Action Alert

Make a Phone Call for the Constitution

Emails and faxes are good, too.

Update: ABC News —

A Democratic-led congressional panel defied President George W. Bush on Wednesday and authorized legal orders to force several White House aides to testify under oath about the firing of eight U.S. prosecutors.

Subpoenas! Here’s the news release from the House Judiciary Committee.

Judiciary Subcommittee Authorizes Chairman Conyers to Issue Subpoenas in US Attorney Investigation

(Washington, DC)- Today, the House Judiciary Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee (CAL) voted to authorize the full committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) to issue subpoenas for current and former White House and Justice Department officials Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, William Kelley, Scott Jennings and Kyle Sampson, as well as documents that the Committee has not yet received.

“The White House’s offer provides nothing more than conversations. It does not allow this Committee to get the information we need without transcripts or oaths,” Conyers said. “This motion allows the Committee to pursue good faith negotiations. We are continuing our talks with the White House, along with the Senate, but we must protect the interest of the Congress and the American people by maintaining the option to move forward with our investigation with or without continued cooperation from the Administration.”

“We have worked toward voluntary cooperation, but we have to prepare for the possibilty that the White House will continue to hide the truth,” said CAL Subcommittee Chairwoman Linda Sánchez. “This Congress respects White House prerogatives as a safeguard for the internal deliberations on the legitimate creation of policy, but they are not a ‘get out of jail free’ card. There must be accountability.”

The motion authorizes the Chairman to issue subpoenas at his discretion for the officials to appear before the Committee relating to the ongoing investigation. It also authorizes Conyers to subpoena additional documents relating to the issue – specifically, unredacted documents that have not previously been provided.

My understanding is that, if people receiving subpoenas refuse to comply, Congress could bring contempt of Congress charges. However, to do that Congress has to go through a (Bush appointed) U.S. attorney. Hmm.

Purges and Politics

In today’s New York Times, David Iglesias writes that he was purged because he didn’t file charges against Democrats that were unsupported by evidence.

Ms. [Rep. Heather] Wilson asked me about sealed indictments pertaining to a politically charged corruption case widely reported in the news media involving local Democrats. Her question instantly put me on guard. Prosecutors may not legally talk about indictments, so I was evasive. Shortly after speaking to Ms. Wilson, I received a call from Senator Domenici at my home. The senator wanted to know whether I was going to file corruption charges — the cases Ms. Wilson had been asking about — before November. When I told him that I didn’t think so, he said, “I am very sorry to hear that,” and the line went dead.

A few weeks after those phone calls, my name was added to a list of United States attorneys who would be asked to resign — even though I had excellent office evaluations, the biggest political corruption prosecutions in New Mexico history, a record number of overall prosecutions and a 95 percent conviction rate. (In one of the documents released this week, I was deemed a “diverse up and comer” in 2004. Two years later I was asked to resign with no reasons given.)

To those who say he was not doing his job:

As this story has unfolded these last few weeks, much has been made of my decision to not prosecute alleged voter fraud in New Mexico. Without the benefit of reviewing evidence gleaned from F.B.I. investigative reports, party officials in my state have said that I should have begun a prosecution. What the critics, who don’t have any experience as prosecutors, have asserted is reprehensible — namely that I should have proceeded without having proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The public has a right to believe that prosecution decisions are made on legal, not political, grounds.

What’s more, their narrative has largely ignored that I was one of just two United States attorneys in the country to create a voter-fraud task force in 2004. Mine was bipartisan, and it included state and local law enforcement and election officials.

After reviewing more than 100 complaints of voter fraud, I felt there was one possible case that should be prosecuted federally. I worked with the F.B.I. and the Justice Department’s public integrity section. As much as I wanted to prosecute the case, I could not overcome evidentiary problems. The Justice Department and the F.B.I. did not disagree with my decision in the end not to prosecute.

(Unfortunately, this New York Times article on purged prosecutor Carol Lam uncritically repeats the Bush Administration’s claims that she was dumped for failing to pursue immigration cases and not because she was prosecuting Duke Cunningham et al. There’s still no indication that anyone in the Justice Department ever actually discussed their concerns about immigration with her, which makes the immigration argument look more like the excuse than the reason.)

Also in this morning’s NY Times is this outstanding editorial

In nasty and bumbling comments made at the White House yesterday, President Bush declared that “people just need to hear the truth” about the firing of eight United States attorneys. That’s right. Unfortunately, the deal Mr. Bush offered Congress to make White House officials available for “interviews” did not come close to meeting that standard.

Mr. Bush’s proposal was a formula for hiding the truth, and for protecting the president and his staff from a legitimate inquiry by Congress. Mr. Bush’s idea of openness involved sending White House officials to Congress to answer questions in private, without taking any oath, making a transcript or allowing any follow-up appearances. The people, in other words, would be kept in the dark.

The Democratic leaders were right to reject the offer, despite Mr. Bush’s threat to turn this dispute into a full-blown constitutional confrontation.

Alas, if only the Times’s reporting were as good as its editorial writing. Weirdly, the Washington Post doesn’t offer an editorial today on the looming Constitutional crisis in Washington. But the reporting is a little better; Dan Eggen and Amy Goldstein write,

The documents [the 3,000 pages released Monday] also show that the White House was more closely involved than had been known in attempting to contain the controversy as it began to spin out of control in recent weeks. Just two weeks ago, on March 5, White House lawyer William Kelley personally oversaw a meeting called to prepare and edit testimony by William Moschella, the principal associate deputy attorney general. Moschella told the House Judiciary Committee the next day that the White House was only tangentially involved in the dismissals.

With an attorney general seemingly focused on other matters, McNulty and other senior Justice officials struggled to cope with pressure from increasingly agitated lawmakers. A Justice spokesman sought to mislead a reporter by questioning the accuracy of his sources, as other officials revised the administration’s story and deflected queries from Congress about the firings. The dismissals would eventually be revealed as the result of a two-year-old plan, hatched in the White House, to sack U.S. attorneys seen as disloyal to the administration.

The dismissal process itself, the documents show, was chaotic and spiked with petty cruelties. Two senior officials joked caustically about U.S. Attorney Carol Lam in San Diego — who prosecuted the corruption case of former congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.) — calling her “sad” and saying her record was “hideous.”

It’s not beyond belief that the Washington crew wanted Lam to take on more high-profile immigration cases. It’s also not beyond belief that, Bushies being Bushies, no one at the Justice Department shared their concerns about immigration with Lam before they purged her. If there’s one thing Bushies are famous for, it’s their inability to manage their way out of a wet paper bag. But as I said above, it looks as if the immigration charge is more of an excuse than the real reason.

For all their vivid detail, the e-mails and other records shed little light on the Bush administration’s motives for carrying out the firings in the way it did. The new documents also provide little evidence that Justice officials sought to interfere with public corruption probes, as many Democrats and some of the prosecutors have alleged.

In Lam’s case, was not the purge itself the interference?

Along with documents released last week, the new records show that the firing lists drawn up by D. Kyle Sampson, a former Gonzales aide who resigned last week, frequently changed, rarely including the same group of allegedly inferior U.S. attorneys. Only four of those fired were included on an initial March 2005 ranking chart.

It was as if they took it into their heads to fire (make examples of?) some people, and it was just a matter of deciding which ones.

Repeatedly in the months leading up to the firings, Justice officials derided the U.S. attorneys who would lose their jobs in often sharp terms, the internal e-mails show.

Brent Ward, director of a Justice Department obscenity task force, opposed sending FBI and Justice officials to Las Vegas last August to persuade then-U.S. attorney Daniel G. Bogden to pursue more cases: “[T]o go out to LV and sit and listen to the lame excuses of a defiant U.S. attorney is only going to move this whole enterprise closer to catastrophe.”

There’s an unmistakable meanness and pettiness and arrogance behind these communications. The Bushies are like children, judging who’s cool and who’s not and who can sit at the same lunch table as the cool kids.

Today we might hear more about subpoenas. President Bush is already making noises about “executive privilege,” a claim that Glenn Greenwald takes apart here. Also, note that there is no precedent barring White House aides from testifying to Congress. The Talking Dog predicts an unsatisfactory deal will be struck. To this I say to Washington Dems — don’t you dare let us down on this one. I sorta kinda understand why it might be hard to pull together 218 votes on an Iraq resolution. But if Bush and Co. get off the U.S. attorney hook — that I do not forgive.