More “Purgegate” Fallout

Ken AshfordAttorney FiringsLeave a Comment

God, I hate myself for using the -gate suffix.  But I don’t know what to call it right now (does anybody?)

Anyway, WaPo has a nice op-ed which stops just shy of calling for Gonzales’s head.  My favorite bits:

"I am fully committed, as the administration’s fully committed, to ensure that, with respect to every United States attorney position in this country, we will have a presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed United States attorney," Mr. Gonzales assured the Senate Judiciary Committee in January. Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty has also asserted that the administration, in firing the prosecutors, was not trying to abuse its new authority, slipped into the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, to name interim U.S. attorneys who could serve indefinitely without Senate confirmation. "The attorney general’s appointment authority has not and will not be used to circumvent the confirmation process," Mr. McNulty testified. "All accusations in this regard are contrary to the clear factual record."

Mr. Sampson’s e-mail messages to the White House belie those assertions.

And the closing graf:

Mr. Gonzales can make self-serving declarations about his belief in "accountability," as he did at a news conference yesterday; he can proclaim his plans to "ascertain what happened here . . . and take corrective actions." Nothing in his record gives any reason for confidence that anything will change in a department under his leadership.


Meanwhile, New Hampshire Senator John Sununu was the first Republican to say that Alberto Gonzales has to go:

Sen. John Sununu of New Hampshire on Wednesday became the first Republican in Congress to call for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ dismissal, hours after President Bush expressed confidence in his embattled Cabinet officer.

"I think the president should replace him," Sununu said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Sununu, whose father served as Chief of Staff to the other President Bush, is running for re-election in 2008.

That said, I think Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is asking the right questions, specifically:

1. In an email to the White House, Mr. Sampson refers to a “problem” with Carol Lam. What was this “problem” and was Lam’s firing motivated by her investigation into former Congressmen Randy Cunningham and Representative Jerry Lewis?

2. What was the involvement of the President and members of the White House staff on the removal of these eight U.S. Attorneys? (White House spokespeople have portrayed the White House as having only limited involvement in the plan to dismiss these U.S. attorneys. Yet the documents released to the Senate Judiciary Committee clearly show that the idea of removing a group of U.S. attorneys originated in early 2005 with Harriet E. Miers, then serving as the President’s Counsel.)

3. Who at the Department of Justice was responsible for inserting a line into the USA PATRIOT Act in March 2006 that allows the appointment of interim U.S. Attorneys without Senate approval? Did the President know of or approve this effort?

4. Was Karl Rove or Ms. Miers involved in lobbying for the appointment of Tim Griffin as U.S. Attorney in Arkansas?

5. When and why did U. S. Attorney David Iglesias become a target for removal? Was President Bush involved in that decision?

TPMMuckraker has the actual wording of the questions.

UPDATE:  Not related to "Purgegate", but certainly bad news for Gonzales, is the story breaking out by Murray Waas.  Last year, there was an internal DOJ investigation.  When Gonzales realized that the investigation might focus on him, he consulted Bush, who put an end to the whole investigation.

UPDATE:  Another "Purgegate" scandal spin-off.  As you may or may not know, the DOJ publicly released e-mails that were sent to and from the DOJ last year, regarding the "purging" of U.S. attorneys.  Some eagle eyes noticed something: the work-related emails of Scott Jennings, Karl Rove’s deputy chief of staff, were to and from a non-White House domain.  Rather, they were to a domain owned by the Republican National Committee.  This is illegal, folks, because it is designed to prevent emails from being discovered through, oh, future investigations and Freedom of Information Act requests.

Remember, the government is OF the people, which is why we encourage an open government.  Sure, sometimes the government can’t be open about EVERYTHING (i.e., matters involving national security).  But the default position is "open".  Just like shredding documents, hiding their emails is a biiiiiiiig no-no.  More details here.