Thursday, March 15, 2007

I can't keep up...

Just go to TPM and read all the stuff about the evolving U.S.A. purge. I can hardly keep up and the story just keeps getting bigger. Attorney General "Abu" Gonzales' days have to be numbered now that it is clear that he and his staff lied to Congress [UPDATE: Think Progress has some better proof]. The first Republican Senator has called for his resignation now. It looks like the Dems might finally be willing to play some hardball:

A small group of lawmakers from both the House and Senate met with White House counsel Fred Fielding yesterday concerning their request for documents and to interview White House officials, including Karl Rove. Fielding, apparently, told them he'll get back to them Friday after speaking with the president. At issue, of course, is whether the White House will assert executive privilege. That would mean war.

According to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who was at the meeting, Fielding "said that he wanted to make this work because he had a reputation, his own reputation, to uphold.”

But though the committees have gone out of their way to be amicable, that doesn't mean they'll be sitting on their hands waiting for an answer from the White House.

As Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) put it: “Frankly, I don’t care whether Fielding says he’s going to allow people or not. We’ll subpoena the people we want.... If they want to defy the subpoena, then you get into a stonewall situation I suspect they don’t want to have.”

And so this morning, the Senate committee will vote on whether to issue subpoenas to Karl Rove, former White House counsel Harriet Miers, and William Kelley, a former top aide to Miers.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) sent a letter to President Bush, posing five questions about the administration's mass firings of federal prosecutors:
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?

a. Gonzales’ chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, contacted William Kelley, Deputy Counsel to the President, on replacing Carol Lam, stating, “[t]he real problem we have right now with Carol Lam that leads me to conclude that we should have someone ready to be nominated on 11/18, the day her 4-year term expires.”

b. Mr. Sampson’s email was sent the same day that the Los Angeles Times had broken the news that Ms. Lam’s investigation of former Congressman Randy Cunningham (R-CA) had expanded to include Representative Jerry Lewis (R-CA).

2. What was the involvement of the President and members of the White House staff on the removal of these eight U.S. Attorneys?

a. 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. Ms. Miers suggested dismissing all 93 U.S. attorneys. Mr. Sampson replied, "Harriet, you have asked whether President Bush should remove and replace U.S. Attorneys whose four-year terms have expired. I recommend that the Department of Justice and the Office of the Counsel to the President work together to seek the replacement for a limited number of U.S. Attorneys."

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?

a. Documents provided to Congress indicate that, during reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act in March 2006, the Justice Department specifically requested a provision that authorizes the Attorney General to appoint interim U.S. attorneys for an indefinite period of time. This provision may have been deliberately exploited – and perhaps even deliberately added to legislation – in order to bypass the Senate confirmation process for U.S. attorneys. At

b. Mr. Sampson told Ms. Miers: “I strongly recommend that, as a matter of policy, we utilize the new statutory provisions that authorize the AG to make USA appointments…. By not going the PAS route, we can give far less deference to the home-State Senators and thereby get (1) our preferred person appointed and (2) do it faster and more efficiently, at less cost to the White House.”

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

a. In a letter responding to questions from Senator Schumer dated February 23, 2007, the Department of Justice informed Schumer that it was “not aware of anyone lobbying for Mr. Griffin’s appointment” and that “[t]he Department is not aware of Karl Rove playing any role in the decision to appoint Mr. Griffin.”

b. An email from Mr. Sampson sent an e-mail on December 19, 2006 contradicts these statements. His email stated, “I’m not 100 percent sure that Tim was the guy on which to test drive this authority [of the Attorney General to appoint interim U.S. attorneys], but know that getting him appointed was important to Harriet, Karl, etc.” Please explain any involvement of Karl Rove or members of his staff in the decision to request the resignation of H.E. (“Bud”) Cummins III as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas and to install Tim Griffin in his stead.

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

a. On March 2, 2005, D. Kyle Sampson provided identified David Iglesias in bold type as an individual that Sampson “recommend[ed] retaining” based on Iglesias’s strong job performance and “loyalty” to the Administration.

b. On October 17, 2006, Mr. Sampson drew up a list of Attorneys they “should consider pushing out”; Mr. Iglesias was not among those names.

c. On November 15, 2006, Mr. Sampson prepared a detailed “Plan for Replacing Certain United States Attorneys” that lists Mr. Iglesias among the prosecutors to be dismissed by the Department. As you know, in accordance with that plan, the Department contacted Mr. Iglesias on December 7, 2006, to request his resignation.

In some ways, t's almost getting silly now, as Josh tells us:

In the evolving story of the US Attorney Purge, you know that a principal part is played by this little known provision of the USA Patriot Act which allows the Attorney General to appoint US attorneys without senate confirmation (TPMmuckraker played the central role uncovering how the provision ended up in the bill). Up until -- what? days ago? -- the White House was promising to veto any attempts to overturn this critical bit of legislation packed with constitutional import and critical to the prosecution of the war on terror. Now, says the Justice Department, in the words of McClatchy News Service, the provision was "designed by a mid-level department lawyer without the knowledge of his superiors or anyone at the White House."

It's like some pulsing gyre of Anglomania -- George Orwell meets Monty Python, with Benny Hill along for the ride.

The separation of powers issue is just down the memory hole. Now it was just some Justice Department lawyer freelancing.

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