No Comment — September 14, 2009, 2:10 pm

Schlozman Walks

The Associated Press reports:

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has decided not to bring criminal charges against a former Bush administration official who lawmakers said lied to them in sworn testimony. An inspector general’s report found that the official, Bradley Schlozman, the former head of the civil rights division of the Justice Department, had misled lawmakers about whether he politicized hiring decisions. Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, called the decision “very disappointing,” adding, “Perjury is often a close call, but in this case it wasn’t.”

Schlozman served in a number of senior offices at the Justice Department, including within the Civil Rights Division and as U.S. Attorney in Kansas City. He left the Department under a cloud in 2007 at the height of the U.S. attorneys scandal, and he now practices law in Kansas City with the firm of Hinkle Elkouri. Schlozman is directly connected with a campaign to vet Justice Department staffers for ideological purity in violation of the Hatch Act, talking in emails about hiring “right-thinking Americans” and “comrades” while ridding the Civil Rights Division of “pinkos,” “commies,” and individuals who actually believed in enforcing the nation’s civil rights laws. He also clearly pushed the U.S. attorney in Kansas City to bring a series of politically-motivated legal actions, including a bogus prosecution of a Democratic candidate for mayor of Kansas City. When the sitting U.S. attorney began to balk at some of Schlozman’s more cockeyed political shenanigans, Schlozman pressured him out of office and assumed the post himself. Much of this conduct could easily have justified a criminal investigation and prosecution on its own, but the investigation that Holder just wrapped up had to do with something else—Schlozman’s appearances before Congress.

Here’s what the Justice Department’s Inspector General had to say about Schlozman’s testimony:

The evidence in our investigation showed that Schlozman, first as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General and subsequently as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Acting Assistant Attorney General, considered political and ideological affiliations in hiring career attorneys and in other personnel actions affecting career attorneys in the Civil Rights Division. In doing so, he violated federal law – the Civil Service Reform Act – and Department policy that prohibit discrimination in federal employment based on political and ideological affiliations, and committed misconduct. The evidence also showed that Division managers failed to exercise sufficient oversight to ensure that Schlozman did not engage in inappropriate hiring and personnel practices.

Moreover, Schlozman made false statements about whether he considered political and ideological affiliations when he gave sworn testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee and in his written responses to supplemental questions from the Committee. Schlozman is no longer employed by the Department and, therefore, is not subject to disciplinary action by the Department. We recommend, however, that, if criminal prosecution is declined these findings be considered if Schlozman seeks federal employment in the future. We believe that his violations of the merit system principles set forth in the Civil Service Reform Act, federal regulations, and Department policy, and his subsequent false statements to Congress render him unsuitable for federal service.

A review of the specifics leaves little basis to doubt the inspector general’s conclusions, which if anything are generous to Schlozman. He made repeated false statements, and there is little basis to conclude his falsehoods stem from faulty memory or mistake. In other words, just as Senator Schumer notes, this was not a borderline case.

So why has Holder decided to take no action, and what message does it send? Schlozman’s conduct was a clear violation of law, and he could easily have been prosecuted for it. A straight prosecutorial decision would clearly have gone in that direction. Here we see Holder exercising political discretion to avoid a fight with movement conservatives. But at what cost? Holder’s office insists that the decision not to prosecute should not be seen as condoning Schlozman’s conduct, but of course it will be viewed just that way. Holder’s conclusion is that Schlozman’s political gamesmanship, including hiring and firing in violation of federal law and lying to Congress, is just the way politics is played in Washington. It therefore sets the stage for current Justice Department employees to behave in a similar fashion.

It also contributes to the emerging perception of a double standard. If a white-collar figure had engaged in this sort of dissembling before a Grand Jury or in the course of an FBI interview, he would find himself facing charges. It wouldn’t even be a close call. Holder is telling us that prosecutors in the Justice Department will be held to a distinctly lower standard of conduct than that expected of the citizenry as a whole. This decision won’t improve the Department’s already seriously damaged reputation.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

From the June 2014 issue

The Guantánamo “Suicides,” Revisited

A missing document suggests a possible CIA cover-up

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

November 2014

Stop Hillary!

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

How the Islamic State was Won

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Cage Wars

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Everyday Grace

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Stop Hillary!·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"What Hillary will deliver, then, is more of the same. And that shouldn’t surprise us."
Photograph by Joe Raedle
Article
Cage Wars·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"In the 1970s, “Chickens’ Lib” was a handful of women in flower-print dresses holding signs, but in the past decade farm hens have become almost a national preoccupation."
Photograph by Adam Dickerson/Big Dutchman USA, courtesy Vande Bunte Farms
Article
Paradise Lost·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Suffering Sappho! Here we still are, marching right into yet another century with our glass ceilings, unequal pay, unresolved work and child-care balance, and still marrying, forever marrying, men."
Illustration by Anthony Lister
Article
Off the Land·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Nearly half the reservation lives below the poverty line, with unemployment as high as 60 percent, little to no infrastructure, few entitlements, a safety net that never was, no industry to speak of, and a housing crisis that has been dire not for five years but since the reservation’s founding in 1855."
Illustration by Stan Fellows
Post
Introducing the November 2014 Issue·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Doug Henwood on stopping Hillary Clinton, fighters and potential recruits discuss the rise of the Islamic State, the inevitability of factory farming, and more

Cover photo by Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

Chances that a doctor’s diagnosis of Lyme disease is erroneous:

4 in 5

Engineers were said to be at greater risk of becoming terrorists.

A deaf dog belonging to a deaf owner was shot and killed in Alabama, and an Indiana dog’s skin troubles were found to be caused by an allergy to humans. “It’s just not his fault,” said the owner of Lucky Dog Retreat.

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

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today