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:

Conversation August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm

Lincoln’s Party

Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln

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

Get access to 167 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

November 2017

Preaching to The Choir

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Monumental Error

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Star Search

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Pushing the Limit

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Bumpy Ride

Bad Dog

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Monumental Error·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In 1899, the art critic Layton Crippen complained in the New York Times that private donors and committees had been permitted to run amok, erecting all across the city a large number of “painfully ugly monuments.” The very worst statues had been dumped in Central Park. “The sculptures go as far toward spoiling the Park as it is possible to spoil it,” he wrote. Even worse, he lamented, no organization had “power of removal” to correct the damage that was being done.

Illustration by Steve Brodner
Article
Star Search·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On December 3, 2016, less than a month after Donald Trump was elected president, Amanda Litman sat alone on the porch of a bungalow in Costa Rica, thinking about the future of the Democratic Party. As Hillary Clinton’s director of email marketing, Litman raised $180 million and recruited 500,000 volunteers over the course of the campaign. She had arrived at the Javits Center on Election Night, arms full of cheap beer for the campaign staff, minutes before the pundits on TV announced that Clinton had lost Wisconsin. Later that night, on her cab ride home to Brooklyn, Litman asked the driver to pull over so she could throw up.

Illustration by Taylor Callery
Article
Pushing the Limit·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In the early Eighties, Andy King, the coach of the Seawolves, a swim club in Danville, California, instructed Debra Denithorne, aged twelve, to do doubles — to practice in the morning and the afternoon. King told Denithorne’s parents that he saw in her the potential to receive a college scholarship, and even to compete in the Olympics. Tall swimmers have an advantage in the water, and by the time Denithorne turned thirteen, she was five foot eight. She dropped soccer and a religious group to spend more time at the pool.

Illustration by Shonagh Rae
Article
Bumpy Ride·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

One sunny winter afternoon in western Michigan, I took a ride with Leon Slater, a slight sixty-four-year-old man with a neatly trimmed white beard and intense eyes behind his spectacles. He wore a faded blue baseball cap, so formed to his head that it seemed he slept with it on. Brickyard Road, the street in front of Slater’s home, was a mess of soupy dirt and water-filled craters. The muffler of his mud-splattered maroon pickup was loose, and exhaust fumes choked the cab. He gripped the wheel with hands leathery not from age but from decades moving earth with big machines for a living. What followed was a tooth-jarring tour of Muskegon County’s rural roads, which looked as though they’d been carpet-bombed.

Photograph by David Emitt Adams
Article
Bad Dog·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Abby was a breech birth but in the thirty-one years since then most everything has been pretty smooth. Sweet kid, not a lot of trouble. None of them were. Jack and Stevie set a good example, and she followed. Top grades, all the way through. Got on well with others but took her share of meanness here and there, so she stayed thoughtful and kind. There were a few curfew or partying things and some boys before she was ready, and there was one time on a school trip to Chicago that she and some other kids got caught smoking crack cocaine, but that was so weird it almost proved the rule. No big hiccups, master’s in ecology, good state job that lets her do half time but keep benefits while Rose is little.

Illustration by Katherine Streeter

Estimated portion of French citizens with radical-Islamist beliefs who grew up in Muslim families:

1/5

Human hands are more primitive than chimp hands.

Trump declared flashlights obsolete as he handed them out to Puerto Ricans, 90 percent of whom had no electricity in their homes; and tweeted that he wouldn’t keep providing federal hurricane relief “forever” to Puerto Rico, a US territory that the secretary of energy referred to as a “country.”

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

HARPER’S FINEST

Report — From the June 2013 issue

How to Make Your Own AR-15

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

"Gun owners have long been the hypochondriacs of American politics. Over the past twenty years, the gun-rights movement has won just about every battle it has fought; states have passed at least a hundred laws loosening gun restrictions since President Obama took office. Yet the National Rifle Association has continued to insist that government confiscation of privately owned firearms is nigh. The NRA’s alarmism helped maintain an active membership, but the strategy was risky: sooner or later, gun guys might have realized that they’d been had. Then came the shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, followed swiftly by the nightmare the NRA had been promising for decades: a dedicated push at every level of government for new gun laws. The gun-rights movement was now that most insufferable of species: a hypochondriac taken suddenly, seriously ill."

Subscribe Today