Sunday, March 25, 2007

LA Times: Bush Completely Politicized DOJ

Key passages:

Not only have two of eight recently fired U.S. attorneys complained that in specific cases they felt pressure to make decisions that would advance Republican political interests, but last week several former career officials in the Justice Department said they had felt similar pressures on voting rights cases.

"The political decision-making process that led to the dismissal of eight United States attorneys was standard practice in the Civil Rights Division years before these revelations," Joseph D. Rich, recently retired head of the division's voting rights section, said in a sparsely attended House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing last week.

"This connection should not be minimized," he said.


Some Civil Rights Division veterans — mostly Democrats — have been expressing concern for months. But last week more officials spoke out about what they described as a pattern of partisan decision-making on individual cases.

They said their superiors, who were political appointees, repeatedly bottled up cases that might harm the electoral position of Republicans while encouraging the staff to pursue matters that might damage Democrats' prospects.


The critics tied their allegations to those described by two of the fired U.S. attorneys. David C. Iglesias of Albuquerque, N.M., and John McKay of Seattle have said they felt pressure from Republican officials to prosecute alleged voter fraud in their states.

Keep digging, Congress. Keep digging.

UPDATE: The NY Times says the Gonzales DOJ is completely under siege as a consequence of the apparent politicization of the department:

In the past few days alone, Democrats have challenged Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, and by extension the White House, not only on the firings and the national security letters, but also on the agency’s record of civil rights enforcement, the accusation of political interference in tobacco litigation and redistricting cases, the status of pending corruption cases, and Mr. Gonzales’s role in halting an in-house inquiry into the domestic surveillance program.

Lawmakers in both parties have said mounting dissatisfaction with his department is at the heart of Mr. Gonzales’s loss of support on Capitol Hill. In the eyes of many in the House and Senate, the mishandling of the prosecutors was not an isolated incident. Some even consider the extensive use of national security letters a more fundamental threat to the attorney general’s continuing tenure, since Republicans are as unhappy about it as Democrats.


The Justice Department this week also addressed an article in The National Journal asserting that Mr. Gonzales continued to advise President Bush on whether to block a proposed investigation of the department’s role in overseeing the National Security Agency’s program to eavesdrop domestically without court warrants, after learning that the attorney general’s own conduct would be scrutinized. The department’s Office of Professional Responsibility dropped the planned investigation after President Bush denied security clearances for agents.

On Thursday, the department said that in fact Mr. Gonzales recommended to Mr. Bush that he should grant the security clearances but was overruled. Since November, the department’s inspector general, Glenn A. Fine, has been conducting his own review of the department’s involvement with the National Security Agency program.

The department has been hit with a barrage of pointed letters from Capitol Hill.

Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, wrote asking the attorney general to explain any role in shutting down the inquiry into the wiretapping. Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California and chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote Thursday asking for any communication between the White House and the agency on the tobacco legislation.

Democratic Representatives Rahm Emanuel of Illinois and Howard L. Berman of California sought assurances that the removal of the prosecutors would not impede any continuing corruption investigations. “The American people must be reassured,” their letter said, “that the best efforts of the top federal law enforcement officers in their communities are not going to be hobbled by political partisanship.”

There is pressure from outside groups as well. Bruce Fein, a lawyer and former Reagan administration Justice Department official, this week announced the formation by several prominent conservatives of the American Freedom Agenda, an organization that denounced the Bush administration’s record on civil liberties and said it would seek pledges from all presidential candidates not to pursue similar policies.

Bush and Gonzo are getting from both the left and the honest right and even the most ardent of Bush hacks like John Cornyn (R-Bushland) have been loath to back up Gonzales or try and block Democratic investigations into the malfeasance, corruption and/or incompetence infecting the Department of Justice.

Keep digging.

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