Wednesday, October 01, 2008

"He's Gone."

More damning excerpts from the AG report on the U.S. attorney firings:

The report depicts a steady drumbeat of pressure leading up to the 2006 elections. Republican former state senator Mickey D. Barnett e-mailed Rove in October to complain about the pace of a federal bribery probe that Iglesias's office was conducting against a Democratic rival. Barnett wrote that he had already complained to Justice Department White House liaison Monica M. Goodling and Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.).

That same month, President Bush and Rove both spoke to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales about rampant voter fraud in three cities, one in New Mexico, Gonzales told investigators.

In November, Domenici's chief of staff, Steven Bell, e-mailed Rove seething about voting issues in New Mexico and expressing "worry" about Iglesias. Rove advised Bell to have Domenici reach out to the attorney general. Around the same time, Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty received a phone call from Miers, who passed along complaints about Iglesias that she had heard from Rep. Heather A. Wilson (R-N.M.)

At a White House breakfast in mid-November, Wilson approached Rove to tell him that the U.S. attorney was a "waste of breath," according to her interview with investigators. She said Rove told her: "That decision has already been made. He's gone."

Less than three hours later, a Justice Department official forwarded a firing list to the White House Counsel's Office on which Iglesias's name appeared, giving rise to questions about how Rove learned about its contents in advance, and whether the department ultimately fired Iglesias for improper political reasons.

I think those questions are essentially answered, at least in substance. What we don't know yet is who exactly said what to whom and when:

The report is incomplete because a number of persons—members of Congress, their staffers, and particularly figures in the White House—refused to cooperate with the investigation. At the top of this list are Karl Rove and Harriet Miers. The White House and several Republican lawmakers also failed to provide investigators with documents, including documents which all acknowledge are highly relevant and are not privileged in any way. It is a fair inference in such circumstances that these documents would be harmful and that this is the reason why they have been withheld. So the first lesson to be drawn from the report is a simple one: Obstruction continues to be the order of the day.

Similarly, Mukasey’s appointment of a special prosecutor to handle the open threads of the investigation raised widespread criticism on Capitol Hill, with good reason. Mukasey could, using available Justice Department precedent and authority, have drawn upon a special prosecutor with suitable stature and experience to handle the matter. It could have been a retired federal judge or former federal prosecutor known for integrity and independence. However, Mukasey tapped a relatively inexperienced and youthful career prosecutor from Connecticut.

I'm willing to cut Mukasey slightly more slack than Scott Horton is, if only in the fact that my expectations are so low that I'm amazed that a special prosecutor is being appointed at all, even if he is relatively inexperienced and even if his initial conclusions are not due until well after election day. Eight years of criminality and incompetence will do that to you though.

UPDATE: In other DOJ related news, Murray Waas at the Atlantic Monthly is reporting that Gonzales is now telling federal investigators that President Bush personally ordered him to make the now-infamous late night visit to ailing AG John Ashcroft in an effort to obtain re-certification of the NSA surveillance program in 2004. Excerpts from Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman's new book on Cheney imply that Cheney shielded Bush from the contention in his own administration over the surveillance program, but Gonzales is telling a different story, in all likelihood because he's trying to save his own ass and make it more difficult for DOJ investigators to get to the bottom of whatever perjury he might have committed while testifying before Congress. Also, incredibly, Gonzales may have written fake notes regarding a meeting between him and Congressional leaders regarding the program, concocting Congressional acquiescence to the re-certification of the program that members of Congress who were at that meeting say they never gave. Gonzales says he was asked to draft the notes by President Bush, but it's not clear yet whether Bush asked him to draft them before or after the meeting, or after the recertification of the program (which is when Gonzales did finally get to writing them down.) As you can well imagine, the timing of the direction is crucial. Which is harder to believe; that Gonzales would lie to his President about what members of Congress said in the meeting, or that President Bush would ask him to draft some notes that would help justify the recertification, even if they weren't exactly true? If you can figure out which represents the greater extent of criminal stupidity, you're smarter than I am.

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