The deadline was today at 2:30 p.m.: that’s when the Bush Administration was to have produced documents concerning the legal basis upon which it had implemented a warrantless surveillance program, in open defiance of the FISA statute. Of course, as usual, the administration failed to comply. And interestingly enough we discover that all the wiretap documents are in the custody of Vice President Cheney, probably in that man-sized safe. (Surely this is prompting some people to ask: What exactly is the job description of the Attorney General?)
The stage is, once more, set for a confrontation with Congress. And in the background, the controversy revolves around the advice that Alberto Gonzales gave to his boss in the White House. His advice was apparently so compelling, there’s great concern about putting any part of it on the public record.
Impeaching Alberto Gonzales
Twenty-seven members of the House have now signed on as co-sponsors of a resolution for the impeachment of Attorney General Gonzales. Adam Cohen, the legal affairs editorial writer at the New York Times offered up a very good primer on how to impeach a cabinet officer for the benefit of sitting members. He does it by way of making the case that they should get off their posteriors and start the process of impeachment against Alberto Gonzales now.
Impeachment of Mr. Gonzales would fit comfortably into the founders’ framework. No one could charge this Congress with believing that executive branch members serve at the “pleasure of the Senate” or the House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indicated that impeachment of President Bush is “off the table,” and there has been little talk of impeaching Vice President Dick Cheney or others in the administration. Congress has heard extensive testimony about how Mr. Gonzales’s Justice Department has become an arm of a political party, choosing lawyers for nonpartisan positions based on politics, and bringing cases — including prosecutions that have put people in jail — to help Republicans win elections.
Mr. Gonzales’s repeated false and misleading statements to Congress are also impeachable conduct. James Iredell, whom George Washington would later appoint to the Supreme Court, told North Carolina’s ratification convention that “giving false information to the Senate” was the sort of act “of great injury to the community” that warranted impeachment.
The United States attorneys scandal is also the sort of abuse the founders worried about. Top prosecutors, most with sterling records, were apparently fired because they refused to let partisan politics guide their decisions about whether to prosecute. Madison, the father of the Constitution, noted in a speech to the first Congress that “wanton removal of meritorious officers would subject” an official to impeachment.
Historically, of course, attorneys general have resigned when caught in ethically dubious or illegal dealings. Alberto Gonzales, however, is a new species of attorney general. He is completely shameless.
TPM Muckraker is reporting this evening that Bradley Schlozman has put in his resignation at home Justice:
Bradley Schlozman, a former Justice Department official who was at the center of the U.S. attorneys scandal and is under investigation by the Departments inspector general for his alleged efforts to politicize the Civil Rights Division, has finally left his post at the Department.
After he left his position as the U.S. attorney in Kansas City this April, Schlozman moved to the Justice Department office that oversees all U.S. attorneys. Reached on his cell phone today, Schlozman confirmed that he’d left the Department last week, but refused to say anything more and then hung up.
That makes Schlozman the latest in a long line of Department officials to leave in the wake of the firings scandal, including former White House liaison Monica Goodling, chief of staff Kyle Sampson, Acting Associate Attorney General William Mercer, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, and his chief of staff Michael Elston.
Schlozman as you will recall masterminded a series of heavy-handed voter suppression tactics in Missouri. When the U.S. Attorney balked over them and his staffers pointed out that they violated published guidelines, the U.S. Attorney was fired and Schlozman was sent in to maintain discipline. Schlozman is also the man who pushed highly partisan hiring practices, expressing doubts over Republicans suspected of supporting John McCain and covering it all by saying he was committed to hiring “real Americans.”
Stars Keep Falling on Alabama
On second thought, they look more like warning flares. The evidence placing the epicenter of the Justice Department corrupted prosecutions scandal in Alabama, with its centerpiece the prosecution and conviction of former Governor Don Siegelman, continues to build.
The Dog Ate My Homework, Week Four. U.S. Attorney Leura Canary has now hit the one-month mark in her failure to respond to Congress’s demands that she turn over papers surrounding the Siegelman case. I continue to believe that there are very compelling reasons for her failure to turn over the papers. This one month of stonewalling has to be viewed as of a piece with a FOIA request to which, as a senior DOJ official subsequently confirmed to me, knowingly false answers were given, most likely by her office. When they’re turned over, these documents may well make her claims to have withdrawn from the prosecution of the Siegelman case out to be less than correct. And one thing’s almost certain: they will demolish her deputy’s claims that he made decisions alone—a claim which at this point no one believes, except for writers at the Alabama G.O.P.’s house organs, the Mobile Press-Register and the Birmingham News. All of this provided very compelling reason for Mrs. William Canary to report that the dog has eaten her homework, for the fourth week running.
Siegelman Calls His Trial Another Watergate. Today, the Associated Press offers a story based on correspondence with Governor Siegelman in which he expresses confidence that his conviction will be overturned, and his release will be ordered by the Eleventh Circuit. Siegelman compares the case against him to Watergate.
Tuscaloosa Bid Rigging Trial Ends in Acquittal. The Birmingham News was busy dishing up a warehousing corruption case in Tuscaloosa as evidence of just how corrupt Siegelman was, even if at this point very few people in Alabama believe he got a fair trial before Republican Executive Committee member-turned-Federal Judge Mark Everett Fuller. Siegelman was dismissed out of that case; it was then pressed full-tilt by Alice Martin (one of William Canary’s “girls” and the U.S. Attorney in Birmingham). Today the jury returned its verdict and Alice Martin can keep her perfect record: the defendant was acquitted on all counts.
Strange Dealings in Mobile. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Mobile is also the subject of some very strange goings on relating to the Rove investigation. The former U.S. Attorney in Mobile, David York, resigned after a writer with the Mobile Press-Register famous for his very tight connections with federal prosecutors ran a piece talking about an inappropriate relationship within the office. The writer in question also wrote most of the Press-Register’s Siegelman stories.
Once York resigned, he was replaced with Deborah Rhodes, a figure then in San Diego, whose name appears on internal Bush Administration emails as a “loyal Bushie” who would be appointed to a post in connection with the coming political purge of U.S. attorneys who were not implementing the Rovian game plan. Curiously, I can’t find any evidence that Rhodes is actually admitted to practice in Alabama, which would make her a strange pick to be a U.S. attorney there (at this point, however, the rationale for selecting U.S. attorneys in Alabama is pretty clear and it involves three factors: G.O.P. politics, G.O.P. politics, and G.O.P. politics). But the entire story surrounding the departure of York, the arrival of Rhodes and the role played by the pliant press in the process warrants a lot more scrutiny.
The one source where I’ve found some serious probing of these facts is in the Birmingham Report of a freelancer named Phil Smith. His blogged accounts of the Siegelman case are pretty good—easily several pegs above the published accounts of the strangely incurious Alabama mainstream press. And his post about the York-Rhodes business is very interesting:
The person who replaced York in the Southern District is Deborah Rhodes, an attorney that showed up on the list of names that was being readied to replace the eight fired US Attorneys. Rhodes was mentioned as a possible replacement for Carol Lam, in San Diego. But somehow, she ended up in Alabama, and her path to Alabama did not pass through the traditional advice and recommendations from the two in-state Republican Senators. Although it is bogged down in subpoenas and lost emails, the whispers that are coming out of the investigation say that Rove may be behind, or at least involved in, the lists of both the attorneys to be fired, and the names of the replacements. There may have been other problems with York and his office that led to his quitting ahead of his possible dismissal, but what greased the skids was a report of an inappropriate relationship, filed by Eddie Curran, who was well known as the reporter who broke most of the Siegelman stories. Interestingly, no other report or follow-up on the York situation, filed by any other reporter, has been located, making the incident an unusual journalistic circumstance.
Take a second to read it through here. And be sure also to visit the comments at the end in which the Press-Register reporter weighs in with an indignant response.