SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
The Birmingham News has done an amazing series over the last couple of weeks. They continue to be the Riley family’s faithful protectors, with the lead played by their vicious, prize-winning Attack Chihuahua. But in the last two weeks, the B’ham News have veered from the predictable Pravda style into something far more exotic. I’d say it has a distinctly North Korean flavor, enough perhaps to win Attack Chihuahua the vaunted Juche Award for political journalism. They’re already calling lawyers with threats to divulge lurid details from their sex lives. Maybe next they’ll try kidnapping movie starlets to fuel the appetite of their masters? In any event, when Hollywood gets the rights to this story, the inept comic relief part will be supplied by the B’ham News and its valiant Attack Chihuahua.
Last week the Attack Chihuahua evidently decided to cash in any pretense of being a journalist. He recorded an interview with a source, in which she explicitly asked him to treat parts of the interview as “off the record,” he agreed. But he then posted the interview on the News’s website. You can listen to it and can clearly hear his agreement to keep much of the conversation off the record. It’s amazing that neither the reporter nor his editors seem to be much concerned about this rather startling lapse of ethics.
Our sleuth has really outdone himself today, however. He’s busy trying to convince us that the 2002 gubernatorial election was marked by voting fraud. That of course is beyond doubt. But wait until you get to the details: the fraud was by Siegelman! We’re talking about the election in which voting machines in Republican-controlled Baldwin County suddenly and dramatically switched their results in the middle of the night, providing exactly the right number of changed votes to deliver the statehouse to Dick Riley.
Here’s what our sleuth reporter has to say:
During the recount challenging Republican Bob Riley’s tiny edge over Siegelman, Rob Riley, the governor’s son, was pursuing claims made in a sworn affidavit that accused Siegelman supporters of possible voter fraud.
Rob Riley took the claims so seriously that he forwarded the allegations to the attorney general’s office. Riley described the claims to a young lawyer in that office named Troy King, who was handling recount issues for then Attorney General Bill Pryor. Riley also contacted a reporter at the time about the allegations and showed her the affidavit.
That’s right. War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength. It’s on Pravda’s masthead. But while we’re tallying the more bombastic deceits, let’s note: Troy King. Yes. Troy King. Note that here he is “handling recount issues for then Attorney General Bill Pryor.” But in fact the records will show something else. Who was serving as legal advisor to the Bob Riley campaign on elections issues? Why, none other than the self-same Troy King. So which hat was Troy King wearing? And in the next grafs, we see that Toby Roth, the former chief of staff to Governor Riley, appears as a party, together with a Montgomery policeman named Eddie Spivey. Now that wouldn’t be the same Eddie Spivey who was involved in the famous Todd Road incident of 1983? That’s an incident in which a couple of cops, one named Spivey, busted in the door of a house in a Black neighborhood. A crowd of people had gathered, and there were cars with many out-of-state people present. The officers said they were convinced it was a gathering of drug kingpins. Of course, it turned out to be a funeral. Spivey was also Mayor Emory Folmar’s bodyguard. Could this be the same guy? And here he’s being presented as someone working for Siegelman? Sounds extremely fishy, like most of the stuff rolling from the pen of our sleuth reporter these days.
Why is he telling us all of this? The author seems to think it discredits Jill Simpson:
[Simpson] made no mention of the voter fraud affidavit that captured the attention of top campaign advisers at the time.
Hmmm. She probably also failed to include the day’s weather forecast for Duluth. Guess that makes her out to be a liar, right? But wait, it gets better.
Simpson told congressional lawyers last month she has no records, documents or other material to corroborate her recollection of telephone calls and meetings with Rob Riley, whom she said gave her all the information.
Small problem with this series of statements. They’re all untrue. Not only did she demonstrate that she had the records, she showed them to the journalists who asked for them. It seems that our ace reporter never bothered to ask her for them when he conducted his tape-recorded interview.
Artur Davis Gets It
The most cautious, level-headed analysis of the Siegelman affair to appear so far in the Montgomery Advertiser comes from the pen of Congressman Artur Davis. Here are some highlights:
Much of the press attention around this case has centered on the explosive allegations of a lawyer with Republican roots, Jill Simpson. She has claimed under oath that in late 2002, she participated in a conference call in which a high-ranking Republican bragged that the U.S. attorney’s office run by his wife would prosecute Siegelman; she has also testified that she was told of direct intervention by the president’s adviser, Karl Rove, to prod the Department of Justice to approve an indictment against the former governor. To date, no one has offered sworn testimony to rebut Simpson, who has twice made her claims under penalty of perjury.
It is true that the individuals whom Simpson links to a conspiracy to prosecute Siegelman are not exactly rogues; to the contrary, while they are all practitioners in the rough-hewn world of Alabama politics, they are well respected and have never been tinged by scandal. Congress’ efforts to prove or disprove Simpson, however, have been thwarted by two roadblocks: Rove’s steadfast refusal to appear before Congress even though he is now a private citizen, and the Justice Department’s insistence that it will not disclose any of the more than 600 documents in its possession regarding Siegelman’s case.
But Simpson is far from the only source of the suspicions around the Siegelman case. There is the recent revelation in Time magazine that the prosecutors who indicted Siegelman failed to aggressively pursue allegations of illegal campaign contributions against Republican officeholders, even though the source of the claims, Lanny Young, was one of their two principal witnesses against Democrat Siegelman.
This is setting the stage. Tomorrow a highly respected former U.S. Attorney will testify that he was told that the case against Siegelman was over. It had come up empty handed. And then the orders came from Washington: go over it again. Find something. Nail him. And chronologically this lines up perfectly with Jill Simpson’s testimony. It matches the time when Simpson recounts Rove spoke with Noel Hillman, the head of Public Integrity, who brought the Siegelman case, and instructed him to go after Siegelman.
Of course, the Birmingham News will insist that this is all unbelievable—because Jill Simpson’s original affidavit failed to include the day’s weather forecast for Duluth. And if you believe that, you’ll believe anything.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
Freddie Gray’s relatives arrived for the trial in the afternoon, after the prep-school kids had left. By their dress, they seemed to have just gotten off work in the medical and clerical fields. The family did not appear at ease in the courtroom. They winced and dropped their heads as William Porter and his fellow officer Zachary Novak testified to opening the doors of their police van last April and finding Freddie paralyzed, unresponsive, with mucus pooling at his mouth and nose. Four women and one man mournfully listened as the officers described needing to get gloves before they could touch him.
The first of six Baltimore police officers to be brought before the court for their treatment of Freddie Gray, a black twenty-five-year-old whose death in their custody was the immediate cause of the city’s uprising last spring, William Porter is young, black, and on trial. Here in this courtroom, in this city, in this nation, race and the future seem so intertwined as to be the same thing.
Pairs of moose-dung earrings sold each year at Grizzly’s Gifts in Anchorage, Alaska:
An Alaskan brown bear was reported to have scratched its face with barnacled rocks, making it the first bear seen using tools since 1972, when a Svalbardian polar bear is alleged to have clubbed a seal in the head with a block of ice.
A former prison in Philadelphia that has served as a horror-movie set was being prepared as a detention center for protesters arrested at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump fired his campaign manager.
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”