Thursday, May 03, 2007

Blowing The Doors Off The Prosecutor Purge Scandal Barn

Lots of news in the Prosecutor Purge scandal this morning.

First, the Justice Department is investigating whether Monica Goodling, Attorney General Gonzales' White House liaison, illegally took into account party affiliation before hiring career prosecutors. According to the Washington Post account:

Justice spokesman Dean Boyd said that as part of her job, Goodling reviewed applications for entry-level prosecutor positions in some offices headed by interim or acting U.S. attorneys. In those cases, Boyd said, Goodling "may have taken prohibited considerations into account" and "whether or not the allegation is true is currently the subject of the ongoing" investigation by the inspector general and the Office of Professional Responsibility.

Boyd noted that it is against federal law and internal Justice policies to consider political affiliation in hiring for nonpolitical jobs. The allegation against Goodling was referred to investigators several weeks ago by U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg of Alexandria, who was serving temporarily as Gonzales's chief of staff.

The internal DOJ investigation of Goodling creates problems for Congressional investigators who have offered Goodling limited immunity in exchange for her testimony about her role in the Prosecutor Purge after she invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

The DOJ must approve the immunity and certify that it will not interfere with current or future criminal investigations.

If Goodling is under investigation for violations of federal law in personnel hiring cases, Congress may not be able to offer her immunity (or may not want to, since she herself may have engaged in criminal activity.)

A cynic might wonder if the criminal investigation of Goodling by the DOJ could be the administration's way to keep her from having to testify before the House Judiciary Committee about her role as liaison between the White House and the the DOJ in the Purge matter.

On the other hand, it's possible that the investigations are on the up and up and we're just getting a confluence of criminal investigations as the wider malfeasance and corruption underlying the whole matter continues to bubble to the surface.

Speaking of which, two of the fired U.S. attorneys now allege they were threatened by Michael Elston, the chief of staff to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, right before they were set to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in January:

Paul K. Charlton of Phoenix and John McKay of Seattle said that Michael J. Elston called them on Jan. 17 and offered an implicit agreement of Gonzales's silence in exchange for their continuing not to publicly discuss their removals. Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee the next day and refused to provide details about the firings.

"My handwritten and dated notes of this call reflect that I believed Mr. Elston's tone was sinister and that he was prepared to threaten me further if he concluded I did not intend to continue to remain silent about my dismissal," McKay wrote in response to questions from the House Judiciary Committee.

Elston's attorney, Robert N. Driscoll, said the calls were to reassure the two prosecutors that Gonzales did not plan to reveal their dismissals, which were not public then.

"Mike didn't intend to intimidate anybody," Driscoll said.

In addition, two of the other fired attorneys complained publicly about the role Elston played in their firings:

Carol C. Lam of San Diego wrote that Elston "erroneously accused me of 'leaking' my dismissal to the press, and criticized me for talking to other dismissed U.S. attorneys."

Bud Cummins of Little Rock repeated his account of a Feb. 20 phone call with Elston, two days after Cummins was quoted in a newspaper article. Cummins wrote that Elston "essentially said that if the controversy continued, then some of the USAs would have to be 'thrown under the bus.' " Elston has previously described Cummins's reaction as the product of a misunderstanding.

I love the excuses coming from Elston and his people. "Didn't intend to threaten anybody...the whole thing is a product of a misunderstanding..."

Sure it is.

Finally, as I noted yesterday, Senator Pat Leahy has issued a subpoena for all of Karl Rove's emails to the Justice Department related to the firings of the prosecutors:

The subpoena to Gonzales from Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) demands copies of any e-mails sent by Rove -- through either the White House or the Republican National Committee -- related to the appointment, performance or replacement of U.S. attorneys and career or political personnel at Justice.

The White House still claims that most of the Rove emails have been "lost," though a forensic consultant was hired by the RNC to try and find them.

No word yet on whether any of the Rove emails have been found.

One thing seems almost certain - the corruption runs deep in this administration and the plan to use the Department of Justice as an unofficial political wing of the Republican National Committee by hiring only GOPers at all levels of the department to do the preznut's and Karl Rove's bidding ( a clear violation of federal law) is slowly being revealed.

Let's see how far up the chain of command the criminal and/or unethical behavior goes.

So far it is pretty clear that all the people at the DOJ - Gonzales, McNulty, Elston, Goodling - were acting at the behest of someone above them.

I know we all know who that someone is. It's only a matter of whether that can be proven.

Today, former Deputy Attorney General James Comey testifies before the Congress about the matter.

First, the Justice Department is investigating whether Monica Goodling, Attorney General Gonzales' White House liaison, illegally took into account party affiliation before hiring career prosecutors.

And finally...the elephant emerges! After all the speculation--the hand-wringing over actions that are objectionable but not quite illegal--we actually have a reason why they would be desperate to cover this up.

Took 'em long enough.
I read today that now Goodling is "eager" to testify before the Senate committee.

We'll see.

One thing I do know: the HJC and SJC are really working on this behind the scenes. You notice it when committee members or their aides say something to the press to get the story moving forward again. It just happened w/ the Bloomberg story about Goodling crying to Margolis.
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