Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Wednesday, March 14th, 2007.


Rudy News

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Bush Administration

Just a couple of quick notes on Rudy Giuliani — Rudy’s close buddy and one-time Director of Homeland Security nominee Bernie Kerik rejected a federal plea deal that would have required prison time. Bernie is suspected of mortgage fraud, tax fraud, conspiracy to eavesdrop and making false statements on his application to become U.S. Homeland Security Secretary. See No More Mr. Nice Blog for more.

Rudy also was a conspicuous no show at the International Association of Firefighters convention. Reuters reports:

Giuliani angered the 280,000-member union when he cut off efforts to recover the remains of September 11 victims before all had been found.

IAFF President Harold Schaitberger said Giuliani’s actions were “so egregious” that union leaders debated whether to invite him, although they ultimately did.

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Who’s Worse?

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Bush Administration

[Update: Senator John Ensign, Republican of Nevada, is on Hardball right now saying that Daniel Bogden, the former U.S. attorney for Nevada, had been doing a superb job and should not have been fired. Senator Ensign said Bogden was fired for the “wrong reasons,” but he stopped short of saying Alberto Gonzales had done anything unethical. MSNBC is also saying that Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) is calling for Gonzales to resign.]

This Wall Street Journal editorial claims,

At the time, President Clinton presented the move as something perfectly ordinary: “All those people are routinely replaced,” he told reporters, “and I have not done anything differently.” In fact, the dismissals were unprecedented: Previous Presidents, including Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, had both retained holdovers from the previous Administration and only replaced them gradually as their tenures expired. This allowed continuity of leadership within the U.S. Attorney offices during the transition.

Guess again. Six years ago today the Department of Justice issued this press release:

WHITE HOUSE AND JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
BEGIN U.S. ATTORNEY TRANSITION

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Continuing the practice of new administrations, President Bush and the Department of Justice have begun the transition process for most of the 93 United States Attorneys.

Attorney General Ashcroft said, “We are committed to making this an orderly transition to ensure effective, professional law enforcement that reflects the President ‘s priorities.”

In January of this year, nearly all presidential appointees from the previous administration offered their resignations. Two Justice Department exceptions were the United States Attorneys and United States Marshals.

Prior to the beginning of this transition process, nearly one-third of the United States Attorneys had already submitted their resignations. The White House and the Department of Justice have begun to schedule transition dates for most of the remaining United States Attorneys to occur prior to June of this year. President Bush will make announcements regarding his nominations to the Senate of new United States Attorneys as that information becomes available. Pending confirmation of the President’s nominees, the Attorney General will make appointments of Interim United States Attorneys for a period of 120 days (28USC546). Upon the expiration of that appointment, the authority rests with the United States District Court (28USC546(d)).

As for Reagan, according to the Associated Press Reagan fired all the sitting U.S. attorneys when he took office in 1981:

When the party in the White House changes hands, it is common for the new president to fire all the sitting U.S. attorneys, as Ronald Reagan did in 1981 and Bill Clinton in 1993.

I don’t have independent corroboration of what the AP says, so I am not going to assume the AP is right and the WSJ is wrong. But, surely, one of them is wrong. And if WSJ is wrong, then somebody should break the news to rightie blogger Macranger, who claims “Never in the history of US Attorney replacements has a President fired all 93 US Attorneys – never.” In the real world, “never” means pretty much every time the White House changes parties.

This afternoon President Bush made a statement about the U.S. attorney scandal

I do have confidence in Attorney General Al Gonzales. I talked to him this morning, and we talked about his need to go up to Capitol Hill and make it very clear to members in both political parties why the Justice Department made the decisions it made, making very clear about the facts. And he’s right, mistakes were made. And I’m, frankly, not happy about it, because there is a lot of confusion over what really has been a customary practice by the Presidents. U.S. attorneys and others serve at the pleasure of the President. Past administrations have removed U.S. attorneys; they’re right to do so.

Think Progress says, um, no. It is not customary practice to fire attorneys in mid-term.

Mass firings are common when a president takes office. But as current and former administration officials have confirmed, Bush’s purge of well-qualified prosecutors is unprecedented.

See also McClatchy Newspapers.

Mass firings of U.S. attorneys are fairly common when a new president takes office, but not in a second-term administration. Prosecutors are usually appointed for four-year terms, but they are usually allowed to stay on the job if the president who appointed them is re-elected.

Even as they planned mass firings by the Bush White House, Justice Department officials acknowledged it would be unusual for the president to oust his own appointees. Although Bill Clinton ordered the wholesale removal of U.S. attorneys when he took office to remove Republican holdovers, his replacement appointees stayed for his second term.

Ronald Reagan also kept his appointees for his second term.

So, in the real world, “never” is “fairly common.” (Somebody really ought to tell Macranger.)

The WSJ editorial linked above is full of dark hints about Clinton’s interference with a pending indictment of Dan Rostenkowski (who was indicted, anyway) and slithering out of whatever the Clintons were guilty of regarding Whitewater. (How many years and how many million dollars did taxpayers spend investigating the Clintons’ involvement in Whitewater? And how many indictments were brought regarding the Clintons involvement inWhitewater? As I recall, none. Yet the righties still can’t believe the Clintons really weren’t guilty of something regarding Whitewater. Pathetic.)

But if we’re playing “my politician is less guilty than yours,” let’s pretend for a minute that tomorrow we turn up evidence that Bill Clinton really did intend to interfere with the indictment of Dan Rostenkowski. Unless appearances are extremely deceiving, the Bush White House would still be more guilty.

Appearances say Karl Rove and Co. were trying to turn the federal judicial system into a tool for getting Republicans elected and keeping Republicans in office. That’s a lot bigger deal than doing a favor for Dan Rostenkowski.

I say they’re worse.

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Speaking of Whitewater …

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Bush Administration, U.S. Attorneys

Just read Joe Conason’s column. Amazing.

Many ugly things are crawling out from under a great many rocks …

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Old Rightie Lies Never Die

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Bush Administration, Karl Rove, U.S. Attorneys

First, I want to thank everyone for the input into my hypothesis for the Stages of Rightie Reaction to a Republican Scandal. I definitely want to re-work this into something more ambitious. If anyone knows a good cartoonist/illustrator, chase ’em my way.

Along these lines, I want to share with you this charming email received this morning from Greg S.:

How come, as a journalist, you failed to report that Janet Reno demanded the resignations of all federal prosecutors? The NYT ran the story on 3/23/93. I guess it’s only political when a Republican culls the herd. You should have no problem getting a job in the New York area. You bozo’s all think and act alike, I’m sure some going out of business newspaper will pick you up.

Here is my response:

Greg: How come you can’t read? I’ve brought up the Janet Reno episode several times in the past few weeks. The last time I mentioned it was yesterday, in this post . I also brought it up on March 9 in this post.

I wrote about it extensively in these posts, which I urge you to read:

January 18: ” U.S. Attorneys: It’s the Replacing, Stupid

In the post linked I dug some stories from 1993 about Janet Reno’s firing of the attorneys out of the New York Times archives and quoted from them at length. You really should read it and educate yourself about what really happened, because you are embarrassing yourself by being ignorant of the facts.

February 16: “Drooling Idiot Alert

The “drooling idiot” post was inspired by a comment I had received from some other pea-brain rightie who demanded to know why I didn’t report that Janet Reno had asked for the resignation of all federal prosecutors. What was hysterically funny about that was that the drooling idiot had made this comment to a post in which I had extensively discussed Janet Reno’s firing of the attorneys.

BTW, why is it you righties all have the reading comprehension level of gnats?

I also mentioned the Janet Reno episode on January 19.

You can apologize to me whenever you’re ready.

Of course, he’s not going to apologize. He’ll slink off somewhere, whining that I was mean to him. Righties are so pathetic.

But this encounter made me think about where this kind of reaction falls on the “reaction” scale. It’s so typical I definitely need to work it in somewhere.

As I have explained at great length already, it is standard procedure for a new administration to ask for the resignations of the the former president’s attorneys, particularly if the former president was from the other party. U.S. attorneys serve for four-year terms, so as a rule when a new administration begins their terms are about to expire, anyway. George W. Bush asked for the resignations of most of Clinton’s attorneys, and replaced them with his own appointees, in 2001.

[Update: I just found this paragraph in an Associated Press story

When the party in the White House changes hands, it is common for the new president to fire all the sitting U.S. attorneys, as Ronald Reagan did in 1981 and Bill Clinton in 1993. By contrast, Bush allowed some to stay on the job for several months when he took office in 2001, although all were replaced eventually.

In 1993, the Dems should have been shrieking “Reagan did it, too!”]

As I have said before, replacing U.S. attorneys is not, in itself, scandalous. However, as explained at length in the posts linked above, the circumstances surrounding the recent replacements make these replacements grossly unethical if not illegal.

The Right Wing Noise Machine raised a huge stink when Janet Reno made the very routine and long anticipated request for the resignation of the Republican-appointed attorneys, which was all of them. (The Clinton Administration, for some reason, allowed one prosecutor to stay over — Michael Chertoff. Very weird. There’s probably a story behind that.) The Machine pretended there was something sinister about the firing of the attorneys and accused Bill Clinton of getting rid of all of them just to interfere with an investigation of Rep. Dan Rostenkowski. (The investigation was not stopped; Rostenkowski would be indicted in 1994.)

This huge stink was just part of their ongoing campaign to smear, bash, discredit, and destroy the Clinton Administration any way it could, honest or dishonest. The Right’s knuckle-dragging followers dutifully got all worked up about it, and we see now that many of them still are.

ABC News is reporting that Senator Hillary Clinton is calling for the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Righties who reacted with “nyah nyah Clinton did it to” (Stage 4) include: Macsmind (who, remarkably, somehow connects the U.S. attorneys to then-First Lady Clinton’s health care proposals), Gateway Pundit, Betsy Newmark, and the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Congratulations to the first three for being brainless stooges, and to WSJ for so diligently doing its job as a propaganda machine.

A clue about how these replacings are different — the Seattle Times reports today:

Former Washington state Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance acknowledged Tuesday that he contacted then-U.S. Attorney John McKay to inquire about the status of federal investigations into the 2004 governor’s race while the outcome was still in dispute.

Vance also spoke regularly with presidential adviser Karl Rove’s aides about the election, which Democrat Christine Gregoire ultimately won by 129 votes over Republican Dino Rossi. But Vance said he doesn’t recall discussing with the White House McKay’s performance or Republicans’ desires for a formal federal investigation. …

… Vance is one of at least two Republican officials who called McKay to inquire about a possible investigation by his office into the governor’s race. …

…Vance said he felt compelled to approach McKay as a fellow Republican.

“Republican activists were furious because they felt that you had a Republican secretary of state [Sam Reed], a Republican county prosecutor in Norm Maleng and a Republican U.S. attorney, but still they saw the governorship slipping away, and they were just angry,” Vance said.

Combine that story with this March 7 story from the Seattle Post-Ingelligencer, and it’s hard not to conclude that McKay’s firing was punishment for not convening a grand jury and seeking indictments against Democrats in the Gregoire election. McKay says he couldn’t find enough evidence of voter fraud to convene a grand jury; apparently, that was no excuse.

From an editorial in today’s New York Times:

Among the documents is e-mail sent to Ms. Miers by Kyle Sampson, Mr. Gonzales’s chief of staff, ranking United States attorneys on factors like “exhibited loyalty.” Small wonder, then that United States Attorney Carol Lam of San Diego was fired. She had put one Republican congressman, Duke Cunningham, in jail and had opened an inquiry that put others at risk, along with party donors.

More disturbing details have come out about Mr. Iglesias’s firing. We knew he was ousted six weeks after Senator Pete Domenici, Republican of New Mexico, made a wildly inappropriate phone call in which he asked if Mr. Iglesias intended to indict Democrats before last November’s election in a high-profile corruption scandal. We now know that Mr. Domenici took his complaints to Mr. Bush.

After Mr. Iglesias was fired, the deputy White House counsel, William Kelley, wrote in an e-mail note that Mr. Domenici’s chief of staff was “happy as a clam.” Another e-mail note, from Mr. Sampson, said Mr. Domenici was “not even waiting for Iglesias’s body to cool” before getting his list of preferred replacements to the White House. …

…The Justice Department has been saying that it is committed to putting Senate-confirmed United States attorneys in every jurisdiction. But the newly released documents make it clear that the department was making an end run around the Senate — for baldly political reasons. Congress should broaden the investigation to determine whether any other prosecutors were forced out for not caving in to political pressure — or kept on because they did.

There was, for example, the decision by United States Attorney Chris Christie of New Jersey to open an investigation of Senator Bob Menendez just before his hotly contested re-election last November. Republicans, who would have held the Senate if Mr. Menendez had lost, used the news for attack ads. Then there was the career United States attorney in Guam who was removed by Mr. Bush in 2002 after he started investigating the superlobbyist Jack Abramoff. The prosecutor was replaced. The investigation was dropped.

In mid-December 2006, Mr. Gonzales’s aide, Mr. Sampson, wrote to a White House counterpart that using the Patriot Act to fire the Arkansas prosecutor and replace him with Mr. Rove’s man was risky — Congress could revoke the authority. But, he wrote, “if we don’t ever exercise it, then what’s the point of having it?”

Sort of how I’m feeling about impeachment power these days.

Update: McClatchy Newspapers explains

Mass firings of U.S. attorneys are fairly common when a new president takes office, but not in a second-term administration. Prosecutors are usually appointed for four-year terms, but they are usually allowed to stay on the job if the president who appointed them is re-elected.

Even as they planned mass firings by the Bush White House, Justice Department officials acknowledged it would be unusual for the president to oust his own appointees. Although Bill Clinton ordered the wholesale removal of U.S. attorneys when he took office to remove Republican holdovers, his replacement appointees stayed for his second term.

Ronald Reagan also kept his appointees for his second term. …

… Nonetheless, Bush aide Dan Bartlett noted Clinton’s first term firings in defending Bush’s second term dismissals.

“Those discretionary decisions made by a president, by an administration, are often done,” he told reporters Tuesday.

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