Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Bush's Idea of "Justice"


The Bush White House has fucked up BIG TIME this time.

In case you haven't been following it, here's a quick rundown of the Justice Department Prosecutor Firing scandal:

Over a period of three weeks during December & January, each timed deliberately for Friday afternoons in order to make any press reports go unnoticed, the Justice Department fired 7 Federal Prosecutors. That's not newsworthy, except in the numbers involved... Federal Prosecutors work at the discretion of the President, and they are occasionally fired with cause. What was weird about these firings was that no cause was publicly given, and interim appointees were announced, but weren't then scheduled to go before the Senate, which is supposed to approve all new Federal Prosecutors within 120 days.

The biggest case so far has been in San Diego, where Prosecutor Carol Lam was in the middle of the largest public corruption investigation in the history of the United States (the Duke Cunningham scandal, which has already brought down 2 Republican Congressmen & the #3 guy at the CIA with much more on the way) when she was suddenly fired for doing "a bad job on border cases" as the Justice Department later said. This despite the Justice Dept. sending a letter just a few months ago to Senator Dianne Feinstein saying that Lam was doing a great job on border cases.

Three of California's four United States attorneys resigned in two months. Two of them we know were actually asked to step down on December 7th: San Diego's Carol Lam and San Francisco's Kevin Ryan, but the other, Los Angeles' Debra Wong Yang, stepped down November 10th, just after the election. On January 1st, she left for the heavy-hitting law firm that just happened to be representing Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), who is being investigated by her office.

So, by mid-January, it had become quite clear that some of these Prosecutors were fired because they wouldn't indict Democrats in tight House & Senate races, despite pressure and demands being made by the Justice Department, various Senators & House members and the White House. Others were fired because they opened up investigations into Republicans during the same time period. And if that's not enough, the former U.S. attorney in Maryland said today that he was forced out of his position in 2005 because of political pressure not to pursue an investigation involving associates of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican.

But none of the Prosecutors would speak on the record, and neither would the Justice Department. AG Alberto Gonzales even claimed that he had "no idea" how many prosecutors had been fired by his office in the last six months.

Two days later, news broke that Sen. John Ensign (R-NV} was told that the decision to remove U.S. attorneys, primarily in the West, was part of a plan to "give somebody else that experience" to build up the back bench of Republicans by giving them high-profile jobs. Since last March, the administration has named at least nine U.S. attorneys long on ties to the Bush administration ties but short on the type of experience one needs to be a US Attorney. They include a former aide to Karl Rove, a member of the secretive, ideologically conservative Federalist Society, a former aide to Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the husband of assistant secretary of homeland security Julie Myers, a former Justice Department counselor, a protege of conservative Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, an acting assistant attorney general in Oklahoma City, a senior associate counsel to President Bush, and a Bush Administration civil rights lawyer. For this crop of exceedingly poor candidates, other qualified experienced prosecutors were forced out. The theory seems to be to pump up their resumes in order to get them ready to be crammed into the Federal Judiciary & someday onto the Supreme Court itself. Charming. Still, the Justice Department denied all and claimed that all prosecutors had been fired for just causes.

Then, in late January, in New Mexico, one of the prosecutors broke their silence and said that he had been threatened by two elected members of Congress that if he didn't speed up prosecutions of Democrats, he'd be fired by the White House. This was a Republican prosecutor, mind you, appointed by the Bush White House. Every member of the NM Congressional Caucus denied that it was them. Then hearings were announced to begin yesterday and that all of the fired Prosecutors would be testifying.

Then suddenly last Friday, after weeks of stonewalling and lying, Senator Pete Domenici admitted that he was one of the elected people who had called the NM Prosecutor, but denied pressuring him. The Senate Ethics Committee opened an investigation into Domenici yesterday. Then yesterday, 8 hours before being named by the Prosecutor in question, House member Heather Graham admitted that she was the other who had called him, but denied pressuring him, clumsily claiming that she had merely been asking if everything was going a-ok with those indictments of her Democratic opponent two weeks before her re-election race. So now Graham will be investigated by the House Ethic Committee, and everything will be great, right?

Except today it was revealed that Republican Representative Doc Hastings of Washington, the former CHAIRMAN of the House Ethics Committee, and still ranking Republican on the House Ethics Committee was one of the people demanding a partisan investigation, this one to help oust the Democratic Governor of Washington... and when he didn't get it, suddenly that Prosecutor was fired by the White House, too. Whoops. Guess that says a lot about how Hastings ran the Ethics Committee when he was in charge of it... problem is, he's still the #1 Republican on it and can stop any investigation of himself or Heather Graham.

More, one of the recently fired Prosecutors claimed under oath before the Senate today that the Deputy Attorney General's Chief of Staff, Michael Elston, called all of these prosecutors last week and told them that if they didn't stop encouraging Congress for an investigation into their firings and giving quotes to the press, that the Justice Department would "take their gloves off" and start punching back, revealing "damaging" material from their personnel files. Of course, this is the very definition of obstruction of justice, which may also be why the official at the DOJ who was put in charge of firing these prosuctors, Michael A. Battle, resigned this morning. Watch this awesome video of the fired prosecutors talking about their "Witness Intimidation" cases they would spin out of what happened to them:

Most amazingly, it turns out that the White House's new appointees weren't planned to EVER go before the Senate for confirmation. Why? Because the Justice Department requested that a staffer on Orrin Hatch's Senate Staff secretly slip a tiny revision into the text of the Patriot Act revision last year, a tiny change which granted the Executive Branch the unprecedented power to fire & hire Federal Prosecutors without oversight by the Senate or the Federal Judiciary (which formerly had to the power to make temporary appointments if the White House and Senate wouldn't or didn't act within 120 days).

That staffer just -happens- to be be a former clerk of Clarence Thomas, and was hired at the exact moment that Arlen Spector was in trouble in his primary last year about seeming not Republican enough and being perceived as an enemy of the White House. The law was signed in March of last year and Bush immediately began pushing out Prosecutors without anyone recognizing a pattern until he fired 7 over 3 weeks time. We still don't know the total number forced out prior to the Christmas Slaughter.

To make yourself even more sick, click "More from this user" on YouTube to see TalkingPointsMuckracker's outtakes from today's Senate Investigations and watch some of today's testimony.

Finally, these are just the 8-15 Federal prosecutors who RESISTED political pressure to indict Democrats who were in tight races with Republicans. The shoe yet to drop is "How many Federal Prosecutors gave in to political pressure to indict Democrats leading up to November 2006?" In early February, a study of reported federal investigations of elected officials and candidates shows that the Bush administration’s Justice Department pursues Democrats far more than Republicans. 79 percent of elected officials and candidates who’ve faced a federal investigation (a total of 379) between 2001 and 2006 were Democrats, the study found – only 18 percent were Republicans... but Democrats only made up 50 percent of elected officeholders and office seekers while 41 percent were Republicans during that period, according to the study. "The chance of such a heavy Democratic-Republican imbalance occurring at random is 1 in 10,000," according to the study's authors.

This scandal takes down Alberto Gonzales at the very least. With any luck and a few more weeks of investigations, maybe even Bush himself if public understanding of the case picks up. I wouldn't bet on Bush because at this point he's got stronger teflon than John Gotti, but I'll take an even-money bet that Alberto Gonzales will be out on his ass by the end of this year.