Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Moscowbama
Did you catch the scathing "60 Minutes" piece this week about the Bush-Rove Justice Department's political hit job on the Democratic governor of Alabama? It was a dramatic illustration of what the U.S. attorneys firing scandal was all about -- the complete politicization of the justice system, and the firing of any U.S. attorney who wouldn't go along with Karl Rove's strategy of using the criminal courts for "politics by other means." So did you catch it?

Not if you were in Alabama...

The New York Times' Mike Nizza explains:

Governments that try to keep a firm grip on information flow in their countries, like the Kremlin, have used “technical problems” as an excuse to shut out unwelcome content on the Web and television. But could it have happened in the United States?

A controversy has been brewing on the Web since a “60 Minutes” segment failed to appear on a CBS affiliated TV station in Alabama last night. The report covered a bitter flashpoint between Democrats and the Bush administration: the case of Don Siegelman, a former Democratic governor of Alabama who was jailed for corruption last June.

So hot was the anticipation of the segment in left-leaning circles that one political site published an article, “Bama TIVOs at the ready for ‘60 Minutes’.” But many Alabamans did not see initial broadcast of the report, which included new allegations that Karl Rove, President Bush’s former top adviser, waged a campaign against Mr. Siegelman.

Instead, just before the segment was to start, people in the northern part of the state who were tuned in to WHNT-TV, Channel 19 in Huntsville, found this on their screen instead:

We apologize that you missed the first segment of 60 Minutes tonight featuring ‘The Prosecution of Don Siegelman.’ It was a technical problem with CBS out of New York.

So what gives? More from Nizza:

Upon hearing reports of the missed segment from readers, Scott Horton, a writer blogging at Harper’s, phoned CBS headquarters in New York, which offered him a startling contradiction:

“There is no delicate way to put this: the WHNT claim is not true. There were no transmission difficulties. The problems were peculiar to Channel 19, which had the signal and had functioning transmitters.” I was told that the decision to blacken screens across Northern Alabama “could only have been an editorial call.”

The station later denied that it was an editorial decision, but it also changed its explanation. It was the receiver of the signal in Alabama, not the feed from CBS, that caused the blackout, the network said in a statement.

“We can assure you there was no intent whatsoever to keep anyone from seeing the broadcast,” Stan Pylant, WHNT’s president, told The Huntsville Times.

But the assurance alone seemed unlikely to appease all of his viewers. According to Mr. Pylant, the problem was fixed quickly, resulting in only 12 minutes of down time. But that mostly covered the controversial segment, which lasted about 13 minutes. (”Strange coincidence,” one viewer called it.)

Long story short, the "60 Minutes" piece makes it clear that the Republican White House and its Justice Department pursued and jailed Siegelman because they couldn't defeat him at the ballot box, a view endorsed by more than 50 prosecutors of both parties around the country (those quoted in the CBS piece were Republicans.) Karl Rove should be jailed if he refuses to answer Congressional subpoenas on this issues, and at minimum, the U.S. attorney scandal -- and this prosecution -- should be reviewed by a special prosecutor.

As for the folks running that "news" station in Alabama, I'm sure Vladimir Putin and his successor would have great use for them in Mother Russia.

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posted by JReid @ 2:53 PM  
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Yeah, but what are you gonna do about it?
House Democrats find former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and former Chief of Staff Josh Bolten in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify on the firing of U.S. attorneys for political reasons. But since the attorney general is refusing to enforce the subpoenas or investigate the matter, and it's unlikely the House will exercise it's power to send sergeants at arms to arrest the pair, the contempt finding will have no practical effect.

All the more reason to do it! Action without consequence -- it's the Democratic way!

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posted by JReid @ 11:52 PM  
Friday, June 15, 2007
Gonzales on the rocks

The Incompetent Mr. Gonzales is now under investigation by his own Justice Department in yet another offshoot of the U.S. attorney firing scandals -- this one involving Alberto's apparent attempts to coordinate his testimony with Monica Goodling's. A meeting with Gonzales to "discuss their recollections" which was described by Goodling during her May 31 testimony was regarded, even by the bottom tier law student, as "inappropriate"... what's worse, Gonzales testified under oath, before Ms. Goodling did (under a guarantee of immunity from prosecution, no less) that he did not discuss his testimony with any other witness prior to his appearance before Congress. Oops. Sayeth the WaPo:

The announcement that Gonzales's conduct would be examined came from Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine and H. Marshall Jarrett, counsel of the Office of Professional Responsibility. "This is to confirm that the scope of our investigation does include this matter," Fine and Jarrett said in a letter to Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the chairman and ranking minority member, respectively, of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Fine has the authority to refer cases for possible criminal prosecution if warranted, and both he and Jarrett can recommend disciplinary action for violations of internal ethics guidelines or other rules of professional conduct.

The revelation further expands the publicly known contours of the Justice Department's internal investigation, which is examining the removal of the prosecutors and whether any laws or policies were violated in the hiring of career prosecutors, immigration judges and others.
Meanwhile, TPMMuckraker reports there has been another resignation from the department now euphemistically referred to as "Justice" -- Mike Elston, who had been chief of staff to former deputy A.G. and in-house scapegoat Paul McNulty. He slunk out of town quietly today. The Muckrakers report:

Some highlights from Elston's tenure at DoJ:

-- He allegedly called three of the fired U.S. attorneys and made an implicit threat that the Justice Department would detail the reasons for their firings if they didn't stay quiet.

-- He allegedly rejected a large number of applicants to Justice Department positions because they were Democrats.

-- When Carol Lam, the former U.S. attorney for San Diego, asked to stay on the job longer in order to deal with some outstanding prosecutions (the expanding Duke Cunningham case among them), Elston told her not to think about her cases, that she should be gone in "weeks, not months" and said "these instructions were 'coming from the very highest levels of the government.'"

-- He called around to the U.S. attorneys whom he had placed on one of the draft firing lists to apologize when he discovered that his list would be turned over to Congress.
And the Muckrakers also have more information on another Gonzales flunky:

During a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, Bradley Schlozman, the controversial former senior political appointee in the Civil Rights Division, was battered with questions about his efforts to politicize the division.

A number of those questions from senators centered on Schlozman's efforts to purge the appellate section of the Civil Rights Division -- the small, but important section that handles civil rights cases in the court of appeals. What were they getting at? An anonymous complaint against Schlozman sent to the Justice Department's inspector general in December of 2005 spelled out the allegations. The complaint, obtained by TPMmuckraker, was filed by a former Department lawyer. You can read it here.

"Bradley J. Schlozman is systematically attempting to purge all Civil Rights appellate attorneys hired under Democratic administrations," the lawyer wrote, saying that he appeared to be "targeting minority women lawyers" in the section and was replacing them with "white, invariably Christian men." The lawyer also alleged that "Schlozman told one recently hired attorney that it was his intention to drive these attorneys out of the Appellate Section so that he could replace them with 'good Americans.'"

The anonymous complaint named three female, minority lawyers whom Schlozman had transferred out of the appellate section (of African-American, Jewish, and Chinese ethnicity, respectively) for no apparent reason. And in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this week in response to questions from senators, the Justice Department confirmed that all three had been transferred out by Schlozman -- and then transferred back in after Schlozman had left the Division. ...

So much for justice...

With his support among Democrats at its nadir and support dwindling, even among Republicans, what Alberto has left are two things: the loyalty of his friend, George W. Bush, and the protection of Bush's remaining lackeys in Congress, who are willing to serve as human shields for the administration, possibly until the end of his term, or their careers, whichever comes first. But for that, Gonzo would be gonzo.

As it is, he remains a potent symbol of the utter worthlessness of the Bush administration. And as such, he's a rather useful idiot.

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posted by JReid @ 7:10 PM  
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
On your way out the door...
Alberto Gonzales proves that he's not only the most incompetent attorney general in memorable U.S. history, he's also one of the sleaziest:


WASHINGTON -- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Tuesday he relied heavily on his deputy to oversee the firings of U.S. attorneys, appearing to distance himself from his departing second-in-command.

Gonzales' comments came the day after Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty said he would step down by the end of summer, a decision that people familiar with his plans said was hastened by the controversy over last year's firings of eight prosecutors.

"At the end of the day, the recommendations reflected the views of the deputy attorney general. He signed off on the names," Gonzales told reporters after a speech about Justice Department steps to curb rising violent crime.

"The one person I would care about would be the views of the deputy attorney general, because the deputy attorney general is the direct supervisor of the United States attorneys," Gonzales said.

McNulty, reached in San Antonio after Gonzales' remarks, declined to respond.

The uncomfortable moment capped weeks of strain between the two men and their staffs, a rift that grew as a result of the firings that Congress suspects were politically motivated. It also raises questions of whether McNulty's resignation also was ordered, despite his insistence that it was his own decision to step down. ...
Just days ago, Gonzales couldn't tell the House Judiciary Committee who on earth could have been responsible for the firings, but he was pretty sure it was Kyle Sampson's fault. Now, conveniently, the culprit is the latest departing deputy. And as for McNulty being to blame, he has already testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and said in one on one meetings with Senator Chuck Schumer, that he was given bogus reasons for the purge, which conveniently allowed him to go before congress and market the "performance related reasons" shillery, which he promptly took back in subsequent conversations with Chuch Schumer:

McNulty has acknowledged approving, last October, the list of prosecutors who were ordered to leave. But documents released by the Justice Department show he was not closely involved in picking all the U.S. attorneys who were put on the list -- a job mostly driven by two Gonzales staffers with little prosecutorial experience.Gonzales ultimately signed off on the list. He said he was reassured by McNulty as recently as March that the firings were justified.
Really? Well it seems McNulty tells a different story:
Despite his own misleading statements before Congress, McNulty is the wrong man to go in this scandal. On Feb. 6, 2007, McNulty told a Senate panel that most of the ousted prosecutors were fired for "performance-related" issues. But as the performance records of the fired attorneys became public, it was revealed that nearly all of them held positive job evaluations from the Department of Justice. One fired U.S. attorney -- Nevada's Daniel Bogden -- said that in a phone conversation with McNulty prior to his firing he was told performance "did not enter into the equation" as a reason for his dismissal. McNulty also told Congress that "the decision to fire the eight U.S. attorneys in December was made solely by the Justice Department. He was furious, aides said, after learning later that [Gonzales' chief of staff Kyle] Sampson had been talking to the White House about potential firings since at least January 2005." McNulty acknowledged providing inaccurate information to Congress about the dismissals, "but blamed the errors on inadequate preparation by others more deeply involved in the removals."

McNulty's testimony raises more questions about the account given to Congress by the attorney general. In his February testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, McNulty acknowledged during contentious testimony that fired U.S. attorney Bud Cummins had been let go simply because the administration wanted to name former Republican National Committee operative Timothy Griffin in his place. In that hearing, Schumer asked, "So, in other words, Bud Cummins was fired for no reason. There was no cause?" McNulty answered, "No cause provided in his case, as I am aware of it." That revelation sparked additional inquiries as Congress sought to determine whether the other firings were aimed at interfering with ongoing cases. One day after his testimony, a Justice Department spokesman sent an email to other aides saying Gonzales was "extremely upset" that McNulty acknowledged the true cause for the firing. While McNulty's testimony "infuriated" Gonzales, "eventually, McNulty's position proved to be correct."
Also, McNulty he says that before his initial congressional testimony, he was coached on what to say by none other than Karl Rove.

Meanwhile, WaPo's Dan Froomkin calls it:

The orders from the White House to any number of embattled senior administration officials appear to be the same: Hunker down, admit nothing, offer no appearance of panic and whatever you do, don't resign.

The penalty for violating those orders came more clearly into focus this morning. Just hours after Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty announced his resignation, his boss publicly stabbed him in the back.

McNulty, widely considered to have played only a supporting role in the controversial firings of U.S. attorneys last year, did his bosses the kindness yesterday of citing "financial pressures" as his reason for abruptly ending his long career in public service in the midst of a scandal.

But Attorney General Alberto Gonzales wasted no time in planting the knife. Although Gonzales has previously been vague to the point of cluelessness about the genesis of the firings, suddenly this morning the ambiguity was gone.
Hey, that's what I said...

Word has it McNulty got out of Dodge because he was sick of being linked to the Gonzogate scandal, something about which he may have had only cursory knowledge.

But that didn't stop Gonzo from stabbing him in the back.

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posted by JReid @ 7:07 PM  
Monday, May 14, 2007
McNulty to quit
Deputy attorney general tenders his resignation, leaving Albertcito to face the fury of Congress on his own.

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posted by JReid @ 8:01 PM  
Who fired the Gonzales Eight?
It would seem to be an obvious answer, given the nickname given the group of eight U.S. attorneys fired with the approval of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (that would be the GONZALES EIGHT...)
But as Gonzo's most recent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee demonstrates, he either had no idea why he was approving the firings, or he knew and now won't say. Mr. Gonzales claims that while he "takes full responsibility" for dumping the eight attorneys as part of what's being called the Pearl Harbor day massacre, he has no idea who recommended the eight to be let go. Like a children's game, Florida Rep. Robert Wexler walked Gonzo through a list of people who Gonzales says didn't do it:

It wasn't George W. Bush...
It wasn't Dick Cheney...
It wasn't Alberto Gonzales...
It wasn't Kyle Sampson...
It wasn't former Deputy Attorney General James Comey...
It wasn't Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty...
It might have been Kyle Sampson ... but of course Fredo doesn't know for sure because he hasn't talked to him about it, even though he signed off on the firing and Sampson was supposedly in charge of the ... never mind... let's just hear from the idiot:

Gonzales: Out of respect for the integrity of this investigation and the investigations occurring at the Department of Justice, I have not made that inquiry with respect to other fact witnesses.

Wexler: But you were OK with firing them, but you won't tell us who made the recommendation to fire them.

Gonzales: I think I was justified in relying upon the senior leadership in the department ... Let me just say this: I did not make the decision with respect to Mr. Iglesias ...

Wexler: I know. You haven't made any decision ... You have been very clear about that.

Gonzales: I accept full responsibility for this.

Wexler: But you won't tell us who put Mr. Iglesias on that list?

Gonzales: You would have a better opportunity to access ...

Wexler: I would?

Gonzales: The committee would, the Congress.

Wexler: Are you the attorney general? Do you run the Department of Justice?

Why no, Mr. Wexler, Monica Goodling runs the Department of Justice, on behalf of the Republican Party. Immunity, anyone?

Oh, and who recommended the firing of the Gonzales Eight? Clearly it was Karl Rove, and it was done because of Rove's and various GOP Congressmen's complaints that the attorneys wouldn't play ball in Rove's phony voter fraud scheme to influence the 2006 midterm elections. But the administration would rather leave Albertcito twisting in the wind until the very end in order to save Turd Blossom.

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posted by JReid @ 8:22 AM  
Monday, May 07, 2007
Good night, sweet civil rights division
McClatchy Newspapers uncovers the latest undercurrent of the Gonzogate scandal: the politicization of the Justice Department's Civil Rights division, which was created as part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and which traditionally prosecution voting rights violations, hate crimes, police brutality and the like. The goal: to use voter fraud investigations to depress Democratic voter turnout. Consequently, there was less time left in the day to do what the division was designed to do, and many veteran prosecutors left the DOJ altogether. All the better to replace them with mindless GOP hacks who'd serve the Rovian cause of perpetual Republican government. It's so Soviet it should be have a "kov" at the end.

Update: CNN reports on the erosion of the civil rights division. And the Senate Judiciary Committee probes Gonzo's bag man. And one more gem from TPM: Monica Goodling just might be the goodly statue cover up queen from the bad old days of John Ashcroft.

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posted by JReid @ 8:22 PM  
Operation: get Gonzo off the front page
Republican Congressman John Doolittle claims the FBI staged a raid on his home in order to deflect attention from Gonzogate.

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posted by JReid @ 7:23 PM  
Friday, May 04, 2007
Gonzogate turning into Rovegate?
The closer the Gonzalesgate scandal moves to White House advisor Karl Rove, the more tenuous Albercito's job prospects have got to be. I missed the mark on Alberto Gonzales losing his job by last month's end, but I still believe the White House will cut him loose at a convenient time, all the better to protect Rove from a nasty subpoena.

The latest news from the WaPo drags us closer to that moment:
WASHINGTON -- A senior Justice Department official who testified about performance shortcomings of several fired U.S. attorneys has told congressional investigators he was coached the day before at a White House meeting attended by political adviser Karl Rove.

The witness, Associate Deputy Attorney General William Moschella, said he was urged during the dinner hour meeting on March 5 to publicly specify reasons for the dismissals, according to a transcript of the investigators' April 24 interview with him.
Until the March 6 hearing before a House Judiciary subcommittee, Justice Department officials had said publicly only that some of the firings were based on performance, offering no specifics. At the hearing, Moschella laid out detailed criticism of each of five fired prosecutors' specific performance.

Moschella's boss, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, told investigators in an April 27 interview that he also was at the March 5 White House meeting and that Rove was there. McNulty recalled Moschella being told to be sure to lay out the justifications for the firings, according to the transcript of his interview by investigators.
Deputy White House spokeslady Dana Perino was at the meeting, too, but of course, being a press secretary and all, she has no idea who else was there or what was said...

Meanwhile, there's news on the former number two at Justice, James Comey, the man made famous, at least in my book, for showing common sense hesitation on the Bushian NSA warantless wiretapping program while he stood in for an ailing John Ashcroft (who was famously accosted in his sick bed by none other than Al Gonzales, then the White House counsel, along with Andy Card. The two wanted the seriously ill Ashcroft to overrule Comey's objections and let the warrentless eavesdropping on Americans go forward. Apparently Comey was not let in on the plans to fire the U.S. attorneys who had refused to play ball with Bush and Gonzo's election rigging voter fraud scheme. Perhaps after all the NSA nastiness "back in the day," Albertcito just didn't trust Comey to play ball...

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posted by JReid @ 8:23 PM  
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Paging Monica Goodling
Fifth Amendment Monica gets immunity for her testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on the Gonzalesgate affair. And it just gets worse for the Bushies:

By 21-10, the House oversight committee voted to issue a subpoena to Rice to compel her story on the Bush administration's claim, now discredited, that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa.

Moments earlier in the committee chamber next door, the House Judiciary Committee voted 32-6 to grant immunity to Monica Goodling, Gonzales' White House liaison, for her testimony on why the administration fired eight federal prosecutors. The panel also unanimously approved — but did not issue — a subpoena to compel her to appear.

Simultaneously across Capitol Hill, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved — but did not issue — a subpoena on the prosecutors' matter to Sara Taylor, deputy to presidential adviser Karl Rove.

And in case Gonzales thought the worst had passed with his punishing testimony last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the chairman and top Republican issued a new demand: Refresh the memory that Gonzales claimed had failed him 71 times during the seven-hour session.

"Provide the answers to the questions you could not recall last Thursday," Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and ranking Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, wrote to Gonzales on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Fredo, as Dubya calls Albertcito, is learning to handle the sting of rejection:

...Gonzales tried Wednesday to mend fences on Capitol Hill. He met with a key critic, Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., who has complained that Gonzales was not truthful with him over the dismissal of Bud Cummins, the former U.S. attorney in Little Rock, Ark.

But his outreach apparently didn't take.

"I reiterated with the attorney general, face-to-face, that I think he should resign," Pryor told reporters in a conference call after meeting with Gonzales in Washington. "I think it's the best thing for the Department of Justice and it's probably the best thing for him personally and the administration."
Owie.

Meanwhile, there's more on the dirt that the Justice Department was up to when it was supposed to be looking out for the interests of the American people...

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posted by JReid @ 4:04 PM  
Saturday, April 07, 2007
Goodbye, Goodling, see you in at the hearings!
Monica Goodling, pictured with Karl Rove

Another story I didn't get a chance to put up yesterday: The surprise unsurprising resignation Friday of former Alberto Gonzales aide Monica Goodling, the Messiah Bible college and Pat Robertson-founded law school alum and apparent firing queen of Gonzogate, who had asserted that she would refuse to testify before the House and Senate judiciary committees and would instead assert her Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination (something about which many lawyers are quite dubious...) making her the first Justice Department official in the history of the body to do so and remain employed.

Goodling, who was the Justice Department's White House liaison, becomes the third administration official to resign over the firings of the Gonzales 8, Karl Rove look-alike Kyle Sampson and former director of the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys Michael Battle having gone before. Goodling's abrupt resignation, no reason given, won't get her off the hook. John Conyers has indicated he still intends to call her before the House Judiciary Committee, as early as next week. Ditto for Pat Leahy on the Senate side. As some legal analysts have said on cable-chat, the committees should call Ms. Goodling before them, and make her take the Fifth on television. Or as others have suggested, subpoena her, and throw her in jail for contempt of Congress if she refuses to appear. Running away from your job won't get you off the hot seat, dear.


Meanwhile, the Muckrakers take a peek into what an actual "loyal Bushie" in the U.S. Attorneys office looks like...

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posted by JReid @ 3:30 PM  
Sunday, April 01, 2007
Poor Orrin Hatch
Apparently, he was the only GOPer willing to play the president's bag man on Gonzalesgate. He's on Meet the Press right now embarrassing himself, trying to carry the administration's water, and being picked clean by Pat Leahy. (Hatch even did his best fulmination, going after Carol Lam as failing to do her job in southern California, and then when it got really hot, Hatch played the race card, pointing out that Gonzales is "the first Hispanic attorney general of the United States." And when confronted with his own intervention to stymie the firing of a U.S. attorney in his home state, (a man named Warren) he seemed frankly flabbergasted. It was a near Pat Roberts performance for Hatch, who comes off as an unexpurgated hack and White House shill.

Unfortunately, Tim Russert continues to lose my respect, by his glaring failure to point out to the audience that Kyle Sampson, the doughy Karl Rove lookalike whose testimony last week made it plain that Alberto Gonzales lied in his March 13 press conference when he said he played no role in the firings, used to work for Hatch.

It's a shame that a sitting United States Senator would sell himself so cheap (hell, these guys don't even get paid to do the Sunday chat shows.) It's an even greater shame that someone in Russert's position would play such a Senator's enabler.

Then came a wierd moment when Russert asked Hatch if the president came to him and asked him to replace Gonzales as attorney general, would he do it. Hatch aw shucks'd it pretty well, but clearly, he would make a perfect replacement, in that he would be as much the president's water boy as Gonzales ever was. In other words, there wouldn't be a dime's worth of difference between Alberto and Orrin.

Back to reality, Pat Leahy had the line of the morning, when he responded to one of Hatch's shill sessions by stating that it seems Orrin remembers what day today is. (April fools!) But on the subject of Hatch as the next A.G., Leahy did that line one better, and gave an interesting window into Orrin's possible motivation for playing hand puppet to the White House this morning:

RUSSERT: Would Senator Hatch be an acceptible replacement for Mr. Gonzales?

LEAHY: The rumor on the Hill this week is that he was actively running for it ... but I'm gonna have to leave that to him...
Fascinating...

Meanwhile, on the other end of the dial, Mitch McConnell proves he can't even make the okey dokey dance look good on Fox ...

And the WaPo goes inside the minds of White House attorney general pickers...

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posted by JReid @ 10:21 AM  
Friday, March 30, 2007
Sampson says
I was waaaay too busy yesterday, so I'm playing catch-up on the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings involving Kyle Sampson, the former chief of staff to Alberto Gonzales, who gave voluntary testimony yesterday. To sum up, Sampson went to the Senate to support the concept of firing federal prosecutors for political reasons, but not to get Albertcito (or Harriet Miers or anyone else for that matter,) off the hook. Short answer: this guy has no intention of being Scooter Libby.

So what did Sampson have to say? Quoth the WaPo:

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales was more deeply involved in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys than he has sometimes acknowledged, and Gonzales and his aides have made a series of inaccurate claims about the issue in recent weeks, the attorney general's former chief of staff testified yesterday.

In dramatic testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, D. Kyle Sampson also revealed that New Mexico U.S. Attorney David C. Iglesias was not added to the dismissal list until just before the Nov. 7 elections, after presidential adviser Karl Rove complained that Iglesias had not been aggressive enough in pursuing cases of voter fraud. Previously, Rove had not been tied so directly to the removal of the prosecutors.

These and other disclosures by Sampson, who abruptly resigned earlier this month, represent the latest challenge to Gonzales's version of events. The attorney general has been sharply criticized by lawmakers of both parties, by his own employees and even by President Bush for his handling of the U.S. attorneys' dismissals.

Sampson's testimony also shows that, along with Rove, other senior White House aides were more closely involved in the dismissals than has previously been disclosed. It adds to evidence that some of the firings were influenced by GOP political concerns and that the selection process was not based on hard data.

Sampson said he even suggested firing U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald of Chicago while Fitzgerald was prosecuting Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff for perjury. Sampson said he immediately dropped the idea, which he raised at a White House meeting last year, when he received negative reactions from then-White House Counsel Harriet E. Miers and her deputy, William Kelley.

Gonzales has sought to portray himself as detached from the details of the firings, saying on March 13 that Sampson was in charge. Gonzales also said he "was not involved in any discussions about what was going on" in the process. The attorney general sought to clarify that statement in a television interview Monday, acknowledging more frequent contact with Sampson.

But Sampson provided new detail of Gonzales's involvement, testifying in response to questioning that he had at least five discussions with his boss about the project after Gonzales first approved the idea in early 2005 and that the attorney general was aware which prosecutors were under consideration for dismissal.

"I don't think the attorney general's statement that he was not involved in any discussions of U.S. attorney removals was accurate," Sampson said. "I remember discussing with him this process of asking certain U.S. attorneys to resign."

Sampson added later that "the decision makers in this case were the attorney general and the counsel to the president" -- Miers. ...
Smpson's only regret? That he failed to anticipate how bad political firings would look. (Transcript here.) Josh Marshall breaks down the politics of the political.

The hearing did have a moment of drama, when Republicans briefly stopped the proceedings. But it didn't last.

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posted by JReid @ 8:37 AM  
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
The 'why' of Gonzogate
The Politico breaks down the why of the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

Some of the political fireworks between President Bush and Congress over fired U.S. attorneys could well be explained by looking back at when the saga began: the 2004 election.

Back then, Democrats were trying to register enough new voters to beat Bush while Republicans were issuing dire warnings that the Democrats were out to steal the election by encouraging voter fraud.

It's an issue the White House had fixated on since the Supreme Court ended the 2000 Florida recount and settled the presidential campaign amid charges that if the ballots of the Sunshine State's black voters had been counted, Democrat Al Gore would have won.

Bush's allies were obsessed with ensuring that his reelection couldn't be questioned as well. So, in the fall of 2004, Republican operatives tucked thick folders of newspaper clippings and other fraud tips under their arms and pitched to reporters their claims that the Democrats' registration program would lead to rampant voter fraud. Their passion was clear, but their evidence was slim, consisting mostly of isolated incidents of voter registration irregularities that were handled by local police or election officials.

What wasn't mentioned in those conversations with reporters was a Republican National Committee strategy, already underway, to work with state parties to identify and challenge questionable voters at the polling precincts. Among those working at the RNC was Tim Griffin, the former Karl Rove aide who recently replaced fired U.S. attorney Bud Cummins. Then, with the vast federal law enforcement community acting as the new sheriff, Republicans hoped to pocket the evidence they longed for: a string of high-profile investigations and convictions.

Failure of some U.S. attorneys to pursue the final plank in that strategy now appears to have helped trigger an internal debate over whether to fire all or some of them, administration comments and e-mails suggest. ...
More on the scandal-bag from ABC News:

The firestorm over the fired U.S. attorneys was sparked last month when a top Justice Department official ignored guidance from the White House and rejected advice from senior administration lawyers over his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The official, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, ignored White House Counsel Harriet Miers and senior lawyers in the Justice Department when he told the committee last month of specific reasons why the administration fired seven U.S. attorneys — and appeared to acknowledge for the first time that politics was behind one dismissal. McNulty's testimony directly conflicted with the approach Miers advised, according to an unreleased internal White House e-mail described to ABC News. According to that e-mail, sources said, Miers said the administration should take the firm position that it would not comment on personnel issues.

Until McNulty's testimony, administration officials had consistently refused to publicly say why specific attorneys were dismissed and insisted that the White House had complete authority to replace them. That was Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' approach when he testified before the committee in January.

But McNulty, who worked on Capitol Hill 12 years, believed he had little choice but to more fully discuss the circumstances of the attorneys' firings, according to a a senior Justice Department official familiar the circumstances. McNulty believed the senators would demand additional information, and he was confident he could draw on a long relationship with New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, in explaining in more detail, sources told ABC News.

In doing so, however, McNulty went well beyond the scope of what the White House cleared him to say when it approved his written testimony the week before the hearing, according to administration sources closely involved in the matter.

It just gets muckier and muckier, doesn't it?

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posted by JReid @ 10:46 AM  
Monday, March 26, 2007
The cheese stands alone
Three things you DON'T want said by people on your side when you're in the midst of a White House scandal ending in "gate":

#1: "I plead the Fifth"
#2: "I plead the Fifth"
#3: "I plead the ..." you get the idea.

So the chief counsel to the nation's chief law enforcement official says she will take the Fifth rather than testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the Gonzogate scandal. Her words are pretty chilling, if you're a Bushie:

"I have decided to follow my lawyer's advice and respectfully invoke my constitutional right," Monica Goodling, Gonzales' counsel and White House liaison, said in a statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
And the words from her attorney (who Keith Olbermann deftly points out tonight was also the guy who prosecuted Pete Rose for betting on baseball) are even worse:

"The potential for legal jeopardy for Ms. Goodling from even her most truthful and accurate testimony under these circumstances is very real," [attorny John Dowd] said. Goodling was key to the Justice Department's political response to the growing controversy. She took a leave of absence last week.

"One need look no further than the recent circumstances and proceedings involving Lewis Libby," Dowd said, a reference to the recent conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff in the CIA leak case.
To which Pat Leahy rightly replied:

"The American people are left to wonder what conduct is at the base of Ms. Goodling's concern that she may incriminate herself in connection with criminal charges if she appears before the committee under oath,"
So what now for Gonzlaes, who according to reports is only hanging onto his job ont he condition that he make things right with Congress? Well, if his NBC News interview today is any idication of his prowess as a witness (he's set to go before Congress on April 17) in the immortal words of Mother Klump in "The Nutty Professor" movie, "he doesn't look well..." Of course, Gonzo says that he may one day find out that the prosecutors were purged for political reasons, and if so, he's gonna be really, really mad... (LOL)

More on Ms. Goodling:

Goodling's announcement appeared to be an unforeseen piece of bad news for Gonzales' agency, which had no immediate comment.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who is leading the Senate's investigation into the firings, said Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty told him he was misled by other Justice Department aides before he testified to Schumer's panel on Feb. 6.

A day earlier, Goodling was among those who helped McNulty prepare his testimony. Schumer has said McNulty may have given Congress incomplete or otherwise misleading information about the circumstances of the firings.

A little more than two weeks before that, Goodling helped organize the response to senators asking whether the firings were politically motivated, e-mails show. Specifically, she wanted to show that one of the fired prosecutors, Carol Lam of California, had been the subject of complaints by members of Congress.

On Jan. 18, 2007, Goodling sent an e-mail to three Justice staffers saying, "I hear there is a letter from (Sen. Dianne) Feinstein on Carol Lam a year or two ago."

"I need it ASAP," Goodling wrote.

She was later sent two letters, from Rep. Darrell Issa (news, bio, voting record), R-Calif., dated Oct. 13, 2005, and 19 House members, on Oct. 20, 2005, which both complained that Lam was too lax in prosecuting criminal illegal immigrants.

Additionally, Goodling was involved in an April 6, 2006, phone call between the Justice Department and Sen. Pete Domenici (news, bio, voting record), R-N.M., who had complained to the Bush administration and the president about David Iglesias, then the U.S. attorney in Albuquerque. Domenici had wanted Iglesias to push more aggressively on a corruption probe against Democrats before the 2006 elections.

Iglesias told Congress earlier this month that he rejected what he believed to be pressure from Domenici to rush indictments that would have hurt Democrats in the November elections.
Not a good look, Ms. Goodling.

Meanwhile, a new poll shows the American people strongly back the Congressional Gonzogate probes, including the issuing of subpoenas.

And of course, there's always another scandal waiting in the wings. Mr. Rove? You're up.

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posted by JReid @ 8:15 PM  
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Bull Connor, the re-mix
I've often wondered, probably not alone, why despite dismal approval ratings and increasing political and actual chaos all around him, George W. Bush never seems to be too worried about the political future. He seems blythely unconcerned about his party's political fortunes, including the prospect that his dreadful presidency will lock Republicans out of not only the Congressional majority, but also the White House, perhaps for generations to come.

Well, maybe now we have an answer.

It appears increasingly clear, from the many scandals that have recently arisen out of the Justice Department (the mass collection of unauthorized data on Americans by the FBI, and the purging of U.S. attorneys,) that the Bush administration -- and Karl Rove specifically -- have been putting in place a sure-fire way to ensure that the White House remains in Republican hands, by rigging future elections -- without even the need of fixing the voting machines.

How have they planned to do it? By using, of all things, the nation's federal prosecutors and courts to suppress Democratic (read Black) votes in key states, and to place political operatives in positions where they can do damage to Democratic candidates, using the same legal attack strategy that was used on the Clintons when they were in office. In other words, Bush is so calm because he knows that his hatchet man is bending nearly every federal agency at his disposal to the purely political purpose of electing Republicans and suppressing Democratic votes.

From McClatchy News Service:
WASHINGTON - Under President Bush, the Justice Department has backed laws that narrow minority voting rights and pressed U.S. attorneys to investigate voter fraud - policies that critics say have been intended to suppress Democratic votes.


Bush, his deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove, and other Republican political advisers have highlighted voting rights issues and what Rove has called the "growing problem" of election fraud by Democrats since Bush took power in the tumultuous election of 2000, a race ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.


Since 2005, McClatchy Newspapers has found, Bush has appointed at least three U.S. attorneys who had worked in the Justice Department's civil rights division when it was rolling back longstanding voting-rights policies aimed at protecting predominantly poor, minority voters.


Another newly installed U.S. attorney, Tim Griffin in Little Rock, Ark., was accused of participating in efforts to suppress Democratic votes in Florida during the 2004 presidential election while he was a research director for the Republican National Committee. He's denied any wrongdoing.

Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the four U.S. attorneys weren't chosen only because of their backgrounds in election issues, but "we would expect any U.S. attorney to prosecute voting fraud."

Taken together, critics say, the replacement of the U.S. attorneys, the voter-fraud campaign and the changes in Justice Department voting rights policies suggest that the Bush administration may have been using its law enforcement powers for partisan political purposes. ...
And this:
Last April, while the Justice Department and the White House were planning the firings, Rove gave a speech in Washington to the Republican National Lawyers Association. He ticked off 11 states that he said could be pivotal in the 2008 elections. Bush has appointed new U.S. attorneys in nine of them since 2005: Florida, Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Arkansas, Michigan, Nevada and New Mexico. U.S. attorneys in the latter four were among those fired.

Rove thanked the audience for "all that you are doing in those hot spots around the country to ensure that the integrity of the ballot is protected." He added, "A lot in American politics is up for grabs."

The department's civil rights division, for example, supported a Georgia voter identification law that a court later said discriminated against poor, minority voters. It also declined to oppose an unusual Texas redistricting plan that helped expand the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. That plan was partially reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Frank DiMarino, a former federal prosecutor who served six U.S. attorneys in Florida and Georgia during an 18-year Justice Department career, said that too much emphasis on voter fraud investigations "smacks of trying to use prosecutorial power to investigate and potentially indict political enemies."

Several former voting rights lawyers, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of antagonizing the administration, said the division's political appointees reversed the recommendations of career lawyers in key cases and transferred or drove out most of the unit's veteran attorneys.

Bradley Schlozman, who was the civil rights division's deputy chief, agreed in 2005 to reverse the career staff's recommendations to challenge a Georgia law that would have required voters to pay $20 for photo IDs and in some cases travel as far as 30 miles to obtain the ID card.

A federal judge threw out the Georgia law, calling it an unconstitutional, Jim Crow-era poll tax. ...
In other words, what we now have is a White House engaging in what amounts to widespread voter disenfranchisement different from Jim Crow era Bull Connor tactics only in their subtlety:
Former voting rights section chief Joseph Rich, however, said longtime career lawyers whose views differed from those of political appointees were routinely "reassigned or stripped of major responsibilities."


In testimony to a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing this week, Rich said that 20 of the 35 attorneys in the voting rights section have been transferred to other jobs or have left their jobs since April 2005 and a staff of 26 civil rights analysts who reviewed state laws for discrimination has been slashed to 10.


He said he has yet to see evidence of voter fraud on a scale that warrants voter ID laws, which he said are "without exception ... supported and pushed by Republicans and objected to by Democrats. I believe it is clear that this kind of law tends to suppress the vote of lower-income and minority voters."

Other former voting-rights section lawyers said that during the tenure of Alex Acosta, who served as the division chief from the fall of 2003 until he was named interim U.S. attorney in Miami in the summer of 2005, the department didn't file a single suit alleging that local or state laws or election rules diluted the votes of African-Americans. In a similar time period, the Clinton administration filed six such cases.

Those kinds of cases, Rich said, are "the guts of the Voting Rights Act."

During this week's House judiciary subcommittee hearing, critics recounted lapses in the division's enforcement. A Citizens Commission on Civil Rights study found that "the enforcement record of the voting section during the Bush administration indicates this traditional priority has been downgraded significantly, if not effectively ignored."
Again, this is much, much larger than a "pleasure of the president" series of personnel changes.

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posted by JReid @ 12:39 PM  
What the A.G. knew: Al Gonzales, George W. Bush and the politicization of Everything
"Alberto, you're doing a heckuva job..."

President Bush is continuing to stand behind his attorney general, Alberto Gonzales (at least publicly,) apparently bunkering in and ratcheting up the stubbornness despite the increasingly obvious fact that Mr. Gonzales is a drag on an already sinking ship of state. Here's the latest from AP:

WASHINGTON - President Bush is standing firmly behind his embattled attorney general despite Justice Department documents that show Alberto Gonzales was more involved in the decisions to fire U.S. attorneys than he previously indicated.

Gonzales said last week he was not involved in any discussions about the impending dismissals of federal prosecutors. On Friday night, however, the department disclosed Gonzales' participation in a Nov. 27 meeting where such plans were discussed.

That e-mail only added to the calls for Gonzales' ouster. ...

... At the Nov. 27 meeting, the attorney general and at least five top department officials discussed a five-step plan for carrying out the firings, Gonzales' aides said late Friday.

At that session, Gonzales signed off on the plan, drafted by his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson. Sampson resigned last week.

A Justice aide closely involved in the dismissals, White House liaison Monica Goodling, also has taken a leave of absence, two officials said.

The plan approved by Gonzales involved notifying Republican home-state senators of the impending dismissals, preparing for potential political upheaval, naming replacements and submitting them to the Senate for confirmation.

Six of the eight prosecutors who were ordered to resign are named in the plan.

Here's the problem for Alberto: He went on record more than a week ago claiming complete ignorance of the plan to fire the prosecutors, and palmed off responsibility on his chief aide, Kyle Sampson. Sampson is now being invited to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and could contradict the prior sworn testimony of Mr. Gonzales, putting the nation's chief prosecutor in the rather awkard position of having potentially lied to Congress, and to the American people.

More from the AP story:

Gonzales told reporters on March 13 that he was aware some of the dismissals were being discussed but was not involved in them.

"I knew my chief of staff was involved in the process of determining who were the weak performers — where were the districts around the country where we could do better for the people in that district, and that's what I knew," Gonzales said. "But that is in essence what I knew about the process; was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on. That's basically what I knew as the attorney general."

Later, he added: "I accept responsibility for everything that happens here within this department. But when you have 110,000 people working in the department, obviously there are going to be decisions that I'm not aware of in real time. Many decisions are delegated."

The documents' release came hours after Sampson agreed to testify at a Senate inquiry this coming week into the prosecutors' firings.

Asked to explain the difference between Gonzales' comments and his schedule, Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the attorney general had relied on Sampson to draw up the plans on the firings.

"The attorney general has made clear that he charged Mr. Sampson with directing a plan to replace U.S. attorneys where for one reason or another the department believed that we could do better," Roehrkasse said. "He was not, however, involved at the levels of selecting the particular U.S. attorneys who would be replaced."

And the bottom line, from just one of the lawmakers who have Gonzales in their crosshairs:

Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who is heading the Senate's investigation into the firings, said, "If the facts bear out that Attorney General Gonzales knew much more about the plan than he has previously admitted, then he can no longer serve as attorney general."
Exactly.

Now over to TPM Muckraker, which links to an LAT piece revealing that part of the Justice Department political wing's plan for dealing with "political fallout" was to go to an old salt that always seems to be top of mind for Republicans: "Clinton did it too!" From the LAT Article:

Three weeks ago, Justice Department officials settled on a "talking point" to rebut the chorus of Democratic accusations that the Bush administration had wrongly injected politics into law enforcement when it dismissed eight U.S. attorneys.

Why not focus on the Clinton administration's having "fired all 93 U.S. attorneys" when Janet Reno became attorney general in March 1993? The idea was introduced in a memo from a Justice Department spokeswoman.
Of course, the argument is, as per usual, false and misleading, and beyond that, it's dangerous to the very notion of fairness under law. From ThinkP, quoting a Congressional Research Service report on the unprecedented firings:

A CRS report released yesterday examines the tenure of all U.S. Attorneys who were confirmed by the Senate between the years 1981 and 2006 to determine how many had served — and, of those, how many had been forced to resign for reasons other than a change in administration.

The answer:

– Of the 468 confirmations made by the Senate over the 25-year period, only 10 left office involuntarily for reasons other than a change in administration prior to the firings that took place in December.

– In virtually all of those 10 previous cases, serious issues of personal or professional conduct appeared to be the driving issue. Prior to December, for example, only two U.S. Attorneys were outright fired for improper, and in one case criminal, behavior. The CRS report identifies six other U.S. Attorneys who resigned during the 25-year period who were implicated in news reports of “questionable conduct.” For two others, the CRS was unable to determine the cause.
And this from Center for American Progress fellow Scott Lilly:

It is clear that of the four administrations that controlled the executive branch of government during the past quarter-century, only the current administration has held the view that U.S. Attorney can or should be removed absent serious cause. In no instance is there any indication of a removal because a U.S. attorney failed to meet certain political criteria, such as prosecuting cases that were considered too sensitive to partisan issues or failing to prosecute cases that would be helpful from a partisan perspective.

The innovative philosophy of the current Bush administration with respect to the service of U.S. Attorneys is worthy of the attention it is now receiving. Those eight forced resignations threaten the very basis of our justice system — to quote the words written above the pillars on the west front of the Supreme Court, “Equal Justice Under Law.”
But hey, little things like that haven't stopped the Bushies before... So let's dig deeper into the small number of Justice Department officials who have been fired before. More from Mr. Lilly's CAP analysis of the Congressional Research Service report:

Prior to December, for example, only two U.S. Attorneys were outright fired. The first was William Kennedy, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California. The Christian Science Monitor on Apr. 26, 1982 explained that he was dismissed “for charging that the Justice Department, at the request of the Central Intelligence Agency, was blocking his attempt to prosecute Mr. [Miguel] Nassar [Haro], because he had been a key CIA informant on Mexican and Central American affairs.”

The second, J. William Petro, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, was dismissed (according to the Oct. 3, 1984 edition of The New York Times) because the Department of Justice was “investigating allegations that Mr. Petro disclosed information about an indictment pending from an undercover operation and that the information reached a subject of the investigation.” Petro was later convicted of the charges.

The CRS report identifies six other U.S. Attorneys who resigned during the 25-year period who were implicated in news reports of “questionable conduct.” These included:

  • Frank L. McNamara, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts who resigned because “he was the target of an internal probe,” into “whether he had lied to federal officials,” according to a Jan. 31, 1989 report in The Boston Globe.
  • Larry Colleton, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida resigned in Jul. 1994 after he was “videotaped grabbing Jacksonville television reporter Richard Rose by the throat,” according to local press reports.
  • Kendall Coffey, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, resigned on May 12, 1996, according to news reports, “amid accusations that he bit a topless dancer on the arm during a visit to an adult club.”
  • Michael Troop, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky, who resigned to become State Police Commissioner. Later reports indicated that he was under investigation at the time by the Justice Department for sexual harassment.
  • Karl Kasey, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, who according to news reports “abruptly left office after the Justice Department began investigating e-mails in which offered to secretly assist a GOP candidate.”

In two other cases, there were no apparent issues of personal or professional misconduct. Michael Yamaguchi, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, appears to have been a victim of disapproving federal judges. The CRS report sites news reports in 1998 stating that he was “apparently squeezed out by the local federal bench and his bosses in the U.S. Justice Department.”

The only instance other than the recent firings in which there was no apparent explanation for a forced resignation also occurred during the Bush administration. Thomas DiBiagio, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland resigned in 2005. Recent news reports indicate that he “was forced from office,” but there has been no explanation as to why. ...

In other words, the actions taken, we now know with the full knowledge of Mr. Gonzales, were both unprecedented, and brazenly political, in a manner we have not seen since the Reagan administration's firing of a U.S. attorney who was accusing THEM of wrongdoing...
So the "Clinton did it, too" canard just won't wash.
Drip ... drip ... drip...

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posted by JReid @ 11:50 AM  
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Update: the case of the Gonzalez Seven Eight
I'm watching the rebroadcast of Tuesday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearings into the "Pearl Harbor Day massacre," and the following updates should be noted:

Apparently, the attempted intimidation of U.S. attorneys by members of Congress and the Bush administration went beyond the inappropriate phonecalls made by Congresswoman Heather Wilson (R-NM) and Senator Pete Domenici to then New Mexico U.S. attorney David Iglesias last October, both attempting to dig into sealed indictments against state Democratic officials. In addition to the pressure on Iglesias, who said the Domenici phonecall in particular made him feel "sick," there was also an attempt at direct intimidation of several of the fired prosecutors.

H.E. "Bud" Cummins, the Arkansas prosecutor dismissed to make room for a former Karl Rove deputy, received a phonecall in late February from Mike Elston, the chief of staff to deputy attorney general Paul McNulty. During the call, Elston informed Cummins that his comments to the Washington Post that past Saturday were most unwelcome, having come after Congress had already begun to inquire into the firitngs, forcing Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to admit to a Congressional hearing that Cummins had been dismissed purely to help a political flak. Cummins was told that if he and his fellow firees continued to talk to the press, and if any of them began to cooperate with Congress (all had refused requests to testfy before the two judiciary committees) then the administration would consider that an "escalation of the conflict, meriting some unspecified form of retaliation" and that the DOJ might just take off the gloves in defending their actions, by releasing information unfavorable to the prosecutors' performance while in office.

Cummins took the call as a threat, or at least a "message," and sent an email to several of his colleagues, including the other three former U.S. attorneys who testified on Tuesday (Carol Lam, the California prosecutor dismissed after successfully prosecuting Duke Cunningham and indicting deputy CIA director Kyle "Dusty" Foggo for abusing his office, and his defense contractor buddy Brent Wilkes; Mr. Iglesias and John McKay of Washington State, who had received pressure via the chief of staff to GOP Congressman Doc Hastings, to investigate the razor thin margin of victory of the newly minted Democratic governor of that state ... Hastings is the ranking member on the House ethics committee, wouldn't you know...) Cummins submitted the email to the panel, and testified that he didn't feel it was a betrayal of Ellison to pass on the information, since he felt that the purpose of the call was to get him to pass the word to his colleagues, in order to preemptively shut them up. (McKay's response to the email was that it didn't make him feel intimidated, it made him mad, which is why he was sitting before the committee. The only one of the four who seemed intimidated at all, or at least protective of the administration, ws Ms. Lam, for reasons unknown.)

For his part, Cummins testified that he had intended to stay out of the political fray, and only talked to the Washington Post because the admnistration chose to attack his colleagues' performance while in office, and he wanted to defend their work, as well as the work of his former staff.

Further, Mr. Iglesias testified that he was told by a Justice Department official that his firing was determined "from on high."

The dismissals are bad enough. The attempted threats and intimidation may be criminal.

Update: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of RI asked a most pertinent question: what each of the four witnesses would do if a witness in a case they were prosecuting received a phonecall like the one Mr. Cummins got, from a subject in the case. All answered that they would refer the call for investigation for obstruction of justice, or in Ms. Lam's case, for witness tampering. Mr. Ellison should think seriously about that.

It should also be noted that all eight of the dismissed U.S. attorneys were nominated by President Bush and confirmed by the Senate, with the first crop of U.S. attorneys after September 11. They are all either Republicans or Independents, as Iglesias testified, appointed because they were considered political assets, not liabilities. How did they become liabilities five years later? By doing things unpopular with the Republican Congress and with their fellow poliical hacks in the White House. In addition, all had excellent evaluations of their work on record, with no recorded complaints from DOJ.

Update 2: Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions was the first Republican on the committee to begin swinging the hatchet on behalf of the Bush administration. True to the form which became familiar during the subservient 109th Congress, Sessions began his questioning by going after Ms. Lam's prosecutorial record with respect to gun cases, suggesting she was not upholding administration policy when compared with U.S. attorneys in other districts.

Likewise, Lindsey Graham is trying to save the administration by suggesting that the three witnesses had served unusually long terms in office.

...proving, once again, that there are no lengths Republican members of Congress won't go to in order to shill for the administration. One day, perhaps we'll discover the reason for this remarkable fealty.

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posted by JReid @ 4:59 PM  
Friday, March 09, 2007
Unsurprising headlines: injustice everywehre
Given the authority to invade the privacy of Americans for national security reasons after 9/11, the FBI promptly abused it:
WASHINGTON - The nation's top two law enforcement officials acknowledged Friday the FBI broke the law to secretly pry out personal information about Americans. They apologized and vowed to prevent further illegal intrusions.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales left open the possibility of pursuing criminal charges against FBI agents or lawyers who improperly used the USA Patriot Act in pursuit of suspected terrorists and spies.

The FBI's transgressions were spelled out in a damning 126-page audit by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine. He found that agents sometimes demanded personal data on people without official authorization, and in other cases improperly obtained telephone records in non-emergency circumstances.

The audit also concluded that the FBI for three years underreported to Congress how often it used national security letters to force businesses to turn over customer data. The letters are administrative subpoenas that do not require a judge's approval.

"People have to believe in what we say," Gonzales said. "And so I think this was very upsetting to me. And it's frustrating."

"We have some work to do to reassure members of Congress and the American people that we are serious about being responsible in the exercise of these authorities," he said.

Under the Patriot Act, the national security letters give the FBI authority to demand that telephone companies, Internet service providers, banks, credit bureaus and other businesses produce personal records about their customers or subscribers. About three-fourths of the letters issued between 2003 and 2005 involved counterterror cases, with the rest for espionage investigations, the audit reported.

Shoddy record-keeping and human error were to blame for the bulk of the problems, said Justice auditors who were careful to note they found no indication of criminal misconduct.

Still, "we believe the improper or illegal uses we found involve serious misuses of national security letter authorities," the audit concluded.
Question, between this and the firings of the Gonzales Seven, why is Alberto Gonzales still employed?

Meanwhile, TPMM reports that the House Judiciary Committee probe of the "Pearl Harbor Day massacre" has moved to the White House:
The House Judiciary Committee requested a host of documents from the White House today related to the administration's firing of a group of U.S. attorneys. The committee is also seeking to interview at least one current official in the White House's counsel's office, William Kelley, Deputy Counsel to the President, and former White House counsel Harriet Miers. (Former USA for Seattle John McKay has told reporters that, in a meeting with Kelley and Miers, he was asked about accusations that he had "mishandled" an investigation of Democratic voter fraud in the 2004 Washington gubernatorial election.)

The committee sought the documents in a letter to White House counsel Fred Fielding signed by Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and Subcommittee Chairwoman Linda Sanchez (D-CA). By next Friday, March 16th, the committee wants all records of communications within the White House regarding the firings, all records of communications with members of Congress concerning the fired attorneys, the names of any members of Congress who were advance notice of the firings, and the names of anyone in the White House who was involved in the firings.
Jesus, it's so Nixonian, it even has Fred Fielding. You can check out the actual letter on TPMM's site.

And Greg Palast reports that one of the replacements -- Timoth Griffin, a political operative and former aide to Karl Rove who was airlifted into the U.S. attorney's office in Arkansas to replace , may actually be a criminal.
Griffin, according to BBC Television, was the hidden hand behind a scheme to wipe out the voting rights of 70,000 citizens prior to the 2004 election.

Key voters on Griffin’s hit list: Black soldiers and homeless men and women. Nice guy, eh? Naughty or nice, however, is not the issue. Targeting voters where race is a factor is a felony crime under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In October 2004, our investigations team at BBC Newsnight received a series of astonishing emails from Mr. Griffin, then Research Director for the Republican National Committee. He didn’t mean to send them to us. They were highly confidential memos meant only for RNC honchos.

However, Griffin made a wee mistake. Instead of sending the emails — potential evidence of a crime — to email addresses ending with the domain name “@GeorgeWBush.com” he sent them to “@GeorgeWBush.ORG.” A website run by prankster John Wooden who owns “GeorgeWBush.org.” When Wooden got the treasure trove of Rove-ian ravings, he sent them to us.

And we dug in, decoding, and mapping the voters on what Griffin called, “Caging” lists, spreadsheets with 70,000 names of voters marked for challenge. Overwhelmingly, these were Black and Hispanic voters from Democratic precincts.

The Griffin scheme was sickly brilliant. We learned that the RNC sent first-class letters to new voters in minority precincts marked, “Do not forward.” Several sheets contained nothing but soldiers, other sheets, homeless shelters. Targets included the Jacksonville Naval Air Station in Florida and that city’s State Street Rescue Mission. Another target, Edward Waters College, a school for African-Americans.

If these voters were not currently at their home voting address, they were tagged as “suspect” and their registration wiped out or their ballot challenged and not counted. Of course, these ‘cages’ captured thousands of students, the homeless and those in the military though they are legitimate voters.
We telephoned those on the hit list, including one Randall Prausa. His wife admitted he wasn’t living at his voting address: Randall was a soldier shipped overseas.

Randall and other soldiers like him who sent in absentee ballots, when challenged, would lose their vote. And they wouldn’t even know it.

And by the way, it’s not illegal for soldiers to vote from overseas — even if they’re Black.

But it is illegal to challenge voters en masse where race is an element in the targeting. So several lawyers told us, including Ralph Neas, famed civil rights attorney with People for the American Way.

Griffin himself ducked our cameras, but his RNC team tried to sell us the notion that the caging sheets were, in fact, not illegal voter hit lists, but a roster of donors to the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign. Republican donors at homeless shelters?

Over the past weeks, Griffin has said he would step down if he had to face Congressional confirmation. However, the President appointed Griffin to the law enforcement post using an odd little provision of the USA Patriot Act that could allow Griffin to skip Congressional questioning altogether.
Again, why is Alberto Gonzales still in his job?

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posted by JReid @ 7:00 PM  
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