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Magnitsky Act: One of the WORST BILLS Passed by Congress in Recent Years

Kim Zigfeld writes a “defense” if you can call it that of the Magnitsky Act, one of the worst bills passed by Congress in recent years (and that’s saying something) – deliberate unnecessary probably unconstitutional meddling in the internal affairs of another nation.  But it is mostly a personal attack on Prof. Cohen rather than a discussion of is an act like this good policy.  I have blogged on this before.

Here’s Zigfeld’s treatment of the constitutional issues:

Professor Stephen F. Cohen — husband of Katrina vanden Heuvel, publisher of ultra-liberal The Nation – has been speaking up for the interests of Putin and Russia’s KGB. Writing at The Nation itself, he called the Magnitsky Act a “sanctimonious blacklist without due process” supported by a “feckless foreign policy elite”. (Do note: the Act was adopted by both houses of Congress in landslide votes with virtually no opposition.)

Now it may be true that Professor Cohen is a naked apologist of the Putin administration.  I am not here to do that.  I am suggesting that when Congress punishes individuals without a hearing or giving those individuals a chance to be heard it implicates constitutional rights:  It potentially is a bill of attainder forbidden to Congress precisely because the British parliament abused the privilege.  It certainly violates the spirit of due process.  The fact that most congressmen voted for it means nothing for its constitutional infirmities.  (Ron Paul voted no.)

But the naked eager willingness to intervene for “good” reasons is apparently throughout Zigfeld’s column:

Cohen believes that the U.S. should have given Russia “most-favored nation” trading status in an unconditional manner, allowing Putin carte blanche authority to decimate Russian civil society so as to avoid a “haughty American intrusion into its political and legal affairs.” His dishonesty is quite breathtaking: Cohen did not tell his readers that Russian polls clearly show the people of Russia supported the Magnitsky Act, or that the bill was even more enthusiastically supported by the leaders of Russia’s democracy movement.

The only ones who didn’t support the measure were Vladimir Putin and … Barack Obama, who opposed it tooth and nail until his own party overwhelmingly approved it in Congress.

It is none of our business what goes on in other nations, absent an effect on our national interests.  I am not sure who takes a poll in Russia or who answers it but it seems a bit odd that there are polls available to show how a group of people feel in a foreign nation.  Furthermore, this is not a defense of Russian behavior to allow them the same trading rights that other nations have (that may be less democratic than Russia) but this Magnitsky Act was exactly like Prof. Cohen says it is:  A “haughty American intrusion into its political and legal affairs.”

Try this:

It’s traditional Soviet strategy to change the subject and smear the critic. Cohen did the same thing in March of last year when speaking about Putin’s rigged return to power: when asked whether Putin had legitimately taken power, he stated:

I don’t know what the word ‘legitimately’ means. I know people who think that the second President Bush didn’t become president legitimately after Florida.

On the question of whether Putin became “president for life”:

It’s none of our business.

I suggest it is Zigfeld who is changing the subject by smearing the critic.  Maybe we should take Prof. Cohen’s advice:  Clean our own house first.  Clean our own human rights record:  Repeal NDAA for example.  And like it or not, Al Gore did get more votes than George W. Bush.

And we got blowback where it would hurt the most:  Innocent parents and Russian children.  I beseech President Putin to rescind this law and I beseech President Obama to fight this bill, refuse to enforce it and apologize (He’s good at it!) to Russia for this intrusion into their internal business.  That guy who was on the ballot for President in YOUR state (I have no fault, I voted for him) once said wise words that we ought to follow:  “We just plain don’t mind our own business!”


About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

2 Responses to “Magnitsky Act: One of the WORST BILLS Passed by Congress in Recent Years”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] to the group we seek to influence and make sure our sanctions regime are not mindless meddling (Magnitsky Act for example!)  Of course, all economic sanctions laws must be obeyed while in […]

  2. […] But who can do that?  Not the President we have.  We need one who will call for a strong national defense and one who knows what will and will not be done.  We have to find a way to stop Russian aggression.  But how?  Maybe targeted sanctions?  Targeted so as to hurt the Russian ability to wage war and meddling with their neighbors?  Without being an unconstitutional bill of attainder. […]


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