Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Preznut Bush Tied To Prosecutor Purge Scandal
The White House is now acknowledging that the preznut was involved in the firing of the prosecutors, White House and administration officials are also now acknowledging that they were involved in the dismissals at a much earlier date than they first acknowledged and another DOJ official - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' senior adviser and chief of staff D. Kyle Sampson - has resigned as a result of the scandal.
First, the NY Times:
WASHINGTON, March 12 — The White House was deeply involved in the decision late last year to dismiss federal prosecutors, including some who had been criticized by Republican lawmakers, administration officials said Monday.
Last October, President Bush spoke with Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to pass along concerns by Republicans that some prosecutors were not aggressively addressing voter fraud, the White House said Monday. Senator Pete V. Domenici, Republican of New Mexico, was among the politicians who complained directly to the president, according to an administration official.
The president did not call for the removal of any specific United States attorneys, said Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman. She said she had “no indication” that the president had been personally aware that a process was already under way to identify prosecutors who would be fired.
But Ms Perino disclosed that White House officials had consulted with the Justice Department in preparing the list of United States attorneys who would be removed.
Within a few weeks of the president’s comments to the attorney general, the Justice Department forced out seven prosecutors.
Previously, the White House had said that Mr. Bush’s aides approved the list of prosecutors only after it was compiled.
The role of the president and his advisers in the prosecutor shakeup is likely to intensify calls by Congress for an investigation. It is the worst crisis of Mr. Gonzales’s tenure and provoked charges that the dismissals were a political purge threatening the historical independence of the Justice Department.
Now the Washington Post:
The White House suggested two years ago that the Justice Department fire all 93 U.S. attorneys, a proposal that eventually resulted in the dismissals of eight prosecutors last year, according to e-mails and internal documents that the administration will provide to Congress today.
The dismissals took place after President Bush told Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales in October that he had received complaints that some prosecutors had not energetically pursued voter-fraud investigations, according to a White House spokeswoman.
Gonzales approved the idea of firing a smaller group of U.S. attorneys shortly after taking office in February 2005. The aide in charge of the dismissals -- his chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson -- resigned yesterday, officials said, after acknowledging that he did not tell key Justice officials about the extent of his communications with the White House, leading them to provide incomplete information to Congress.
Lawmakers requested the documents as part of an investigation into whether the firings were politically motivated. While it is unclear whether the documents, which were reviewed yesterday by The Washington Post, will answer Congress's questions, they show that the White House and other administration officials were more closely involved in the dismissals, and at a much earlier date, than they have previously acknowledged.
Josh Marshall summarizes what we know about the matter:
As has happened so many times in the last six years, the maximal version of this story -- which seemed logical six weeks ago but which I couldn't get myself to believe -- turns out to be true. Indeed, it's worse. We now know that Gonzales, McNulty and Moschella each lied to Congress. We know that the purge was a plan that began at the White House -- and it was overseen by two of President Bush's closest lieutenants in Washington -- Miers and Gonzales. Sampson is the second resignation. There will certainly be more.
And remember this key point: The 'document dump' is meant to get bad news out of the way fast. But it's always a hedge. It never includes the really bad stuff. And if you're not in deep crisis mode, ya' never do it on a Monday.
Deep crisis mode indeed.
Actually, after watching them ride rough-shod over every federal agency, stron-arm Congress, and treat the media like trained bears for 6 years, I'm shocked that it's taken this long for them to get around to putting a choke-hold on federal prosecutors.
Either way, scary stuff.