The one good thing I figured Barack Obama would do as President was go after the shysters in the mortgage industry. Surely a Democrat as liberal as Obama would make sure that those who aided and abetted mortgage fraud would be punished, right? And last year — coincidentally, right before the election — they announced that they had brought 530 cases representing over 73,000 fraudulent mortgages and a billion in lost home value. It was just the tip of an awful iceberg, but it was something.
The Justice Department made a long-overdue disclosure late Friday: Last year when U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder boasted about the successes that a high-profile task force racked up pursuing mortgage fraud, the numbers he trumpeted were grossly overstated.
We’re not talking small differences here. Originally the Justice Department said 530 people were charged criminally as part of a year-long initiative by the multi-agency Mortgage Fraud Working Group. It now says the actual figure was 107 — or 80 percent less. Holder originally said the defendants had victimized more than 73,000 American homeowners. That number was revised to 17,185, while estimates of homeowner losses associated with the frauds dropped to $95 million from $1 billion.
The government restated the statistics because it got caught red-handed by a couple of nosy reporters. Last October, two days after Holder first publicized the numbers, Phil Mattingly and Tom Schoenberg of Bloomberg News broke the story that some of the cases included in the Justice Department’s tally occurred before the initiative began in October 2011. At least one was filed more than two years before President Barack Obama took office.
It will surprise no one who reads this blog that the Justice Department used every tactic short of extraordinary rendition to evade reporters’ questions about the program. When pressed for details of the arrests and prosecutions, they stalled delayed and obfuscating until … get this … after the election.
Oh, and they’ve done it before:
This was the second time, mind you, that Holder’s Justice Department had pulled a stunt like this. In December 2010, Holder held a press conference to tout a supposed sweep by the president’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force called “Operation Broken Trust.” (The mortgage-fraud program was part of the same task force.) As with the mortgage-fraud initiative, Broken Trust wasn’t actually a sweep. All the Justice Department did was lump together a bunch of small-fry, penny-ante fraud cases that had nothing to do with one another. Then it held a press gathering.
At least on that occasion, the Justice Department promptly provided me with a list of the defendants’ names and case details when I asked for them. That is how I was able to determine for a December 2010 column that the government’s Broken Trust numbers were inflated. Among the handful of cases on the list that I spot-checked, one defendant was sentenced to probation before the operation’s supposed start date. Another person on the list had no record of criminal charges. Other cases had nothing to do with any actions by the task force. The Justice Department still hasn’t restated the Broken Trust numbers — even though those statistics clearly were in error, too.
And, just in case you’re wondering about the brokers who piled fraudulent mortgages into tottering piles of securities shit and the ratings agencies that gave those tottering piles of shit AAA ratings: they have not been held responsible either.
Holder is setting records of lies and obfuscations on every issue imaginable. From Fast and Furious to mortgage fraud, he consistently and continuously misleads the American public. And yet when the Republicans tried to cite for contempt (for lying his ass off about F&F), they were branded as anti-Obama-crazed maniacs. And the DOJ is just a fraction of the lies spewed by this Administration on the subject of the law, from claiming they are winding down the War on Drugs while they ramp it up to the head of NSA lying to Congress with a straight face.
So you’ll forgive me if I take today’s announcement of changes to the War on Drugs with some salt. I love the idea of not charging low-level drug offenders with crimes that invoke harsh minimum sentences. But I don’t trust these assholes to actually do it. What I trust them to do is, shortly before the 2014 election, announce that they’ve overhauled or War on Drugs and kept non-violent people out of prison while they continue to do it.
Holder has earned that distrust. And that distrust is the biggest reason why he shouldn’t be Attorney General any more. Respect for the Rule of Law is a critical component to any functioning society. Holder has brought the Rule of Law into contempt. Enough of this.