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Gonzales, Take 2:
Law.com has this summary of AG Alberto Gonzales's testimony today before the House Judiciary committee. Meanwhile, Murray Waas has an interesting story on some withheld e-mails relating to the case.
Anderson (mail) (www):
That Waas story looked like big news to me, but what do I know. I'm very curious who the sources were -- they're pointing the finger not just at Gonzales, but at Rove as well, which is rather daring of them.
5.10.2007 6:40pm
Al Maviva (mail) (www):
Right, Anderson, they might get disappeared to Gitmo like all the other Rove critics. I'd be careful were I you...

Man, I guess some insanely paranoid delusions just never go out of style.

More interestingly, I wonder when Congress is going to ask for the communications between various senators and house members suggesting the WH appoint certain people to US Attorney positions, fire others, and engage in various enforcement activities while abstaining from other enforcement actions. I'm sure the boobs in charge of responding to that request for documents will be similarly obtuse, slow to produce and inept in producing a (truthful and effective) communications strategy. If Congress really cared about the American people, they would do this and treat us to the entertainment of a scandal involving DOJ lying to Congress about the existence of communications between Congress and Justice on this topic. Senator Schumer's cross examination of Gonzales alone would be priceless beyond compare: "Did I, or did I not, send you a letter attempting to exert political pressure to influence the conduct of various investigations and personnel decisions? And did you not lie about receiving that letter, when you said 'I was not pressured to hire "x" or to undertake certain investigations in New York State'?" Hooo boy, watching the AG step in that one, would be hilarious. Funnier than the new Shrek film, anyways.

The subsequent perjury charges would also generate buckets of laughs. I guess if the AG was too spineless to defend himself on the merits ('hell yes, political considerations enter into US Attorney hiring and firing - you want I should ignore your input, senator?') at the outset, he probably deserves this.
5.10.2007 7:39pm
Steve:
Talk about insanely paranoid delusions - yeah, the Bush Justice Department is covering up for Chuck Schumer and all the other Democrats.
5.10.2007 8:37pm
Justin (mail):
This must be really depressing for the former OLC folk - esp. the people who came to their defense during the whole torture thing, based on experience with its integrity alone.

I presume that the OLC staffer in question has committed a violation of the bar, but I doubt you'll see much come of it.
5.10.2007 8:45pm
badger (mail):
Speaking of delusional:


"I'm sure the boobs in charge of responding to that request for documents will be similarly obtuse, slow to produce and inept in producing a (truthful and effective) communications strategy"



I understand how you could be crackpot enough to believe that Gonzales is being truthful (even when his story changes from week to week, even when he contradicts himself, even when he can't remember important meetings or discussions, etc.) But by what possible standard could the DOJ communications strategy be considered effective? Even most of the Republicans in the Senate Judiciary Committee don't believe that his testimony has been truthful and it has generated weeks and weeks of news stories destroying the DOJ's reputation.
5.10.2007 8:51pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Geez, the Congress already has 6,000 pages, surely that is enough pages for those mouth-breathers.

As a newspaper reporter with a long memory, the image that springs to mind is Nixon turning over lots and lots of pages -- all except the ones that counted.

Case closed as far as I'm concerned. Honest people don't behave that way.

But if Al Maviva knows where the Democrat bodies are buried, hand me the spade.
5.10.2007 9:13pm
deenk:
Regarding the 6000 pages:

"If you can't dazzle them with daring, then bury them in bullsh*t."
5.11.2007 12:09am
NickM (mail) (www):
Whatever happened to just saying that you have the right to fire a U.S. Attorney just because you want to put someone particular in to replace him, and since Senate confirmation wasn't necessary, the executive has no duty to respond to Congressional inquiries?

Has the entire administration learned nothing from Scooter Libby?

Nick
5.11.2007 2:32am
Crust (mail):
My favorite quotes:

1. Gonzales: "I think I may be aware of that." Apparently, AGAG couldn't quite remember whether or not he was supposed to have forgotten.

2. Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT): "I’m really tired of ... repeated use of the word corruption." This coming from the employer and enabler of David Safavian (convicted Abramoff player), I can only imagine how tired he is of hearing about corruption.
5.11.2007 9:19am
Crust (mail):
That Waas story is big:


The Bush administration has withheld a series of e-mails from Congress showing that senior White House and Justice Department officials worked together to conceal the role of Karl Rove in installing Timothy Griffin, a protégé of Rove's, as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas.


Didn't Gonzales say in sworn testimony the last go round that the attorneys were fired for performance reasons and that it was not a political process?
5.11.2007 10:20am
uh clem (mail):
You really do have to admire the chutzpa -
White House spokesman Tony Fratto denied that the White House was withholding records...

and
Fratto, the White House spokesperson, said, "No White House documents are available except under the conditions offered by White House counsel Fred Fielding to the Judiciary committees." Fielding has offered to allow Congress to interview Rove and other White House officials on the condition that they wouldn't be required to provide formal testimony under oath and that no transcript would be made of what they said. Fratto said that if Congress agreed to those conditions, the White House "would make available the relevant documents at that time."

So let me get this straght - they claim they aren't withholding documents, and at the same time they're saying that they'll keep withholding documents until congress agrees to their deal to allow Rove to testify in secret without a transcript and without him being under oath.

Large brass ones. That's all I can say.
5.11.2007 10:31am
Philistine (mail):

Whatever happened to just saying that you have the right to fire a U.S. Attorney just because you want to put someone particular in to replace him,


It's a little difficult to backtrack and say the firing was just to put someone different in when you've been swearing up and down for months that that wasn't the reason, and it was performance issues, instead.

This position would be much more persuasive if the DOJ had told that to all the prosecutors (not just Cummings) and stated that as their position, both publicly and to Congress. As they didn't, it seems fairly clear they were trying to hide something-- whether that was just something politically embarrassing or something more nefarious remains to be seen.


since Senate confirmation wasn't necessary, the executive has no duty to respond to Congressional inquiries?


The executive would still have the duty to respond. Congress' oversight powers allows hearings into matters upon which they may propose legislation.

The Constitution allows Congress to decide who (among the President, heads of departments, or courts) gets to appoint (and presumably fire) US Attorneys. Currently, Congress has given that power to the President.

It seems pretty clear that if the President is exercising that power in a way that Congress feels he should not be doing, they can always change who they give the power to (or otherwise make changes in the law relating to US Attorneys--subject to veto, of course.

Which--I think--raises an interesting question concerning Executive Privilege: If Congress' legitimately is inquiring inquiry what formed the basis for the President's decision, should Executive Privilege be available to shield the basis of that decision?
5.11.2007 10:40am
Ron Mexico:

Whatever happened to just saying that you have the right to fire a U.S. Attorney just because you want to put someone particular in to replace him,


They didn't want to say that because a lot of the replacements were unqualified hacks. So the administration looks TERRBILE when they state that they are replacing a number of well-qualified and respected USAs with some very questionable people merely because they have been loyal to the administration. Hence, creating vacancies through performance-related firings. And then filling the vacancies with the "loyal bushies," hoping that no one cares much about the replacements since they don't have to be confirmed by the Senate. It looks a lot better than merely saying "yeah, we're replacing good people with bad people and you're going to like it, suckers."
5.11.2007 11:25am
Anderson (mail) (www):
Whatever happened to just saying that you have the right to fire a U.S. Attorney just because you want to put someone particular in to replace him,

Also -- as was said repeatedly when this scandal broke beyond the confines of Josh Marshall's blog -- the Patriot Act had changed the law so that no confirmation hearings were needed for replacements.

The White House couldn't afford to come out &say it was arbitrarily replacing attorneys, b/c that would've cued the Congress to have 2d thoughts about the confirmation power it had relinquished.

And of course, the Dec. 7 firings were a consequence of the Democratic takeover of Congress -- they had to get the new folks in before the Dems came in and perhaps restored the confirmation power.
5.11.2007 11:40am
r78:
The best part of this story is that in one of the document productions, the AG's office sent over hundreds of "redacted" pages but, in fact, they sent originals that still had black tape on them and the tape could be easily peeled off.

Not the sharpest tools in the shed.
5.11.2007 2:20pm
badger (mail):
Dahlia Lithwick in Slate


Finally, the AG proves himself to be as defiantly incurious as his boss. He tells the committee at various times that he didn't read the CRS report detailing how previous administrations handled U.S. attorney dismissals. He didn't read the University of Minnesota study that broke down the disparity in investigations of Democrats over Republicans He tells Maxine Waters, D-Calif., that he still has not read the fired U.S. attorneys' personnel files. He notes several times that he hasn't much read the newspapers. He tells Sanchez that he still doesn't know who at Justice had more than "limited input" into these decisions. The most revealing moment, perhaps, is when Gonzales inadvertently confesses that some members of this secret cabal of senior leaders may not have even "known that they were involved in making this list." Poor James Comey thought he was making cocktail-party conversation, when in fact Kyle Sampson was using his judgments on U.S. attorneys as ammunition against them.

Robert Wexler, D-Fla., finally loses his temper and starts hollering: "You did not select Iglesias for the list." (No). "Did Sampson select him?" (No). "Did Comey?" (No.) "Did McNulty?" (No.) Did the president? (No.) "Did the vice president? (No)." Then Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., follows up with one of the best queries of the day: "If you don't know who put Iglesias on the list, how do you know the president or the vice president didn't?"

Long silence. Pause. "They wouldn't do that," hems Gonzales. "The White House has said publicly that it was not involved in adding or deleting people from the list." Someone needs to tell that to Kyle Sampson. And as for Gonzales, he has made himself immortal by merely willing himself to be so. That must be what accounts for his Zenlike state today. It's an ingenious strategy. Instead of letting the president throw him under the bus to protect Karl Rove, Gonzales just lies down in the road, then giggles as the bus runs over his head.
5.11.2007 3:04pm
NickM (mail) (www):
I'm not sure Congress could have, if the scandal had been "Bush uses new law to give unqualified party hacks U.S. Attorney apointments," mustered up the votes to reverse this section of the PATRIOT Act reauthorization legislation - there are 51 Dem votes in the Senate, and 4 of them would like to be President come January 2009 and presumably might want that power themselves. [I use unqualified here in the non-technical sense of the word, as the appointee would still need to meet the few absolute legal qualifications for appointment.]

Even if Congress overturned that section, that wouldn't be the sort of scandal that moves voters. It looks to the average person to be just another partisan political battle (good luck convincing people that party hacks haven't been routinely chosen by the President for U.S. Attorney positions).

Nick
5.11.2007 5:19pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
It looks to the average person to be just another partisan political battle

How easy to make that claim without noting any of the actual polls of what average people think, which might complicate that position a bit.
5.11.2007 5:36pm
NickM (mail) (www):

How easy to make that claim without noting any of the actual polls of what average people think, which might complicate that position a bit.


Since the White House/DOJ haven't been doing anything like standing up for a right to put in whoever they want to put in and telling Congress to jump in a lake, polling about a situation where it seems that every word out of their mouths is a lie, including "and" and "the", really isn't much help. Lying to Congress and obstruction of justice bother average voters - and even many committed partisans of the side that's busy digging itself a hole.

Nick
5.11.2007 6:00pm
Public_Defender (mail):
In the world of federal prosecution and defense, what do you think "to pull a Gonzales" will come to mean?


1) Saying "I don't recall" when you really do;
2) "Accepting responsibility" with the expectation that you will receive no punishment;
3) Running a corrupt organization while claiming to be completely ignorant of the corruption all around you;
4) Stubborningly clinging onto a job for which you have neither the skill nor the integrity;
5) Just flat-out lying.


I'm sure there are more possibilities.
5.13.2007 11:59am