My post on Wednesday, Final Chapter (or, really, an Epilogue) on the Holder Justice Department, drew some fire. Oddly enough, although the point of view I was taking really is not distinguishable from Elizabeth Warren’s, the fire came from the left. (The political left, that is, not my left)
As I suspected he would, Matt Taibbi weighed in on the subject as well in Eric Holder, Wall Street Double Agent, Comes in From the Cold. Taibbi’s coverage was more comprehensive than mine or David Dayen’s, so if you’re interested in the subject, click through and read or, if you prefer video, scroll to the end of the Rolling Stone piece for Matt’s interview with Amy Goodman.
Taibbi confronts head on the argument of the “Don’t Blame Holder” chorus and, in doing so, exposes a shining example of political doublespeak, for which we can thank President Obama. The argument to which I refer is that no one on Wall Street broke any laws. A comment to my post emphasized, through the use of all caps, that the actions of the banks were “perfectly legal.” Here are Obama’s words, from a 60 minutes interview, which are the source of what Taibbi appropriately labels this “preposterous meme”:
Can you detect the doublespeak?
Here’s Taibbi’s takedown:
Obama, a brilliant lawyer and wordsmith, was not saying that all of the behavior leading to the crash was legal. He merely said that some of the worst behavior wasn’t illegal. Which is true. Meaningless, but true. [Emphasis mine. This is where Taibbi explains the doublespeak aspect of what Obama said. His actual statement was meaningless, but it was intended to, and did, mislead listeners to an entirely different conclusion.]
Of course, some of the worst behavior was very illegal. This is confirmed in the fact that Holder extracted billions of dollars in settlement monies and even, in a few cases, obtained guilty pleas for crimes like fraud, manipulation, bribery, money laundering and tax evasion.
Anyone who even tries to claim that none of the banks actually did anything illegal should be directed to the HSBC settlement of December 2012. In this deferred prosecution agreement, Europe’s largest bank paid $1.92 billion to settle their responsibility for violations of the Bank Secrecy Act and other laws.
This is from a description of HSBC’s crimes by Holder’s Justice Department:
“As a result of HSBC Bank USA’s AML failures, at least $881 million in drug trafficking proceeds – including proceeds of drug trafficking by the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico…were laundered through HSBC Bank USA.”
I’m not sure which is more Orwellian, the idea that the Wall Street banks did nothing illegal, or Matt Taibbi, David Dayen and me being attacked by progressives and defended by a conservative.