Hacktacular

Bush Administration

What would we do without Murray Waas? Today he writes,

Shortly before Attorney General Alberto Gonzales advised President Bush last year on whether to shut down a Justice Department inquiry regarding the administration’s warrantless domestic eavesdropping program, Gonzales learned that his own conduct would likely be a focus of the investigation, according to government records and interviews.

Bush personally intervened to sideline the Justice Department probe in April 2006 by taking the unusual step of denying investigators the security clearances necessary for their work.

My prediction: Although Bush will continue to stubbornly refuse to let him go, I suspect Alberto will be forced to resign eventually.

President Bush’s shutting down of the Justice Department probe was disclosed in July. However, it has not been previously reported that investigators were about to question at least two crucial witnesses and examine documents that might have shed light on Gonzales’s role in authorizing and overseeing the eavesdropping program.

There are a lot of juicy bits in Waas’s report, and you should read it all. But I want to crash ahead to “Hyper Hacks: What’s really wrong with the Bush Justice Department” by Lincoln Caplan at Slate.

The White House and DoJ are now under fire because, in disrespecting the post of U.S. attorney, they appeared to interfere with the independence of that office in a way that’s unprecedented. In the previous quarter-century, according to the Congressional Research Service, no more than five and perhaps only two U.S. attorneys, out of 486 appointed by a president and confirmed by the Senate, have been similarly forced out—in the middle of a presidential term for reasons not related to misconduct. “It would be unprecedented for the Department of Justice or the president to ask for the resignations of United States attorneys during an administration, except in rare instances of misconduct or for other significant cause,” White said when she testified in February about the Bush firings before much was known about them. Previous midterm removals include those of a Reagan U.S. attorney fired and convicted for leaking confidential information and a Clinton appointee who resigned under pressure after he lost a major drug case and allegedly went to an adult club and bit a topless dancer on the arm. This time, the stories are quite different.

Here’s a juicy bit I hadn’t heard before:

A previous low point for the Justice Department came almost two decades ago, during the Reagan years, when the switchboard sometimes answered, “Ninth Street Disillusionment Center” and the graffiti “Resign,” “Leave,” and “Sleaze” were scrawled on walls near the office of Attorney General Ed Meese. In 1988, six prominent Republicans resigned. Led by William Weld, then-head of DoJ’s criminal division and later the governor of Massachusetts, they said they believed that the Justice Department was too impaired to enforce the law. These political appointees left behind a dispirited bureaucracy. But Meese didn’t really tamper with the ranks of career attorneys, who don’t normally come and go with the president, or with the department’s basic apparatus for enforcement, including the U.S. attorneys’ offices.

Now, note this:

In the Bush years, by contrast, senior political appointees have applied a political litmus test to the work of career lawyers and punished them for failing it. William Yeomans, a lawyer in the department’s Civil Rights Division from 1981 until 2005, told part of this story in Legal Affairs, the magazine I edited. Many leading career attorneys—they number in the dozens—have been forced out, removed, or transferred. In a concerted effort by the Bush administration to remake the career staff, Yeomans says, these veterans were replaced by the hirees of political appointees, chosen with no input from the longtime career staff.

Yeomans also recounted the division’s retreat from defending traditional civil rights. Of many examples, the most dramatic involve lack of enforcement of the Voting Rights Act because the beneficiaries would likely support Democratic candidates.

Remember what Paul Krugman wrote awhile back —

Donald Shields and John Cragan, two professors of communication, have compiled a database of investigations and/or indictments of candidates and elected officials by U.S. attorneys since the Bush administration came to power. Of the 375 cases they identified, 10 involved independents, 67 involved Republicans, and 298 involved Democrats. The main source of this partisan tilt was a huge disparity in investigations of local politicians, in which Democrats were seven times as likely as Republicans to face Justice Department scrutiny.

You should read all of the Caplan article, too. And finally, Sidney Blumenthal writes that “All Roads Lead to Rove.”

Rove was the conduit for Republican political grievances about the U.S. attorneys. He was the fulcrum and the lever. He was the collector of information and the magnet of power. He was the originator, formulator and director. But, initially, according to the administration, like Gonzales, he supposedly knew nothing and did nothing.

Even after the administration alibis had collapsed, the White House trotted out Dan Bartlett, the cool and calm communications director, to engage in a bit of cognitive dissonance. There was no plot, and maybe Rove was involved in the thing that didn’t happen. “You’re trying to connect a lot of dots that aren’t connectible,” Bartlett said, adding, “It wouldn’t be surprising that Karl or other people were receiving these complaints.” Thus the “dots” are invisible and Rove is at their center.

To the extent that the facts are known, Rove keeps surfacing in the middle of the scandal. And it is implausible that Sampson, the latest designated fall guy, was responsible for an elaborate bureaucratic coup d’état. Nor is it credible that Gonzales — or Harriet Miers, who has yet to be heard — saw or heard no evil. Neither is it reasonable that Gonzales or Miers, both once Bush’s personal attorneys in Texas, getting him out of scrapes such as his drunken driving arrest, could be the political geniuses behind the firings. Gonzales’ and Miers’ service is notable for their obedience, lack of originality and eagerness to act as tools. The scheme bears the marks of Rove’s obsessions, methods and sources. His history contains a wealth of precedents in which he manipulated law enforcement for political purposes. And his long-term strategy for permanent Republican control of government depended on remaking the federal government to create his ultimate goal — a one-party state.

Read all of Blumenthal, too.

I predicted above that Alberto Gonzales will be forced to resign eventually. As Blumenthal writes, the White House’s first instinct is always to protect Karl Rove. If it comes to that, Bush will sacrifice Alberto to protect Karl.

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14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Lynne  •  Mar 15, 2007 @11:55 am

    Wow. Powerful stuff, explains a lot. I agree with you r last sentence; we can almost see it coming.

  2. joanr16  •  Mar 15, 2007 @12:05 pm

    In the end I think it’s all going to boil down to the voting-rights crimes, the Repugs’ concerted efforts to disenfranchise the poor, people of color, and pretty much anybody suspected of voting Dem who was unlikely to cry foul.

    Here’s to an interesting summer.

  3. Swami  •  Mar 15, 2007 @12:37 pm

    I’m wondering whether once the officals from the Justice Dept. are sworn in under oath and giving testimony about the firings, if the Congressional panel can throw them a curve ball and ask about questions regarding the sidelining of the Justice Dept probe mentioned in Wass’s article above. To me it seems relevant because its all playing politics with justice . And it could create a situation where it becomes every man for himself.

  4. patrick  •  Mar 15, 2007 @12:47 pm

    I’d like to see Democrats stop calling for Gonzales’s resignation. That just gives cover to the White House, which can hold off for awhile to show their loyalty, and then finally, sadly, regrettably, fling him under the bus and pretend they’ve (once again) taken care of the old bad apple.

    A much better approach, I think, is the one Leahy took on All Things Considered Tuesday. Asked why he’s not calling for resignation, Leahy said,

    I said that the attorney general serves at the pleasure of the president. The president has to determine whether this is the kind of operation that he wants, that he is comfortable with, this withholding of information, this politicizing of prosecutors. If that’s the standard that President Bush thinks he should have for his administration, then that’s his decision.

    Right now, what I want to do is find out everything that happened. I want to do it with this attorney general.

    This should be a coordinated response from Congress: “If the President wants this guy as his AG, that’s his business; our business is getting to the bottom of what happened.” That leaves Bush on the hook.

  5. Sachem515  •  Mar 15, 2007 @3:03 pm

    As much as this occupies our minds today, it’s important to remember that this is the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Criminal conspiracies and treasonist acts have been part of DoJ for 6 long years now.

    If you don’t know Sibel Edmonds story, watch the video. She has been trying for years to get this out, and is petitioning Waxman for a hearing.

  6. Sachem515  •  Mar 15, 2007 @3:38 pm

    I posted the wrong Sibel Edmonds video above.

  7. Sachem515  •  Mar 15, 2007 @3:39 pm
  8. britwit  •  Mar 15, 2007 @3:54 pm

    Bottom line- Every person trotting out on behalf of Bush has stated, “they serve at President’s (whatever the word is)-approval, leasure, WHATEVER–

    Bottom line – BUSH didn’t like it especially Abranoff investigation, etc. ODD, that Bush would be concerned about Voter Fraud-

    Bush told TurdBlosson and so it goes.

  9. Donna  •  Mar 15, 2007 @4:35 pm

    Well, I guess the Libby indictment was just an appetizer…. the meaty meal to be served next… cooking the crooks. Thank God!

  10. Swami  •  Mar 15, 2007 @4:41 pm
  11. Sachem515  •  Mar 15, 2007 @6:47 pm

    And then there is this letter from Durbin, Kennedy, Feingold and Schumer about the investigation of the NSA wiretap program that involved Gonzo when he was still Bush’s Consigliere.

    If he’s not toast, the rule of law is, and in that case we should have a Jazz funeral for the republic.

  12. erinyes  •  Mar 15, 2007 @7:04 pm

    Interesting Swami. Beware the ides of March………

  13. Minor Ripper  •  Mar 15, 2007 @8:45 pm

    Quite frankly I’ve found this Dept. of Justice firings business very complicated, and a bit boring. Thankfully, Jon Stewart explains it to me in this video:
    http://minor-ripper.blogspot.com/2007/03/jon-stewart-explains-department-of.html

  14. Undeniable Liberal  •  Mar 16, 2007 @8:46 pm

    I feel like Jesus can’t possibly love that much…….ITMFA!