No Comment — June 16, 2008, 8:18 am

The U.S. Attorneys Scandal Enters the Criminal Prosecutions Phase

Sources in Washington tell me that the year-long probe of the Bush Administration’s decision to fire a still-undetermined number of U.S. Attorneys for political and improper reasons is “substantially completed” and that it remains the subject of wrangling in a fairly transparent effort to slow down its release.

The probe is a joint effort between the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) and Inspector General (OIG), though it seems clear that in this case, as in plenty of others, OIG has been the accelerator pushing the matter forward and OPR has been the brake coming up with a seemingly endless number of limp excuses and complications designed to frustrate it.

schlozman

Evidence that the probe is winding up can be found in this morning’s Wall Street Journal:

Justice Department lawyers have filed a grand-jury referral stemming from the 2006 U.S. attorneys scandal, according to people familiar with the probe, a move indicating that the yearlong investigation may be entering a new phase.

The grand-jury referral, the first time the probe has moved beyond the investigative phase, relates to allegations of political meddling in the Justice Department’s civil-rights division, these people say. Specifically, it focuses on possible perjury by Bradley Schlozman, who served a year as interim U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Mo….

It wasn’t clear which of Mr. Schlozman’s comments prosecutors are focusing on. He has declined to be interviewed by investigators since leaving the department. One possibility focuses on Mr. Schlozman’s 2007 testimony to Congress, one part of which he later retracted.

Indeed, the evidence uncovered on Schlozman’s political machinations while at Justice is stunning, leading one to wonder exactly which angle prosecutors may have decided to start with. As one of his colleagues put it in an interview with the Washington Post, “everything Schlozman did was political. And he said so.”

Schlozman served for a period as U.S. Attorney in the Western District of Missouri in Kansas City. Throughout his term at Justice, he demonstrated a strong interest in partisan politics, and appears to have been linked to efforts to pressure Missouri authorities to purge voter rolls in a way which would have benefited the Republican Party. He pushed forward a lawsuit against the Missouri secretary of state which was so absurd that the U.S. Attorney in Kansas City wouldn’t file it. (That U.S. attorney was forced out in curious circumstances, and Schlozman himself was appointed using the stealth process Gonzales had won through a secret amendment to the Patriot Act.)

Schlozman was also famous for his hiring standards, under which merely being a Republican wasn’t enough. Apparently only the right kind of Republicans who recognized that party politics trumps all could be considered for DOJ career posts. And he had a hand in one or more overtly political prosecutions, certainly including the prosecution of a local Democratic official, Katheryn Shields. She was promptly acquitted after the presentation of a ludicrously implausible and suspiciously timed indictment.

But I agree with the WSJ in their speculation, namely, the likely focus of the Schlozman criminal probe will be his Congressional testimony. Other aspects of Schlozman’s dealings would strike too close to Justice’s much abused notions of prosecutorial discretion. Moreover, few witnesses of Schlozman’s testimony were impressed with his candor (my initial take here), and Schlozman’s positions were so untenable in the end that he was required to retract substantial parts of his testimony.

Still, Schlozman is only the beginning. The investigation focusing on Kansas City did not produce “the highest profile or the most disturbing” issues linking Justice Department figures and others to potentially criminal conduct, I learned. Those came in New Mexico and California. Stay tuned.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

May 2016

Unhackable

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

American Imperium

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Fighting Chance

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Front Runner

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Habits of Highly Cynical People

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
Elisabeth Zerofsky on Marine Le Pen, Paul Wachter on the quest for an unhackable email, Rebecca Solnit on cynical people, Andrew J. Bacevich on truth and fiction in the age of war, Samuel James photographs E.P.L. soccer, a story by Vince Passaro, and more

I sat in a taxi with Emma and her son, Stak, all three bodies muscled into the rear seat, and the boy checked the driver’s I.D. and immediately began to speak to the man in an unrecognizable language.

I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.

Illustration by Taylor Callery
Article
Front Runner·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"The F.N. asked to be sent to an institution whose legitimacy it did not accept, and French voters rewarded the party with first place in the election."
Illustration (detail) by Matthew Richardson
Memoir
I Am Your Conscious, I Am Love·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A paean 2 Prince
"And one thinks, Looking into Prince's eyes must be like looking at the world."
Photo ©© PeterTea
Article
Stop Hillary!·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"As wacky as it sometimes appears on the surface, American politics has an amazing stability and continuity about it."
Article
Plexiglass·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

I sat in a taxi with Emma and her son, Stak, all three bodies muscled into the rear seat, and the boy checked the driver’s I.D. and immediately began to speak to the man in an unrecognizable language.

I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.

Photograph (detail) by Karine Laval

Amount of cash inmates compete to grab from between a bull’s horns each year at the Oklahoma State Prison Rodeo:

$100

There were new reports of cannibalism in North Korea.

The Finnish postal service announced it will begin mowing lawns on Tuesdays.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Mississippi Drift

By

Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today