!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News
Profile: Clay Johnson
Clay Johnson was a participant or observer in the following events:
James B. Francis Jr., the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety and a fundraiser for the presidential campaign of Governor George W. Bush, convinces federal judge Walter Smith to order that government vaults containing 12 tons of evidence from the Branch Davidian compound near Waco be opened, and the contents reexamined. The Davidian compound was destroyed six years ago as the culmination of a 51-day standoff between the residents and the FBI (see April 19, 1993). Smith orders the reopening of the vaults after inquiries from an independent filmmaker, Michael McNulty (see July 29, 1999), and a lawyer, David Hardy, who has long challenged the government’s account of events. There are three kinds of evidence to be examined, Francis has said: “One is shells, shell casings, physical things. The second type of evidence is video and still photographs. The third type are interviews done there on the spot at the time.” Smith’s order reads in part: “First and foremost, the parties to civil litigation pending in this court have the right to seek access (see April 1995). Second, the events that took place between Feb. 28 and April 19, 1993, and thereafter, have resulted in sometimes intense interest from the national media and the members of the public. There may come a time when persons other than the current civil litigants would be allowed access to the materials.” [Associated Press, 8/10/1999; Associated Press, 9/10/1999; Associated Press, 9/17/1999] One document that will prove to be extremely significant is the 49th and final page of a December 1993 lab report that has long ago been made available to lawmakers and attorneys. The 49th page had been removed. It states that FBI investigators who examined the scene at Waco found a “fired US military 40mm shell casing which originally contained a CS gas round,” and two “expended 40mm tear gas projectiles.” (The Justice Department will later claim that the prosecution and defense lawyers in the civil trial received the 49th page as well.) [Associated Press, 9/11/1999] The Texas Rangers review the contents, and find a spent military tear-gas canister, which forces the FBI and the Justice Department to admit that their agents fired incendiary gas canisters into the compound during the final assault (see August 25, 1999 and After). The government has previously denied firing any weapons into the compound that might have caused the conflagration that consumed the building and killed almost all of the residents. As a result of the investigation, the federal government names a special prosecutor to investigate whether there was a government cover-up (see September 7-8, 1999 and July 21, 2000), and Attorney General Janet Reno (see July 29, 1999) has to weather calls from Republican lawmakers to resign. Later, Francis denies reopening the case for political reasons. His decision “unleashed a series of forces that were apparently a lot bigger than what I recognized,” he will say. “I never dreamed that it would turn into something like this.” He will claim that he is “doing everything in my power to not politicize this” controversy. Governor Bush himself refrains from commenting on the issue, though his chief of staff helped bring McNulty and Hardy to Francis’s attention. Hardy will say of Francis, “I don’t think there’s any question that he is the shining light of this entire inquiry.” Hardy used his friends in the Texas gun lobby to contact former Texas Senator Jerry Patterson; Patterson contacted Bush’s chief of staff Clay Johnson, who in turn referred him to Francis. “I think what happened to Jim Francis is he initially wanted to be very low-key and then as more and more revelations began to surface, he became angry and disgusted, as all of us are,” Patterson will say. “This was not a role that he sought.” As for his own role, Francis will say: “It’s important that the facts come out, whatever those are. I’m not a hero, but I have done the right thing.” [Excite, 7/28/1999; Excite, 7/29/1999; Associated Press, 8/10/1999; Associated Press, 9/10/1999; Associated Press, 9/17/1999] In July, the Justice Department called Francis’s allegations of mismanagement and possible cover-ups “nonsense.” [Excite, 7/28/1999; Excite, 7/29/1999]
Entity Tags: Branch Davidians, George W. Bush, David Hardy, Clay Johnson, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Walter Smith, Texas Rangers, James B. Francis Jr, US Department of Justice, Janet Reno, Michael McNulty, Jerry Patterson
Timeline Tags: 1993 Branch Davidian Crisis
After Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, the co-chair of Florida’s Bush campaign team (see After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000 and After), certifies George W. Bush (R-TX) the winner of Florida’s presidential election (see 7:30 p.m. November 26, 2000), the Bush campaign continues publicly—“ostentatiously,” to quote one London newspaper—preparing for Bush to transition into the White House, naming possible cabinet members and requesting that the General Services Administration (GSA) fund a transition office for Bush to prepare to ascend to the presidency. Andrew Card, a former General Motors executive whom Bush has said will be his chief of staff, says of Bush, “He’s getting ready to be a great president.” Bush’s chief of staff in Texas, Clay Johnson, heads the transition team and Ari Fleischer serves as press secretary. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) has told Senate committee chairpersons to convene their members on January 4, 2001 to begin confirmation hearings on Bush cabinet nominees. The GSA, however, has not gone along with the push. GSA officials say that the 80,000 square feet of Washington office space will stay locked until either Bush or Democrat Al Gore is certified as president. Instead, says Bush’s running mate Dick Cheney, the campaign will set up transition offices funded by private contributions. “We feel it is our obligation to the American people to honor their votes by moving forward and assembling the administration they’ve chosen,” he says. [Guardian, 11/28/2000; Forbes, 2011]
Clay Johnson. [Source: National Institutes of Health]A number of senior government officials who left the White House or the Eisenhower Executive Office Building when these buildings were evacuated return to the White House and join other senior officials in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), the bunker below the East Wing. [Sewanee Today, 2/24/2003; Bridgeland, 2012, pp. 5; LBJ Presidential Library, 9/3/2013] The officials were among dozens of government employees who went to the office of DaimlerChrysler in Washington, DC, after they were evacuated from the White House or the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to it (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Anita McBride, the acting director of White House personnel, contacted the White House Situation Room and let officials there know who was with her at the DaimlerChrysler building, and arrangements were then made for a few senior officials to go back to the White House (see (Shortly After 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Politico, 9/9/2011] These officials head from the DaimlerChrysler building to the White House around midday. [LBJ Presidential Library, 9/3/2013] They are escorted through downtown Washington by members of the Secret Service. [Lindsey, 2008, pp. 86; Crescent, 10/3/2011] The officials who go back to the White House include Nicholas Calio, assistant to the president for legislative affairs; Larry Lindsey, assistant to the president for economic policy; Albert Hawkins, secretary of Cabinet affairs; Clay Johnson, assistant to the president for presidential personnel; Tucker Eskew, director of the White House Office of Media Affairs; and Logan Walters, President Bush’s personal aide. [Draper, 2007, pp. 142; Crescent, 10/3/2011; Bridgeland, 2012, pp. 5] After arriving at the White House, the officials go to the PEOC, where they join Vice President Dick Cheney, members of the Cabinet, and other senior White House staffers. [Lindsey, 2008, pp. 86; Bridgeland, 2012, pp. 5]
Johann Hari, a commentator for the London Independent, pens a caustic column about the American “birther” conspiracy theory and Donald Trump, the billionaire entrepeneur and television host who has used the controversy to vault himself to the forefront of the Republican Party’s group of 2012 presidential contenders (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 14-15, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 22, 2011, April 24-25, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011). Hari says that Trump’s meteoric ascendancy within the Republican Party proves “that one of its central intellectual arguments was right all along. They have long claimed that evolution is a myth believed in only by whiny liberals—and it turns out they were onto something. Every six months, the Republican Party venerates a new hero, and each time it is somebody further back on the evolutionary scale.” Hari cites former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) and current US Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) as previous “stops” on the Republicans’ backwards slide, until the party got to Trump as its current representative. “A survey suggests he is the most popular candidate among Republican voters,” Hari writes. “It’s not hard to see why. Trump is every trend in Republican politics over the past 35 years taken to its logical conclusion. He is the Republican id, finally entirely unleashed from all restraint and all reality.” Hari lists four major trends that he says the modern Republican Party reflects, and that Trump epitomizes.
'Naked Imperialism' - Hari says Trump advocates what he calls the first trend of modern Republican ideology, “naked imperialism,” and cites Trump’s promise to, as president, simply “go in” to Libya “and take the oil.… I would take the oil and stop this baby stuff.” On Iraq, he has said: “We stay there, and we take the oil.… In the old days, when you have a war and you win, that nation’s yours.” Hari says that in Trump’s view, a view held by many Republicans, “the world is essentially America’s property, inconveniently inhabited by foreigners squatting over oil fields. Trump says America needs to ‘stop what’s going on in the world. The world is just destroying our country. These other countries are sapping our strength.’ The US must have full spectrum dominance.”
'Dog-Whistle Prejudice' - Along with his imperialism, Hari says, Trump has a penchant for what he calls “dog-whistle prejudice—pitched just high enough for frightened white Republicans to hear it.” Citing Trump’s support for the “birther” theory, Hari writes: “The Republican primary voters heard the message right—the black guy [President Obama] is foreign. He’s not one of us.”
'Raw Worship of Wealth' - The third trend that Hari says endears Trump to Republicans is his “raw worship of wealth as an end in itself—and [the exemption of the wealthy] from all social responsibility.” Republicans seem not to care that Trump, born into wealth, has bankrupted four businesses, repeatedly failed to pay his taxes, and, according to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Clay Johnson, has made the bulk of his fortune from “stiffing his creditors” and “from government subsidies and favours for his projects—which followed large donations to the campaigns of both parties, sometimes in the very same contest. Trump denies these charges and presents himself as an entrepreneur ‘of genius.’” However, Hari says Republicans seem to believe that “the accumulation of money is proof in itself of virtue, however it was acquired. The richest 1 percent pay for the party’s campaigns, and the party in turn serves their interests entirely.… In America today, a janitor can pay more income tax than Donald Trump—and the Republicans regard that not as a source of shame, but of pride.”
Imposing America's Will on Reality - The fourth trend, Hari writes, “is to insist that any fact inconvenient to your world-view either doesn’t exist, or can be overcome by pure willpower.” He cites the example of the US’s imminent need to extend its debt ceiling in order to avoid default. While almost every economist in the world says the US going into default will trigger “another global economic crash,” Trump “snaps back: ‘What do economists know? Most of them aren’t very smart.’” Trump says “it’s so easy” to deal with the upward spiral of oil prices merely by calling a meeting of the leaders of the OPEC nations and, as he has said: “I’m going to look them in the eye and say: ‘Fellows, you’ve had your fun. Your fun is over.‘… It’s so easy. It’s all about the messenger.” He will stop China from manipulating its currency merely by ordering it to do so, and derides any mention of how much American debt China owns. Hari writes: “This is what the Republican core vote wants to be told. The writer Matthew Yglesias calls it ‘the Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics.’ It’s named after the DC comics superhero the Green Lantern, who can only use his superpowers when he ‘overcomes fear’ and shows confidence—and then he can do anything. This is Trump’s view. The whiny world simply needs to be bullied into submission by a more assertive America—or the world can be fired and he’ll find a better one.”
Expressing the Underlying Core Beliefs of the GOP - Trump will not get the Republican nomination, Hari believes, not because Republicans reject his premises, but “because he states these arguments too crudely for mass public consumption. He takes the underlying whispered dogmas of the Reagan, Bush, and Tea Party years and shrieks them through a megaphone. The nominee will share similar ideas, but express them more subtly.” Hari points to the budget proposal by US Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), one supported by every House Republican and most Senate Republicans, which would, among other things, halve taxes on America’s most wealthy, end corporate taxation, end taxation on dividends and inheritance, and pass that tax burden onto the middle class and poor by gutting spending on food stamps, healthcare for the poor and the elderly, and basic services. The Ryan budget would send the US deficit soaring, though Ryan, embracing the tenet of imposing his beliefs on reality, insists it would cut the deficit. Hari concludes: “The Republican Party today isn’t even dominated by market fundamentalism. This is a crude Nietzcheanism, dedicating to exalting the rich as an overclass and dismissing the rest.” [Independent, 4/28/2011]
Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database
Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.