who headed the FBI. And we’ve had concerns, frankly. As the Judiciary Committee, this is a Justice Department issue. I think we should obviously be involved.”

So why did you reject his request? Do you instead agree with Rep. Franks that personal opinions are more important than substantiated facts? Rep. Hakeem Jeffries told Real Clear Politics that he and other Democratic members of your Committee were “mocked” for suggesting that you investigate the President. Your official response at least appears civil: “I do not believe that it is the appropriate role of this committee to do [anything] other than to conduct oversight of the Department of Justice to be assured that they are doing their job.”

But why has your scope suddenly shrunk to the oversight of only the Justice Department when in November you assured voters it included “checking executive overreach”?

Do you feel that a president should be allowed to ask directors of national intelligence to issue false statements?

Do you feel a president should be allowed to tell Russian officials: “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off”?

Do you sincerely believe you would not be openly condemning these behaviors if they had been committed by President Obama?

Do you sincerely believe you would not be using the House Judiciary Committee to investigate them if they occurred in a Democratic administration?

Although President Trump is at fault for placing you in an unreasonable position, it is your responsibility to rise above the politics of both parties and place the integrity of the House Judiciary Committee above all else.

You are currently failing to do so.