Tales of a terrible boss...And an investigation into ICE
The House is scheduled to vote tomorrow on a “retirement security” bill that represents basically everything wrong with Washington, the result of Newt Gingrich’s effort to effectively privatize the lawmaking process after taking over the House in 1994. Interesting story here from Dave Dayen.
After I wrote about Rep. Josh Gottheimer recently, I was flooded with messages from his former aides saying that if I want the real story, look into how he treats his staff. So I did. It’s quite something.
To entice you to read to the bottom of this email, I’ve included the request for comment I sent to his office for it, which was one of the odder emails I’ve had to compose while working in this profession.
This week, in collaboration with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, we published an investigation into ICE’s shocking use of a solitary confinement for immigrants in detention who’ve been convicted of no crime. Solitary confinement is itself a form of torture, and ICE uses it against detainees for no apparent reason: the “offense” of being gay or disabled can be reason enough. The notion that ICE should continue to exist is, to me, a far more radical and extremist idea than the alternative, that this rogue agency needs to be abolished and rebuilt as something different. Story on a courageous ICE whistleblower, by Maryam Saleh and Spencer Woodman, is here.
Full investigation here.
Speaking of unjust detention, Michael Thompson, a 68-year-old Michigan man, was arrested in 1994 for selling weed, which voters in that same state have since legalized. He’s going to die in prison unless newly elected Gov. Gretchen Whitmer does something about it. Typically, governors wait until the end of their terms to start dispatching clemency, but Thompson’s case is so egregious, there’s no justification for waiting. (At the end Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s term, he shamefully denied Thompson clemency.)
Clemency for Thompson would also send an important signal, reflecting an evolution in the criminal justice reform movement. Thompson is serving such a draconian sentence because while he was selling weed, he was a gun owner. Now, no gun was used or even in his possession when he was caught selling pot to an undercover cop, but that mere fact that he owned guns turned his offense into a “violent crime.” And if we don’t deal with cases like Thompson’s, we simply can’t roll back mass incarceration, because so many of the long sentences people are serving don’t fit the “non-violent, first-time offender” mold that earns the mercy of reformers.
If you live in Michigan, you can send Whitmer a short note asking her to give clemency to Michael Thompson here. If you don’t live in Michigan, her team will still notice if we create a fuss on social media, particularly on Twitter. Tana Ganeva wrote about Thompson’s case today for The Intercept. Please read and share and let’s get him out.
Speaking of more unjust imprisonment, a fascist is president in Brazil because the corrupt courts there locked up Lula, the one-time leading left-wing contender and former president. The first interview he’s given in prison since the election was with Glenn Greenwald, which we published today.
As promised, here is the email requesting comment from Rep. Gottheimer. The comment his office supplied is in the story.
Subject: Follow up article
Hi James - After I wrote my last story on Rep. Gottheimer, I started getting messages from former aides of his, from the FCC, Burson, the campaign, and congressional office. After that, I solicited more online, and heard from more people. Here are some of the things I was told that are worth including in a story, and I’d be happy to hear his side of any of this:
At the Teaneck Democratic Municipal Committee meeting in May 2017, Gottheimer had a public meltdown when he learned that Jim Norman, a local resident who sometimes did community news dispatches for the Teaneck Independent, was taking notes in the audience and planning to write something. He demanded staff confiscated his notes, screamed inside the facility, went to the street and screamed there too, then punched the roof of a staffers’ car repeatedly. He then demanded staff transcribe his remarks from the night to be ready to rebut Norman. Is there any missing context that would make his reaction sound less...extreme?
Once in 2017 when Gottheimer had agreed to apologize to the staff for his general behavior, he instead told the staff they should be proud to work in the office because of how much money he was raising.
“Are you high?” and “Are you out of your fucking mind?” are two of Gottheimer’s favorite things to yell, and he yells a lot.
It is perceived among staff that Gottheimer enjoys pitting people against each other, often in an effort to escape responsibility for whatever mistake he may have made himself.
Gottheimer often throws pens.
Gottheimer emails staff at all hours of the night, and if a staffer doesn’t reply, no matter what the hour, he grows infuriated. This leads to widespread sleep deprivation among the staff. My story is scheduled to publish on Wednesday morning, so any time by the end of the day tomorrow would be good.