Despite a growing political bribery scandal involving an Alabama coal company, and its powerful Birmingham law firm, that have both donated heavily to his past Senate campaigns, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has refused to recuse himself from legal battles coming before the agency he runs which deal with who should pay the millions of dollars needed for a cleanup.
At issue is who is responsible for the horrific toxic pollution of a 400- acre residential neighborhoods and commercial area in a poverty-stricken part of North Birmingham – which has already caused numerous deaths and illnesses, especially cancer – as well as possible civil suits and even criminal charges related to massive political contributions, bribes and secret efforts to avoid responsibility.
— AL.com Birmingham (@ALcomBirmingham) May 11, 2017
It has been about four years since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designated the area a Superfund site with extensive toxic pollution that needs to be cleaned up, but nothing has been done even as residents – mostly poor African Americans – continue to get sick and die of cancer due to contamination by toxins and carcinogens.
In 2012, the EPA found high levels of chemicals known to cause serious health problems in the area, including lead, arsenic, and benzopyrene.
— Raymond Johnson Jr (@rjohnsonjr) August 18, 2015
After many residents, including children, became ill and died the best the EPA could do was to tell them not to let their children play outside, never play with a toy that has been on the ground and to never allow them to dig in the ground anywhere in the neighborhood.
A pamphlet one resident received recommended against chewing gum outside.
Among the firms identified by the EPA as responsible is the Drummond Company, which processed coal into coke for industrial furnaces for years with few pollution controls.
Drummond, in turn, blames its high profile, politically connected law firm in Birmingham, Balch & Bingham, for not giving them proper legal guidance.
“Sessions could potentially be a witness for the prosecution in the case his agency has been overseeing,” reports Mother Jones, “and that would pose a serious conflict of interest.”
“Yet Sessions,” continues Mother Joines, “who filled a key Justice Department post with a Balch lawyer and who was prepped for his confirmation hearing (to be Attorney General) by an attorney at the firm, has so far taken no steps to recuse himself.”
OpenSecrets.org, according to Mother Jones, documents that Drummond and the Balch law firm combined gave Sessions more than $289,000 since 1997 when he was first elected to the Senate. “Nearly $60,000 of those contributions,” adds Mother Jones, “poured in after the EPA began investigating.”
“But Sessions’ potential conflict involves more than money,” adds Mother Jones. “in late December 2015, the law firm’s client newsletter touted a meeting with Sessions to discuss “air deposition theory – a method of measuring pollution that includes smokestack emissions, and one that would likely harm Drummond’s case against the EPA.”
Balch said in the same newsletter it had met with Sessions and other Alabama politicians and key members “will issue a letter on the topic shortly.”
— Foodiesaurus Regina (@foodiesaurus) October 25, 2017
Sure enough, in February 2016, Sessions and others sent a letter to the EPA “condemning the use of the ‘air deposition theory’ at the North Birmingham site,” reports Mother Jones, adding: “In July 2016, according to an EPA spokesman, officials from the agency briefed staffers for Sessions” and others about the status of the toxic waste site.
The illegal, unethical, improper actions by officials who took huge campaign contributions and favors from Drummond and Blach has exploded into the public eye in recent months.
Oliver Robinson, a Democrat in the Alabama legislature who represented the North Birmingham neighborhood, testified against any action by the EPA.
In June, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama filed multiple criminal charges against Robinson, who pleaded guilty in September to bribery and wire fraud. He admitted to accepting at least $360,000 from Drummond to oppose the EPA cleanup plans.
In September, the U.S. Justice Department indicted Drummond’s vice president for government and regulatory affairs, and two Balch partners, for arranging payoffs to Robinson.
— Gary Dunavant (@Garybham) September 28, 2017
Kathleen Clark, a professor at Washington University Law, who specializes in conflicts of interest and ethics, told Mother Jones that there are grounds for Sessions to recuse himself.
“She cites a federal rule requiring government employees to recuse themselves from matters involving companies they’ve had a relationship with over the past year (Sessions’ leadership PAC received donations from Balch as recently as September 2016).”
“Sessions,” continues Clark, “as I understand it, has multiple connections to players involved in this corruption prosecution.”
“I think it is completely reasonable to question Sessions’ ability to act impartially, and therefore Sessions should absolutely not participate.”
Sessions, if he doesn’t recuse himself, become as corrupt as those he is helping avoid prosecution and fines, simply by not doing anything.
Alabama is a hotbed of corruption, all of which we will not list here, but from the governor on down, there has been plentiful evidence in recent years that politicians are being bought, legislation written by lobbyists is being passed off by elected officials as their own and influence buying is done with favors, friendships, and relationships that go deep.
And Sessions is one of the good old boys who needs to act to separate from the bad guys or it will be clear he is one of them.
“This is the worst type of public corruption,” Acting U.S. Attorney Jay Town said in September when he indicted a number of corrupt officials and their benefactors.
“It was all done for the greed of a few and at the expense of so many families and chldren living in potentially toxic areas,” added Town.
“It’s cheaper to pay for a politician,” said Town ominously, “than it is to pay for an environmental cleanup.”
As Attorney General, Sessions is the nation’s top law enforcement official, so he needs to be as honest, scrupulously clean in terms of his legal connections and above the corruption both in his deeds, actions, and image.
— Antonio (@BayAreaBeardo) September 6, 2017
At present, Trump’s Attorney General is not showing adherence to that high standard in the Alabama toxic waste mess which is a red flag for all Americans.