The Purpose of Government

Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022 may be the worst name for an act. This bill clears much red tape for our veterans. This should have been a bill that quickly passed both houses of Congress.

Basically, for unclear reasons, our US military burned their waste while we were in Iraq and Afghanistan. (There is a reason that burning trash is illegal in most cities.) Our veterans were exposed to various toxins by being around these burning pits. Some of our veterans came down with weird diseases. But it is hard to prove that these burn pits directly caused these diseases. One would figure that the VA would give the benefit of the doubt to our veterans. No. We didn’t give them the benefit of the doubt.

The bill quickly passed the House and Senate. Then because of technical error, the bill needed to be rewritten and voted on again. It passed the House, but 25 Republicans in the Senate switched their votes from Yes to No. Republicans were holding up much-needed aid for no good reason. There was a lot of lobbying. The bill was brought up again. The embarrassed Republicans flipped their votes again, and the bill passed. This bill gives our veterans much-needed relief. I have no comment on the pettiness of the GOP. It is mind-boggling.

Geoffrey Berman
I just finished reading Geoffrey Berman’s book, Holding the Line. The book recounts his two-and-a-half years as United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Mr. Berman points to his many successes during his 2-1/2 years. He also talks about the tug-of-war he had with the Department of Justice, specifically with Attorney General William Barr. Of course, Mr. Berman will paint himself in the best light possible. As long as you understand that, I highly recommend this book.

I want to point out a chapter that I found somewhat surprising. The chapter involved an investigation into former US Senator and Secretary of State John Kerry. Donald Trump seemed unhappy that John Kerry continued communicating with the Iranian Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif. As you recall, Donald Trump believed that all things Iranian were terrible. From the moment he was elected, he tried to pull us out of the US-Europe-Iran nuclear arms agreement. Eventually, Trump pulled the US out of the Joint Agreement because he said it was “bad for America.” Donald Trump tweeted about John Kerry and “shadow diplomacy” on two separate occasions. Suggesting that John Kerry may be illegally acting against America’s interests. As usual, Donald Trump produced no factual information to support his allegation.

High-ranking officials in the Justice Department met with the national security unit of the Southern District of New York. The Justice Department referred John Kerry’s Iranian-related conduct for investigation and possible prosecution. The question was, did John Kerry violate the Logan Act as a private citizen?

The Logan Act, written in 1799, says, “Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both….”

No one has been convicted under the Logan Act. Yet, this is what the Trump administration was pushing. To the credit of the Southern District of New York, they thoroughly investigated the allegations. After a year of investigating, they found that John Kerry didn’t violate any ethics statutes or laws. They decided not to prosecute. This decision did not go over well in the Justice Department. Under Bill Barr’s direction, the case was taken away from the Southern District and given to the district of Maryland. That district investigated and again found no reason to proceed with the prosecution.

The fact that the Department of Justice decided to investigate John Kerry based on the unhinged tweets of Donald Trump is alarming. According to the timeline provided by Mr. Berman, every time Donald Trump tweeted some nonsense about John Kerry, the Department of Justice picked up the phone and pressured the Southern District of New York. They wanted to know where their prosecution was. Why was the Southern District moving so slowly?

This is not how our justice system should work. Thankfully, despite Donald Trump, our justice system seemed to work; the Southern District of New York resisted the pressure, at least in this case.

There is only one month between now and the mid-term elections. VOTE! This is the only way we turn America toward a “more perfect union.” Vote!

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Errington C. Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson is a surgeon, scholar, full-time sports fan and part-time political activist. He is active in a number of community projects and initiatives. Through medicine, he strives to improve the physical health of all he treats.


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