Red Web - Blair Coan

The Bank that Couldn't Be Wrecked

"No rogue e'er felt the halter draw, With good opinion of the law."

Every I.W W., every communist, every bolshevik, every left-wing socialist, every rioter, every bootlegger, every bootlegger's source of supply and every profiteering war contractor, therefore, was at one with every pink, every right-wing red, every short-sighted Democrat and every yellow Republican in giving the appearance of unanimity to the assault upon the federal Department of Justice and the demand for the resignation of the head of that department, Attorney General Daugherty.

The hearings of the Wheeler-Brookhart-Ashurst Extraordinary Investigation Committee were attended daily by a throng of disciples of sundry subversive movements, applauding every insult to the legal representatives of the Attorney General and every breath of defamatory gossip and self-convicted perjury, audibly admiring the grim and melodramatic poses of Senator Wheeler, hissing every witness with a good word for the government or the Attorney General, and booing every futile attempt of counsel for the accused to obtain a modicum of consideration for the legal rights of their client.

To insure forcible ejection from the confines of the committee room one had only to let himself be heard giving expression to comment adverse to the tactics of the committee or in deprecation of the testimony of the particular crook or gossip-monger who chanced at the time to be undergoing the leading and suggestive examination by the Krilenko-like "prosecutor," Wheeler.

The timidity and impotence of intimidated and panic-stricken administration senators and congressmen lent zest to the operations of the triumverate on the committee, pep to their satellite cheer-leaders, and daring to the underworld characters upon whom they chiefly depended. Through them they made the record of their case a daily front page news source for the radical, the yellow and the "framed" press of the country.

Never was so much pressure brought to bear upon a President for the accomplishment of an end than that which was brought to bear upon President Coolidge. From the foes of the administration, and particularly from those foes who were conscious of the real motives behind the operations of the committee, there were sent messages to the White House and messages to dupes who would see to their transmission to the ears of the President, conveying the alternative of the Attorney General's resignation or of untoward consequences to the administration, even to the President himself. To supplement these, there was a procession of frightened Republican politicians, both in the Senate and out of it, seeking the ear of the President to urge upon him the political necessity of asking for the resignation of his Attorney General. They went singly and in delegations, and they pleaded individually and in chorus.

The courage of the President was of high order. His stubbornness was exasperating. It appeared that he was immovable. But the time came when he could stand up under the pressure no longer—and he yielded.

The Extraordinary Investigation Committee sent to the Attorney General a demand upon him for a wholesale production of the confidential files of the Department of Justice and its secret service division, the Bureau of Investigation. The Attorney General was confident he knew the purpose of this demand. He was convinced that it was sought for no reason except to supply ammunition for the cause of red radicalism and to reveal to the leaders of various subversive movements just what the government knew about their intrigues against the government. He refused, therefore, to comply with the demand, apprising President Coolidge of his conviction that to do so would be "incompatible with the public interest."

The President had yielded. He found it impossible to withstand the pressure of argument within his party and of intimidation from without. He made of this incident the opportunity to request the resignation of Daugherty. The request was complied with. Both the request and the compliance with it were mistakes—but both, doubtless, excusable, since no man can be right always.

So they "got" Daugherty in this way, and the reds of Moscow and Montana and the pink bollweevils of American politics triumphed. And in their triumph, they proceeded to do precisely what Daugherty, and the scant few with courage sufficient to confess their agreement with him and his position, said they would do. They did not let up on the Department of Justice—and have not let up on it yet—since it was the primary objective, and not any individual directing head of it. But in addition they expanded the assault upon the administration and government in other directions.

They had "got" Denby without a struggle. They had now "got" Daugherty after an arduous and bitter battle. So next in order was the job of "getting" whoever might in any sense be vulnerable. Senator McKellar of Tennessee, elected with the endorsement and support of the radical Conference for Progressive Political Action, training his guns upon the Department of the Treasury, charged that Secretary Mellon was holding his office illegally, and demanded his resignation from the Cabinet.

The Teapot Dome investigation committee began emulating the tactics of the Wheeler-Brookhart-Ashurst committee by issuing subpoenas for witnesses of the same character, calling Al Jennings, ex-train robber, to the stand to recite an impossible yarn about "intrigues" behind the nomination and election of President Harding and to give publicity to other so-called "evidence" having no more pertinence to the Teapot Dome inquiry than Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales have to a presidential election in Honduras. Al Jennings' tale also came from the tomb, the dead man in this case being Jake Hamon of Oklahoma, who had come to his death by a gun in the hands of a woman. It was planned that the slayer of Hamon be brought to Washington from California to testify, also, but it appears she didn't know or suspect anything of a sufficiently scandalous import, and the project was abandoned.

Senator Dill, the radical Democrat from Washington, elected with the endorsement and support of the Conference for Progressive Political Action, delivered a broadside against the assistant Secretary of the Navy, Theodore Roosevelt, and introduced a resolution demanding his resignation.

With the Senate galleries packed with the same crowd that was making the sessions of the Extraordinary Investigation Committee such a success as a combination melodrama and burlesque show, the Heflin-Caraway-Robinson-Stanley-Norris group of senatorial scandalmongers made the atmosphere in the Senate chamber blue and putrid with their daily amplifications of and speculations upon what passed for evidence before the Extraordinary Investigation Committee and other investigation committees of Congress, defaming and libeling, under the cloak of senatorial immunity, every official of the government whose name came into mind, from President Coolidge down to the lowliest.

Heflin was the Democratic senator from Alabama, who, belaboring the Department of Justice for its reputed shortcomings and alleged failure to prosecute criminals, neglected to explain the hook or crook by which he, some years previously, had escaped prosecution for an unjustified and deadly assault upon a negro. Heflin had broken into print, in this connection, by drawing a gun, shooting and seriously wounding a negro passenger on a trolley car in Washington, shooting also a white pedestrian, causing a panic among the passengers and endangering the lives of men, women and children who were riding in the car at the time of the assault. Caraway was the Arkansas senator upon whom similar notoriety had fallen by reason of a brutal and inexcusable assault upon a disabled veteran of the World War, the weapon used in this instance being an umbrella. And Robinson, the fire-eating Democratic minority leader, is recalled by the membership of a golf club near the capital of the nation for another physical assault, the victim being a member of the club who was not playing his game fast enough to suit the pace of the over-energetic dignitary of the United States Senate who was trailing him.

The radical press of the country, supplied with "news" by the Federated Press, a propaganda association controlled by a combination of communists and radicals of less lurid hue, and the yellow press, to say nothing of misled newspapers whose editors were too dull to comprehend the frame-up against their own reputations for truth and fairness, printed columns, pages, sections, extras and supplements of incredible scandal and palpable perjury and falsehood, subversive to the orderly processes of the courts and the government's executive departments.

The "news" from Washington, deleted or colored according to requirements necessary to give it the most sensational character and at the same time give it a semblance of credibility, was sent to the newspapers and news associations by a horde of correspondents, some of them deluded, some of them in conscious sympathy with radicalism and others drawing pay from sources with special interest in the success of the campaign of calumny, demoralization and destruction, and what these correspondents were fed upon was intended to and did have a tendency to break down the faith of the American people in their government. Most of these correspondents, except perhaps the deliberately corrupted ones, have since experienced a consciousness of their part in the frame-up of their own employers, and if they were frank about it or unafraid of the loss of their jobs they would now admit the fact, as something more than a corporal's guard already has done.

As the sessions of the Extraordinary Investigation Committee proceeded, one of the pet bits of "evidence" put into the record was the testimony of some bootlegger or head of a ring of bootleggers who told the committee—which gave him a vacation from the confines of the penetentiary, if it gave him nothing more—that for a certain sum of money paid some collector who had to split the bribe with Jess Smith or Daugherty or both of them, or somebody else, he would get a pardon if already convicted or have the indictment quashed against him if he had not yet been tried. Charles Vicente, of Baltimore, Maryland, for instance, according to one fragment of this line of evidence introduced by Wheeler, was to pay $50,000 to Elias H. Mortimer as graft in the event of Vicente's release from the Atlanta penitentiary before the expiration of his term. But in this case, as in the case of every other alleged graft contract negotiated by some crook claiming "influence" and the ability to bribe Smith or Daugherty, the one who was to pay the money or did pay it—if he did—went to jail just the same, was convicted just the same, or stayed in the penitentiary just the same if he had already been convicted.

In every single, solitary instance, in which it was alleged money was solicited or offered, paid or bargained for, the crook or ring of crooks that paid it or agreed to pay it was tried and convicted, went to prison and stayed there. And in every instance, the crook or ring of crooks was in prison, at liberty on bond pending appeal from conviction, or awaiting trial when Attorney General Daugherty resigned—unless the crook or ring of them had already served the sentence of the court and obtained freedom by the orderly processes of the law and justice.

In the Glass Casket case, let it be remembered, the defendants claimed to have paid money to Gaston B. Means and his co-conspirators on the theory that Means et al. could bribe the Attorney General, Chief Justice Taft of the Supreme Court and William J. Burns, to prevent their prosecution, And let it be remembered further that, under Mr. Daugherty's direction, Means and his pals were indicted in connection with this very thing, and after Means had, through Wheeler et al., obtained post-ponement after post-ponement of the case that he might continue to serve as both witness and coach for Wheeler, Means and his associates who had professed their ability to purchase "influence" with the head of the Department of Justice were convicted, and Means now reposes within the restraining walls of the Atlanta penitentiary—convicted in two cases instituted and directed by Mr. Daugherty as Attorney General.

One of the most notable of the crooks obtaining a vacation from a federal prison, through the obliging graces of Senators Wheeler and Brookhart, that he might appear before the Extraordinary Investigation Committee and reel off a yarn suitable to the needs of the committee in bolstering the tale from the tomb recited by Roxie Stinson, was one George Remus of Cincinnati, Ohio. Remus was taken before the committee and testified that he paid a bribe of $30,000 to Jess Smith at Indianapolis, Indiana, while Smith was there with the Attorney General in connection with the dismissal in federal court of the government's coal strike cases.

As shown by the record in those cases (Docket No. 1652) the date upon which Remus, according to his testimony before the committee, paid the $30,000 to Jess Smith was June 28th, 1923. So if Remus did pay the money, he paid it to Jess Smith's ghost, for JESS SMITH DIED ON THE 30TH OF MAY, 1923, and the grass had begun to grow upon his grave at Washington Courthouse, Ohio. And if the ghost of Jess Smith accepted the $30,000 which Remus testified was paid to influence the Attorney General against sending him to prison, Remus was the victim of a ghastly joke, for it was under the direction of the Attorney General that this distinguished Cincinnati "king of bootleggers" was prosecuted, tried, convicted and sent to the federal prison at Atlanta to serve the full term of years meted out to him by an unsympathetic federal judge.

Remus, like Means, has subsequently repudiated his testimony in its entirety, and swears in an affidavit to be found among the appendices of this book that Henry Stern, the lawyer for the committee heretofore mentioned, came to him at the Atlanta penitentiary as an emissary from Wheeler; and, with promises that the committee would help him get out of prison, induced him to go before the committee and perjure himself in the interests of the "prosecution" against the Department of Justice.

Another choice bit of "evidence" which supplied the newslead for many columns, topped by flaring headlines in the public prints, was the recital by Means of how a Jap gave him $100,000 in $1,000 bills which had to be divided with Jess Smith and the Attorney General to bring an end to prospective prosecution in the Standard Aircraft case, evidence which Means has since confessed was a fabrication out of whole cloth. But it was perjury on the very face of it, for there was no such case either of record or in prospect in the Department of Justice or of the Bureau of Investigation of that department, and the case had not reached the Department of Justice, if ever it has reached there, up to the hour of the resignation of Harry M. Daugherty as Attorney General.

And some of the best evidence of the incorruptibility of the Daugherty regime in the Department of Justice is to be found in the facts connected with the Dempsey-Carpentier motion picture deal, about which a sensation was sprung during the early stages of the Extraordinary Investigation Committee's operations. For an examination of the records shows that Daugherty caused the prosecution in twenty-five different states of people engaged in the illegal transportation of these pictures, and that the Attorney General was responsible for two indictments of Tex Rickard, the promoter of the Dempsey-Carpentier fight.

An important adjunct of the Extraordinary Investigation Committee of the Senate was a "detective" organization with a staff of forty "operatives." The director of this organization, and its financial angel was Frank A. Vanderlip, who acquired such distinction as a gossip and scandal-monger by his circulation of slanderous reports about President Harding and the President's sale of his newspaper, The Marion Star. Vanderlip was such a success as a purveyor of scandal that he was sued for libel by the purchasers of the Marion Star, and he was so unsuccessful in meeting the allegations of libel made against him that he paid heavy damages which made it possible for the owners of the Star to finance their newspaper liberally and make of it a notable financial success.

It was among Vanderlip's boasts that he and his staff of sleuths were rounding up witnesses for the defamation mill operated as a Senate committee by Wheeler, Brookhart and Ashurst and that he was giving every aid possible to Wheeler in his plans for driving Attorney General Daugherty from office. The "secret service" financed by Vanderlip was exceedingly energetic, particularly in practices of intimidation aimed at government officials and at witnesses who might show an inclination to say something creditable to the Department of Justice.

How many of the "operatives" employed in the service of the Extraordinary Investigation Committee were professional crooks I have never gone to the trouble of finding out. One of them that I know of, however, who had such a penchant for sleuthing that he had been convicted in Chicago for impersonating a federal prohibition officer, was James S. Sanders. He appears to have followed his service in the cause of clean government and law enforcement, as an "investigator" for Vanderlip and Wheeler, with practices requiring the enforcement of law against himself. He was convicted of larceny in New York City June 17, 1925, and was sentenced in federal court to serve a term of three years in the same penitentiary that now includes the persons of Gaston B. Means and George Remus—the United States penitentiary at Atlanta, Georgia.

The Wheeler-Brookhart-Ashurst, "Extraordinary Investivation Committee," had been in session several weeks quite satisfactorily to the minds of the "investigators." Their strangle hold on any attempt to deny the perjury they were grinding out by the wholesale had been eminently successful; when an untoward accident happened. The same Al Fink who had produced Roxie Stinson for the committee underwent a change of heart. Fink had been under subpoena of the committee for several months, but Wheeler had not called him.

As I said before, Fink had a change of heart, as he tells it; the lying attacks made on Attorney General Daugherty were too much for any decent citizen to stand. Fink knew all this, from first hand knowledge, but more than that he also knew that in a measure he was responsible, he had furnished the committee with its greatest fabricator.

And so, one bright day in May while Brookhart and Ashurst and their personal lobby of spectators were seated revelling in their scandal monging, a portly man pushed forward to the witness stand and demanded in a forceful manner:

"I've been under subpoena by this committee for some months. I want to be heard. I want to tell the committee that Roxie Stinson's story is a pure lie. And that Frank Vanderlip tried to get me for $1,000 to agree to tell a 'framed-up' story on President Coolidge."

Ashurst found his voice first.

"Throw him out!" he shouted.

"Police!" bellowed Brookhart.

"Tf you don't throw him out at once, I'll do so myself,"' screeched Ashurst.

And so Fink was hustled to the door and out into the cool corridor.

And Fink was never called or allowed to tell his story to the committee, although it will be found in the appendix of this book, which only goes to prove that some Senate committees acknowledge evidence as truth only when it agrees with their own plans and opinions.

The climax of the audacious lengths to which the men in control of the investigation committee were willing to go, however, revealed itself in the lawless raid which Brookhart and Wheeler attempted to make upon the Midland National Bank, Washington Courthouse, Ohio, of which Mal Daugherty, brother of the deposed Attorney General, was president. I call it a lawless raid that was attempted, because that, in plain words, was the finding of the federal court—Judge A. M. Cochran rendering a decision at Cincinnati on June 1st, 1924, a decision which thwarted the attempt and sent the Messrs. Wheeler and Brookhart back to Washington empty-handed, minus the person of the president of the bank, minus the private papers and books of the bank, and their entire proceeding and the action of the Senate in authorizing it thoroughly and emphatically repudiated before the law.

The fact that it was the purpose of the Extraordinary Investigation Committee of the Senate, through Wheeler and Brookhart, to visit the bank, appropriate such of its books, papers and records of accounts as they might think desirable for their purposes, and to take Mal Daugherty with them under subpoena to answer questions about the confidential business of the bank, was advertised with a flare and blare of senatorial trumpets that made the proposed action a topic of conversation wherever two or more inhabitants of the little city of Washington Courthouse met. It may or may not have crossed the minds of Messrs. Wheeler and Brookhart that such a proceeding might cause the depositors of the bank to be seized with panic and precipitate a run upon the institution that would wreck it and blast the financial standing of the president and the stockholders. However this may be, the solid faith of the community in the Daugherty brothers and the unshakable stability of the bank was fully demonstrated. There was but one depositor who was so touched with apprehension for the safety of his money as to visit the cashier's window to withdraw his account, and this solitary man of wavering faith has since endeavored in vain to re-deposit his money and reopen business dealings with Mal Daugherty's bank. But Mal Daugherty is so proud of the manner in which every other depositor stood the test of faith in his and his brother Harry's integrity that he has steadfastly refused to have business dealings with the one exceptional skeptic.

"What the Senate is engaged in doing," said the court, in enjoining the Messrs. Wheeler and Brookhart from in any manner interfering with the bank or its contents or its president, "is not investigating the Attorney General's office; it is investigating the former Attorney General. What it has done is to put him on trial before it. In so doing it is exercising the judicial function. This it has no power to do. It has not been conferred expressly. It's existence is negatived by the provisions of the federal Constitution in relation to impeachment proceedings, in view of which there is no possible ground for claiming that it exists by fair implication. As I view the matter, the Senate, in its action, has usurped judicial power, and encroached on the prerogative of the House of Representatives."

That decision of the court was a heavy-charged bomb that blew the whole proceeding of the Wheeler-Brookhart-Ashurst triumverate and all its works into smithereens and scattered them to the seven seas. The committee never made a report or found a verdict, and it never will. Life in the Coolidge administration was restored, administration senators began to find their voices, the electorate sent delegates to the national convention in Cleveland who would tolerate no compromise with pinks, and give no ear to the voices of jaundiced pussy-footers, and the Republican party won its victory in 1924 because, and only because, there were enough courageous ones left to lead the way into a battle to a finish with the reds and pinks who had determined upon acquiring power and, that power once achieved, the actual overthrow of constitutional, republican government in the United States.

Perhaps the public does not remember that after the enforced resignation of Attorney General Daugherty, with the pack of red and pink wolves at his heels, fighting his election, he was elected a delegate at large from Ohio to the Republican National Convention at Cleveland by almost 100,000 majority.