I Know How Brett Kavanaugh Must Feel. I Was the ‘Witch’ They Hunted Once.

By Christopher Manion Published on September 15, 2018

When you were accused, it was news but it wasn’t true.
Now you’re cleared — that’s true, but it isn’t news.
— Washington Post Ombudsman

We’ve just seen a last-minute smear of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. It bears all the marks of the Deep State and the MSM smear machine. It’s anonymous, uncheckable, and comes at the last possible moment. It’s not a legitimate story, but a dirty bomb designed to poison the water.

But there’s nothing new under the sun, the Good Book says (Ecclesiastes 1:9), and this serial sabotage syndrome isn’t new either. In fact, it’s been going on since almost the night Donald Trump was elected.

In the past 16 months alone the “Special Prosecutor’s Office” has subpoenaed countless individuals for questioning. Each one of them, however remote he has been from Trump, Russia, or the 2016 campaign, is required by law to show up.

When he does, he has to have a lawyer. Which means that he has to come up with fifty to one hundred thousand dollars quick. Criminal lawyers who specialize in that sort of thing are extremely well-paid. If you try to play it cool, show up alone, and plead the Fifth, Mueller’s team will just throw a bunch of sham criminal charges at you. And then, you’ll really need a lawyer.

One after another of those subpoenaed have had to move, or mortgage their house, or remove their children from private school, or to beg from friends and family money that they know they might never be able to pay back.

Mueller doesn’t care. You’re road kill on his campaign to overturn the election of President Donald Trump.

But I care. Because I’ve been there. I know what these guys are going through.

Declared Guilty as Charged

Thirty-one years ago, when I was a staff member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, working for Chairman Jesse Helms, a Reagan State Department official accused me of treason.

Well, that’s what it amounted to. He told the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee that I had leaked information with the highest secrecy classification. And that I had leaked it to the government of Augusto Pinochet, of Chile. Whereupon the Chairman and the senior Democrat on that committee asked the FBI to investigate me.

Of course, I learned about all this from the newspapers. While the news surprised me, the media loved it. Jesse Helms was a pro-life conservative for whom the media had little love — and he had often defended Pinochet against his communist opponents. So Orwell’s “Two Minutes Hate” began in earnest.

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Within hours, leaks about my “leak” had appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and picked up around the world. The press surrounded my house and my office, and of course I could say nothing. Day after day, the Washington Post declared me guilty as charged (but they never called me). Friends around the world wrote me — one had even laughed when he saw my picture on the front page of the Bangkok English-language newspaper.

But this charge was no laughing matter. If I had been convicted, I would have been in federal prison for at least thirty years, and possibly for life. Two FBI agents became my constant companions. Months went by, as they interviewed everyone I had ever known. My phone was tapped, my life was an open book. I thought at the time that it was sort of a dry run of the Last Judgment.

‘We Don’t Clear People’

When the story hit front pages, one of Washington’s top criminal lawyers volunteered to defend me. “I don’t need a lawyer,” I said. “I don’t have any money, and, anyway, I’m innocent.”

“That’s why you need a lawyer,” Terry O’Donnell laughed. He represented me brilliantly, and never sent me a bill.

Finally those FBI agents interviewed me in my Senate office. At a tense and critical point in the interview, I said, “Look, I’ve done a lot of things wrong in my life, but I didn’t do this.”

The lead agent, William Chornyak, said flatly, “We know you didn’t do it. We’re trying to find out who did.”

My lawyer almost fell off his chair. I stood up, slammed my fist on the conference table and said, “I’ve been smeared on the front page, how about clearing me on the front page?” Their response: “We don’t clear people.”

In retrospect, seasoned interrogators have told me that my response was a sign that often indicates innocence. But he’d already told me I was innocent! When do I get cleared?

Cleared With the Help of Sen. Boren

Well, then strange things began to happen. The Republican Senate went Democratic in the 1986 elections. David Boren of Oklahoma became Chairman of the Intelligence Committee. And suddenly the two senior senators who had accused me of leaking were removed from that Committee — for leaking! Meanwhile, I was, to use a popular phrase of that era, “left twisting slowly in the wind.” Most of my classmates from days of old probably thought I was already in jail. (Maybe they think I still am).

I found out much later that Sen. Boren had gone quietly around town for months — to the FBI, the CIA, the Justice Department — demanding they clear me publicly.

And then stranger things came to pass. A senator quietly advised me that Chairman Boren was going to bat for me. Yes, he was from the other party. Not only that, several of his Democratic colleagues were celebrating my plight. After all, Jesse Helms was their nemesis. But that fact actually made it easier for Senator Boren. No one could accuse him of partisanship in defending me. Quite the contrary. A lot of Democrats were just plain shocked.

Senator Boren was outraged that the now-former members of his committee had broken the rules when they accused me. Suddenly I had a champion. When I saw him on the Senate floor, I thanked him. “I’m going to make sure you get a fair shake,” he said, putting his hand firmly on my shoulder. “That’s all.”

“That’s all.” After thirty-two years, that memory still brings tears to my eyes. I found out much later that Senator Boren had gone quietly around town for months — to the FBI, the CIA, the Justice Department — demanding that they clear me publicly. And finally, a year later — thirty-one years ago next month — they did. “No leak occurred,” the joint statement read, signed by the heads of virtually every legal and intelligence agency in Washington.

News to Me

All adventures bring irony, I suppose, and so did mine. The Washington Post hated my boss. From the outset, they had virtually convicted me in countless articles. When I was cleared, they would not report it. I called their ombudsman and asked why. “When you were accused, it was news but it wasn’t true. Now you’re cleared — that’s true, but it isn’t news,” he purred.

Turn the page.

Well, it was news to me, and welcome news at that. Instead of going to jail for thirty years, I was cleared.

But why had it all happened? Only later did I discover the reason.

The ‘Back-Door Leak’ Attack

In February 1986, President Reagan had nominated my brother Dan to serve on the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The Senate had a Republican majority at the time, and at first the nomination seemed safe. But my brother’s conservative credentials made his nomination a target for the Left. Pro-abortion leader Ted Kennedy even called Father Ted Hesburgh, Notre Dame President, and asked, “Father, can you help us get Dan Manion?” Fr. Hesburgh replied (as he told me later), “Sorry, Ted, he’s family.”

I was cleared 15 months later because of Democrat David Boren — who had voted against my brother!

On June 26, 1986, Dan’s nomination survived a close procedural vote on the Senate floor. GOP Majority Leader Bob Dole put off the final vote to await a sure majority, and opponents knew that delay might last for weeks, even months. Given that breathing space, the schemers began stage two — the now-familiar “back-door leak” attack.

The State Department official and Ted Kennedy both hated Pinochet as much as they hated Helms. Both wanted to “get Manion” — any Manion. Nailing me for leaking would be a double-barrel win — defeating my pro-life brother and sending me to jail. But it didn’t work — Dan was confirmed on July 23, 1986. And I was cleared 15 months later because of Democrat David Boren — who had voted against my brother!

But It’s a Story of Forgiveness

Alas, that kind of honor in Washington has all but disappeared.

A couple of years later I left Washington for a college teaching job. About the same time, the State Department official who had accused me pleaded guilty to several federal charges of lying to Congress. He was later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush, but he wrote a whole book oozing with bitterness and denial. He and his wife couldn’t sleep at night. Their stomachs churned, she wrote.

I wrote him a personal letter. And I forgave him for falsely accusing me. Urged him to forgive his tormentors. I never heard from him again.

In Great Expectations, Charles Dickens’s boy hero Pip reflects, “Pause, you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.”

Pause, you who read this, and give thanks. If a chain binds you because there’s somebody you can’t forgive, sunder your fetters, throw them away, and forgive them. You’ll never lose another minute of sleep.

 

Follow Chris Manion on Twitter.

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