Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Short Takes

Hu’s Not There — Rioting in China has cut short President Hu Jintao’s trip to the G-8.

Meanwhile, fighting continues in Urumqui between the Han and the Uighurs.

Yawn — Russians aren’t giving President Obama the rock star treatment.

The rioting may be over, but there’s still a power struggle in Iran.

“Well Qualified” — So says the ABA about Judge Sotomayor. That’s their highest rating.

Speaking of lawyers, Alberto Gonzales has landed a teaching gig.

Mediator — Costa Rican President Oscar Arias agrees to mediate the Honduras dispute.

Miami-Dade School Board drafts a budget with no layoffs of employees.

Hot town — Miami hit 95 F yesterday, tying a record. It’s expected to cool off later in the week.

There was a funeral in L.A. yesterday.

Tigers win against KC.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Short Takes

The Gaza conflict continues: They fire rockets, they shoot back. Lather, rinse, repeat. Except people keep dying. At what point will they figure out that it’s pathetically useless?

The killing doesn’t stop: GI’s returning from war and violent crime at home.

IOU: California may issue promissory notes instead of tax refunds.

Former Senator Claiborne Pell, who put a lot of people through college, dies at 90.

Paranoid Much? AirTran boots 9 people off a flight because they “fit the profile.” They were Muslim.

The Culture of Victimhood: Alberto Gonzales feels sorry for himself.

But the memory lingers on: Pentagon political officer Jim O’Beirne — husband of right-wing hack pundit Kate — is still calling the Obama administration “the opposition.”

Subdued anniversary: What if Raul Castro marked the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution and nobody paid attention?

Brr. The polar plunge tradition continued in Toledo.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

If You’ve Done Nothing Wrong…

Friends of Alberto Gonzales are setting up a legal defense fund for the former attorney general.

David G. Leitch, a Gonzales friend and general counsel at the Ford Motor Co., wrote in an e-mail solicitation to potential contributors last month that Gonzales is “innocent of any wrongdoing” but does not have the means to pay for his legal defense after a career spent mostly in public service.

[…]

The Justice Department’s investigation of Gonzales is likely to be completed in the next several months, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation’s progress. The inspector general is looking at whether Gonzales misled Congress in sworn testimony and improperly sought to influence testimony of an aide, Monica M. Goodling, about last year’s firings of nine U.S. attorneys.

At least Mr. Gonzales will have the benefit of counsel, which is more than he was willing to afford the people at Gitmo, and I’m sure that Mr. Gonzales’s lawyer will demand a writ of habeas corpus, something else he was lukewarm to when he was in office.

As for the idea that he doesn’t have the means to afford good counsel, I hear there are a bunch of former U.S. attorneys whom he could approach to take on his case pro bono. But then, as our friends on the right are fond of telling us, if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to worry about, right?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

It’s Worse

According to the New York Times, the Bush administration continued to pursue torture as a method of interrogation even after they said they didn’t do it. In fact, once Alberto Gonzales got into office, it got worse.

When the Justice Department publicly declared torture “abhorrent” in a legal opinion in December 2004, the Bush administration appeared to have abandoned its assertion of nearly unlimited presidential authority to order brutal interrogations.

But soon after Alberto R. Gonzales’s arrival as attorney general in February 2005, the Justice Department issued another opinion, this one in secret. It was a very different document, according to officials briefed on it, an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency.

The new opinion, the officials said, for the first time provided explicit authorization to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures.

Mr. Gonzales approved the legal memorandum on “combined effects” over the objections of James B. Comey, the deputy attorney general, who was leaving his job after bruising clashes with the White House. Disagreeing with what he viewed as the opinion’s overreaching legal reasoning, Mr. Comey told colleagues at the department that they would all be “ashamed” when the world eventually learned of it.

Later that year, as Congress moved toward outlawing “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment, the Justice Department issued another secret opinion, one most lawmakers did not know existed, current and former officials said. The Justice Department document declared that none of the C.I.A. interrogation methods violated that standard.

The classified opinions, never previously disclosed, are a hidden legacy of President Bush’s second term and Mr. Gonzales’s tenure at the Justice Department, where he moved quickly to align it with the White House after a 2004 rebellion by staff lawyers that had thrown policies on surveillance and detention into turmoil.

Congress and the Supreme Court have intervened repeatedly in the last two years to impose limits on interrogations, and the administration has responded as a policy matter by dropping the most extreme techniques. But the 2005 Justice Department opinions remain in effect, and their legal conclusions have been confirmed by several more recent memorandums, officials said. They show how the White House has succeeded in preserving the broadest possible legal latitude for harsh tactics.

Oh, come on…you never really believed they would stop doing it, did you?

And if all that James Comey could come up with was that they would be “ashamed” when the news came out, even he — the knight in shining armor whose midnight ride to the hospital bed of John Ashcroft saved us from even more warrantless wiretapping — has some pretty low standards when it comes to the public reaction. If that’s all he can muster, we truly have become a nation that seems to be immune to the kinds of things that used to horrify us; that used to separate us from the nations we held up as the enemies of freedom and democracy.

Pogo was right: “We have met the enemy, and they is us.”

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Gonzo But Not Forgotten

The Democrats say that just because Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is resigning it doesn’t mean they’re not going to keep looking into what he did — or remembers what he did — during his tenure.

Mr. Gonzales is a focus of investigations by the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, centered on his role in the dismissals of United States attorneys last year for what appear to have been political reasons. Other inquiries are being conducted by the Justice Department’s inspector general and its Office of Professional Responsibility.

It also means it’s going to make confirming the next AG that much more interesting.

Several names continued to circulate on Tuesday on Capitol Hill and within the department, including those of Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security and a former senior Justice Department prosecutor; Theodore B. Olson, who was solicitor general earlier in the Bush administration; and Larry D. Thompson, a former deputy attorney general.

Colleagues said Mr. Chertoff was especially eager for the appointment. Although lawmakers saw him as a leading candidate, several Democrats suggested he would come under unflattering scrutiny if nominated because of his role in the government’s initially disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina two years ago and his involvement at the Justice Department in legal issues related to interrogation of terror suspects after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“There would be a lot of careful questioning of Chertoff,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, who is a member of the Judiciary Committee. “There is not confidence among Democrats that he has an instinctive desire to side with the rule of law over politics.”

According to the Washington Post, Mr. Bush is looking for someone who “shares his views.” Yeah, well, I think we’ve seen how that’s worked out for him, and it makes you wonder just how many toadies are left in Washington who are willing to face the confirmation hearings and take on the daunting task of rebuilding the confidence in the Justice Department with less than a year and a half before the Bush administration is history.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Adios Alberto

From the New York Times:

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, whose tenure has been marred by controversy and accusations of perjury before Congress, has resigned. A senior administration official said he would announce the decision later this morning in Washington.

To spend more time with his family, no doubt.

Rumors are already circulating that he’ll be replaced by Michael Chertoff. Apparently Brownie wasn’t available. Well, whoever they get, let’s hope the Senate Judiciary Committee gives him/her/it a thorough going-over. As I used to hear in New Mexico, no se deje dar gato por liebre.

Friday, August 17, 2007

More Trouble for Gonzales

Every few weeks we need a gentle reminder that the Attorney General of the United States is either a liar, an incompetent toady, or both. The latest reminder comes from FBI Director Robert Mueller who tells the the House Judiciary Committee via heavily-redacted notes that the late-night hospital visit to John Ashcroft in March 2004 was about re-upping the warrantless wiretapping program and not, as Mr. Gonzales told the Senate, just to drop off a Whitman’s Sampler.

Then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft was “feeble,” “barely articulate” and “stressed” moments after a hospital room confrontation in March 2004 with Alberto R. Gonzales, who wanted Ashcroft to approve a warrantless wiretapping program over Justice Department objections, according to notes from FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III that were released yesterday.

One of Mueller’s entries in five pages of a daily log pertaining to the dispute also indicated that Ashcroft’s deputy was so concerned about undue pressure by Gonzales and other White House aides for the attorney general to back the wiretapping program that the deputy asked Mueller to bar anyone other than relatives from later entering Ashcroft’s hospital room.

Mueller’s description of Ashcroft’s physical condition that night contrasts with testimony last month from Gonzales, who told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Ashcroft was “lucid” and “did most of the talking” during the brief visit. It also confirms an account of the episode by former deputy attorney general James B. Comey, who said Ashcroft told the two men he was not well enough to make decisions in the hospital.

“Saw AG,” Mueller writes in his notes for 8:10 p.m. on March 10, 2004, only minutes after Gonzales and White House chief of staff Andrew H. Card Jr. had visited Ashcroft. “Janet Ashcroft in the room. AG in chair; is feeble, barely articulate, clearly stressed.”

[…]

Gonzales was White House counsel at the time of the hospital visit and replaced Ashcroft as attorney general in 2005. “We never had any intent to ask anything of him if we did not feel that he was competent,” Gonzales testified, adding later: “Mr. Ashcroft talked about the legal issues in a lucid form, as I’ve heard him talk about legal issues in the White House.”

That’s an odd thing to say about Mr. Ashcroft; that even when he’s stoned on painkillers, Mr. Gonzales thinks he’s as lucid as he is on a day at the office. (Then again, this is not an administration that is known for their medical prowess: these are the same people who pronounced Terri Schiavo as mentally alert when in truth she had a brain the size of a Brussels sprout.)

I’m pretty sure that the White House will spin this as two men having an honest disagreement over their recollections of the meeting, but it takes a lot of gall to do it with a straight face. But then, the White House has been known to inadvertently channel Monty Python.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Not Good Enough

Like a recalcitrant school boy, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales turned in his homework late and incomplete. (Wow, could my mom relate to that.)

If anything, Mr. Gonzales’s letter makes it less clear as to what he was talking about when he told the Committee about that late-night visit to John Ashcroft’s hospital bed to get him to sign off on the re-authorization of the Terrorist Surveillance Program. He wasn’t talking about this Terrorist Surveillance Program; he was talking about that Terrorist Surveillance Program. Got that? Clear as mud. And he never answered the question as to who it was who sent him on this mission in the first place. (As Vice President Cheney said the other night on CNN, he doesn’t recall who sent him, either. As is the case with all such I-can’t-recall non-denial denials from the Bush administration, the person who says “I can’t recall” is probably the one who did it.)

This didn’t cut it with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT):

“The Attorney General’s legalistic explanation of his misleading testimony under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week is not what one should expect from the top law enforcement officer of the United States. It is time for full candor to enforce the law and promote justice, rather than word parsing.

“The Attorney General has until the end of this week to correct and supplement his testimony. I hope he will take that opportunity to clarify the many issues on which he appears not to have been forthcoming and to tell the Senate Judiciary Committee and the American people the whole truth.”

Sounds like it’s time for a time-out for Mr. Gonzales.

Monday, July 30, 2007

A Long History of Deception

So is this outbreak of alleged perjury against Attorney General Alberto Gonzales a new twist on an otherwised unblemished career, or is it part of a pattern that goes back throughout his time in public office? The Washington Post has done some digging.

The accusation that Gonzales has been deceptive in his public remarks has erupted this summer into a full-blown political crisis for the Bush administration, as the beleaguered attorney general struggles repeatedly to explain to Congress the removal of a batch of U.S. attorneys, the wiretapping program and other actions.

In each case, Gonzales has appeared to lawmakers to be shielding uncomfortable facts about the Bush administration’s conduct on sensitive matters. A series of misstatements and omissions has come to define his tenure at the helm of the Justice Department and is the central reason that lawmakers in both parties have been trying for months to push him out of his job.

Yet controversy over Gonzales’s candor about George W. Bush’s conduct or policies has actually dogged him for more than a decade, since he worked for Bush in Texas.

[…]

“He’s a slippery fellow, and I think so intentionally,” said Richard L. Schott, a professor at the University of Texas’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. “He’s trying to keep the president’s secrets and to be a team player, even if it means prevaricating or forgetting convenient things.”

“This almost subconscious bond of loyalty” between the attorney general and the president “may be driving a lot of this,” said Schott, who has studied relations between the executive and legislative branches of government and the role of psychology in political behavior. “It’s obvious that Gonzales owes Bush his career. Part of his behavior comes from this gratitude and extreme loyalty to Bush.”

Bill Minutaglio, a University of Texas journalism professor and author of biographies of Gonzales and Bush, said Gonzales kept an “extremely, extremely low profile” in the three jobs Bush gave him in the Texas government — general counsel, secretary of state and judge on the Supreme Court — and had little practice before he came to Washington at responding publicly to stiff scrutiny. “The grilling he’s enduring right now is beyond anything he had ever experienced in his life. He was ill prepared for it,” Minutaglio said.

[…]

Questions about Gonzales’s willingness to shade the truth on Bush’s behalf came to prominence in the 1996 episode in which Bush was excused from Texas jury duty in a drunken-driving case. Bush was then the state’s governor, and Gonzales was his general counsel. If Bush had served, he probably would have had to disclose his own drunken-driving conviction in Maine two decades earlier.

The judge, prosecutor and defense attorney involved in the case have said that Gonzales met with the judge and argued that jury service would pose a potential conflict of interest for Bush, who could be asked to pardon the defendant. Gonzales has disputed that account. He made no mention of meeting with the judge in a written statement submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

It is one thing to be a legal representative for a client and work in that client’s best interest. But I also know that a lawyer that is willing to commit or condone perjury on behalf of his client or knowingly allow his client to do so is subject to disbarment and prosecution. This bit of the ethical canon of lawyers has somehow escaped the attention of Mr. Gonzales. Or, in his words, he doesn’t recall it.

What’s even more odd is that there are still Republicans who will defend Mr. Gonzales in spite of all the evidence that he clearly isn’t being honest with the Congress or the American people. Watching Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah sputter and snort on ABC’s This Week yesterday was almost sorrowful had it been not so comical. Mr. Hatch, who pulled out all the stops to go after Bill Clinton and carried on about the Rule of Law until Hell wouldn’t have it, made excuses and claimed that the only reason Mr. Gonzales has a “credibility problem” is because Congress is being so harsh on him. In other words, they’re doing their job. I don’t recall Mr. Hatch or other Republicans being so forgiving to the Clinton administration.

It also makes you wonder what tack they will take when it becomes all too obvious to them — should that happen — that Mr. Gonazales’s tenure at the Justice Department is not only a drain on the legal system but when it becomes an issue in the presidential campaign. Yet another YouTube question the Republicans won’t get asked because they chickened out of that debate: Would you tolerate the behavior of someone like Alberto Gonzales as a member of your cabinet?

No Respect

When I read this story I remembered the old Rodney Dangerfield line: “When I was a kid I was so unpopular that my parents tied a pork chop around my neck so the dog would play with me.”

On Fox News Sunday this morning, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) refused to defend Attorney General Alberto Gonzales against accusations that he may have perjured himself before Congress. “It’s very damaging…we badly need an attorney general who is above any question,” said Gingrich.

He continued: “Both the president and country are better served if the attorney general is a figure of competence. Sadly, the current attorney general is not seen as any of those things. I think it’s a liability for the president. More importantly, it’s a liability for the United States of America.”

Later in the show, host Chris Wallace revealed that no conservative would willingly defend Gonzales on Fox. “By the way, we invited White House officials and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee to defend Attorney General Gonzales,” said Wallace. “We had no takers.”

You know you’re up the creek when you can’t get Republicans to go on Fox News Sunday to defend you.

HT to TPM.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Busted

I know I’m not the first blogger to use that headline, but that’s all I could come up with when I saw this headline from the AP:

Documents contradict Gonzales’ testimony

That’s a passive-voice way of saying that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee when he testified earlier this week.

At a heated Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Gonzales repeatedly testified that the issue at hand was not about the terrorist surveillance program, which allowed the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on suspects in the United States without receiving court approval.

Instead, Gonzales said, the emergency meetings on March 10, 2004, focused on an intelligence program that he would not describe.

Gonzales, who was then serving as counsel to Bush, testified that the White House Situation Room briefing sought to inform congressional leaders about the pending expiration of the unidentified program and Justice Department objections to renew it. Those objections were led by then-Deputy Attorney General Jim Comey, who questioned the program’s legality.

“The dissent related to other intelligence activities,” Gonzales testified at Tuesday’s hearing. “The dissent was not about the terrorist surveillance program.”

“Not the TSP?” responded Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. “Come on. If you say it’s about other, that implies not. Now say it or not.”

“It was not,” Gonzales answered. “It was about other intelligence activities.”

A four-page memo from the national intelligence director’s office shows that the White House briefing with the eight lawmakers on March 10, 2004, was about the terror surveillance program, or TSP.

The memo, dated May 17, 2006, and addressed to then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert, details “the classification of the dates, locations, and names of members of Congress who attended briefings on the Terrorist Surveillance Program,” wrote then-Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte.

All we need now is Chris Hansen from Dateline NBC to walk in with his camera crew.

The inevitable and predictable response from the White House and the Department of Justice will be that Mr. Gonzales did not lie to the committee and that he stands by his testimony in spite of the numerous opportunities given him to correct or clarify his testimony both during the hearing and after. And of course there will be the usual chorus of righties who will defend Mr. Gonzales and say that there really were other programs, and hint darkly at the motives of those who have testified against Mr. Gonzales. This sounds remarkably like the obfuscation and parsing that went on during the last years of the Clinton administration when the president was clearly caught in a lie and his apologists came up with all sorts of excuses then. I didn’t like it then, and I sure as hell don’t like it now.

And neither did the wingnuts. They demanded the head (or something else) of Bill Clinton on a platter for lying about a blow job. They brushed aside all the excuses, they sneered at the VRWC, they demanded justice and impeachment. But faced with a similar situation, the wingnuts and the administration are coming up with excuses, alibis, and parsing that makes the definition of the word “is” as clear as mother’s milk. And yet they say they are the ones with the high moral standards. Maybe it’s because nobody — as far as we know — is getting a blow job. Maybe that’s what it takes to really get things going.

Okay, any volunteers?

Didn’t think so.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Gonzales to Senate: Beseme Culo

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales dug himself deeper into the abyss when he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, and it seems that the only person who has any confidence whatsoever is President Bush. Unfortunately, he’s the only one that matters.

Mr. Gonzales seems to be aware of it as well, so when he testified, he didn’t really care whether or not he pissed off anybody, including Republicans. He obfuscated, stonewalled, and basically told the senators to kiss his ass. Watch this little exchange between him and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) where the senator asks Mr. Gonzales a rather simple question:


It’s clear that Mr. Gonzales is doing this stonewalling at the behest of the White House, probably from the president himself. The president has made it clear to the Congress and the world what he thinks of the balance of power and the role of the other branches of government: they all exist to serve him and his interests, and if they don’t bend to his will, then the hell with them.

The problem with that is not just that the majority of the Senate, including some very exasperated Republicans, doesn’t trust anything that Mr. Gonzales says and that they clearly believe he holds them in contempt to the point that he is willing to commit perjury and shrug it off. It’s that he will be head of the Department of Justice until noon on January 20, 2009. A lot can happen in eighteen months.

For example, what if there is another terrorist attack? The right-wingers’ big talking point has been that there hasn’t been another terrorist attack since September 11, 2001, so Mr. Bush’s policies must be working. (They’re conveniently forgetting the anthrax attacks in September and October 2001; how’s that investigation going, by the way?) In the aftermath, one assumes that there will be some sort of investigation to find out why and how it happened. Congress and the people will want to know whether or not the much-vaunted policies undertaken by the Bush administration after the attacks on September 11, 2001, were effective and what the Department of Justice is going to do to prevent another attack in the future as well as learn from the mistakes we made leading up to this attack. But that seems to be a very low priority for this administration. Oh, they talk a good game about protecting America and preventing another attack, but so far all they’ve done is gin up a lot of fearmongering, find ways to get around the laws in place, and accuse anyone who questions their actions and priorities of being unpatriotic. And if there is another attack, whether it’s from al-Qaeda or the blond-haired blue-eyed batshit crazies of the Aryan Nations, all of that talk about the global war on terror will have been nothing but that: talk.

With the cooperation being demonstrated by the White House and the Attorney General, not to mention the distrust between the executive branch and the Congress, it’s hard to imagine that they will magically come together and try actually do the job that they are charged with doing: protecting the citizens and bringing the criminals to justice.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Perjury or Incompetence?

The Washington Post:

As he sought to renew the USA Patriot Act two years ago, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales assured lawmakers that the FBI had not abused its potent new terrorism-fighting powers. “There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse,” Gonzales told senators on April 27, 2005.

Six days earlier, the FBI sent Gonzales a copy of a report that said its agents had obtained personal information that they were not entitled to have. It was one of at least half a dozen reports of legal or procedural violations that Gonzales received in the three months before he made his statement to the Senate intelligence committee, according to internal FBI documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.

[…]

Justice officials said they could not immediately determine whether Gonzales read any of the FBI reports in 2005 and 2006 because the officials who processed them were not available yesterday. But department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said that when Gonzales testified, he was speaking “in the context” of reports by the department’s inspector general before this year that found no misconduct or specific civil liberties abuses related to the Patriot Act.

“The statements from the attorney general are consistent with statements from other officials at the FBI and the department,” Roehrkasse said. He added that many of the violations the FBI disclosed were not legal violations and instead involved procedural safeguards or even typographical errors.

Each of the violations cited in the reports copied to Gonzales was serious enough to require notification of the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board, which helps police the government’s surveillance activities. The format of each memo was similar, and none minced words.

“This enclosure sets forth details of investigative activity which the FBI has determined was conducted contrary to the attorney general’s guidelines for FBI National Security Investigations and Foreign Intelligence Collection and/or laws, executive orders and presidential directives,” said the April 21, 2005, letter to the Intelligence Oversight Board.

So, the question comes down to this: did Mr. Gonzales knowingly tell Congress a pack of lies when he testified, or doesn’t he pay attention to the reports that his own office is generating?

He’s apparently going with the latter.

Nonetheless, Gonzales reacted with surprise when the Justice Department inspector general reported this March that there were pervasive problems with the FBI’s handling of NSLs and another investigative tool known as an exigent circumstances letter.

“I was upset when I learned this, as was Director Mueller. To say that I am concerned about what has been revealed in this report would be an enormous understatement,” Gonzales said in a speech March 9, referring to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller. The attorney general added that he believed back in 2005, before the Patriot Act was renewed, that there were no problems with NSLs. “I’ve come to learn that I was wrong,” he said, making no mention of the FBI reports sent to him.

And yet President Bush retains the fullest confidence in Mr. Gonzales, praising him to the skies for being the best man for the job.

I don’t know about you, but if I pulled this kind of stuff at my job, I’d be in deep trouble. And if my boss didn’t care about whether or not I lied to the auditors or just said outright that I didn’t read the reports that showed we were violating the rules, I’d be really worried about the people I worked for…assuming I had the scruples to worry about things like that in the first place.

On another level, it really frightens me that a man like Mr. Gonzales is the chief law enforcement officer of the country. Whether he’s an active perjurer or just plain incompetent, it’s not exactly what you want in terms of the person charged with keeping this country safe and our civil rights protected.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Rovers In the Thick of It

New documents released by the Justice Department show that Karl Rove’s top aides; Sara Taylor, who resigned last month, and Scott Jennings, were deeply involved in the effort to get Tim Griffin, a protege of Mr. Rove, installed as a U.S. attorney, and weren’t too happy that Scott Cummins, the man Griffin replaced, was telling the media why he was terminated.

In the first exchange, Taylor writes to Kyle Sampson, Alberto Gonzales’ former chief of staff, and suggests retribution against Cummins for speaking out about the reason for his firing:

I normally don’t like attacking our friends, but since Bud Cummins is talking to everyone – why don’t we tell the deal on him?

In another set of emails from Feb. 16, Taylor again writes Sampson, complaining about how Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty and the Justice Department put Griffin in a “horrible position…hung to dry” by admitting that Cummins was pushed out specifically to make room for an ally of Rove. “[T]his is not good for [Griffin’s] long-term career,” Taylor writes.

In a third set of emails, Scott Jennings writes to Taylor and former Gonzales counsel Monica Goodling, suggesting the Justice Department remove a line from a press release implying that the administration would work to find another U.S. Attorney if Arkansas’ senators did not approve of Griffin.

The messages from Taylor and Jennings to the Justice officials are sent from their Republican National Committee email accounts. They provide new evidence that senior White House officials were intimately involved in the attorney scandal, and that the White House was still interested in installing Griffin as U.S. Attorney even after the controversy over the firings had become public. [Think Progress]

As we’ve heard so often during this whole sordid affair, these U.S. attorneys serve at the “pleasure of the president,” not at the whim of his political director to get his little buddy a cushy job.

And as the last paragraph notes, these e-mails were sent from the RNC e-mail accounts, not from the .gov accounts. That should tell you something: that these folks knew that what they were doing was outside of the system. As Xan notes over at Corrente Wire:

Now can we get those subpoenas to Chattanooga Rep. Waxman? There is no longer any way anybody can claim that “those RNChq.com and gwb43.com and other Smartech emails were just used for political matters.” These mails were entirely about government business, to wit the US Attorney positions. They should have gone through the legal, mandatory, US Archivist-recorded .gov email system. They did not. Case fucking closed already, dammit. Rove can call it a fishing expedition all he wants. At one point it might have been possible to negotiate using seine nets and bottom trawlers. Rove figured he was gonna get away with it yet again so he went all-in. It’s time to go fishing with dynamite.

You get a line, I’ll get a pole…

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

That Was Dumb

About the only two people in the country who think that Alberto Gonzales should keep his job as the Attorney General are President Bush and Mr. Gonzales. Other than that, the consensus is that he’s incompetent, a toady, and, at worst, a liar and a hack.

That said, I’m still trying to figure out why the Democrats bothered to come up with this “no confidence” resolution. It was doomed to failure from the beginning, and even if it had, by some miracle, passed, it has no force of law.

It did, however, prove two things: the GOP will still come to the defense of the indefensible if they know they can score political points at the peril of the Democrats, and the Democrats have yet to learn that even when they’re in the majority they can still screw things up when they don’t plan their moves carefully.

The first move, of course, would not have been to propose the resolution in the first place. All it did was hand the GOP a very nice list of talking points for the sound bite circus and re-emphasize the idea that all the Democrats want to do is beat up on the poor minority Republicans — in spite of the glaring irony that that’s exactly what they did when they were in power.

The second move was that if they were going to go ahead with this bonehead ploy anyway, they should have counted the votes again and again to be sure they had enough to even get it past the filibuster stage before they even announced that they were going to propose the thing in the first place. Meaningless or not, having a vote like this go down without even getting past the preliminaries — and especially when it’s a personal rebuke — serves no purpose except to prove that the Democrats can’t get their shit together.

I will say this for the Democrats; it’s not easy to make a bunch of incompetent and malicious hacks look sympathetic, but they did it. That’s not exactly a talent you want to brag about.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Cheney Urged Wiretaps

This latest tidbit of news doesn’t really come as a big surprise.

Vice President Cheney told Justice Department officials that he disagreed with their objections to a secret surveillance program during a high-level White House meeting in March 2004, a former senior Justice official told senators yesterday.

The meeting came one day before White House officials tried to get approval for the same program from then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, who lay recovering from surgery in a hospital, according to former deputy attorney general James B. Comey.

Comey’s disclosures, made in response to written questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee, indicate that Cheney and his aides were more closely involved than previously known in a fierce internal battle over the legality of the warrantless surveillance program. The program allowed the National Security Agency to monitor phone calls and e-mails between the United States and overseas.

Comey said that Cheney’s office later blocked the promotion of a senior Justice Department lawyer, Patrick Philbin, because of his role in raising concerns about the surveillance.

The last part — where the vice president put the kibosh on the promotion of a lawyer who dared to stand up to the administration’s attempts to circumvent the rule of law — isn’t much of a shock either.

Philbin was one of two Justice Department officials who led a review of the classified program and provided some of the research that led Comey to refuse to endorse it, Comey said.

“Mr. Comey has confirmed what we suspected for a while that White House hands guided Justice Department business,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who is leading the Senate’s investigation. “The vice president’s fingerprints are all over the effort to strong-arm Justice on the NSA program.”

[…]

According to Comey, Philbin later was considered for a promotion to be principal deputy solicitor general-lieutenant to the lawyer who represents the government before the Supreme Court.

“It was my understanding that the vice president’s office blocked that appointment,” Comey said in his written remarks.

If the plan of the loyal Bushies has been to just numb us into stunned silence by their constant stream of illegal, immoral, and vindictive actions, it’s the one thing they’ve excelled at.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The List and the Lies

When Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified before Congress last week, he stated that only eight prosecutors — that he knew of — had been selected for termination.

Well, guess what. The Washington Post reports that between February 2005 and Decemebr 2006, as many as 26 U.S. attorneys were on a list to be fired.

They amounted to more than a quarter of the nation’s 93 U.S. attorneys. Thirteen of those known to have been targeted are still in their posts.

It is unclear how many knew they had been considered for removal. When asked yesterday about her inclusion on the lists, U.S. Attorney Paula Silsby of Maine said: “Really? I wasn’t aware of that.” Silsby’s name crops up frequently, first in February 2005 and subsequently three more times, most recently a month before most of the dismissals were carried out last December.

The number of names on the lists demonstrates the breadth of the search for prosecutors to dismiss. The names also hint at a casual process in which the people who were most consistently considered for replacement were not always those ultimately told to leave.

When shown the lists of firing candidates late yesterday, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), perhaps the most outspoken critic of the way Gonzales handled the prosecutor dismissals, said they “show how amok this process was.”

“When you start firing people for invalid reasons, just about anyone can end up on a list,” he said. “It looks like the process was out of control, and if it hadn’t been discovered, more would have been fired.”

Josh Marshall at TPM suggests that the scatter-shot process of suggested terminations fits into a scenario that went from being the normal process at the beginning of the Bush second term to becoming a political weapon — both offensive and defensive — as things got nasty.

If you look over the broad scattering of documents thus far released on the Attorney Purge, there’s at least an argument to be made that it unfolds something like this. Someone gets the bright idea, very early in 2005 to can all of the US Attorneys or a lot of them. But for one reason or another the idea gets rejected or just dies a slow bureaucratic death. However it happens, by the end of 2005 the idea’s basically moribund.

But then in early 2006 some problems come up — a rising wave of Republican corruption scandals and declining Republican political fortunes. And the US Attorney Purge idea gets revived — but now with a much more specific focus, with an eye toward the 2006 and 2008 elections. Certain US Attorneys become more of a problem with expanding corruption investigations.

There has also been the suggestion that the mass-firings approach was one way of covering up the real target of the White House: Patrick Fitzgerald, the prosecutor who got the conviction of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

It sounds as if we’re getting into tin-foil-hat paranoia to suggest that, but given what’s gone on at the behest of the White House, including a phone call from the president that prompted a hospital visit to the critically ill Attorney General at the time, John Ashcroft (and the threat of mass resignations in retaliation), it doesn’t sound so far-fetched.

It also could explain why Mr. Gonzales may face questions about whether or not he lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee when he stated that there was no disagreement in the Justice Department about the renewal of the warrantless wiretapping going on in violation of the FISA act. The testimony of James Comey seems to contradict that of Mr. Gonzales, but the Justice Department is sticking to their story. Well, what choice do they have?

It’s just another link in the chain that is slowly being put together to prove that the Department of Justice was just another political operation. We all know who is in charge of that in this administration: Karl Rove. So far the trail to Mr. Rove has been very well covered — the subpoena to the DOJ for his e-mails in the matter of the attorney purge has come up with what amounts to zilch, but Next week we’ll be finding out a bit more about his role in all of this when Monica Goodling, the former DOJ White House liaison testifies under a grant of immunity. That could be interesting.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Bedside Manners

This is creepy on so many levels.

On the night of March 10, 2004, as Attorney General John D. Ashcroft lay ill in an intensive-care unit, his deputy, James B. Comey, received an urgent call.

White House Counsel Alberto R. Gonzales and President Bush’s chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., were on their way to the hospital to persuade Ashcroft to reauthorize Bush’s domestic surveillance program, which the Justice Department had just determined was illegal.

In vivid testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, Comey said he alerted FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and raced, sirens blaring, to join Ashcroft in his hospital room, arriving minutes before Gonzales and Card. Ashcroft, summoning the strength to lift his head and speak, refused to sign the papers they had brought. Gonzales and Card, who had never acknowledged Comey’s presence in the room, turned and left.

[…]

“I was angry,” Comey testified. “I thought I just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man, who did not have the powers of the attorney general because they had been transferred to me.”

The broad outlines of the hospital-room conflict have been reported previously, but without Comey’s gripping detail of efforts by Card, who has left the White House, and Gonzales, now the attorney general. His account appears to present yet another challenge to the embattled Gonzales, who has strongly defended the surveillance program’s legality and is embroiled in a battle with Congress over the dismissals of nine U.S. attorneys last year.

It’s like something out of The Sopranos, but even Tony and his boys have the decency to leave someone who is in pain alone and allow them to get their rest. They wait until he’s back on his feet before they ambush him.

Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Card eventually got around it by going to the president, who allowed the warrantless wiretapping program to go on without the approval of the Justice Department, and in the process avoided mass resignations (vide the Saturday Day Night Massacre). Nothing like a little turf war to get the juices flowing.

Meanwhile, Mr. Gonzales continues to dig himself in deeper. Yesterday he found a new person to blame for the firings of the eight or more U.S. attorneys: Paul McNulty, his deputy who had just announced his resignation.

“You have to remember, at the end of the day, the recommendations reflected the views of the deputy attorney general,” Gonzales said at the National Press Club. “The deputy attorney general would know best about the qualifications and the experiences of the United States attorneys community, and he signed off on the names,” he added.

Those comments appear to differ, at least in emphasis, from earlier remarks by Gonzales, who has previously laid much of the responsibility for the dismissals on his ex-chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson. They stand in contrast to testimony and statements from McNulty, who has acknowledged signing off on the firings but has told Congress he was surprised when he heard about the effort.

At some point Mr. Gonzales, in true Republican and loyal Bushie fashion, will figure out a way to blame it all on the Clinton administration.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The Last Thing They Need

There’s another reason — besides adolescent stubbornness — that President Bush does not want Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to leave office. Aside from the fact that he’s afraid to be seen as caving into the Democrats (as well as a bunch of Republicans), according to former Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman, who served on the House Judiciary Committee that impeached Richard Nixon, the last thing the White House wants to go through is a confirmation hearing for the next AG.

Already, the Senate is outlining conditions for confirming a Gonzales successor. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has said that his panel would not hold confirmation hearings unless Karl Rove and other White House aides testify about the firing of U.S. attorneys to clarify whether “the White House has interfered with prosecution.”

All this is reminiscent of the Watergate scandal. In 1973, as the coverup was unraveling, the Senate imposed a condition on the confirmation of President Nixon’s nominee for attorney general, Elliot Richardson. Richardson’s predecessor had resigned because of Watergate troubles. Concerned that the Justice Department would not get at the truth, the Senate insisted that Richardson would name a special prosecutor to investigate Watergate. Richardson duly appointed Archibald Cox.

The rest is history. Cox’s aggressive investigations led to the prosecution of top administration officials and the naming of Nixon as an unindicted co-conspirator in the coverup. When Cox sought White House tapes of Nixon’s conversations with his staff, the president had him fired, unleashing a firestorm of protests. Americans demanded that a previously reluctant Congress start impeachment proceedings against Nixon. Congress complied; the House Judiciary Committee, of which I was a member, voted for impeachment, and Nixon resigned.

Aspects of this history could easily repeat themselves. The Senate could demand, as it did in 1973, that a new attorney general appoint a special prosecutor, and this could again have dire consequences for the White House.

A new special prosecutor would have many questions to investigate.

[…]

Rather than face such scrutiny, the White House may prefer keeping a drastically weakened Gonzales in place. But doing so exacts a high price for the Justice Department and the nation. It damages department morale and credibility, undermines its ability to recruit and could affect perceptions of federal prosecutors, jeopardizing important cases. By retaining Gonzales to preempt Senate action, the president has signaled that this is a price he is willing to make the nation pay.

So, what’s more important to the Bush administration? Doing the public’s business, or keeping themselves out of trouble and possibly jail?

Or is that a dumb question?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Reality Bite

From the Washington Post, Republicans get candid about Attorney General Gonzales:

“Everybody at the White House . . . all think he needs to go, but the president doesn’t,” said a Republican who consulted the Bush team yesterday. Another White House ally said Bush and Gonzales are ignoring reality: “They’re the only two people on the planet Earth who don’t see it.”

As noted previously, they never will.