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Context of 'September 22-23, 2006: US Congressman Theatens Less Aid for Nicaraguans If Ortega Wins Elections'

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David Bossie.David Bossie. [Source: C-SPAN]David Bossie, an investigator for Representative Dan Burton (R-IN), is fired from his position. Bossie recently leaked transcripts of prison conversations featuring former Clinton administration official Webster Hubbell, who will be convicted of defrauding clients and sentenced to prison in 2004. Bossie fraudulently edited the transcripts to have Hubbell imply that First Lady Hillary Clinton broke the law while the two worked together in an Arkansas law firm. Bossie cut out portions of Hubbell’s conversations exonerating her from any wrongdoing, and sometimes rewrote Hubbell’s words entirely. In response to the controversy, House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) says of Burton and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, “I’m embarrassed for you, I’m embarrassed for myself, and I’m embarrassed for the [House Republican] conference at the circus that went on at your committee.” (In late April, Burton had called President Clinton a “scumbag,” further embarrassing Gingrich and the Republican leadership.) Bossie came to Burton’s staff from Citizens United (CU), which he joined in 1994 and soon rose to become director of government relations and communications. In 1988, as a member of Floyd Brown’s Presidential Victory Committee (PVC), Bossie helped produce the infamous Willie Horton ad (see September 21 - October 4, 1988). In 1992, as executive director of the PVC, Bossie oversaw the release of a fundraising letter accusing then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton of having an affair with an Arkansas woman, for use in an ad that falsely suggested it was the product of President Bush’s re-election campaign. Then-President Bush accused the PVC of engaging in “filthy campaign tactics,” and his son and campaign aide George W. Bush sent a letter asking donors not to give to the organization. Bossie has encouraged Burton to open an investigation into the suicide of Clinton administration aide Vince Foster (alleging that Foster was murdered as part of some unspecified White House plot, or perhaps an Israeli intelligence “black op”). While an aide to Senator Lauch Faircloth (R-NC), Bossie was found to have tried to intimidate a federal judge during a Whitewater-related investigation. Bossie has earned a reputation as a “Whitewater stalker,” combing Arkansas for “evidence” of crimes by the Clintons, and repeatedly making false and lurid allegations against the president and/or his wife. For a year, Bossie has promised that Burton’s committee would soon produce evidence of Chinese espionage and White House collusion, but any evidence of such a scandal has never been produced. A former lawyer for the Oversight Committee, John Rowley, has called Bossie’s actions “unrelenting self-promoti[on]” and challenged Bossie’s competence. Bossie says his transcripts were accurate (though the tapes of Hubbell’s conversations prove he is wrong), and blames committee Democrats for the controversy. [WorldNetDaily, 5/7/1998; Salon, 5/7/1998; Media Matters, 5/11/2004] WorldNetDaily reporter David Bresnahan writes that according to his sources, Bossie “was either extremely incompetent or was intentionally trying to sabotage” Burton’s investigations into the Clinton administration. Bresnahan also says that Burton allowed Bossie to resign instead of firing him, as other media sources report. [WorldNetDaily, 5/7/1998]

Entity Tags: Floyd Brown, David Bresnahan, Dan Burton, Clinton administration, Citizens United, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Webster Hubbell, Presidential Victory Committee, David Bossie, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, John Rowley, Hillary Clinton, Newt Gingrich, George W. Bush, Vince Foster

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Dan Burton.Dan Burton. [Source: US House of Representatives]Dan Burton (R-IN), the chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, releases edited transcripts of taped White House conversations between then-President Bill Clinton and Israel’s then-prime minister, Ehud Barak (see Late August, 2001). President Bush’s counsel Alberto Gonzales decided to break with decades of tradition in releasing private conversations between a former president and a head of state, and gave Burton the tapes as part of Burton’s investigation into Clinton’s last-minute pardon of Marc Rich, a commodities trader who had fled the US ahead of tax evasion and fraud charges. Burton and other conservatives have charged that Clinton pardoned Rich at the behest of Rich’s wife Denise, a Clinton presidential library contributor, possibly in return for the contributions, or even sexual favors. However, the tapes indicate that one reason Clinton pardoned Rich was a request made by Barak. On December 11, 2000, Barak said to Clinton, “One last remark. There is an American Jewish businessman living in Switzerland and makes a lot of philanthropic contributions to Israeli institutions and activities and education.” Rich had “violated certain rules of the game in the United States,” Barak said, and wanted Clinton to consider pardoning him. Clinton replied, “I know about that case because I know his ex-wife. If your ex-wife wants to help you, that’s good.” Barak asked Clinton again on January 8, 2001, when Clinton called Rich’s case “bizarre” and said, “It’s best that we not say much about that.” In a third conversation, which took place just days before Clinton left office, Clinton said that such a pardon has “almost no precedent in American history,” and told Barak that he was pondering whether or not to allow Rich to return to the US if pardoned. [New York Times, 8/21/2001; Salon, 2/7/2002; Dean, 2004, pp. 85-86] Clinton, angered by the selective editing of the transcripts in an apparent effort to mischaracterize the Rich pardon, will request that all of the relevant portions of the transcripts be released; the White House will refuse and classify the rest of the transcripts (see Late August, 2001).

Entity Tags: House Committee on Government Reform, Bush administration (43), Alberto R. Gonzales, Dan Burton, Ehud Barak, Marc Rich, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Denise Rich

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Marc Rich.Marc Rich. [Source: Huffington Post]Former president Bill Clinton reacts angrily to edited transcripts of private conversations with former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, in which Barak requested that Clinton pardon fugitive American financier Marc Rich (see August 21, 2001 and Early September, 2001). The transcripts were edited and released to the public by House Government Reform Committee chairman Dan Burton (R-IN) as part of his investigation into whether Clinton acted improperly in pardoning Rich. After reading the transcripts, Clinton thinks that Burton has selectively edited them, and giving a false impression of the nature and content of the conversations between himself and Barak. Clinton asks the White House, which had provided Burton with copies of the tapes of the conversations, to release all of the relevant portions of the transcripts, which he says will portray the conversations in a different light. But the White House refuses, saying the remaining portions of the transcripts are now classified. [Dean, 2004, pp. 85-86]
'Hating Bill Clinton' - The classification of the documents is quite sudden. Earlier in the month, a White House spokesperson said that the release of the Clinton-Barak transcripts was nothing more than part of their efforts to make more information available to Congress. “The excerpts were not classified,” the spokesperson said. “The decision to make the documents available was entirely consistent with past practice. You don’t just slap Top Secret on a whole document.” However, some observers dispute this. “Given the secrecy that the Bush-Cheney administration has pursued, it’s inconceivable that they would turn this information over if it affected President Bush,” says Phil Schiliro, the Democratic staff director for the House Government Reform Committee, which is trying in vain to secure information from the White House about the Cheney Energy Task Force. Lynne Weil, the press secretary for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, calls the sudden decision to classify the previously unclassified transcripts “highly unusual.” She adds, “People who have worked for the Foreign Relations Committee for years can’t recall the last time such a thing happened.” The National Security Archives’s Tom Blanton welcomed the original disclosure of the conversations, but says it came not from a sudden desire for transparency from the Bush administration, but from a desire to smear Clinton. The Bush administration passionately believes in secrecy, a belief rooted in its collective ideology, says Blanton. When asked why that same ideological concern didn’t extend to the Clinton-Barak transcripts, Blanton replies that the question ignores “a rather more focused version of that ideology that’s about hating Bill Clinton.”
Violation of Procedure - Typically, the Bush administration turns down requests such as Burton’s for private presidential conversations. However, White House counsel Alberto Gonzales decided to turn them over. At that point, Clinton could have attempted to block the release of the transcripts by invoking executive privilege, a move that may have cast him in a poor light politically. But the events as carried out by Burton and the White House—breaking with precedent to release potentially embarrassing transcripts, edit those transcripts to make their contents appear more damning than they actually are, then retroactively classify the remainder of the transcripts—is highly unusual. [Salon, 2/7/2002; Dean, 2004, pp. 85-86]

Entity Tags: Energy Task Force, Ehud Barak, Bush administration (43), Alberto R. Gonzales, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Tom Blanton, National Security Archives, Phil Schiliro, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Marc Rich, House Committee on Government Reform, Lynne Weil, Dan Burton

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Dan Burton (R-IN), the chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, asks for more than twelve sets of internal Justice Department documents that detail purported fund-raising abuses by the 1996 presidential campaign of Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Burton also wants documents relating to the FBI’s use of mob informants by its Boston office, where evidence indicates that the office literally let the informants get away with murder and suppressed evidence that allowed an innocent man to go to prison. Burton’s request causes a dilemma for the White House. On the one hand, President Bush and Vice President Cheney have given explicit instructions for staffers to resist such calls for information. On the other hand, when Burton had delved into the questions surrounding Clinton’s last-minute pardons, Bush had already given him unprecedented access to Clinton’s private conversations (see August 21, 2001). Burton immediately released edited transcripts of the tapes (see August 21, 2001). The administration ponders whether or not to release the documents, and in the process perhaps further impugn Clinton, or to refuse, preserving their standard of executive privilege. It will eventually come down on the side of secrecy (see December 13, 2001). [Dean, 2004, pp. 85-86]

Entity Tags: William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, US Department of Justice, Ehud Barak, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Bush administration (43), Dan Burton, George W. Bush, Federal Bureau of Investigation, House Committee on Government Reform

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

The Bush administration solves the dilemma surrounding a request by Congressman Dan Burton (R-IN) for documents from the Clinton administration (see Early September, 2001) by placing secrecy and executive privilege above a chance to potentially attack Clinton. Burton has tucked the request for the Clinton documents in with another request on a far more serious matter, possible malfeasance by an FBI office. President Bush instructs Attorney General John Ashcroft not to turn over the documents on either case, explaining that turning over the documents would violate the “national interest” by giving Congress documents related to “prosecutorial decision making.” Burton, the Republican and Democratic members of the House Government Reform Committee, and editorial writers and commentators around the country criticize the administration over the refusal to turn over the documents, particularly the FBI information. The White House adds fuel to the controversy by claiming, both on this day and in a January 2002 letter from White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, that the refusal is consistent with long-standing Justice Department policy (see January 10, 2002). The committee will secure an opinion from eminent Constitutional scholar Professor Charles Tiefer, who will show that the White House’s argument is flatly wrong. [Dean, 2004, pp. 85-88]
'Your Guy's Acting Like a King' - An infuriated Burton confronts a lower-level Justice Department official sent to testify about the government’s position: “We’ve got a dictatorial president and a Justice Department that does not want Congress involved. Your guy’s acting like he’s king.” In his official comments, Burton accuses the Bush administration of setting a “terrible, terrible precedent” in the name of executive power. “This is not a monarchy,” Burton says. “The legislative branch has oversight responsibilities to make sure there is no corruption in the executive branch.” In the Senate, Charles Grassley (R-IA) agrees with Burton. “Anything that limits legitimate Congressional oversight is worrisome,” he says. “This move needs to be carefully scrutinized, particularly in an atmosphere where Congress is giving the Justice Department additional powers and authority.”
Politics over Principles - But the storm of Congressional criticism will have little lasting effect. In 2007, author Charlie Savage will write: “[P]olitics defeated… principles. Most Republicans were unwilling to challenge Bush, and many Democrats opposed Burton’s probes of the Clinton campaign fund-raising, so few members of either party were interested in fighting the White House about it. And because Bush’s first invocation of [executive privilege] was done in part to protect Clinton and the Democrats, the gesture seemed principled rather than self-serving. It was tactically brilliant.” [Savage, 2007, pp. 98]
Administration Later Turns Over Documents - After the media controversy, the administration quietly, and without public acknowledgment, will provide the FBI material to the committee. The committee’s final report on the FBI investigation will conclude with six pages of withering criticism of the administration’s fallacious claim to executive privilege. However, as former Nixon White House counsel John Dean will note in 2004, the criticism from the committee is essentially meaningless to the White House, because it will garner no attention from the media and thereby cost the administration no political capital. And while some observers cannot understand why the administration would take such a hardline stand on an issue that lacks any implications for national security, the public interest, or the protection of ongoing criminal investigations, Dean will write that “it makes absolute sense if the administration’s aim is total information control.” He adds: “Accordingly, its policy remains to employ executive privilege aggressively, as long as the political price is not too high. If this administration is given a second term, there will be no price too high to expand this presidential privilege, enabling the executive branch to remain completely unaccountable.” [Dean, 2004, pp. 85-88]
Court Upholds Bush Actions - In 2003, a district court will uphold the Bush administration’s refusal to turn over the documents to Burton’s committee (see March 28, 2003).

Entity Tags: John Dean, House Committee on Government Reform, Dan Burton, Clinton administration, Bush administration (43), Charles Tiefer, Charlie Savage, Federal Bureau of Investigation, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

White House counsel Alberto Gonzales issues a letter stating that the administration’s refusal to turn over documents about possible FBI malfeasance to Dan Burton (R-IN), the chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, is consistent with long-standing Justice Department policy. Gonzales’s assertion will be disputed by the Committee, based on an assessment by law Professor Charles Tiefer of the University of Baltimore (see December 13, 2001). [Dean, 2004, pp. 87]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Alberto R. Gonzales, Dan Burton, US Department of Justice, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

US District Court Judge Gladys Kessler, appointed to the bench by former President Bill Clinton, rules that the Bush administration is within the law in refusing to release documents pertaining to pardons issued by Clinton to Congress (see August 21, 2001 and December 13, 2001). Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton accuses Kessler of endorsing the Bush administration’s claim of executive privilege in order to protect Clinton’s reputation. The White House hails the ruling, and spokesman Scott McClellan notes that the courts have now recognized that the privilege “applies to former, current, and future presidents.” In 2007, author and reporter Charlie Savage will write that the ruling hands “the Bush-Cheney legal team another victory in its bid to expand the White House’s power to keep its inner workings secret.” [Savage, 2007, pp. 99]

Entity Tags: Charlie Savage, Bush administration (43), Clinton administration, Gladys Kessler, Tom Fitton, Scott McClellan

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Nicaraguan presidential candidate Daniel Ortega says that if he wins the election on November 5, he will make sure that Nicaragua joins the Alternativa Bolivariana para la America (ALBA), or the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas. Initiated by Venezuelan and Cuba in 2005, ALBA is intended to counter Washington’s Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA). One of ALBA’s stated goals is to promote social and economic justice. [Christian Science Monitor, 5/5/2006]

Entity Tags: Daniel Ortega, Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, Alternativa Bolivariana para la Americas

Timeline Tags: US-Nicaragua (1979-)

US ambassador in Managua Paul Trivelli sends a letter to Nicaraguan conservative political parties offering US support for primaries that would select one presidential candidate to run against Sandinista Daniel Ortega. The US is concerned that in a multi-candidate race, Ortega will secure enough votes to avoid a run-off election. According to Nicaraguan election law, a candidate only needs 35 percent of the votes to win. The letter states: “As part of my government’s efforts to respond to these requests to promote democratic practices and free elections in Nicaragua, the US is willing to collaborate in this process.” Trivelli says the parties must respond with a list of their candidates no later than April 18. All of the parties reject the request. [Nicaragua News Service, 4/12/2006]

Entity Tags: Paul Trivelli

Timeline Tags: US-Nicaragua (1979-)

Nicaraguan presidential candidate Daniel Ortega strikes a deal with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez that will allow an alliance of 51 Nicaraguan mayors, many from the Sandinista party, to purchase 10 million barrels of Venezuelan fuel on preferential terms. Under the agreement, the mayors will pay 60 percent of the cost of their purchases within 90 days of shipment, with the remaining 40 percent payable over the next 25 years at one percent interest, with a two-year grace period. In Nicaragua, high oil prices have led to rolling blackouts and transportation strikes. [Xinhua News Agency (Beijing), 4/26/2006; Associated Press, 5/5/2006] Chavez says Venezuela will also donate 10,000 tons of urea to Sandinista farming organizations. [Associated Press, 5/5/2006] During Ortega’s visit to Venezuela, he also says (see April or May 2006) that if he wins the November 5 elections, he will make sure Nicaragua joins the Alternativa Bolivariana para la America (ALBA), or the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, which was initiated by Venezuela and Cuba in 2005.

Entity Tags: Hugo Chavez Frias, Daniel Ortega

Timeline Tags: US-Venezuela (1948-2005), US-Nicaragua (1979-)

In an interview with the Financial Times, US ambassador to Nicaragua Paul Trivelli justifies his recent warnings to Nicaraguans that the country will suffer if they elect Daniel Ortega as their next president. He tells the newspaper that Ortega is “undemocratic” and that the US will likely reconsider its relations with the country if he is elected in November. He says that Ortega, who months before struck a deal with Hugo Chavez to import fuel on preferential terms (see April 25, 2006), “has made it pretty clear what kind of model he would put in place. And I think that under those conditions… [bilateral relations] would definitely be re-examined—and not only by the executive or the State Department or the White House but by the US Congress.” Trivelli makes it clear that Washington is concerned that Ortega’s election would embolden efforts by leftist Latin American leaders to counter US initiatives in the region. [Financial Times, 9/14/2006]

Entity Tags: Paul Trivelli, Daniel Ortega

Timeline Tags: US-Nicaragua (1979-)

Congressman Dan Burton, Chair of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of the House’s Committee on International Relations, is in Managua, Nicaragua on a two-day visit to meet with presidential candidates Eduardo Montealegre and Edmundo Jarquin. The two US-backed candidates are running against Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega, who polls suggest may win the presidency on November 5. Montealegre is a Harvard-educated banker; Jarquin, a Sandinista dissident. [Associated Press, 9/22/2006] During a press conference, Burton warns that the US could cut $175 million in aid to Nicaragua through the Millenium Challenge Account and block Nicaragua’s participation in the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) if Ortega wins the elections. He also states that if Ortega creates a state agency to process remittances from the US, as he has promised, Nicaraguan families might end up earning “much, much less money” and would experience “a significantly reduced quality of life.” Ortega has pledged to “make sure that Nicaraguans get 100 percent of their remittances.” Transfers from family members working in the US are usually sent through private companies such as Western Union, which charge a hefty commission. Remittances are the primary source of income for many families and accounted for 16.9 percent of the country’s GDP and 99 percent of its exports in 2005. [CounterPunch, 10/5/2006]

Entity Tags: Daniel Ortega, Eduardo Montealegre, Dan Burton

Timeline Tags: US-Nicaragua (1979-)

In an interview with the Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa, US embassy spokeswoman Kristin Stewart hints at possible sanctions against Nicaragua if Ortega is elected president: “If a foreign government has a relationship with terrorist organizations, like the Sandinistas did in the past; US law permits us to apply sanctions.… Again, it will be necessary to revise our policies if Ortega wins,” she says. [La Prensa (Managui), 10/31/2006; Democracy Now!, 11/1/2006]

Entity Tags: Daniel Ortega, Kristin Stewart, US Department of State

Timeline Tags: US-Nicaragua (1979-)

Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez.Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez. [Source: Washington Post]Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, a young Idaho man who reportedly has an “obsession” with President Obama, fires nine shots at the White House. One of his shots strikes the window of the mansion’s living quarters, but does not break the ballistic glass. Obama and his wife Michelle are on a nine-day Asia-Pacific tour. According to an FBI affidavit, Ortega drives his black 1998 Honda to a location near 17th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, and fires twice through his passenger window, using a Romanian-made Cugir SA semiautomatic rifle equipped with a telescopic sight. Two motorists witness the shooting. FBI agents search the area around the White House and locate “several confirmed bullet impact points on the south side of the building on or above the second story,” where the First Family’s residential area is located. Officials soon find the Honda abandoned, with the Cugir and boxes of ammunition inside, along with an aluminum baseball bat and a set of brass knuckles. Days later, Pennsylvania law enforcement officials arrest Ortega at an Indiana, Pennsylvania, hotel, after a desk clerk recognizes his photograph from a Secret Service handout. Ortega does not resist arrest, according to a Pennsylvania state trooper. According to the US Park Police, Ortega has known mental health issues, and the Park Police says “Ortega should be considered unstable with violent tendencies.” Apparently Ortega considers Obama “the devil” and “the anti-Christ,” officials say. Authorities say Ortega may believe his attack is part of some divinely inspired mission. Ortega’s family reported him missing on October 31; he was stopped by police in Arlington, Virginia, on the morning of November 11 after the police received reports of a suspicious person, but released because he had apparently committed no crimes. Photographs taken of Ortega during that encounter are later identified as being those of the possible White House shooter. FBI agent Chris Ormerod later discovers that before Ortega left Idaho, he told acquaintances that he “needed to kill” Obama and that he “will not stop until it’s done.” One acquaintance later tells the FBI that Ortega believes the government is “conspiring” against him. He is charged with an attempt to assassinate Obama. Initial media reports deny that Ortega has any connections with radical groups of any kind. [Associated Press, 11/16/2011; Washington Post, 11/17/2011; New York Times, 11/17/2011; US District Court for the District of Columbia, 11/17/2011 pdf file] However, later media investigations will find those reports somewhat superficial, though no official membership in any such groups seems to exist. Ortega is apparently a religious extremist who has embraced a number of “oddball” conspiracy theories, and recently viewed a conspiracy-theory film by Alex Jones, the far-right Internet talk show host. The film Ortega watched is entitled The Obama Deception. Ortega recently posted a YouTube video asking talk show host Oprah Winfrey to allow him to appear on her program because he is the second coming of Jesus Christ. “You see, Oprah, there is still so much more that God needs me to express to the world,” he says on the video. “It’s not just a coincidence that I look like Jesus. I am the modern-day Jesus Christ that you all have been waiting for.” Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, a mental health expert, believes that Ortega may suffer from schizophrenia. “I can guarantee you that in his mind, it all makes perfect sense,” Torrey tells a reporter. “If he’s Christ, Obama’s the Antichrist.” [New York Times, 11/21/2011] Ortega’s mother later denies press reports that her son has any mental issues. [Detroit Free Press, 11/18/2011]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Alex Jones, Barack Obama, E. Fuller Torrey, US Secret Service, US Park Police, Chris Ormerod, Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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