Okay, Mr. Basel, Mr. Flanagan, Mr. O’Keefe, Mr. Dai: One more time, from the top . . .
From the Lafourche Parish, La., Daily Comet, Jan. 28:
“Last month, protesters marched in front of Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office to criticize her support for health care legislation and complain that they couldn’t get through on her office phones. Now Landrieu’s phones are at the center of federal charges against four men accused of trying to tamper with them. Among those arrested was conservative activist James O’Keefe, who gained notoriety last year with hidden-camera videos showing him dressed as a pimp . . .”
Setting aside once and for all that unconvincing ‘pimp’ get-up—a Halloween-costume, joke ‘pimp’ outfit rather than gear for body-guarding streetwalkers—the question now before us is what these four post-frats were going to do in Sen. Mary Landrieu’s New Orleans building on Jan. 25.
James O’Keefe says in his self-exonerating Friday statement that
“I learned from a number of sources that many of Senator Landrieu’s constituents were having trouble getting through to her office to tell her that they didn’t want her taking millions of federal dollars in exchange for her vote on the healthcare bill. When asked about this, Senator Landrieu’s explanation was that, “Our lines have been jammed for weeks.” I decided to investigate why a representative of the people would be out of touch with her constituents for “weeks” because her phones were broken. In investigating this matter, we decided to visit Senator Landrieu’s district office–the people’s office–to ask the staff if their phones were working.”
Okay, that’s clear enough. 1) Sen. Landrieu told the Baton Rouge Advocate in an interview that her phone lines had been “jammed” for weeks. 2) The four interlopers took the senator to mean not that her lines were jammed with people trying to get through—which would be the typical statement–but that Landrieu was saying there was something technologically wrong with her phone system. 3) So, they decided to show up at her office to– ?
It gets unclear. Aside from some little problems with 1) and 2) aforementioned (see below), according to O’Keefe’s statement,
“The sole intent of our investigation was to determine whether or not Senator Landrieu was purposely trying to avoid constituents who were calling to register their views to her as their Senator. We video taped the entire visit, the government has those tapes, and I’m eager for them to be released because they refute the false claims being repeated by much of the mainstream media.”
Reduced to plain English, the narrative is that the four guys believed or affected to believe that Sen. Landrieu was making excuses; they took her to be saying that her phones did not work; therefore they went to her office in person to show via videotape that her phones did work or otherwise to show that she was simply avoiding constituents’ calls.
First question: Okay, so why didn’t they do that? Why didn’t they just go visit her office, like any other constituent, and stand around videotaping—inconspicuously or otherwise, as with cell phones—while her phones rang?
Second question, a corollary to the first: Why did they need phone-company costumes to determine whether the senator was trying to avoid constituents? After all, O’Keefe himself was apparently not in costume.
WAIT A MINUTE, I hear you ask: WHAT COSTUMES?
—from the FBI affidavit:
“4) On or about January 25, 2010, at approximately 11:00 a.m., FLANAGAN and BASEL entered the Hale Boggs Federal Building, each dressed in blue denim pants, a blue work shirt, a light fluorescent green vest, a tool belt, and carrying white, construction-style hard hat . . .
5) WITNESS 1 stated that upon entering Senator Landrieu’s office, FLANAGAN and BASEL represented to her that they were repair technicians from the telephone company and were there to fix problems with the telephone system. WITNESS 1 stated that they were each wearing a white, hard construction hat, a tool belt, a fluorescent vest, and denim pants and tops.”
[Side note: Not gentlemen. Gents take off their hats inside a building, not outside.]
This is another version of the first question: If their purpose was only to embarrass Sen. Landrieu by videotaping interactions to show that she was avoiding her constituents’ calls, why would they claim that her phones were not working? Wouldn’t it make more sense to show that her phones were working? The affidavit says they even videotaped themselves making the inapposite claim:
“WITNESS 1 further stated that when FLANAGAN and BASEL entered the office, O’KEEFE positioned his cellular phone in his hand so as to record FLANAGAN and BASEL. . .
6) BASEL requested to be given access to a telephone in the office, and WITNESS 1 allowed him access to the main telephone at the reception desk. WITNESS 1 observed BASEL take the handset of the phone and manipulate it. BASEL also tried to call the phone with a cellular phone in his possession. He stated that he could not get through.”
All this while the cameras were rolling, figuratively speaking. What were the alleged perps going to do, under O’Keefe’s explanation—go back to their loyalists saying, Hey, she’s right, her phones don’t work?
Second set of questions: If the alleged perpetrators were there only to embarrass the senator by videotaping in her office, why did they then try to gain access to the main telephone closet? From the FBI affidavit:
“7) Thereafter, FLANAGAN and BASEL told WITNESS 1 that they needed to perform repair work on the main telephone system and asked for the location of the telephone closet. WITNESS 1 directed FLANAGAN and BASEL to the main GSA office, located on the tenth floor of the Hale Boggs Federal Building. Both men went to the GSA office.”
Why did they then (allegedly) try to get inside the telephone closet? –The affidavit:
“8) FLANAGAN and BASEL spoke with WITNESS 2, a GSA employee working the GSA office, and represented that they were employees of the telephone company and needed access to the telephone closet to perform repair work. WITNESS 2 asked the men for credentials, and FLANAGAN and BASEL stated that they had left their credentials in their vehicle.”
Hooray for the GSA: The two did not get inside the telephone closet, and the rest is history.
–With some gaps left to fill in:
- Purely on the factual side of the matter, it would be good to know how they got those work uniforms and hard hats. Were they purchased? If so, where and when, and by whom?
- Who paid for them?
- Side note: Did they get that idea of the telephone-repairman disguise from Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone, or from Burn Notice? Or did they get the idea from an earlier Nixon-Segretti or Lee Atwater-Karl Rove episode in the ongoing series, U.S. political dirty tricks?
- Who got the idea for those disguises?
- If the defense was that this was basically a prank, will we hear the defense claim that the disguises weren’t real work clothes, just male-stripper telephone-repairman costumes or the like?
- Re the legal aspects, it would be good to know whether O’Keefe consulted with the others before issuing his statement, given that the statement provides cover for him rather than for the guys who went, disguised, to the GSA office.
- Related question: Are those hapless work-costume guys represented by the same attorney/s representing O’Keefe? Wouldn’t be my call, if I were their parents . . .
- Also related: What was the role of the fourth guy, the one in the car? Doesn’t leaving one guy in a car look like arranging a get-away driver? Was the fourth, Mr. Dai, seated behind the wheel? Whose car was it?
- Another factual detail: Did Sen. Landrieu’s phones ring, any time while the alleged interlopers were in her office?
- As to that office: Landrieu has five offices, counting the one in DC. Did the guys enter any of the other offices? If so, when? If not, why not? –What would be the point in videotaping phones and staffers in one office, showing that the phones in one of Landrieu’s offices either did work or did not work, if that left all the other offices—Shreveport, Baton Rouge, Lake Charles and Capitol Hill—unaccounted for? How could videotaping in one office be comprehensive? How could it accomplish as much as, say, cutting the lines or otherwise disrupting the phone service in one office?