Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Rob the vote
Missed this one from this weekend's Miami Herald:

GOP links to vote-fraud push

By GREG GORDON

“A New Mexico lawyer who pushed to oust U.S. Attorney David Iglesias was an officer of a nonprofit group that aided Republican candidates in 2006 by pressing for tougher voter identification laws…

“That strategy, which presidential advisor Karl Rove alluded to in an April 2006 speech to the Republican National Lawyers Association, sought to scrutinize voter registration records, win passage of tougher ID laws and challenge the legitimacy of voters considered likely to vote Democratic.

“Public records show that the two nonprofits were active in at least nine states. They hired high-priced lawyers to write court briefs, issued news releases declaring key cities 'hot spots' for voter fraud and hired lobbyists in Missouri and Pennsylvania to win support for photo ID laws. In each of those states, the center released polls that it claimed found that minorities prefer tougher ID laws. With $1.5 million in combined funding, the two nonprofits attracted some powerful volunteers and a cadre of GOP-allied attorneys. Of the 15 individuals affiliated with the two groups, at least seven are members of the Republican National Lawyers Association, and half a dozen have worked for either one Bush election campaign or for the Republican National Committee…”

Read the full article here.

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posted by JReid @ 6:03 AM  
Saturday, June 02, 2007
But will it stick?
Karl Rove is implicated in what appears to be the politicized prosecution of a Democratic political figure by one of Alberto's finest, during a heated re-election, which also happens to contain a fishy recount. TIME reports:

In the rough and tumble of Alabama politics, the scramble for power is often a blood sport. At the moment, the state's former Democratic governor, Don Siegelman, stands convicted of bribery and conspiracy charges and faces a sentence of up to 30 years in prison. Siegelman has long claimed that his prosecution was driven by politically motivated, Republican-appointed U.S. attorneys.

Now Karl Rove, the President's top political strategist, has been implicated in the controversy. A longtime Republican lawyer in Alabama swears she heard a top G.O.P. operative in the state say that Rove "had spoken with the Department of Justice" about "pursuing" Siegelman, with help from two of Alabama's U.S. attorneys.

The allegation was made by Dana Jill Simpson, a lifelong Republican and lawyer who practices in Alabama. She made the charges in a May 21 affidavit, obtained by TIME, in which she describes a conference call on November 18, 2002, which involved a group of senior aides to Bob Riley, who had just narrowly defeated Siegelman in a bitterly contested election for governor. Though Republican Riley, a former Congressman, initially found himself behind by several thousand votes, he had pulled ahead at the last minute when disputed ballots were tallied in his favor. After the abrupt vote turnaround, Siegelman sought a recount. The Simpson affidavit says the conference call focused on how the Riley campaign could get Siegelman to withdraw his challenge.

According to Simpson's statement, William Canary, a senior G.O.P. political operative and Riley adviser who was on the conference call, said "not to worry about Don Siegelman" because "'his girls' would take care of" the governor. Canary then made clear that "his girls" was a reference to his wife, Leura Canary, the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, and Alice Martin, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama.

Canary reassured others on the conference call — who also included Riley's son, Rob, and Terry Butts, another Riley lawyer and former justice of the Alabama supreme court — that he had the help of a powerful pal in Washington. Canary said "not to worry — that he had already gotten it worked out with Karl and Karl had spoken with the Department of Justice and the Department of Justice was already pursuing Don Siegelman," the Simpson affidavit says. Both U.S. attorney offices subsequently indicted Siegelman on a variety of charges, although Leura Canary recused herself from dealing with the case in May 2002. A federal judge dismissed the Northern District case before it could be tried, but Siegelman was convicted in the Middle District on bribery and conspiracy charges last June. ...
Of course all of the parties named are denying it, with the exception of the White House, which, intrestingly enough, has no comment. More from TIME:

Canary was appointed by President George H. W. Bush to serve in the White House as special assistant for intergovernmental affairs, and then named chief of staff of the Republican National Committee. Later in the 1990's he also worked closely with Karl Rove in a successful series of campaigns to get Republicans elected to Alabama's state courts.

In an interview with TIME, Simpson confirmed that the "Karl" cited in her sworn statement was Karl Rove. "There's absolutely no question it was Karl Rove, no doubt whatsoever," she said. She also said she has phone records to back up the date and duration of her phone calls.

Though Simpson's legal work primarily involved research for companies seeking federal government contracts, she says she also did "opposition research" on Siegelman as a volunteer in Riley's campaign in 2002. A lifelong G.O.P. supporter, she says she has long been friendly with Riley's son, Rob Riley, whom she met at the University of Alabama and worked with on various legal cases.

In her interview with TIME, Simpson said the participants in the conference call expressed growing concern that Gov. Siegelman would refuse to give up his challenge to the vote count. According to Simpson, Rob Riley said, "Siegelman's just like a cockroach, he'll never die, what are we going to do?" At that point Canary offered reassurance by citing Rove's news from Justice Department.

Simpson said she had long been troubled by the conference call conversation, and even consulted an official of the Alabama State Bar Association to determine whether she could disclose it publicly without violating her obligations as a volunteer working for the Riley campaign. She was told, she said, that she was free to speak of the matter.

Simpson said she grew more concerned about the matter after Siegelman's conviction last June. She says she told several friends about the conference call ; one of them, Mark Bollinger, a former aide to a Democratic attorney general in Alabama and in the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, has given his own affidavit, obtained by TIME, swearing that Simpson had told him of the conference call and Rove's alleged statements.
Hm. Wouldn't I love to see those phone records ... And what about the timing?

The federal investigation of Siegelman culminated in a criminal prosecution that became public not long after Siegelman announced that he would run again for governor of Alabama in 2006. Partly because of the investigation, Siegelman failed in his bid for the Democratic nomination.

So why hasn't this story hit the mainstream, television media? Could it be that reporters and senior management at the big three networks and their cable offspring are just too protective of, and close to, Karl and friends (every Washington reporter appears to be on a first name basis with him.) Could it be that they have decided, on their own, that Karl news isn't really news? It's too "inside the beltway," it won't go anywhere anyway (remember Plamegate?) Or maybe, they just assume that nobody cares.

Either way, stories like this are ones you only find linked to by blogs, or possibly on "Countdown." That, my friends, is why Karl Rove is untouchable. Not because his criminality isn't real or known, but because the Fourth Estate is playing on his team.

Other stories you won't hear on "Hardball" or the nightly news:


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posted by JReid @ 8:00 PM  
Monday, May 28, 2007
The Goodling effect
Is it any surprise that some people are starting to question the fairness of immigration and other judges, knowing that Monica Goodling was in charge of hiring?

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posted by JReid @ 9:22 AM  
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Hookergate 2.0
There's always something interesting going on at Wayne Madsen's blogspot. In a May 23rd posting, Madsen details ABC News' decision to spike the D.C. madam story aired on the 4th of the month, by stripping it of the names of high profile johns, including some within the Bush administration. Madsen charges that ABC not only scuttled the report by Brian Ross, former TPM Muckraker Justin Rood and others, but that they also put out "false flag" stories to deflect the story, under heavy pressure from the Bushies. Madsen also connects the following dots:

The Washington Madam case also involves criminal conspiracy and malfeasance within the Justice Department, Internal Revenue Service, and Postal Inspection Service. Palfrey's case file was not opened until June 2004 after she had been in business for over a decade without any pressure from the government. After Baltimore Police Commissioner and later Maryland State Police Superintendent Ed Norris was charged in May 2004 with three criminal counts by US Attorney Thomas DiBiagio, the IRS opened a file on Palfrey the following month. It is clear that with Norris, a 20 year veteran of the New York Police Department, facing up to 30 years in prison, he entered into a plea bargain with DiBiagio. In return for his cooperation, which included Norris naming Pamela Martin as one of the recipients of Baltimore Police supplemental accounts money, he got six months in prison and six months home detention. Norris now hosts a radio show in Baltimore.

DiBiagio's assistant US Attorney Jonathan Luna, who once worked at the Brooklyn District Attorneys' office when a probe was being conducted of both Norris and his friend, former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, was on to Norris' corruption in Baltimore. Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley appointed Norris as police commissioner but soon became disenchanted with his performance. After his re-election as Governor in 2002, Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich appointed Norris as Maryland State Police Superintendent. Luna was brutally murdered near the Pennsylvania Turnpike in December 2003.

Norris' cooperation with DiBiagio resulted in Palfrey's criminal case being opened in Baltimore subsequent to Norris' plea bargain. However, Palfrey, who merely ran an escort agency, was never a target of DiBiagio we have been informed. During his probe of Norris and Palfrey, DiBiagio had uncovered much wider criminal conduct by Maryland Republican Governor Ehrlich, convicted GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and gambling interests hoping to open casinos in Maryland. In fact, the DiBiagio probe collected evidence that Ehrlich and Abramoff were Pamela Martin clients. DiBiagio's probe was gaining steam until December 2004. That is when DiBiagio became the first U.S. Attorney fired by the Justice Department in the wake of George W. Bush's re-election. However, with the corporate media in the pocket of the Bush administration, DiBiagio's name is not counted among the fired U.S. Attorneys, yet, his firing was the most egregious of the firings. DiBiagio was actively pursuing a Republican Governor, a GOP lobbyist linked to several Republican members of Congress, most notably convicted Ohio congressman Bob Ney; Representatives, Tom DeLay, Tom Feeney, and John Doolittle; as well as top staffers to Senators Conrad Burns, Kit Bond, and Representatives Roy Blunt and Don Young. The trail also leads to Shirlington Limousine, CIA Director Porter Goss -- Dick Cheney's handpicked man to purge the agency -- , CIA Executive Director Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, and convicted Representative Duke Cunningham.

After DiBiagio's ouster, the Palfrey investigation was out on ice. However, that all began to change when Palfrey put her Vallejo, California house up for sale in August 2006. She planned to move to Germany. In early September, there was some interest in the house, however, the phone number left with World Star Realty turned out to be bogus. It was clear that while Palfrey was on a trip to Germany, unknown persons were interested in seeing her home, not with the intention of buying it but with other motivations. However, Palfrey did not leave a key with her real estate agent while she was out of the country. On September 27, after Palfrey wired $70,000 to Germany in order to purchase an apartment, the government reacted rapidly.

On September 29, Washington DC Postal Inspection Service agents Maria Cuvio and Joe Clark showed up at World Star Realty and claimed they were married and were being transferred from Washington to San Francisco and wanted to buy Palfrey's house quickly. It was clear they were conducting a ruse while a search warrant was being obtained from a willing Federal judge. Oddly, when the warrant was obtained and a Civil Asset Forfeiture order was obtained, IRS agent Burrus was not interested in Palfrey's phone records located in her house.

Considering the fact that a top Washington DC law firm that represents Saudi Arabia was a subject of the phone lists, it is odd that the Federal government would not have wanted to cull the records for information relating to prominent and not-so-prominent Arab clients and the 9/11 attacks. The significance of Jack Abramoff's role in DiBiagio's investigation should not be understated with regard to Arab clients of Pamela Martin. The FBI received evidence that two or three of the 9/11 hijackers, including Mohammed Atta, were spotted on Abramoff's Sun Cruz casino boat with American women in Madeira Beach, Florida shortly before the 9/11 attacks. Also, several of the hijackers were known to frequent erotic dancing bars in New Jersey and Florida while planning for the 9/11 attacks. There is also a possibility that, through Abramoff, some so-called "Al Qaeda" cells, as well as Saudi embassy diplomats in the Washington and Baltimore areas, may have engaged the services of prostitutes.

The timing of the Federal government's quick seizure of Palfrey's assets and forcing her back from Germany is suspect considering that the Maryland gubernatorial election between Ehrlich and O'Malley was a month away. At the end of September, the race was considered close. The Bush administration was obviously worried that Palfrey took her "black book" to Germany and the contents might have ended up in the pages of Der Spiegel or Stern. In fact, there was no Heidi Fleiss-type "black book," but the government did not know that. The Bush administration's asset seizure was merely a ploy to get Palfrey to return to the United States. The failure of the government's young and inexperienced agents to seize Palfrey's 46 pounds of phone records was a monumental blunder on the part of the IRS and Postal Inspectors. That is why Assistant U.S. Attorney William Cowden has been so adamant in his requests to Judge Kessler to keep the records from further release.

Palfrey and her attorney has called for the appointment of a Special Counsel in the Palfrey case. That certainly seems warranted after one of the Pamela Martin clients retained the law firm of Bracewell & Giuliani. Rudolph Giuliani was New York Mayor during the time Norris and Kerik were under a criminal probe by the Brooklyn District Attorney. Pamela Martin clients also lived in New York. We now have a murdered Assistant U.S. Attorney, a fired U.S. Attorney, several high-profile and blackmailable "johns," and the involvement of the law firm of a presidential candidate involved in defending one of the escort agency's high profile clients. This unfolding story has merely shown the tip of a huge iceberg.
That's a lot of dots, but sadly, I find it harder to believe that there's nothing there, than to believe that there is.

One thing, though, I sure wish Madsen would update his blog to make it possible to link directly to individual stories...

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posted by JReid @ 3:12 PM  
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Dumb blonde
It's a terrible stereotype, but Monica Goodling really didn't do so well by the blonde and high voiced yesterday.

Okay, dear, let's hear what you've got to say:



So Monica, you're a lawyer ... right...? Tell us: were your queries about potential civil service applicants' political leanings legal or illegal?



Okay, I'll take that as a ... huh?

Well, what about those caging lists, dear? You do know what caging lists are, don't you? Oh, crap ... you don't, do you...

And what qualifies you to have so much power, Monica?


Ahhh... college...

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posted by JReid @ 6:31 AM  
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Did Alberto try to obstruct justice?
I haven't had a chance to watch the Monica Goodling testimony yet, but I have figured out the bombshell. And it is this:
A former Justice Department official told House investigators Wednesday that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales tried to review his version of the prosecutor firings with her at a time when lawmakers were homing in on conflicting accounts.

"It made me a little uncomfortable," Monica Goodling, Gonzales' former White House liaison, said of her conversation with the attorney general just before she took a leave of absence in March. "I just did not know if it was appropriate for us to both be discussing our recollections of what had happened."

In a daylong appearance before the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee, Goodling, 33, also acknowledged crossing a legal line herself by considering the party affiliations of candidates for career prosecutor jobs - a violation of law.
No, not that... let's try again:
A former Justice Department official told House investigators Wednesday that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales tried to review his version of the prosecutor firings with her at a time when lawmakers were homing in on conflicting accounts.

"It made me a little uncomfortable," Monica Goodling, Gonzales' former White House liaison, said of her conversation with the attorney general just before she took a leave of absence in March. "I just did not know if it was appropriate for us to both be discussing our recollections of what had happened."

In a daylong appearance before the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee, Goodling, 33, also acknowledged crossing a legal line herself by considering the party affiliations of candidates for career prosecutor jobs - a violation of law.
Um, nope. Try it one more time:
Goodling's dramatic story about her final conversation with Gonzales brought questions from panel members about whether he had tried to align her story with his and whether he was truthful in his own congressional testimony.

Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee last month that he didn't know the answers to some questions about the firings because he was steering clear of aides - such as Goodling - who were likely to be questioned.

"I haven't talked to witnesses because of the fact that I haven't wanted to interfere with this investigation and department investigations," Gonzales told the panel.

Goodling said for the first time Wednesday that Gonzales did review the story of the firings with her at an impromptu meeting she requested in his office a few days before she took a leave of absence.

"I was somewhat paralyzed. I was distraught, and I felt like I wanted to make a transfer," Goodling recalled during a packed hearing of the House Judiciary Committee.

Gonzales, she said, indicated he would think about Goodling's request.

"He then proceeded to say, 'Let me tell you what I can remember,' and he laid out for me his general recollection ... of some of the process" of the firings, Goodling added. When Gonzales finished, "he asked me if I had any reaction to his iteration."

Goodling said the conversation made her uncomfortable because she was aware that she, Gonzales and others would be called by Congress to testify.

"Was the attorney general trying to shake your recollection?" asked Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala.

Goodling paused.

"I just did not know if it was a conversation we should be having and so I just didn't say anything," she replied. She added that she thought Gonzales was trying to be kind.
Bingo.

Read Ms. Goodling's opening statement to the House Judiciary Committee here.

Perhaps worried that yet another scandal dam has burst, the DOJ issued the following statement today:
A Justice Department spokesman says Gonzales was only trying to help Goodling and comfort her "in a very difficult period of her life."
Riiight...

And more on the Goodling vs. McNulty liars showdown here.

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posted by JReid @ 11:02 PM  
Thursday, May 17, 2007
No confidence
Senate Democrats are considering a no confidence vote on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, after additional Senators -- Chuck Hagel, Norm Coleman and even the Bush boot licking former Senate Intelligence Committee chair Pat Roberts of Kansas, either call for Gonzales' ouster, or, in the case of Roberts, suggest he might want to consider heading for the exits. Arlen Specter is now all-but predicting that sooner or later, Gonzales will have to go.

This after the astounding, movie scene-like revelations about that late night visit to John Ashcroft's sick bed to strong arm the very ill man into approving warrantless wiretapping. James Comey, the acting A.G., literally had to race to Ashcroft's bedside to beat Gonzales there, calling the FBI director to make sure he wouldn't be barred from the room, leaving poor Ashcroft alone with Torquemada and Andy Card. If George W. Bush sent Gonzo and Card there, like a couple of freaking goons, or if Dick Cheney and his legal zombie David Addington, did it, we've got trouble.

And there's more. The WaPo today revealed that the original U.S. attorney hit list included one in four of the 93 serving U.S. attorneys -- 26 in all. Here's the list.

The groundswell against Gonzo is growing to a Wolfowitz pitch. The only question is how stubborn George W. Bush is prepared to be in hanging onto his old pal and principal bag-man.
Update: The House Judiciary Committee takes an interest in the Ashcroft Sopranos incident.

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posted by JReid @ 5:06 PM  
The bottom line
The WaPo editorial board sums it up nicely:

Mr. Comey's Tale
A standoff at a hospital bedside speaks volumes about Attorney General Gonzales.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007; A14

JAMES B. COMEY, the straight-as-an-arrow former No. 2 official at the Justice Department, yesterday offered the Senate Judiciary Committee an account of Bush administration lawlessness so shocking it would have been unbelievable coming from a less reputable source. The episode involved a 2004 nighttime visit to the hospital room of then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft by Alberto Gonzales, then the White House counsel, and Andrew H. Card Jr., then the White House chief of staff. Only the broadest outlines of this visit were previously known: that Mr. Comey, who was acting as attorney general during Mr. Ashcroft's illness, had refused to recertify the legality of the administration's warrantless wiretapping program; that Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Card had tried to do an end-run around Mr. Comey; that Mr. Ashcroft had rebuffed them.

Mr. Comey's vivid depiction, worthy of a Hollywood script, showed the lengths to which the administration and the man who is now attorney general were willing to go to pursue the surveillance program. First, they tried to coerce a man in intensive care -- a man so sick he had transferred the reins of power to Mr. Comey -- to grant them legal approval. Having failed, they were willing to defy the conclusions of the nation's chief law enforcement officer and pursue the surveillance without Justice's authorization. Only in the face of the prospect of mass resignations -- Mr. Comey, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and most likely Mr. Ashcroft himself -- did the president back down.

As Mr. Comey testified, "I couldn't stay, if the administration was going to engage in conduct that the Department of Justice had said had no legal basis." The crisis was averted only when, the morning after the program was reauthorized without Justice's approval, President Bush agreed to fix whatever problem Justice had with it (the details remain classified). "We had the president's direction to do . . . what the Justice Department believed was necessary to put this matter on a footing where we could certify to its legality," Mr. Comey said.

The dramatic details should not obscure the bottom line: the administration's alarming willingness, championed by, among others, Vice President Cheney and his counsel, David Addington, to ignore its own lawyers. Remember, this was a Justice Department that had embraced an expansive view of the president's inherent constitutional powers, allowing the administration to dispense with following the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Justice's conclusions are supposed to be the final word in the executive branch about what is lawful or not, and the administration has emphasized since the warrantless wiretapping story broke that it was being done under the department's supervision.

Now, it emerges, they were willing to override Justice if need be. That Mr. Gonzales is now in charge of the department he tried to steamroll may be most disturbing of all.
Game, set, match, and proof that when it comes to Mr. Bush, the more disreputable you are, the more valuable you are. But as Chris Matthews asked last night on Hardball: "has anybody benefitted from knowing George W. Bush?" Look at the scattered corpses: Wolfowitz, Feith, Cambone, Collin Powell, Scooter Libby, George Tenet, Richard Clarke, Paul O'Neil, and so far, four senior members of the Department of Justice.

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posted by JReid @ 7:34 AM  
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Alberto in chains
Alberto Gonzales cannot remain in office as attorney general. He also cannot leave the office of attorney general. The scandals continually mounting, both from his current tenure, and his tenure as White House counsel, continue to mount. With James Comey's incredible testimony yesterday, including testimony that he as acting A.G., then Attorney General John Ashcroft, and at least two other officials threatened to resign over the illegal NSA warrantless wiretapping scheme -- new questions are being asked by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee about whether Gonzales told the truth when he testified that there had been no such serious concerns about warrantless wiretapping by top officials at Justice. Not to mention the fact that Gonzales killed a probe into that very subject. (In the wake of Comey's testimony, Chuck Hagel has now joined the congressional chorus calling for Gonzales' ouster.)

But George W. Bush -- curiously, and in contradiction to predictions I and others have made -- has not begun the process of pushing Gonzales out. Why?

One theory has been posited by a most unexpected source:
Writing in The Weekly Standard, Tod Lindberg, a Fellow at the Hoover Institution, says Gonzales's departure would be a "catastrophic defeat" for the administration.
How so?

Democrats with good memories, such as former Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman, who served on the House Judiciary Committee when it voted to impeach Richard Nixon in 1974, recall with precision the sequence of events that led to the resignation of the 37th president of the United States.

In brief: Then-Attorney General Richard Kleindienst resigns, giving way to Eliot Richardson, confirmed by a steely-eyed, Democrat-controlled Judiciary Committee, under the condition that he appoint a special prosecutor to look into Nixon administration wrongdoings. Enter Archibald Cox, and the rest is ... well, you know.

[Holtzman] is hardly alone among Democrats in slavering over the prospect of a new "independent counsel"-style investigation of the Bush administration -- one that would succeed where Patrick Fitzgerald failed by finding and charging a conspiracy and coverup all the way to the top,, writes Lindberg.

Oh, and "breaking news": the DOJ has released a whopping TWO Karl Rove emails (to him, not from him) related to the firings of the Gonzales Eight.

More on Rovegate from TPMM, including a "stern letter from Pat Leahy."

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posted by JReid @ 8:16 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  
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
It will get worse before it gets better
John McKay, one of the Gonzales Eight, says he expects to see charges against top DOJ officials over Gonzogate... he also describes the first mass meeting of U.S. attorneys under Mr. Gonzales. The memorable catch phrase: "I work for the White House ... YOU work for the White House..."

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posted by JReid @ 9:11 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, May 02, 2007
The Goodling house rules
More Gonzogate detritus. Apparently, there was good reason for Monica Goodling to worry about testifying under oath before Congress:
WASHINGTON - The Justice Department is investigating whether its former White House liaison used political affiliations in deciding whom to hire as entry-level prosecutors in some U.S. attorney offices around the country, The Associated Press has learned.

Such consideration would be a violation of federal law.
Uh oh...
The inquiry involving Monica Goodling, a conservative Republican who recently quit as counsel and White House liaison for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, raises new concerns that politics have cast a shadow over the independence of trial prosecutors who enforce U.S. laws.

Justice spokesman Dean Boyd confirmed Wednesday that the department's inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility have been investigating for several weeks Goodling's role in hiring career attorneys — an unusual responsibility for her to have had.

Investigators are trying to determine whether Goodling "may have taken prohibited considerations into account during such review," Boyd told the AP. "Whether or not the allegation is true is currently the subject of the OIG/OPR investigation."

Three government officials with knowledge of the investigation said Goodling appears to have sought information about party affiliation while vetting applicants for assistant U.S. attorneys' jobs. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.
And who was Monica working for? Oh yeah, him...

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posted by JReid @ 8:05 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  
Monday, April 23, 2007
Dubya (hearts) Gonzo
President Bush gives Alberto Gonzales a hearty vote of confidence ... without ... having ... actually ... watched ... his ... testimony... And you thought Dubya was a moron...!

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posted by JReid @ 2:38 PM  
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Wolfie and Gonzo: a tale of two baddies
Apparently, being Paul Wolfowitz means hooking up your girlfriend with a plum job. Now, Germany becomes the first to say, he's got to leave the World Bank. There will be others.

Meanwhile, Frank Rich lights up the Bush administration for the twin scandals of Wolfie and Gonzo. From Wolfowitz to Gonzales, Rich weaves a tale of rank incompetence and probable malfeasance in an administration known almost exclusively for both ... Here's the opener:
President Bush has skipped the funerals of the troops he sent to Iraq. He took his sweet time to get to Katrina-devastated New Orleans. But last week he raced to Virginia Tech with an alacrity not seen since he hustled from Crawford to Washington to sign a bill interfering in Terri Schiavo's end-of-life medical care. Mr. Bush assumes the role of mourner in chief on a selective basis, and, as usual with the decider, the decisive factor is politics. Let Walter Reed erupt in scandal, and he'll take six weeks to show his face - and on a Friday at that, to hide the story in the Saturday papers. The heinous slaughter in Blacksburg, Va., by contrast, was a rare opportunity for him to ostentatiously feel the pain of families whose suffering cannot be blamed on the administration.
Brilliant start. A bit more:
At home, the president is also hobbled by the Iraq cancer's metastasis - the twin implosions of Alberto Gonzales and Paul Wolfowitz. Technically, both men have been pilloried for sins unrelated to the war. The attorney general has repeatedly been caught changing his story about the extent of his involvement in purging eight federal prosecutors. The Financial Times caught the former deputy secretary of defense turned World Bank president privately dictating the extravagant terms of a State Department sinecure for a crony (a k a romantic partner) that showers her with more take-home pay than Condoleezza Rice.

Yet each man's latest infractions, however serious, are mere misdemeanors next to their roles in the Iraq war. What's being lost in the Beltway uproar is the extent to which the lying, cronyism and arrogance showcased by the current scandals are of a piece with the lying, cronyism and arrogance that led to all the military funerals that Mr. Bush dares not attend. Having slept through the fraudulent selling of the war, Washington is still having trouble confronting the big picture of the Bush White House. Its dense web of deceit is the deliberate product of its amoral culture, not a haphazard potpourri of individual blunders.

Check out the whole column, courtesy of Truthout. Like many of Rich's, it's a must read.

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posted by JReid @ 6:36 PM  
Friday, April 20, 2007
'Like clubbing a baby seal'
... That's how a Republican Senator described Alberto Gonzales' embarassing performance yesterday in defense of his conduct in the U.S. attorney firings.

Gonzales managed to unite 18 of the 19 members of the Senate Judiciary committee, with only Orrin "Please make me the next attorney general" Hatch coming to his defense. One Republican lawmaker, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, even called for him to face the same penalty that the eight U.S. attorneys faced: firing. White House insiders are talking, telling CNN and other news outlets that Gonzels didn't do himself any favors, even as the official WH line is that they "fully support" Gonzo. Right.

Two words: he's toast. From CNN:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- White House insiders tell CNN that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales hurt himself during testimony before a Senate committee Thursday on the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

The sources, involved in administration discussions about Gonzales, told White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux that two senior level White House aides who heard the testimony described Gonzales as "going down in flames," "not doing himself any favors," and "predictable."

"Everyone's putting their best public face on," one source said, "but everyone is discouraged. Everyone is disappointed."
Still, there's no word on whether some elder statesman can go to the president and convince him to push Alberto out the door. If his own moral compass doesn't kick in, and I seriously doubt that the has much of a moral compass (torture, spying on Americans, other forms of enabling and hackery...) the Congress may have to remove him through impeachment.

Meanwhile, some RedStaters say stop throwing the GOPers under the bus.

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posted by JReid @ 8:56 AM  
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Could Goodling get immunity?
God, what a relief to be blogging about something other than Don Imus!!!

Editorial off...

NBC's Mike Viqueira is reporting that the House Judiciary Committee is considering offering immunity to Monica Goodling in exchange for her testimony in the Gonzogate affair. This, along with the skyrocketing number of missing emails raises the stakes. So does this:

On March 26, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) wrote a letter to White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten demanding “all contracts, subcontracts, and task orders between MZM, Inc. … and the Executive Office of the President.”

As ThinkProgress has reported, there is good reason to believe fired U.S. attorney Carol Lam was targeting the White House’s connections to MZM contractor Mitchell Wade, who pled guilty to paying more than $1 million in bribes to former Rep. Duke Cunningham. Despite no record of having ever received a federal contract, Wade’s firm received a $140,000 contract in 2002 to provide a system to screen the President’s mail.

In his letter, Waxman requested that the White House provide documents relating to the White House-MZM contracts as soon as possible, but in no case later than Friday, April 6. But the North County Times reports Waxman has yet to receive the information he requested.

Uh-oh...

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posted by JReid @ 9:07 PM  
The firing line
Oh, you thought Don Imus was the only prime candidate for unemployment 'round here? Well just try Alberto Gonzales, who now has to contend with some strangely missing emails ... and Paul Wolfowitz, who apparently is too stupid to just get someone else to hire his girlfriend... Now here's the fun part: I'll just let you guess which of the two Bush cronies this statement applies to:
The White House, however, expressed confidence in the embattled bank president.
Oh, OK I'll just tell you:
"Of course President Wolfowitz has our full confidence," said White House spokesman Tony Fratto. "His leadership is helping the bank accomplish its mission of raising living standards for poor people throughout the world. In dealing with this issue, he has taken full responsibility and is working with the executive board to resolve it."
I guess that means Old Wolfie is toast.

Back to those missing emails. The NY Times reports:
WASHINGTON, April 12 —The White House said today that it might be missing e-mails relating to the firing of eight United States attorneys, as lawmakers on Capitol Hill gave themselves the authority to subpoena more government documents and testimony linked to the controversy.

“It can’t be ruled out,” Scott Stanzel, the deputy White House press secretary, told reporters this morning when asked if some of the missing e-mails included those related to the dismissals.

At the same time, the Senate Judiciary Committee empowered its chairman, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, to serve subpoenas for documents that may explain the firings, and to compel testimony from Scott Jennings, a deputy political director in the White House whose e-mails, on a Republican National Committee account, have set off a separate inquiry into the use of political e-mail accounts for official government business.

On the Senate floor, Mr. Leahy was skeptical that the e-mails are indeed missing. “You can’t erase e-mails, not today,” he said. “They’ve gone through too many servers.”

Mr. Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who just turned 67, is considered one of the more computer-savvy members of Congress, despite having grown up in the era of typewriters.
Mr. Nixon? Meet Mr. Leahy.

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posted by JReid @ 8:34 PM  
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Conyers drops the hammer
The House judiciary committee chairman issues subpoenas to the office of the attorney general...

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posted by JReid @ 5:59 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
Has Albertcito lawyered up?

Alberto Gonzales just might be getting advice from counsel, as they say, since as of today, his operative phrase has gone from "I wasn't involved" in the purge of eight U.S. attorneys (and an apparent scheme to get rid of Patrick Fitzgerald too) to "I don't recall..."

At the same time, it's becoming clear that Gonzales cares more about himself, at the end of the day, and about preserving his position, than he does about either the credibility, mission and personnel of the Justice Department, or about the image and reputation of the White House and the President, all of which his continued presence is seriously harming.
It's long past time for Gonzales to put an end to this drama by resigning, or being fired. I still maintain that he will be gone in a matter of weeks. Time will tell if I'm right. For now, Gonzales will have a couple of weeks to ponder his testimony before Congress, as the legislative branch takes a spring break recess until April 10th. He is scheduled to go before the Senate and/or House on April 17th, although apparently he's seeking a way to move things up, perhaps to spare himself and his political party the long drawn out waiting game ... but then again, it's probably mainly to spare himself.

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posted by JReid @ 9:30 PM  
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  
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Now up to bat: Kyle Sampson
The former Gonzo aide goes before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, amid new revelations about his role in the U.S. attorney firings. More to come...

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posted by JReid @ 11:06 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  
Sunday, March 25, 2007
I, scapegoat
With the White House doing the opposite of damage control by insisting that the president will hang on to Alberto no matter what, I'm finding it more and more interesting to start looking at the supporting cast in the Gonzogate melodrama. So while we're looking, we might as well start with the Lee Harvey Oswald of this tawdry tale...

So who is Kyle Sampson, and what is his strange relationship to the obscure Patriot Act provision that got us into this mess in the first place?

Sampson, a Utah Mormon, had been John Ashcroft's deputy when he was attorney general. He has been friends since law school (at the University of Chicago) with Dick Cheney's daughter Elizabeth (the straight one...) After Ashcroft stepped down following the 2004 election, Gonzales helped guide nominee Alberto Gonzales through Senate confirmation, and would later do the same for President Bush's SupCo nominees. And while he is now the administration's designated scapegoat, Sampson's hometown paper, the Salt Lake Tribune, and other news outlets report the following about his role in Gonzogate, picking up from the time of Ashcroft's post-election exit:


About that time, the suggestion was floated that a number of U.S. attorneys could be replaced with Bush loyalists. Sampson opposed wholesale change but by March 2005 sent a list of targeted prosecutors to White House Counsel Harriet Miers.
And then it gets interesting...

Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney for Utah Paul Warner announced in January 2006 he would become a federal magistrate, opening a spot Sampson had long sought.
An e-mail released Thursday suggests that Sampson may have tried to push Warner out of the job in early 2005 but was rebuffed by Hatch.

With Warner stepping aside in 2006, Sampson lined up the support of Gonzales and others, but Hatch recommended Brett Tolman, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Utah who was working for the Judiciary Committee at the time for Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter.

Tolman, who ultimately got the job, had in March 2006 added language to the Patriot Act renewal, at the Justice Department's request, to allow the White House to replace U.S. attorneys without Senate consent.

So Tolman wrote the provision that allowed Gonzo to mount his political purge of U.S. attorneys, and then Tolman became one of the newly minted U.S. attorneys... interesting...

As for Sampson, he could be giving voluntary sworn testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee as early as this week.

Meanwhile, Hill Republicans are continuing to walk away from Alberto, and the right wing blogosphere is starting to skate on Gonzo as well. The Carpetbagger ferrets out a few good examples, including the very succinct Ed Morrissey:
Have we had enough yet? I understand the argument that if we allow the Democrats to bounce Gonzales, they’ll just aim for more, but Gonzales made himself the target here with what looks like blatant deception. I don’t think we do ourselves any good by defending the serially changing stories coming out of Gonzales’ inept administration at Justice. One cannot support an Attorney General who misleads Congress, allows his staffers to mislead Congress, and deceives the American people, regardless of whether an R or a D follows his name or the majority control of Congress.
... and the always sane Rick Moran of Right Wing Nut House:
I will brook no excuses by commenters that Gonzalez “misspoke,” or “forgot,” or “got a note from his mother” that gave him permission to lie, or other excuses from the ever dwindling number of Bush diehards who visit this site . He is the frickin’ Attorney General of the United States fer crissakes! If there is anybody in government who needs to tell the truth, it is the guy responsible for enforcing the laws of land.
I give these righties credit for intellectual honesty. Maybe one of them will wrestle the Kool-Aid out of the hot little hands of the die-hard Bushies at Wizbang. Hell, even Michelle has gone south on Gonzo, (I'd hate to think it was because he's so suspiciously Mexican, Mizz Malkin) though she hasn't seen fit to blog about the controversy in a week ... and Miss Twit is positively apoplectic over the dropped P.R. ball (but of course, not about the lying...)

Back to the 'Bagger, who asks the right pertinent questions:
* A Republican leadership staffer told Roll Call this week, “We are not throwing ourselves on the grenade for them anymore. There’s now an attitude of ‘you created this mess, you’ve got to get yourself out of it.’”

After watching conservatives back Bush on everything from Iraq to Plame to illegal NSA wiretaps to Katrina, have we finally found the one thing the right isn’t willing to defend? And if so, isn’t it safe to assume the political pressure on the White House will be even more intense?

And if that’s so, exactly how bad is this going to get for the Bush gang?
I'd say rather worse, until they learn the central lesson of public relatons: when you're caught in a crisis in which you don't control the variables (i.e., there's more information out there that could come out to bite you, and you don't control it,) the best way to stanch the bleeding is to stop fighting, apologize, and give your critics something big. In this case, the thing to give the critics would be Gonzales' head, and the more the White House resists, the more protracted this scandal will become. I suspect that before the White House has to relent to allowing Bush's Brain to be put under oath (which will further escalate this scandal) they'll throw Alberto overboard.

The clock is still ticking...

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posted by JReid @ 7:56 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  
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Suffer the children
NBC News is reporting that the Senate Judiciary Committee has written a letter to White House Counsel Fred Fielding, asking the Bushies to reiterate whether their lame, no-transcript, no oaths, private "meet and greet" offer is their final offer.

Meanwhile, Albertcito says he must stay on as attorney general ... for the children...
GONZALES: I’m not going to resign. I’m going to stay focused on protecting our kids. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done around the country. The department is responsible for protecting our kids, for making our neighborhoods safe, for protecting our country against attacks of terrorism, to going after gangs, going after drug dealers. I’m staying focussed on that. ...
Ah, the children. Thank God they've got Alberto to take care of them. Let's just hope they're "Bushie" enough to actually merit his aid...

Oh, and the Senate OK'd the issuance of subpoenas today, just like the House did yesterday.

And guess who the next Senate Judiciary Committee star witness is going to be? Hellooooo, Kyle Sampson!

Meanwhile, TPMM rounds up a few hot takes on where this thing could go next...

Prevous:

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posted by JReid @ 4:35 PM  
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Fall into the gap
Someone dig up Dick Nixon.
First spotted by a commenter on the blog Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall reports there is an 18-day gap in the over 3,000 emails released by the Department of Justice pertaining to the attorney firing scandal.

The gap covers the days between November 15 and December 4, 2006. So far, only one email has been found dated within the 18 days among those released in Monday night's document dump. The lone email, from November 29, 2006, was one forwarded by Justice official Michael Elston to a fellow staffer asking for an attached review document to be printed.

"The firing calls went out on December 7th. But the original plan was to start placing the calls on November 15th," notes Marshall. "So those eighteen days are pretty key ones."

Politico reporters Mike Allen and John Bresnahan also picked up on the gap. They surmise that the missing communication covers "a critical period, as the White House and Justice Department reviewed -- then approved -- which U.S. attorneys would be fired, while also developing a political and communications strategy for countering any fallout from the firings."
This damned thing just gets better and better...

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posted by JReid @ 8:57 PM  
A warning to the White House
"There are enough disgruntled employees at Justice ... that the information is going to come out. The White House needs to decide if it's going to come out 'drip, drip, drip' or if they're going to get it all out." -- Senator Chuck Schumer, appearing on "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" on Wednesday

Chuck Schumer did his best Tony Soprano tonight, commenting on the White House's ridiculous 'offer the Congress can't accept' -- which can be paraphrased as "sure, you can talk to our staffers, but you can't record it, create transcripts, or put them under oath"...

Clearly, the Dems aren't going to go for that okey-doke. And the White House is sounding awfully desperate with those "please accept our generous offer" entreaties.

Why?

Because they know, just as Schumer knew when he made the above comment to Keith, that there will be more disclosures.

Case in point:
As former U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins has written, "Once the public detects partisanship in one important decision, they will follow the natural inclination to question every decision made, whether there is a connection or not."

Today, the nonpartisan congressional watchdog Democracy 21 sent a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty asking whether there had been political interference in the investigation and prosecution of Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

"Based on issues that have been raised in the firing of the eight U.S Attorneys , we're all in a position to want some assurance that there hasn't been political interference in the case," Fred Wertheimer, Democracy 21's president, told me. "This still remains the worse congressional corruption scandal in 30 years. There are lesser players who have been convicted. But there are still big players here, including sitting and former members of Congress whose cases apparently have not yet been resolved. "
And case in double point:
In a detailed, 10-page letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) signed by Kathleen Sullivan, chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, and Paul Twomey, a lawyer for the Democrats, they argue that the investigation, which targeted prominent operatives in the Republican Party, was stalled and mishandled.

On Election Day in 2002, Republicans schemed to jam the phone banks for Democratic get out the vote efforts. Two Republicans involved in the plan pled guilty, and James Tobin, formerly the New England Regional Political Director for the Republican National Committee, was convicted for his role. The case took years to play out; the first guilty pleas in the case were not until the summer of 2004, and Tobin was not indicted until after the 2004 election.

One of the reasons the investigation was stalled, Democrats argue, is that "all decisions had to be reviewed by the Attorney General himself" -- first John Ashcroft and then Alberto Gonzales. To back up that claim, the Democrats say that lawyers working on the case were told by prosecutors that delays in the case were due to the extreme difficulty in obtaining authorization from higher levels at DOJ for any and all actions in the case.

A lawyer for one of the Republicans in the case backs up that claim. John Durken, the lawyer for Allen Raymond, a Republican whose consulting firm managed the jamming, says that the lead prosecutor in the case told him during one meeting that Ashcroft was involved in every decision. "He said, 'Every decision in this case goes all the way up to Ashcroft’s desk.'" Durken told me that such a fact didn't "surprise" him, given the political nature of the case.

... The Democrats' other grievances, which they lay out in the letter, are 1) that the Justice Department bogged the investigation down by assigning only one FBI agent to the case -- and that agent was part-time 2) that the DoJ's refusal to prosecute the organziations responsible for the jamming, the New Hampshire Republican Party and the Republican National Committee, violated Justice Department guidelines, and 3) the DoJ failed to follow leads that led to higher-level Republican involvement.

Drip ... drip ... drip...

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posted by JReid @ 8:41 PM  
Here come the subpoenas
... the House acts.
Dividing along partisan lines, a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee has voted to authorize subpoenas for Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, and other senior White House aides as part of the congressional investigation into the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys.

The commerical and administrative law subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), also authorized document subpoenas for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, White House Chief of Staff Jashua Bolton, and White House Counsel Fred Fielding.

Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) now can issue the subpoenas whenever he wants, although he indicated at the hearing that Democrats were still negotiating with Fielding on getting Rove. the White House deputy chief of staff, and Miers, the former White House counsel, to testify under oath before the panel on the firings.

"We don't have a timetable" for issuing the subpoenas, Conyers told reporters following the hearing.

Conyers, Sanchez, and other Democrats on the Judiciary have rejected an offer by Fielding to allow Rove, Miers, William Kelley, deputy White House counsel, and J. Scott Jennings, a special assistant to President Bush in the White House political affairs office, be interviewed informally by members and committee staff. Under Fielding's proposal, those interviews would not take place under oath, and a White House lawyers would be present.

Sanchez complained that Fielding's proposal "allows limited access to witnesses, no access to key documents, and no testimony under oath. We have worked toward voluntary cooperation on this investigation, but we must prepare for the possibility that the Justice Department and White House will continue to hide the truth."

Conyers said having the subpoenas ready to go acts like "a backstop" in the panel's negotiations with Fielding, and he pointed out that the Justice Department had failed to meet a Friday deadline to turn over all documents in its possession related to the firings. Democrats complained that the 3,000 pages of documents turned over by Justice on Monday night are heavily redacted.

The Senate Judiciary Committee debates following suit tomorrow.

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posted by JReid @ 4:14 PM  
Ten steps to the door
It's here, it's now, it's "wow" ... it's the Gonzometer! Current setting for likelihood of Albertcito's unceremonious exit: 55 percent.

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posted by JReid @ 7:13 AM  
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Punt ... or kick?
Update: Here's a link to the text of Bush's presser today regarding Gonzalesgate. So far, Dubya is taking a defiant posture, although I detected more fight in him regarding Karl Rove than Al Gonzales at his feisty media avail.

Today I'm also announcing the following steps my administration is taking to correct the record and demonstrate our willingness to work with the Congress. First, the Attorney General and his key staff will testify before the relevant congressional committees to explain how the decision was made and for what reasons. Second, we're giving Congress access to an unprecedented variety of information about the process used to make the decision about replacing eight of the 93 U.S. attorneys.

In the last 24 hours, the Justice Department has provided the Congress more than 3,000 pages of internal Justice Department documents, including those reflecting direct communications with White House staff. This, in itself, is an extraordinary level of disclosure of an internal agency in White House communications.

Third, I recognize there is significant interest in the role the White House played in the resignations of these U.S. attorneys. Access to White House staff is always a sensitive issue. The President relies upon his staff to provide him candid advice. The framers of the Constitution understood this vital role when developing the separate branches of government. And if the staff of a President operated in constant fear of being hauled before various committees to discuss internal deliberations, the President would not receive candid advice, and the American people would be ill-served.

Yet, in this case, I recognize the importance of members of Congress having -- the importance of Congress has placed on understanding how and why this decision was made. So I'll allow relevant committee members on a bipartisan basis to interview key members of my staff to ascertain relevant facts. In addition to this offer, we will also release all White House documents and emails involving direct communications with the Justice Department or any other outside person, including members of Congress and their staff, related to this issue. These extraordinary steps offered today to the majority in Congress demonstrate a reasonable solution to the issue. However, we will not go along with a partisan fishing expedition aimed at honorable public servants.
Let's rewind that last paragraph ...

In addition to this offer, we will also release all White House documents and emails involving direct communications with the Justice Department or any other outside person, including members of Congress and their staff, related to this issue.Might I interpret that as a threat if I were a Republican member of Congress considering coming out against the attorney general? Yes, I might.
Okay, now, let's re-set. The president is going to prevent Karl Rove from testifying. He's going to protect him. Al Gonzales on the other hand, is going to the Hill, and apparently, Bushie is giving him one last chance to save his job. But will it work? Well, there's the latest reporting from the good folks at The Politico:

The White House and top GOP officials are bracing for a lengthy battle over executive privilege and the likely resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in the escalating fight over the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, several key Republicans said Tuesday.

With Democrats demanding public testimony of top White House aides, including Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, and the White House insisting on private interviews only, the GOP officials said the controversy over the fired prosecutors is likely to intensify and prompt Gonzales to step aside.

President Bush on Tuesday called Gonzales, offering a public show of support. And White House press secretary Tony Snow said that news reports about a search for a replacement were "flat false."

But people involved in the process to sound out potential replacements for Gonzales said they had not talked to Snow. A GOP loyalist close to the White House said the process went on ice after Bush made his call to Gonzales. "They were reaching out," the operative said. "Now, we're in lockdown. We're just waiting. They've reached out to everyone they need to reach out to and are waiting to get a 'yes' from someone."

The operative assumption, the GOP source said, is that Gonzales will go but that he will do so on his own schedule. The first stage in finding a replacement is gauging who is available among the well-established lawyers under consideration, most of whom have previously been confirmed by the Senate. "I think it is going to come down to who is willing to take the job," said the source.

Meanwhile, support for Gonzales on Capitol Hill continued to wane. A member of the House Republican leadership, speaking on the condition of anonymity at a luncheon with 13 reporters, spoke scathingly of the "drip, drip, drip" produced by the furor over the attorneys.

"I can't imagine that he's going to be around a whole lot longer," said the House Republican leader. "It seems like a leak about developing a short list of replacements, combined with a direct call from the president, are sort of the two indications that your days are numbered. I just don't see him lasting through this current maelstrom.
So is Bush kicking Gonzales or punting? So far, he's punting?
Bush's call essentially leaves it up to Gonzales whether to try to hang on to his office at a time when Democratic lawmakers are gunning for him and many Republicans have given up on him.

A Republican source said Tuesday that Bush is "unmoved," and that Gonzales will not be pushed out or fired. Bush telephoned him from the Oval Office at 7:15 a.m., and aides said he "reaffirmed his strong support and backing" for his longtime friend and aide.
Tick ... tick ... tick...

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posted by JReid @ 9:25 PM  
Showdown
The White House is preparing for a showdown with Congress over Gonzalesgate. The Bushies say they are willing to provide public enemies number 1 and 2 (Karl Rove and Harriet Miers), for "interviews" -- but not for testimony -- and not under oath. That won't wash with Pat Leahy and company. Not even a little bit.

According to updated reporting by The Politco's Mike Allen, the White House also ordered the search by GOP surrogates for possible Gonzales replacements to stop -- at least publicly, and at least for now.

Bush is making a tough sounding statement to the press right now, saying he will oppose any attempts to subpoena White House officials, and to avoid giving in to a "partisan fishing expedition." Apparently, Bush is taking his cues from right wing bloggers, who are urging him to fight back, rather than capitulate to the growing Gonzales scandal. The next step will be to begin reigning in renegate Republican lawmakers, who are joining to "dump Gonzales" bandwagon (the latest was Tom Tancredo today).

The saga continues...

Meanwhile, the Senate has already stripped the A.G.'s office of the power (via an obscure provision in the Patriot Act II which was inserted by an operative placed, probably by Karl Rove, into the staff of Arlen Specter) to appoint interim U.S. attorneys without Senate confirmation. And the House Judiciary Committee is mulling stripping the FBI of some Patriot Act powers over its abuses of warrentless searches.

Back to Gonzalesgate. What's behind all the posturing? The WaPo's Dan Froomkin reports:

President Bush's message of support this morning for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has all the trappings of a carefully staged hail-Mary, with the president giving his friend one last chance to rally enough Republican support to ride out the storm.

But the indications remain that Bush may well toss Gonzales overboard, especially if that's the only way he can see to prevent the scandal from being pursued deeper into the West Wing.

Or, as Ed Henry reported on CNN this morning: "As one top Republican told me last night, a Republican close to the White House, saying basically the handwriting is on the wall for Gonzales. And the bottom line is if this White House has to choose between protecting Karl Rove or protecting Alberto Gonzales in order for this controversy to go away, they'll choose Karl Rove, protecting him. Because the bottom line is they can get another attorney general, they can't get another Karl Rove. He's got his hands in so many things here. He's the lead adviser to the president."

So what will win out? Republican pragmatism or a stubborn president who is now Alberto Gonzales' only supporter? And can Bush's loyalty make a severely wounded attorney general an effective judicial advocate when he has lost the confidence of literally everyone else?

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posted by JReid @ 5:49 PM  
Cunningham on the Lam
The Daily Background has begun sifting through the White House docu-dump and here's what they've found so far:
Exclusive: Cunningham complained about Lam to Attorney General before he plead guilty

Among the documents buried in the enormous document dump, The Daily Background has discovered, is an letter from 19 members of Congress to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales concerning then-US Attorney Carol Lam. Lam was at the time involved in a high-profile corruption investigation Republican Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham.

The 19 members of Congress wrote Gonzales in October of 2005 complaining that they felt Lam was too lax on illegal immigration. One of the members of Congress who signed the letter complaining about Lam was Congressman Cunningham, who is now serving an eight year prison term after Lam successfully prosecuted him.

Barely a month after the 19 Congressmen (Cunningham included) requested to meet with Gonzales specifically to complain about Lam’s prosecution policy on immigration-related matters, Cunningham plead guilty to two felony counts of criminal conspiracy and tax evasion.

At the time Cunningham and the other 18 Congressmen complained about Lam, Cunningham was still claiming innocence in the corruption probe that had intensified just as the complaint to Attorney General Gonzales was made.

“The U.S. Attorney in San Diego has stated that the office will not prosecute a criminal alien unless they have previously been convicted of two felonies in the district” the letter of complaint read. Lam, the was the US Attorney for Southern California at the time, and had received favorable job reviews from the Department of Justice before she was fired after successfully convicting Cunningham.

The Department of Justice had previously said in a written review of her work that Lam was “An effective manager and respected leader… [her] Strategic Plan and District Priorities were appropriate.” One of Lam’s priorities was perusing the corruption investigation that saw Cunningham in prison and the indictments of three other alleged coconspirators.
More to come...

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posted by JReid @ 8:35 AM  
Albertcito
Poor Alberto ... he cooperated in a White House scheme to take out U.S. attorneys who weren't exhibiting sufficient loyalty to the president -- loyalty, apparently best shown by prosecuting Democrats and holding back on corrupt Republicans in advance of the 2006 midterm elections. Now, Alberto's head is on the chopping block, while the probably mastermind of the scheme, Karl Rove, will, as in the Scooter Libby debacle, get off scott free.

The latest developments:

First, from the outfit that broke this story in the first place, Joshua Micah Marshall's TPM Muckraker, we have last night's document dump by the Bush administration, which consists of 3,000 pages of emails related to the U.S. attorney purge. TPMM is asking its readers to help them sift through the pile. You can do so here.

Next, comes the increasing distance between the White House, Hill Republicans, movement conservatives, and hell, apparently everybody, from the increasingly isolated AG. Case in point:

Q You said this morning that you hope that -- the White House hopes that Alberto Gonzales stays as Attorney General. Your comment has been seen as a rather tepid endorsement. Has he --

MR. SNOW: No, I didn't --

Q Has he offered his resignation?

MR. SNOW: No, he hasn't. Let me -- a couple of things. And the President has not spoken to him since he spoke to him in Mexico. What I was trying to do is, you ask a hypothetical question about things that are going to happen over the next two years. None of us knows what's going to happen to us over the next 21 months, and that's why it's an impossible question to answer: Will somebody stay throughout? However, the reason I said, we hope so, is we hope so. He has the confidence of the President. But I do not -- as a pure and simple matter, nobody is prophetic enough to know what the next 21 months hold.

Q And there's backing away from him?

MR. SNOW: No.

Q There's full confidence?

MR. SNOW: Yes. ...
Sure Tony. You're really selling it. Now for the hottest news of the day, from The Politico:

Republican officials operating at the behest of the White House have begun seeking a possible successor to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, whose support among GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill has collapsed, according to party sources familiar with the discussions.

Among the names floated Monday by administration officials are Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and White House anti-terrorism coordinator Frances Townsend. Former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson is a White House prospect. So is former solicitor general Theodore B. Olson, but sources were unsure whether he would want the job.

On Monday night, Republican officials said two other figures who are being seriously considered are Securities and Exchange Committee Chairman Chris Cox, who is former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and is popular with conservatives; and former Attorney General William P. Barr, who served under President George H.W. Bush from 1991 to 1993 and is now general counsel of Verizon Communications.

Republican sources also disclosed that it is now a virtual certainty that Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty, whose incomplete and inaccurate congressional testimony about the prosecutors helped precipitate the crisis, will also resign shortly. Officials were debating whether Gonzales and McNulty should depart at the same time or whether McNulty should go a day or two after Gonzales. Still known as "The Judge" for his service on the Texas Supreme Court, Gonzales is one of the few remaining original Texans who came to Washington with President Bush.

In a sign of Republican despair, GOP political strategists on Capitol Hill said that it is too late for Gonzales' departure to head off a full-scale Democratic investigation into the motives and timing behind the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

"Democrats smell blood in the water, and (Gonzales') resignation won't stop them," said a well-connected Republican Senate aide. "And on our side, no one's going to defend him. All we can do is warn Democrats against overreaching."
And as I've said before:

A main reason Gonzales is finding few friends even among Republicans is that he has long been regarded with suspicion by conservatives who have questioned his ideological purity. In the past, these conservatives warned the White House against nominating him for the Supreme Court. Now they're using the controversy over the firing of eight federal prosecutors to take out their pent-up frustrations with how he has handled his leadership at Justice and how the White House has treated Congress.

Complaints range from his handling of immigration cases to his alleged ceding of power in the department to career officials instead of movement conservatives.

Still believeing Tony Snow?

Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee is also working on the concurrent Gonzales scandal involving the White House's scuttling of a probe of the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program by denying the necessary security clearances. Read John Conyers' letter to Gonzales on the subject here.

And read all of the HJC's letters to the White House and A.G. here.

Oh, and just when you thought it couldn't get any muckier, there's this:

U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald was ranked among prosecutors who had "not distinguished themselves" on a Justice Department chart sent to the White House in March 2005, when he was in the midst of leading the CIA leak investigation that resulted in the perjury conviction of a vice presidential aide, administration officials said yesterday.

The ranking placed Fitzgerald below "strong U.S. Attorneys . . . who exhibited loyalty" to the administration but above "weak U.S. Attorneys who . . . chafed against Administration initiatives, etc.," according to Justice documents.

The chart was the first step in an effort to identify U.S. attorneys who should be removed. Two prosecutors who received the same ranking as Fitzgerald were later fired, documents show.

Fitzgerald's ranking adds another dimension to the prosecutor firings, which began as a White House proposal to remove all 93 U.S. attorneys after the 2004 elections and evolved into the coordinated dismissal of eight last year, a move that has infuriated lawmakers and led to calls for Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to resign.

The Justice Department last night gave the House and Senate Judiciary committees 3,000 pages of new documents related to the firings, including one e-mail that says Gonzales was "extremely upset" by Senate testimony Feb. 6 from his deputy, Paul J. McNulty. Gonzales felt that "some of the . . . statements were inaccurate," the e-mail says.

Justice officials said Gonzales specifically disagreed with McNulty's statement that a Little Rock prosecutor was fired to make way for a GOP operative. They also said the new documents show that political motivations were not a factor in the firings.

The latest revelations came amid reports that the White House has already launched a search for Gonzales's replacement and that support for the attorney general among Republicans in Congress is fading fast. One GOP strategist with close ties to the White House said last night that it is likely Gonzales will leave and that White House counsel Fred F. Fielding already has potential replacements in mind. ...
I wonder how Fitzy would have been ranked had he actually indicted Karl Rove. So does Fitzgerald really suck?
Mary Jo White, who supervised Fitzgerald when she served as the U.S. attorney in Manhattan and who has criticized the firings, said ranking him as a middling prosecutor "lacks total credibility across the board."

"He is probably the best prosecutor in the nation -- certainly one of them," said White, who worked in the Clinton and Bush administrations. "It casts total doubt on the whole process. It's kind of the icing on the cake."

Fitzgerald has been widely recognized for his pursuit of criminal cases against al-Qaeda's terrorist network before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and he drew up the official U.S. indictment against Osama bin Laden. He was named as special counsel in the CIA leak case in December 2003 by then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, who had recused himself.

Fitzgerald also won the Attorney General's Award for Distinguished Service in 2002 under Ashcroft.
But he just isn't "Bushy" enough.

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posted by JReid @ 6:53 AM  
Monday, March 19, 2007
Before the firing
New emails elucidate the sinster connection between Foggo, of the nine fingers, and the doom of one of the Gonzales Eight. Sayeth the WaPo:

The U.S. attorney in San Diego notified the Justice Department of search warrants in a Republican bribery scandal last May 10, one day before the attorney general's chief of staff warned the White House of a "real problem" with her, a Democratic senator said yesterday.

The prosecutor, Carol S. Lam, was dismissed seven months later as part of an effort by the Justice Department and the White House to fire eight U.S. attorneys.

A Justice spokesman said there was no connection between Lam's firing and her public corruption investigations, and pointed to criticisms of Lam for her record on prosecuting immigration cases.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said in a television appearance yesterday that Lam "sent a notice to the Justice Department saying that there would be two search warrants" in a criminal investigation of defense contractor Brent R. Wilkes and Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, who had just quit as the CIA's top administrator amid questions about his ties to disgraced former GOP congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham.

The next day, May 11, D. Kyle Sampson, then chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, sent an e-mail message to William Kelley in the White House counsel's office saying that Lam should be removed as quickly as possible, according to documents turned over to Congress last week.

"Please call me at your convenience to discuss the following," Sampson wrote, referring to "[t]he real problem we have right now with Carol Lam that leads me to conclude that we should have someone ready to be nominated on 11/18, the day her 4-year term expires."

The FBI raided Foggo's home and former CIA office on May 12. He was indicted along with Wilkes on fraud and money-laundering charges on Feb. 13 -- two days before Lam left as U.S. attorney.

The revelation that Lam took a major step in the Foggo probe one day before Sampson's e-mail message was sent to the White House raises further questions about the decision to fire her, Feinstein suggested.

"There were clearly U.S. attorneys that were thorns in the side for one reason or another of the Justice Department," Feinstein said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "And they decided, by strategy, in one fell swoop, to get rid of seven of them on that day, December the 7th."

A Justice spokesman yesterday referred questions about the meaning of the "real problem" e-mail to Sampson's attorney, Bradford Berenson, who declined to comment.

Meanwhile, the good folks at Talking Points Memo's TPMMuckraker, who have been way out ahead of the MSM on this story, have uncovered the apparent golden rule of firing U.S. attorneys: the better they are, the faster they go. On the David Iglesias ouster:

It's becoming one of the central rules of the U.S. attorney purge scandal: whatever "performance related" complaint the administration claims as the justification for a U.S. attorney's firing, it's actually an area of performance for which that U.S. attorney was lauded.

In this instance, the White House has said that U.S. Attorney David Iglesias of New Mexico was removed in part due to his handling of voter fraud complaints. That's backed up by the numerous instances of powerful New Mexico Republicans (including Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM)) complaining to Karl Rove, Alberto Gonzales, and President Bush about Iglesias' decision not to prosecute certain cases of voter fraud.

What does this mean? It means that Iglesias must have been lauded by the Justice Department for his handling of voter fraud cases. And not just lauded -- but cited as an example for U.S. attorneys across the country.
The post makes similar cases on the firings of attorneys Lam and McKay, and they conclude that:

One of the more remarkable aspects of this story, indeed, is that the fact that the Justice Department chose a small group of the most distinguished U.S. attorneys in the country and then tried to portray them as incompetent. As you can see, it's been a losing effort. And in every case where the cover story has been blown, it's revealed political motivations for the firing.
So what's next? Like Chuck Schumer, I predict that Al Gonzales won't be attorney general a week from now. As for this scandal, unfortuately for the Bush administration, it won't die with Gonzales' federal government career.

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posted by JReid @ 7:23 AM  
Friday, March 16, 2007
Gonzo!

My current co-host on the morning show does not believe that Alberto Gonzales will be fired, because the George W. Bush will hang onto his own, and will resist anything smacking of "justice." I predicted in my blog report yesterday, and again today, that Gonzales will not last two months, meaning he will be gone before April turns to May. Well now, I'm revising my prediction. Al Gonzales will not make it to tax day. Besides, for this White House, it's not about justice, even at the Justice Department. It's about politics. And trust me when I tell you that Gonzales will go.

Why?

Because the A.G. is a political liability to the White House...

Because his continued presence is a danger to Karl Rove, in that his scandals draw Rove in...

...and Karl Rove never lets himself hang; he lets other people hang...

Because Alberto Gonzales misled Congress (read "lied to Congress") about the true nature of the Pearl Harbor Day U.S. attorney firings. Thus, he has lost the confidence of the Congress, Republicans included, and therefore he is no longer an effective water carrier for the president on Capitol Hill.

Because Fred Fielding knows better than to let this thing fester its way into a Supreme Court showdown.

And because for the White House, perhaps the only way to stop this train from rolling down the tracks, and eventually rolling over George W. Bush, is to get Alberto Gonzales out of Washington ... fast. Two words: George ... Tenet.

Gonzales will eventually be called into the West Wing by Dan Bartlett, and asked to fall on his sword, tender his resignation for the good of the president, and promised a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Tick ... tick ... tick.

Still don't believe me? Let's ask some Republicans:

National Review: "The administration’s supporters should consider whether the price of keeping Gonzales in office will be the surrender of important policies in order to try to appease his critics. ...Alberto Gonzales could yet become a liability on matters more important than he is."

Professional Clinton hater / civil libertarian Bob Barr (to Rolling Stone): "He should resign. This is the last straw in a whole series of — what was the name of the Lemony Snicket movie? — “Unfortunate Events” that have raised serious questions about the lack of leadership at the Department of Justice and there being too-cozy a relationship between an attorney general and the president."

Unnamed GOP strategist to CNN's Suzanne Malveaux: “Wolf, I have to tell you, I’ve spoken to a lot of people who are friends of those here at the White House and GOP strategists. They want Gonzales gone. They’re putting a lot of pressure on this president. One of them said, look, Gonzales has a constituency of one, and that is the president. But tonight, Wolf, White House officials who I’ve spoken to say that that is exactly the person who’s saving his job, that the president does not intend to let him go.”

Named GOP strategist Ed Rollins (on CBS News' The Early Show):
"It's certainly the President's prerogative but I would argue that he should go," Rollins said of Gonzales. "I think at this point in time they are losing support of Republican Senators by the day and the president desperately needs their support."

When asked what the best way is for the White House to move beyond the scandal, Rollins replied, "The best way is for Gonzales to resign and move on and put someone of great credibility in there."

Republican Congressman Dana Rohrbacher: "Even for Republicans, this is a warning sign … saying there needs to be a change," said Rohrbacher. "Maybe the president should have an attorney general who is less a personal friend and more professional in his approach."

Republican Senator John Sununu: "The president should fire the attorney general and replace him as soon as possible with someone who can provide strong, aggressive leadership prosecuting the war on terrorism, running the Department of Justice, and working with the president and Congress on important homeland security matters."

Republican Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon: ""For the Justice Department to be effective before the U.S. Senate, it would be helpful" if Gonzales resigned..."

Meanwhile, CBS News interviewed one of the fired prosecutors, David Iglesias, who is now charging a full on political purge in his case:
"I believe I was fired because I did not play ball with two members of the Republican delegation here in New Mexico. I did not give them privileged information that could have been used in the October and November time frame."

Another of the fired prosecutors, H.E. "Bud" Cummins, a lifelong Republican who was pretty soft on the administration during his Congressional testimony (and who was replaced in his post in Little Rock Arkansas in order to make way for Karl Rove's pet hatchet-man/dirt digger/voter suppression expert Tim Griffin, just as a certain Senator who used to be first lady of Arkansas is running for president...) has apparently changed his mind. His interview with TPM Muckraker takes a much harder line on the Bushies: "I've heard every one of the [Justice Department's "performance related" issues with the other dismissed US attorneys], and I'm completely convinced at this point that they are fabricated assertions, and that they were in no way on the table when the decisions to dismiss those seven USAs were made..." And in addition:
"I gave them the benefit of the doubt at the beginning of this. They told me directly that my case was completely different from the others, that there were significant performance issues involved in the other decisions, and if I saw, I'd agree that they'd have to go.

Now that I've seen the decisions, not only don't I see why they had to go, I see that [the charges of performance issues] are really not true."

And now, the piece de resistance: Al Gonzales' latest problem, via the reporting of the National Journal, is his apparent conflict of interest during the investigation of the NSA wiretap leaks:
U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales reportedly advised President George W. Bush on a federal inquiry even after learning his own actions might be probed.

Citing government records and interviews, the National Journal reported Thursday that, shortly before he advised Bush in 2006 on whether to shut down a Justice Department investigation into the administration's warrant less domestic eavesdropping program, Gonzales learned that his own conduct would likely be a focus of the inquiry.

Bush shut down the Justice Department investigation in April 2006 by denying investigators security clearances they would have needed to examine the eavesdropping program.

It was unclear whether Bush knew at the time that the inquiry -- which was to have been conducted by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility -- would likely examine Gonzales' conduct, the newspaper said. Sources familiar with the matter told the Journal that if the probe had been permitted to continue, it would have scrutinized Gonzales' role in authorizing the eavesdropping program while he was White House counsel, and his oversight of the program as attorney general.

Tick ... tick ... tick, Alberto... and your little Harriet, too...

Related: Howard Kurtz on Gonzales' travails...

NPR with some of those fabulous emails.


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posted by JReid @ 8:25 PM  
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Gonzogate update: Rove's connection clarified
ABC News updates the Gonzales scandal, and the close connection between the Karl Rove political chop shop and the supposedly apolitical Justice Department:
March 15, 2007 — New unreleased e-mails from top administration officials show that the idea of firing all 93 U.S. attorneys was raised by White House adviser Karl Rove in early January 2005, indicating Rove was more involved in the plan than the White House previously acknowledged.

The e-mails also show that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales discussed the idea of firing the attorneys en masse weeks before he was confirmed as attorney general.

The e-mails directly contradict White House assertions that the notion originated with recently departed White House counsel Harriet Miers, and was her idea alone.

Two independent sources in a position to know have described the contents of the e-mail exchange, which could be released as early as Friday. They put Rove at the epicenter of the imbroglio and raise questions about Gonzales' explanations of the matter.

The e-mail exchange is dated early January 2005, more than a month before the White House acknowledged it was considering firing all the U.S. attorneys. On its face, the plan is not improper, inappropriate or even unusual: The president has the right to fire U.S. attorneys at any time, and presidents have done so when they took office.

The White House spin machine appears to have completely broken down on this one.

Meanwhile, Senator Schumer reacts to the new info.

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posted by JReid @ 6:37 PM  
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Throw Alberto from the train
The White House takes one small step away from Alberto Gonzales. Regarding Gonzales' press conference yesterday in which he refused to resign over the U.S. attorney firings:


[Gonzales’] appearance underscored what two Republicans close to the Bush administration described as a growing rift between the White House and the attorney general. Mr. Gonzales has long been a confidant of the president but has aroused the ire of lawmakers of both parties on several issues, including the administration’s domestic eavesdropping program.

The two Republicans, who spoke anonymously so they could share private conversations with senior White House officials, said top aides to Mr. Bush, including Fred F. Fielding, the new White House counsel, were concerned that the controversy had so damaged Mr. Gonzales’s credibility that he would be unable to advance the White House agenda on national security matters, including terrorism prosecutions.

“I really think there’s a serious estrangement between the White House and Alberto now,” one of the Republicans said. [Source: New York Times]
Meanwhile, the NYT reports that a single factor mattered more to the White House and A.G.'s office than any other -- not effectiveness, or competence, or aggressiveness, or skill, but rather loyalty. A familiar tune to anyone who has followed the Bushes, and not coincidentally, the key factor in both Harriet Miers and Al Gonzales getting their current jobs.

WASHINGTON, March 13 — Late in the afternoon on Dec. 4, a deputy to Harriet E. Miers, then the White House counsel and one of President Bush’s most trusted aides, sent a two-line e-mail message to a top Justice Department aide. “We’re a go,” it said, approving a long-brewing plan to remove seven federal prosecutors considered weak or not team players.

The message, from William K. Kelley of the White House counsel’s office to D. Kyle Sampson, the chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, put in motion a plan to fire United States attorneys that had been hatched 22 months earlier by Ms. Miers. Three days later, the seven prosecutors were summarily dismissed. An eighth had been forced out in the summer.

The documents provided by the Justice Department add some new details to the chronicle of the fired prosecutors but leave many critical questions unanswered, including the nature of discussions inside the White House and the level of knowledge and involvement by the president and his closest political aide, Karl Rove.

The White House said Monday that Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove had raised concerns about lax voter fraud prosecutions with the Justice Department. And several of the fired attorneys told Congress last week that some lawmakers had questioned them about corruption investigations, inquiries the prosecutors considered inappropriate. The documents do not specifically mention either topic.

While the target list of prosecutors was shaped and shifted, officials at the Justice Department and the White House, members of Congress and even an important Republican lawyer and lobbyist in New Mexico were raising various concerns.

In rating the prosecutors, Mr. Sampson factored in whether they “exhibited loyalty to the president and attorney general,” according to documents released by the Justice Department. In one e-mail message, Mr. Sampson questioned a colleague about the record of the federal prosecutor in San Diego, Carol C. Lam. Referring to the office of the deputy attorney general, Mr. Sampson wrote: “Has ODAG ever called Carol Lam and woodshedded her re immigration enforcement? Has anyone?” Ms. Lam was one of the seven fired prosecutors.

Two others, Paul K. Charlton in Arizona and Daniel K. Bogden in Nevada, were faulted as being “unwilling to take good cases we have presented to them,” according to another e-mail message to Mr. Sampson, referring to pornography prosecutions.

Another United States attorney, David C. Iglesias of New Mexico, was added to the hit list in the fall of 2006 after criticism from his home state, including a demand by Senator Pete V. Domenici, a Republican, to meet with the attorney general to discuss the performance of Mr. Iglesias’s office.

The fallout from the firings came swiftly, according to the documents. Within a day, messages were flying between the White House and the Justice Department about reaction to the dismissals. Administration officials were aware that the decisions were likely to be controversial, and the plan for carrying them out included a warning to “prepare to withstand political upheaval.” ...
And now that the upheaval has begun, the weak defense of Gonzales is what has commenced. It may not last. He may well suffer the same fate as the eight prosecutors he and the other Clones forced out.

Meanwhile the WaPo reports that when it comes to weathering scandals, George W. Bush is not the man he used to be.

Update: the Financial Times has more on "Fredo's" growing problem with those on his own side. And they editorialize about Gonzales' serial enabling of the president's imperial ways.

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posted by JReid @ 6:53 AM  
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Why is this man still in his job?
... no, not him (although that might not be such a bad idea) ... the one in the front...

So Alberto Gonzales has taken responsibility for the controversy over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys from across the country last December 7th. Good, so he should agree than, that the party responsible should resign. But so far, he is refusing to do so. Meanwhile, his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, has done just that.

As Chuck Schumer and others have said, Gonzales' main problem is that he somehow never got the memo (though he sent the Torture Memo) that he is now the lawyer for the American people, not for President Bush. He continues to act as his personal flunky, and as GWU constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley puts it, his chief enabler. Well, the enabling must stop. Gonzales is an incompetant A.G., and the extent to which he has allowed his office to become politicized -- complete with instructions from Karl Rove on which attorneys to fire -- makes him a disgrace to his office.

There is a cloud over the Justice Department.

It's time from George W. Bush to fire it.

Meanwhile, there's new information on the Pearl Harbor Day Massacre. Apparently, it preceded according to a carefully laid out five-point plan for getting rid of seven of them:

Entitled, "Plan for Replacing Certain United States Attorneys," the step-by-step instructions were sent by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, as an attachment to an e-mail. Sampson resigned Tuesday. The e-mail was released Tuesday by the House Judiciary Committee.

Steps 1 and 2: On Dec. 7, the Justice Department was to simultaneously notify the Republican home-state senators of the impending dismissals, as well as those dismissed.

In his calls to the prosecutors, Mike Battle, who oversees all 93 U.S. attorneys, was to say that the administration is grateful for their service but decided to "give someone else the opportunity" to serve in the post starting in Jan. 31, 2007, according to the memo.

Step 3 was prescient, its title underscored: "Prepare to Withstand Political Upheaval." It predicted the fired prosecutors would make "strenuous" efforts to save their jobs by appealing to other officials in the Bush administration. The memo contained responses to likely questions from those fired.

"Recipients of such 'appeals' must respond identically," the memo said, as follows:

"-What? U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president (there is no right nor should there be any expectation that U.S. attorneys would be entitled to serve beyond their four-year term).

"-Who decided? The administration made the determination to seek the resignations (not any specific person at the White House or the Department of Justice).

"-Why me? The administration is grateful for your service, but wants to give someone else the chance to serve in your district.

"-I need more time! The decision is to have a new acting or interim U.S. attorney in place by January 31, 2007 (granting "extensions" will hinder the process of getting a new U.S. attorney in place and giving that person the opportunity to serve for a full two years)."

Steps four and five directed Justice Department officials to name replacements and submit them for Senate confirmation.
The email was sent by Sampson, to Associate Attorney General William Mercer and White House officials William K. Kelley and Harriet Miers (wouldn't you know SHE'd be involved...)

And RawStory has more documents detailing the White House plan, including more on Miers' involvement...

A March 2005 attachment sent to former White House Counsel and onetime Supreme Court nominee Harriet draws lines through the names of US Attorneys described as "Recommend removing" because they are "ineffectual managers and prosecutors, chafed against administration initiatives."

In Jan. 2006, one e-mail notes that Senator Pete Domenici, the New Mexico Republican who recently had an ethics complaint filed against him, had contacted the Attorney General to "discuss the criminal 'docket and caseload' in New Mexico." The e-mail subsequently includes a detailed report on the activities of the US Attorney for New Mexico, part of which is a lengthy Power Point presentation.

A Sep. 13, 2006, e-mail, sent to Miers makes note of five US Attorneys "we now should consider pushing out," as well as one "in the process of being pushed out."

Sampson first makes note of his political concerns about the tactic in this message, saying "I am only in favor of executing...if we really are ready and willing to put in the time necessary to select candidates and get them appointed." The message also refers to sidestepping "home-State senators" and carrying out the plan "at less political cost to the White House."

Four days later, Miers promises to follow up. In her original Sep. 13 query to Sampson, she asks for "current thinking on holdover US attorneys."

On Sept. 20, Brent Ward, current head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Obscenity Prosecution Task Force, wrote to Sampson and complained, "We have two US attorneys who are unwilling to take good cases we have presented to them." Sampson says replacing them should go through "normal channels."

Nearly two months later, on Nov. 15, Sampson writes to White House staffers again, including Miers, and repeats his concerns with "political upheaval that could result" and refers to circulating it "to Karl's shop," presumably referring to White House political adviser Karl Rove.

This e-mail includes an attachment with a detailed strategy plan for forcing out six US Attorneys in Arizona, California, Michigan, Nevada, Washington, and New Mexico; contacting senators (or the home-state Bush "political-lead" if there is no Republican senator in the state in question); preparations for "political upheaval;" and selection of "interim" candidates, which is followed by the normal US Attorney selection process. ...
Gonzales is now calling the firings "mishandled" ... but his problems go much deeper than that.

Perhaps most dire, Gonzales appreas to have lied to the Congress under oath, during his January 18 testimony under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

These U.S. attorneys appear to have been fired because they wouldn't yield to political pressure in the carrying out of their duties. Gonzales approved this political putsch. The deputy fall guy isn't enough. Gonzales should be fired, yesterday.

Update: White House COS Dan Bartlett just gave a press conference in which he tried to spin the David Iglesias firing as justified by his not pursuing voter fraud cases vigorously enough. Not gonna wash, dear. Time for a special prosecutor.

Update 2: New evidence courtesy of TPMM indicates that Karl Rove's deputy, Scott Jennings, was also involved in the removal of members of the Gonzales Eight.

And bad news for Alberto: support for him among Republicans and conservatives so far appears to be weak. Remember when Bush was considering putting him on the Supreme Court? The antipathy from that period may not have died down...

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posted by JReid @ 3:53 PM  
Sunday, March 11, 2007
The Pearl Harbor Day massacre: the Rove connection
The firing of eight U.S. attorneys has links to the White House, and specifically to Karl Rove, who was personally asked to fire at least one of the seven who were dismissed last December 7th (the eight was forced out in October.) McClatchy Newspapers report:

WASHINGTON - Presidential advisor Karl Rove and at least one other member of the White House political team were urged by the New Mexico Republican party chairman to fire the state's U.S. attorney because of dissatisfaction in part with his failure to indict Democrats in a voter fraud investigation in the battleground election state.

In an interview Saturday with McClatchy Newspapers, Allen Weh, the party chairman, said he complained in 2005 about then-U.S. Attorney David Iglesias to a White House liaison who worked for Rove and asked that he be removed. Weh said he followed up with Rove personally in late 2006 during a visit to the White House.

"Is anything ever going to happen to that guy?" Weh said he asked Rove at a White House holiday event that month.

"He's gone," Rove said, according to Weh.

"I probably said something close to 'Hallelujah,'" said Weh.

Weh's account calls into question the Justice Department's stance that the recent decision to fire Iglesias and seven U.S. attorneys in other states was a personnel matter - made without White House intervention. Justice Department officials have said the White House's involvement was limited to approving a list of the U.S. attorneys after the Justice Department made the decision to fire them. ...

..."The facts speak for themselves," Iglesias said, when he was told of Weh's account of his conversation with Rove.

Weh's disclosure comes as Congress investigates the circumstances behind the firings of the U.S. attorneys, most of whom had positive job evaluations, including Iglesias. Democrats have charged the Bush administration tried to inject partisan politics into federal prosecutions in order to influence election outcomes.

The saga continues, with more Conressional hearings this week.

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posted by JReid @ 1:42 PM  
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  
Thursday, March 08, 2007
The case of the Gonzales Seven
On October 20, 1973, President Richard Nixon ordered then- attorney general Elliot Richardson to fire the special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, who had been appointed by Richardson to investigate the June 17, 1972 Watergate break-in. The Senate Judiciary Committee was in the midst of an investigation into the Watergate scandal. Wikipedia takes it from there:

Cox had earlier issued a subpoena to President Nixon, asking for copies of taped conversations which Nixon had made in the Oval Office as evidence. Nixon initially refused to comply with the subpoena, but on October 19, 1973, he offered what was later known as the Stennis Compromise – asking U.S. Senator John C. Stennis to review and summarize the tapes for the special prosecutor's office.

Cox refused the compromise that same evening, and it was believed that there would be a short rest in the legal maneuvering while government offices were closed for the weekend. However, President Nixon acted to dismiss Cox from his office the next night – a Saturday. He contacted Attorney General Richardson and ordered him to fire the special prosecutor. Richardson refused, and instead resigned in protest. Nixon then ordered Deputy Attorney General Ruckelshaus to fire Cox; he, too, refused and was fired by Nixon.

Nixon then contacted the Solicitor General, Robert Bork, and ordered him as acting head of the Justice Department to fire Cox. Richardson and Ruckelshaus had both personally assured the congressional committee overseeing the special prosecutor investigation that they would not interfere – Bork had made no such assurance to the committee. Bork complied with Nixon's order and fired Cox.

Congress was infuriated by the act, which was seen as a gross abuse of Presidential power. In the days that followed, numerous bills of impeachment against the President were introduced in Congress.
As the scandal mounted, and facing almost certain removal from office, Richard Nixon finally resigned his office on August 9. 1974. The firing of the special prosecutor, and the subsequent resignation of the attorney general, Mr. Richardson, and the dismissal of his deputy, William Ruckelshaus, would become known as the "Saturday night massacre." Nixon's defense of his actions would yield the classic Nixonian phrase, "I am not a crook." The Special Prosecutor statute followed soon after, and would live to bedevil nearly every future president.

Fast forward to 2007. The attorney general is now Alberto Gonzales, a longtime crony of President George W. Bush. On December 7, 2006, just one month after Republicans succumbed to a Democratic election sweep that handed the House and Senate to the former party out of power, Attorney General Gonzales fired seven U.S. attorneys -- all Bush appointees; and all either Republicans or registered Independents -- in what has come to be known as the "Pearl Harbor Day massacre." (An eighth had stepped down in October, under circumstances still under inspection.) Who were they, and why were they fired? Here's TIME Magazine's take:
The White House approves all U.S. attorneys, who function as the federal government's chief prosecutors in 93 jurisdictions around the country. As political appointees, they serve "at the pleasure of the President," and can be replaced, at least theoretically, at any time for any reason. But group firings in the middle a presidential term are highly unusual. Though Attorney General Alberto Gonzales insisted to Congress that "I would never, ever make a change in a U.S. attorney position for political reasons," critics were outraged at the December dismissals, among them the firing of an Arkansas U.S. attorney to make way for Timothy Griffin, a prot駩 of White House political guru Karl Rove. The outcry forced Griffin to withdraw. Gonzales' top deputy later claimed the firings were necessary because of "performance-related" issues. But it was later revealed that all but two of the dismissed prosecutors had won outstanding evaluations for competence.
As for the identities, (six of the eight testified this week before teh House judiciary committee) they are:

1) David Iglesias (New Mexico) - according to TIME:

Iglesias ... testified that he felt "leaned on" by Sen. Pete Domenici over a case he was pursuing. Iglesias said the New Mexico Republican and former mentor hung up on him after learning Iglesias would not seek indictments in a criminal investigation of Democrats before the 2006 election. "He said, 'Are these going to be filed before November?'" Iglesias recalled. "I said I didn't think so... to which he replied, 'I'm very sorry to hear that.' And then the line went dead. "I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach," Iglesias testified. "Six weeks later I got the call that I had to move on." The ousted prosecutor also said that Heather Wilson, a Republican House member from New Mexico, had called him about the same issue.

Both Domenici and Wilson confirmed that they had gotten in touch with Iglesias, but denied pressuring him in any way. The Justice Department also acknowledged that Domenici had called Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his top deputy four times to complain about Iglesias' behavior, inquiring whether he was "up to the job."

Domenici has since lawyered up.

2) H. E. "Bud" Cummins (Little Rock, Arkansas) -
[Cummins] testified that he had e-mailed fellow ousted prosecutors last month, warning them of a threatening message conveyed by a senior Justice Department official. Cummins' e-mail, which was released publicly, quoted the Justice official as warning that if fired U.S. attorneys continued to talk to the media or volunteered to testify before Congress, the department "would feel forced to somehow pull their gloves off" and fight back. The DOJ denied the allegation.
In addition, once Cummins was ousted, his position was filled "on an interim basis" by a guy named Tom Griffin who is, surprise, surprise, a former aide to Karl Rove -- an aide who stated that he would step down if forced to face Congressional confirmation because of the "partisan circus" surrounding him. Cummins ouster to make room for a Rove aide has pushed Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas to take an unusual seat -- in the House witness chair -- to testify that he felt misled about the reasons for Cummins' dismissal and could not support Griffin's nomination.

3) John McKay (Seattle) -
... declared that a top aide to Rep. Doc Hastings, the former Republican chairman of the House Ethics Committee, had called him to ask detailed questions about a politically charged investigation McKay was conducting into the disputed 2004 election of Washington state's Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire. Hastings and his aide have denied the allegation.
4) Carol S. Lam (San Diego) - She is the prosecutor who indicted Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, the defense contractor turned bribery suspect. Also:
Lam oversaw the probe that resulted in the guilty plea of then-Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a Republican. Two others connected to that case, including a former senior CIA official, were indicted two days before Lam left the job on Thursday.
5) and 6) Daniel Bogden (Nevada) and Paul Charlton (Arizona) -
... were also in the midst of investigations targeting current or former Republican members of Congress when they were fired. And in New Mexico, Iglesias's office had been examining alleged wrongdoing involving state Democrats.
7) Kevin Ryan (San Francisco) - let go for reasons unclear.

As for the alleged eighth fire, TPM Muckraker has this to say:
Debra Wong Yang, the former U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles, Calif. Yang was overseeing the investigation into Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA). She announced her resignation in October 2006, but to date there hasn't been evidence that her departure was forced.
And what about the White House? The WaPo reported this week:
The White House approved the firings of seven U.S. attorneys late last year after senior Justice Department officials identified the prosecutors they believed were not doing enough to carry out President Bush's policies on immigration, firearms and other issues, White House and Justice Department officials said yesterday.

The list of prosecutors was assembled last fall, based largely on complaints from members of Congress, law enforcement officials and career Justice Department lawyers, administration officials said ...

...The seven prosecutors were first identified by the Justice Department's senior leadership shortly before the November elections, officials said. The final decision was supported by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and his deputy, Paul J. McNulty, and cleared with the White House counsel's office, including deputy counsel William Kelly, they said.
So far, the Judiciary Committee has begun hearings on the matter, which TPMM has been covering extensively.

Meanwhile, the Senate is preparing to push through legislatioon that would require the body to confirm any future U.S. attorneys, ostensibly, giving them a say in when they're let go.

The bedevilment has begun.

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posted by JReid @ 8:13 PM  
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