President Obama’s Justice Department is representing Elliott Abrams, the neoconservative Republican convicted of lying to Congress, against a lawsuit filed on behalf of Palestinians opposing the settlement project.
Abrams’s Justice Department attorney, Paul E. Werner, declined to confirm his role or say who made the decision. “I don’t comment on cases,” he said today, and referred us to the DC federal court docket, which confirms his representation. DoJ’s press department has yet to respond to questions.
Abrams worked in the Bush White House from 2001-2009; but the lawsuit filed last spring is aimed at all his activities over the last 25 years as an advocate for the settlement project, including appearing at AIPAC, the leading Israel lobby group, and at fundraisers for Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces in the United States.
The government’s decision to represent Abrams is “hard to believe and unfair,” Linda Kateeb, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said in an affidavit opposing the government representation. Abrams raised funds for “violent religious extremists” who, assisted by the Israeli army, stole her property in Palestine, Kateeb said.
Now on top of that bad news, I learn we will be fighting a team of talented Justice Department attorneys and FBI investigators as a result of the Department’s decision to represent Defendant Abrams. And that means Abrams gets free legal representation. WHY? I want to know who made that decision, what was the rationale, and whether there were political reasons and Washington heavyweights involved.
She went on, “Since I am an American citizen and taxpayer, why don’t I get free legal representation to secure the return of my property?”
The Justice Department should not represent Abrams because his actions are “not in the interest of the United States” and were not “within the scope of his [federal] employment,” says Martin McMahon, the attorney who filed the civil suit against Abrams and Sheldon Adelson, Haim Saban and many other Israel supporters for their work on behalf of the settlement project.
“To me there’s some political intrigue going on, someone put the fix in,” McMahon said. “I think someone got to a top Justice Department official and convinced them, we’ll just represent this guy.”
McMahon filed a motion in federal court in Washington last month to strip Abrams of government representation. By agreeing to represent Abrams, the government is taking Abrams’s side over that of Palestinian-American citizens, including Kateeb, who are among the 88 plaintiffs in the suit, McMahon says.
Abrams will now be able to use FBI agents to help him stand up for his activities speaking at AIPAC and on behalf of Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces– a charity also supported by Hillary Clinton donor Haim Saban, a co-defendant in the suit.
McMahon’s motion suggests that Abrams got a government lawyer in a political deal; because the government could only have undertaken to represent Abrams legitimately if it had been asked to do so by former White House officials.
[T]hat would have meant that former President George W. Bush’s National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, after receiving a detailed request from Defendant
Abrams, sent a letter to the Department explaining why she thought Defendant Abrams is entitled to free legal representation at the taxpayer’s expense.
But Justice Department attorney Werner showed up as Abrams’s lawyer 25 days after the case was filed, “a New York minute in terms of Washington D.C. bureaucratic time,” the motion says. There were obviously no deliberations inside the Justice Department about how many of the actions outlined in the original 194-page suit were in the American interest or were done on the federal payroll; rather:
“It appears that a senior official at the Department simply made the snap judgment to represent Defendant Abrams, whether the result of political maneuvering or otherwise. This Court should ask attorney Werner point-blank three basic questions: who made the call, why was it made, and is there any precedent for the Department’s decision to represent a convicted felon?”
McMahon says he named Abrams in the original suit because “Abrams was very much the man the settlements needed in America to keep the settlements going.” That suit names actions by Abrams as a private citizen, now at the Council on Foreign Relations, and as a White House aide:
Abrams…for the last 25 years, has encouraged and been aware of the wholesale violence that the donors and tax-exempt entities have funded, arguing that settlement expansion is a myth. In fulfilling his role as the settlements’ paid selfappointed U.S. spokesperson, he has received substantial book royalties, speaking fees, paid trips to Israel and Europe, and lucrative consulting fee contracts, all engaged in to promote the settlement enterprise. He has advocated and justified continued settlement growth, which necessarily meant the theft of more private Palestinian property.
He has engaged in numerous overt acts (meetings, email exchanges, and telephone calls with donors, Israeli Prime Minister staff members like Dov Weissglas, Yoram Turbowitz, and Shalom Turgeman, and tax-exempt entity officials), including some in this jurisdiction (he is a featured speaker at AIPAC events and attends Israeli embassy events, has given congressional testimony for at least 20 years condemning Palestinian violence, and has entertained Israeli Prime Ministers during visits to Washington, DC), all activities engaged in to achieve the primary goal of the conspiracy, i.e., expel all non-Jews from the OPT. He has: (a) met with or spoken to aides to former Prime Ministers Sharon (e.g., Dov Weissglas), Barak, and Olmert in New York, Washington, D.C., Europe (Rome meetings with Sharon), and Israel; and (b) consistently condemned Palestinian violence, arguing disingenuously that the settlements have not really expanded, nor do they frustrate U.S. foreign policy objectives.
His goal in engaging in all of these activities is to convince the American people and Congress that Palestinian farmers are the root cause of violence in the Middle East, a complete
fabrication. He has largely achieved that goal, as a recent House of Representatives resolution confirmed.
McMahon says that the Obama administration should not defend Abrams because even his official actions worked to undermine U.S. policy, a two-state solution.
A longtime neoconservative Republican, Abrams was convicted of lying to Congress in 1991 when he was a member of the Reagan administration during the Iran-Contra affair. “[W]hile Abrams claims his criminal conviction is irrelevant, that is not the case,” McMahon says in his latest legal filing in the matter. “[H]e is still lying to Congress. He says that settlement expansion is fiction. In fact, settlements have grown exponentially because of the millions of dollars he has raised…”
The lawsuit was filed last March against Abrams, Sheldon Adelson, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, settlement developer Irving Moskowitz, and businessman Lev Leviev among others. The lead plaintiff is Bassem al-Tamimi, a 49-year-old activist against the occupation in Nabi Saleh, Palestine. Tamimi has been arrested numerous times by Israel for opposing settlers’ annexation of his land (and nearly killed by shaking during an early imprisonment, as documented by Ben Ehrenreich in his new book The Way to the Spring). The day the suit was filed, McMahon said, Tamimi had his visa to the United States revoked by the US Embassy and his sister was arrested by Israeli authorities and subsequently held for ten days.
McMahon’s recent filing argues that Abrams has countered U.S. policy:
[Abrams] has almost single handedly insured the end of the two-state solution because he raised millions of dollars so that armed settlement militia members can illegally confiscate thousands of additional acres of private Palestinian property. Without such property, the two-state solution is dead in the water. Recently, in the Washington Post pg A10 July 29, 2016, State Department official John Kirby stated that “we strongly oppose settlement activity which is coercive to the cause of peace.” This is the same settlement activity that Abrams has raised millions of dollars for during the past 25 years.
The lawsuit alleges:
Abrams spoke at and attended numerous fundraising events all over America honoring donors like Defendants [John] Hagee, Adelson, [Norman] Braman, [Haim] Saban, and [Dan] Gilbert for their significant financial contributions ($500 million) to the settlements and Israel’s army ($104 million in 2014). He knew by speaking at these fundraising events and encouraging contributions for settlement expansion that the consequences of settlement expansion were money laundering, arms trafficking, ethnic cleansing, and theft of private property.