Wonky Muse
Wonky Muse

March 13, 2007

A House of Lies

Previously:

TPM Muckraker has the case file on this scandal but to recap, eight U.S. Attorneys (USAs), including Carol Lam who successfully prosecuted Republican Cogressman Duke Cunningham, were fired under mysterious circumstances.

An obscure provision in the Patriot Act grants U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales the authority to appoint their interim replacements indefinitely without Senate confirmation. Gonzales and other Justice officials testified before the Senate that the firings were a "routine personnel matter". Now evidence increasingly shows they were politically motivated.

The latest:

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post are reporting that the White House is knee deep in this scandal. To summarize:

1. Bush spoke with Gonzales in October, 2006 to pass along concerns by Republicans that some prosecutors aren't vigorously addressing "voter fraud" (Note: as Daily Kos said, "voter fraud" is GOP jargon for "we're worried we'll lose, can you keep these people from voting?). Within a few weeks of the conversation, the seven USAs were fired; another one was fired months before.

2. In early 2005, Harriet Miers inquired with the Justice Department on firing all 93 USAs fired when their term expired. Gonzales chief of staff D. Kyle Sampson said a smaller list was better, since a general filing would be too hard on the Justice Department. Gonzales approved the idea of a smaller firing list.

3. Miers collaborated with Sampson on making the firing list, contrary to previous claims that the list was only approved by the White House after it was compiled by the Justice Department. White House maintains Bush didn't see the list or make specific recommendations for the list.

4. As Miers was drawing up the list with Sampson, Karl Rove passed along concerns regarding New Mexico prosecutor David Iglesias's failure to indict some Democrats in a "voter fraud" investigation. Iglesias was added to the list in October, after Lampson also received similar complaints about him from Republican Congressman Pete Domenici and other New Mexico Republicans.

5. Kyle Sampson send Miers an email in 2005, ranking all 93 USAs, with loyal USAs being rated strong performers and USAs "who have been ineffectual managers and prosecutors, chafed against Administration initiatives, etc." as weak performers. Twelve USAs were targeted at one time.

6. Of the eight attorneys fired, only three have received weak ratings: Margaret Chiara of Michigan, Bud Cummins of Arkansas and Carol Lam of San Diego, California (who successfully prosecuted the Duke Cunningham case). Two have received strong ratings: David Iglesias and Kevin Ryan of San Francisco, California.

7. Bud Cummins of Arkansas was replaced by Karl Rove's former aide Tim Griffin.

8. It was Sampson who suggested bypassing Congress in naming the replacements by using the obscure Patriot Act provision I mentioned above:

"I strongly recommend that as a matter of administration, we utilize the new statutory provisions that authorize the AG to make USA appointments," he wrote.

By avoiding Senate confirmation, Sampson added, "we can give far less deference to home state senators and thereby get 1.) our preferred person appointed and 2.) do it far faster and more efficiently at less political costs to the White House."

"I strongly recommend that as a matter of administration, we utilize the new statutory provisions that authorize the AG to make USA appointments," he wrote [...]

"[I]f we don't ever exercise it then what's the point of having it?"
9. Sampson has now resigned, after admitting that he didn't fully disclose the extent of his communication with the White House about the firings.

10. Congressional committees are now calling on both Karl Rove and Harriet Miers to testify. They are also interested in hearing from Sampson.

What can we conclude from this developments so far? I'll discuss it in my next post about the issue.


posted at 4:02 PM by Wonky Muse

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"Sapere Aude."
(Dare to Know)
-- Epistularum Liber Primus, Horace

Wonk (noun): def. A political nerd. Know spelled backwards.

Wonky Muse is the other Filipino American female political blogger. The sane, liberal one.


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