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The Senate prepares for a vote of no-confidence in the service of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General on Monday. In the meantime, the list of accusations of criminal conduct and ethics lapses against him continues to swell. The crimes include: perjury, making false statements to Congress, suborning perjury, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity and conspiracy to commit torture. The ethics lapses have proliferated around his conduct in visiting Attorney General Ashcroft in his George Washington University hospital room and the use he apparently intended to make of a statement on which he wanted Ashcroft’s signature, and also his highly contemptuous attitude towards Congress and his tendency to prevaricate at the drop of a hat.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a former career prosecutor, expressed consternation over the cool ability of Gonzales and his senior lieutenants to engage in conduct which easily meets a prosecutor’s test for obstruction of justice. He says that “you can count on it” that the marching orders to fire prosecutors and install political stooges in their place came from within the White House. But underlying all is a curious attitude towards the law and law enforcement. The law exists as a vehicle to enforce and retain partisan political power, it says. Their attitude seems to be that as the nation’s senior law enforcement officers, they themselves will define the law. And that puts them above the law:
Whenever you see anybody from the Department of Justice — anybody from the Gonzales clique from the Department of Justice — talk about this, they say three things over and over again. They say that it would be improper to attempt to influence or interfere with a particular case — they always use that phrase — a particular case, for an improper partisan purpose. Now, that is a very accurate, lay description of the elements of criminal obstruction of justice. So it looks as if they may be trying to basically kind of define deviancy down, if you will, so that anything less than criminal obstruction of justice is no longer viewed as improper. So, that’s absolutely the wrong place for an Attorney General of the United States to be establishing the standard for his office. Absolutely the wrong one. And Jim Comey and other people have recognized that.
To add insult to injury, Gonzales had been given through Friday to comply with document production requests, and – as could have been predicted – he responded by doing nothing. No excuses or requests for extension, and certainly no production of documents. The word leaking from the White House staff for some time now has been that Fred Fielding wanted to reach a compromise and turn over documents to Congress, but that Alberto Gonzales has insisted on maintaining a solid stone wall – no compliance. This matches occasional messages coming out of the Department of Justice itself. Says Judiciary Chair and former prosecutor Patrick Leahy:
“The Justice Department’s continued frustration of this Committee’s attempts to carry out its constitutional oversight function is unfortunate. We will continue in our pursuit of this information until we get it, so that we can carry out our constitutional duties.”
Today we learn that another senior Justice Department official has contradicted Gonzales’s testimony concerning intelligence gathering programs, expanding the basis for charges that Gonzales intentionally misled Congress. Steven Bradbury, the head of the Office of Legal Counsel, explained in his testimony on Friday that the issues raised by former Attorney General John Ashcroft in the famous hospital bed incident related not to the program described by Alberto Gonzales, but rather to an entirely different, and apparently still undisclosed program:
Well, all I’ll say is what the attorney general has said, which is that disagreements arose, disagreements were addressed and resolved; however, those disagreements did not — were not about the particular activities that the president has publicly described, that we have termed the Terrorist Surveillance Program.
In case you have any doubts about Bradbury’s orientation on these issues, just remember that he previously testified in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that the “president is always right.”
Just a week earlier, Gonzales testified that the dispute related to the program that Bush had described.
More from Scott Horton:
No Comment — November 4, 2013, 5:17 pm
An expert panel concludes that the Pentagon and the CIA ordered physicians to violate the Hippocratic Oath
No Comment — August 12, 2013, 7:55 am
How will the Obama Administration handle Edward Snowden’s case in the long term?
No Comment — July 29, 2013, 11:36 am
Is it possible to simply disband the partisan FISA court?
Fleming awoke in the dark and his room felt loose, sloshing so badly he gripped the bed. From his window there was nothing but a hallway, and if he craned his neck, a blown lightbulb swung into view. The room pitched up and down and for a moment he thought he might be sick. The word “hallway” must have a nautical name. Why didn’t they supply a glossary for this cruise? Probably they had, in the welcome packet he’d failed to read. A glossary. A history of the boat, which would be referred to as a ship. Sunny biographies of the captain and crew, who had always dreamed of this life. Lobotomized histories of the islands they’d visit. Who else had sailed this way. Famous suckwads from the past, slicing through this very water on wooden longships.
A welcome packet, the literary genre most likely to succeed in the new millennium. Why not read about a community you don’t belong to, that doesn’t actually exist, a captain and crew who are, in reality, if that isn’t too much of a downer on your vacation, as indifferent to one another as any set of co-employees at an office or bank? Read doctored personal statements from underpaid crew members — because ocean life pays better than money! — who hate their lives but have been forced to buy into the mythology of working on a boat, separated now from loved ones and friends, growing lonelier by the second, even while they wait on you and follow your every order.
Number of people stopped and frisked by the NYPD in 2011 for “furtive movements”:
The faces of Lego people were growing angrier.
Four people were arrested for using a remote-controlled hexacopter to fly two pounds of tobacco to prisoners inside the yard at Calhoun State Prison in Georgia.
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Our congratulations to Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature