Former Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey’s responses to the written questions of the Senate Judiciary Committee have now been submitted, and they contain a number of further bombshells. In general, his testimony and his written responses reflects what the mounting evidence from around the country is now showing – namely an extensive pattern of political manipulation of the Justice Department from within the White House. Among the most rattling of the new disclosures is the role of Vice President Dick Cheney – who at the time was the subject of a criminal probe that ultimately led to the indictment and conviction of his chief of staff – in pressuring the Department to approve criminal surveillance operations. Justice Department officials who opposed Cheney in this process all departed the Justice Department in short order, as the team of Gonzales, McNulty and Moschella arrived to run the place and implement the Vice President’s program.
Writing in today’s Washington Post, Dan Eggen reports:
Comey said that Cheney’s office later blocked the promotion of a senior Justice Department lawyer, Patrick Philbin, because of his role in raising concerns about the surveillance.
The disclosures also provide further details about the role played by then-White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales. He visited Ashcroft in his hospital room and wrote an internal memorandum on the surveillance program shortly afterward, according to Comey’s responses. Gonzales is now the attorney general. He faces possible congressional votes of no-confidence because of his handling of the firings of nine U.S. attorneys last year…
“Mr. Comey has confirmed what we suspected for a while — that White House hands guided Justice Department business,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). “The vice president’s fingerprints are all over the effort to strong-arm Justice on the NSA program, and the obvious next question is: Exactly what role did the president play?”
Among the Justice Department units that appear to have been most directly corrupted through White House manipulation are the Civil Rights Division, the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division, the Office of Legal Counsel and the Office of Professional Responsibility. The major thrust of the interventions appears to have been to support the election plans of President Bush’s senior political advisor, Karl Rove, to protect Republican officeholders, to target Democratic officeholders, and to suppress likely Democratic voter groups.