I'm at the Ohio Elections Commission in Columbus for Day 2, the continuation of the hearing of Schmidt v. Krikorian, aka the Genocidal Denial Trial. If you're just joining, the OH-02 congresswoman, Jean "Hittite Microwave" Schmidt is suing 2008 and 2010 challenger David Krikorian over alleged "false statements" made during the 2008 campaign. At the time, Krikorian issued a letter to supporters charging Schmidt with taking "blood money" from the Turkish lobby, in exchange for her denial of the Armenian Genocide of 1915.
Schmidt then served as co-chair of the Turkish-American Congressional Caucus, and she did, in fact, lead congressional opposition to a House resolution that would recognize the Armenian Genocide.
For background please consult the live-blog of Day 1 at http://www.dailykos.com/... of which this is the continuation.
NOTE: Of the 7 commisioners of the OEC, only five were present to hear this case, including all three Republicans, the lone Independent, and one of the three commission Democrats, Danielle Blue. Ms. Blue remained silent throughout both days of the hearing, the only commissioner to do so, so no Democratic voices were heard from the commission bench.
UPDATE 1: The proceedings have just gotten under way at 1:11 p.m. The OEC took the morning to cunduct other business. The afternoon opens with Mark Geragos continuing direct examination of David Krikorian concerning his prior knowledge of direct funding of the Schmidt 2008 campaign by entities connected directly to the Turkish government. Krikorian is referencing a letter of Nov. 10, 2006, from Lydia Borland, an employee of the Livingston Group, a registered foreign agent of the government of Turkey concerning fundraising activities she conducted for Jean Schmidt, who had entered Congress in 2005.
UPDATE 2: Krikorian is now focusing on the links between the Assembly of Turkish-American Associations (ATAA), an umbrella group registered as a 501(c)(3), and the Turkish government. The ATAA coordinated and included as members most other organizations collectively called the Turkish lobby. This linkage is key since the OEC has "bifurcated" the hearing and the initial stage of the hearing concerns only the question of whether money from the Turkish government passed to Jean Schmidt's campaign. Krikorian is showing that the transmission happened through the ATAA.
UPDATE 3: Krikorian is now citing documents from the Turkish lobby that demonstrate the principal goal of the Turkish lobby in the 2005-2008 time frame as being to stop recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the US Congress and other US organizations.
UPDATE 4: OEC Chairman Chuck Calvert is attempting to cut off the testimony by restricting the discussion only to the narrow question of whether Turkish government PACs contributed money directly to Schmidt, excluding testimony regarding intermediary individuals. In other words, let's not see the forest for the trees. Geragos is making strenuous objections, centered on the idea that all financial transactions must obviously pass through individuals, therefore testimony about the involvement of individuals must be allowed.
UPDATE 5: Calvert and Geragos are disputing a question that will obviously be the central issue of an appeal, should one be necessary. Calvert wants to exclude all testimony at this stage regarding whether statements made by Krikorian in 2008 were made in good faith, without "malice of forethought." He wants to establish the absolute truth or falsity of the statements first -- a concept contrary to all modern epistemology, to get philosophical. Geragos is arguing, with court precedents, that the question of falsity and the question of malice are inseparable -- that the complainant Schmidt must show, at theis stage, that the statements were both false and malicious. It boils down to the old philosophical question of whether such a thing as absolute truth does exist and is knowable -- never mind whether it's knowable by a bunch of Ohio political hacks such as those who sit on the OEC.
UPDATE 6: I've just been tipped off to this Youtube Video of Day 1 of the hearing, done by filmmaker Peter Musurilian: http://www.youtube.com/... About a sixth of the way through the video, you will see Schmidt attorney Donald Brey smash his briefcase into Musurilian's camera twice, for which the filmmaker is pursuing assault charges.
UPDATE 7: Krikorian has testified, based on documentary evidence, that in 2008, Schmidt was the single largest recipient of Turkish PAC money of any member of Congress. Geragos and Krikorian are citing that fact as prima facie evidence for the truth of the statement under scrutiny that Schmidt had taken money "from Turkish-sponsored PACS."
UPDATE 8: Krikorian has identified two attorneys in the room, members of Schmidt's legal team (oops, he called it her "defense team" though Schmidt is supposed to be the complainant) ad board members and officers of the Turkish Coalition of America, the leading member of the Turkish lobby. A lame objection from Schmidt's lead counsel to the "attempt to besmirch my co-counsel."
UPDATE 9: Krikorian has cited an article published in 2008 by the Southern Poverty Law Center about the Turkish lobby's illegal influence on Congress as a major source informing the opinions he expressed in the letter under question.
UPDATE 10: Donald Brey, Schmidt's lead attorney is cross-examining Krikorian. It seems to me that this would violate the federal ban on torture. Brey's laborious strategy is to go through exhibits one by one, asking if each one shows that Schmidt received direct money from Turkey. Since many of the exhibits relate to entirely different points, the repeated answer is "no." The idea is to somehow influence the commissioners merely by getting Krikorian to say "no" many times. Hopefully the commissioners will penalize Brey for idiocy.
UPDATE 11: Sara Cohan will now testify as an expert witness for Krikorian. Cohan is Director of the Genocide Education Project in San Francisco. She was on the staff of the Southern Poverty Law Center and assisted on the article about Turkey's suppression of the Armenian Genocide. The article detailed the flow of money from Turkey to US lobbying groups. Two of the Republican commissioners have interrupted with a long discussion of whether Cohan should be permitted to testify. Chris Finney, co-counsel for Krikorian, is providing valiant justification for her testimony, since she can directly explain the flow of money from Turkey, through PACs, to US members of Congress, for purposes of denying the genocide. Hard to see how Finney's arguments can be rebutted but somehow the lawyers and commissioners have been going on for twenty minutes without letting Cohan speak.
UPDATE 12: Finally Cohan is allowed to testify after dramatically asserting that she has specific information showing the flow of money to Jean Schmidt specifically. Chairman Calvert: "I didn't think you had that." This could be the show-stopper. Cohan is now detailing the relationships among the leading figures and interlocking staffs of ATAA and TCA. She's now reading an incriminating quote from the president of TCA, the law partner of Schmidt's co-counsel sitting next to the congresswoman today. Republican Commissioner Harvey Shapiro is going nuts, trying to plead himself explanations that would bolster Schmidt's position, spewing hypotheticals such as that the lawyers might have been passing money only on behalf of clients, or some such nonsense. He's losing his cool at the prospect of Schmidt's case falling apart.
UPDATE 13: Commissioner Shapiro, now nakedly pleading for Schmidt, is claiming that the law exempts "legal services" from the bar on legal lobbying by foreign governments. Geragos has demolished his argument with a correct definition of the legal services exemption. The chair has therefore overruled an objection that would have stopped Cohan's further testimony. A flurry of additional objections from the Schmidt bench. They REALLY do not want to let Cohan speak.
UPDATE 14: Cohan finally is able to say the obvious: Registered agents of the Turkish government, including Schmidt's co-counsel today, gave money to the Turkish PACs, and those PACs made contributions to Schmidt's 2008 campaign. This is exactly what Krikorian alleged in his 2008 letter. The statements were not false, the case should be over. But it isn't...
UPDATE 15: Cohan is now testifying about the illegality of PACs taking funds from foreign governments.
UPDATE 16: Respondent Krikorian calls his last witness, the real tour-de-force, Sibel Edmonds, the FBI whistleblower, via her videotaped deposition. Yesterday afternoon, Schmidt's attorneys filed a motion to suppress theEdmonds testimony based on her lack of personal knowledge about Jean Schmidt. The Commission now has to rule on that admissability -- this is a big one. As is now well known, Edmonds has testified about a vast web of illicit Turkish influence-peddling with members of the US Congress. Though Edmonds left the FBI in 2001, she was aware of some of the same key players with the Turkish PACs still in operation after Schmidt entered Congress. The question now is whether the OEC pulls a hard line to keep out the Edmonds testimony, or is sensitive to a blatant pro-Schmidt position being overturned on appeal.
UPDATE 17: OEC has accepted excerpts of the Edmonds testimony proffered by the Krikorian team. Now closing arguments on phase II of the hearing, the question of whether the statements made were false. The difference between Mark Geragos and Donald Brey in closing arguments is like the difference between a fish and a philodendron in a swimming contest. Brey was flat and inscrutable. Geragos is Shakespearean, gesticulating with conviction. The commissioners are rapt, watching the best display of lawyering in their lives. Geragos is shrewdly threatening them with the embarrassment of being overturned on appeal, with a reference to the word already getting out -- via this blog and the Twitter reports from the Cincincinnati Enquirer -- that the Krikorian team has proved today that Schmidt was on the take from Turkish agents.
UPDATE 18: The Commission now deliberating on each of five statements alleged by Schmidt to be false. Statement 1 is the "blood money" charge. WOOPS! Some commissioners just remembered that under the "bifurcation" process, both sides were prevented from submitting evidence regarding the use of money, and many other issues. Under the agreed procedure, they can only decide now whether money was taken, but now they can't decide how to decide that. Somehow this has degenerated from the Scopes Trial to Kafka's "The Trial."
UPDATE 19: The astounding fact is that ONLY the three Republicans and one Independent are talking and working out how the Commission will decide. The lone Democrat present, Danielle Blue, is absolutely mum, they haven't said a word all day. It's as if the Democrat is under an order to remain silent and simply ratify whatever decision the Republicans make. Yes, this is the Ohio I know.
UPDATE 20: Republican Commissioners Bryan Felmet and Larry Wolpert are having a little contest over which one can be more insipid, McCarthyesque and vile. And now the votes, with all motions framed by the Repblican Commissioners:
The items are being called out of order with much confusion among the commissioners, so I am reporting as best I can but there may be some confusion between items, many of which are worded similarly (Statements are paraphrased and not precise quotes):
On item 5 (Schmidt has taken $30,000 in blood money from Turkish government-sponsored PACs to deny the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenian men, women, and children by the Ottoman Turkish government during World War I): Unanimous that the statement was false and malicious. The lone Democrat present, Danielle Blue, voting with Republicans with no comment.
On item 7 (Schmidt has taken $30,000 in blood money from Turkish government-sponsored PACs and Turkish people in 2008 in exchange for helping them to cover-up the mass murder of 1.5 million Christians): the vote is 3-2 that it was false and malicious. A majority of the Commission, 4, is required so the motion fails. The Democrat, Danielle Blue, voted along with the Republican plurality in favor of the motion.
On item 8 (This information is public record and can be found on the FEC database): The Commission splits this statement into two, one regarding information about PACs and one regarding information about individual donors. Since only information about individual donors is available on the FEC website, the Commission votes that the statement was true regarding individuals, but false and malicious regarding Turkish-American PACs. (The legality of splitting a respondant's statement into two in this matter is highly challengeable.)
On item 1a (I ask the people of Ohio's second district to ask themselves if our Representative should be taking money from a foreign government that is killing our soldiers?) Unanimous that the statement was false and malicious.
On item 1 (Schmidt has taken $30,000 in blood money from Turkish government-sponsored PACs to deny the Genocide of Christian Armenians): Withdrawn at the end by Schmidt before a vote.
Summary: Of five statements alleged to be false and malicious, not counting an additional four already withdrawn by Schmidt from consideration, two and a half were found by the OEC to have been false and malicious.
Armenian Genocide denial has now been officially sanctioned by the State of Ohio. Everyone together now: KANGAROO COURT:
The two and a half remaining counts on which Krikorian was found to be in violation will be appealed, and are by no means settled.
Kafka is tossing in his grave.
UPDATE 20: The Commission now enters Phase 3, deliberation on whether a reprimand should be issued. Sequential motions that there be a reprimand issued but no fine or prosecution for each of the three violations: Each motion unanimously carried.