Secret Order To Politicize DOJ Uncovered

Ken AshfordAttorney FiringsLeave a Comment

Murray Waas has a fascinating article in the National Review describing a secret order by Alberto Gonzales that delegated unprecedented control over the hiring and firing of senior Justice Department officials–including those who oversee the DOJ criminal division–to Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling.

This order bypassed the traditional authority given to the deputy attorney general, the associate attorney general, and other senior Justice Department officials to control their own staffs and placed this important authority in the hands of two inexperienced and highly partisan individuals who, by all accounts, worked very closely with the White House.

In other words, Gonzales took himself out of the loop intentionally, allowing the White House‚Äôs political office and some DoJ hacks to call the shots.  This puts Gonzales in an awfully awkward position. All that forgetfulness, all the claims that he was only marginally informed make sense, now. But they make sense for the very good reason that Gonzales was marginally informed only after being very well informed that he was about to become very marginally informed. His lack of recall looks all the more pathetic the more deliberate it appears.

And consider this — Sampson graduated from law school in 1996, and has tried only one criminal case.  Goodling graduate from Pat Robertson’s Law School in 1999, after which she became a low-level analyst for the Republican National Committee.  Later she spent three years at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Virginia.  And those two — Sampson and Goodling — were handed the keys to the entire justice department of the United States, deciding who would and would not become U.S. attorneys throughout the entire country.

Senator Leahy is not amused.

Comment of Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.,
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
On Reports of Confidential Memo Granting Sweeping Hiring/Firing Authority To DOJ Political Officials
April 30, 2007

"It is disturbing to learn that the Attorney General was granting extraordinary and sweeping authority to the same political operatives who were plotting with the White House to dilute our system of checks and balances in the confirmation of U.S. Attorneys.

"This development is highly troubling in what it seems to reveal about White House politicization of key appointees in the Department of Justice. The mass firing of U.S. attorneys appeared to be part of a systematic scheme to inject political influence into the hiring and firing decisions of key justice employees. This secret order would seem to be evidence of an effort to hardwire control over law enforcement by White House political operatives.

"This memorandum should have been turned over to Senate and House committees as part of requests made in ongoing investigations. I expect the Department of Justice to immediately provide Congress with full information about this troubling decision as well as any other related documents they have failed to turn over to date."

It is truly alarming the lengths to which this White House has gone to politicize our criminal justice system. They apparently have been successful — the NYT chronicles the partisan pattern of criminal prosecutions.  I wonder how long it will take to undo the institutional damage wrought by this administration.