Bush planned to fire all 93 US attorneys, not just 8
[A warm welcome to Red State's minuscule and demoralized readership. The teabags are over here. -- lambert]
Well, that should lay these rumors of discrimination to rest! And really, Abu G. was right on this "routine personnel matter," give him credit: After all, in corporate America, firing everybody is routine!
No, but seriously folks, why is that, no matter how hard I try, and I do try, I'm never cynical enough about the Bush administration? It's not the Mayberry Machiavellis, it's the Mayberry Sopranos! The mind reels. And the mind also reels that Pravda on the Potomac put this on A1, instead of burying it on A18:
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.
All 93? Oh. My. Fucking. Gawd. Where did they think they were going to find 93 replacements?
Hmmm, let me see... 50 states, 50 RNC chairs, plus 50 RNC assistants... Yeah, that's the ticket! And every one of those megachurches has a high-powered lawyer who knows how to keep his mouth shut to pay off the male hookers (Haggard 1:1) and deal with those pesky molestation eruptions....
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 [lying] to Congress.
Nice of Sampson to fall on his sword like that. I'm sure he'll get "taken care of" in some winger think tank toot sweet. As soon as he gets out of jail, has his conversion to Christianity, does the book deal, etc.
So who, you may ask, originated this idea? To rephrase: What Good Soldier in the White House is going to give The Boy King plausible deniability on this one? Wait for it--
None other than Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers!
But the documents and interviews indicate that the idea for the firings originated at least two years ago, when then-White House counsel Harriet E. Miers suggested to Sampson in February 2005 that all prosecutors be dismissed and replaced.
Oh. My. Fucking. Gawd. Now we know why Bush nominated her! (And leave it to a nice (Republican) church-going (Republican) Sunday School teaching (Republican) Gawd-fearing (Republican)
power slut lady from (Republican) Texas to make Richard Nixon look like a soft-hearted amateur dealer in half-measures. I mean, Nixon just fired an Independent Counsel, but nice-girl Harriet tried to fire all the prosecutors in the Federal government!
And why? What was the basis this "routine personnel matter"?
Sampson sent an e-mail to Miers in March 2005 that ranked all 93 U.S. attorneys. Strong performers "exhibited loyalty" to the administration; low performers were "weak U.S. attorneys who have been ineffectual managers and prosecutors, chafed against Administration initiatives, etc." A third group merited no opinion.
Loyalty? Um, that would be omerta, right?
And here are some precious little exchanges that show, from the inside, how a criminal authoritarian regime works:
Sampson also strongly urged bypassing Congress in naming replacements, using a little-known power slipped into the renewal of the USA Patriot Act in March 2006 that allows the attorney general to name interim replacements without Senate confirmation.
Remember Arlen Spector blaming his overzealous staff for this one? And better yet, the Justice guy who got the staffer to do it, Brett Tolman got himself a US District Attorney appointment!
"I strongly recommend that as a matter of administration, we utilize the new statutory provisions that authorize the AG to make USA appointments," [Sampson wrote in a Sept. 17 memo to Miers].
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."
"Kyle thanks for this," Miers wrote back. "I have not forgotten I need to follow up on the info. But things have been crazy."
On the day of the Dec. 7 firings, Miers's deputy, William Kelley, wrote that Domenici's chief of staff "is happy as a clam" about Iglesias.
A week later, Sampson wrote: "Domenici is going to send over names tomorrow (not even waiting for Iglesias's body to cool)."
The documents also provide new details about the case of Griffin, a former Republican National Committee researcher who was named interim U.S. attorney in Little Rock in December.
E-mails show that Justice officials discussed bypassing the two Democratic senators in Arkansas, who normally would have had input into the appointment, as early as last August. By mid-December, Sampson was suggesting that Gonzales exercise his newfound appointment authority to put Griffin in place until the end of Bush's term.
"[I]f we don't ever exercise it then what's the point of having it?" Sampson wrote to a White House aide.
Well, I guess we're going to have to invert the old saying for these guys, eh? "Use it and lose it."
Have you ever worked in a corporation where big cuts are coming? I have. Word always leaks out, and word must have leaked out here.
As Krugman presciently pointed out, it's not the eight we have to worry about, it's what the rest, who stayed, had to do to hang onto their jobs.
So, it looks to me like the entire Justice Department needs a thorough cleaning, top to bottom, since I really don't know what else to call this episode but intimidation and a reign of terror, and the entire Department had to have been irremediably politicized. That means every case that the DOJ has brought over the undeath of the Bush administration is tainted.
NOTE I am so fucking proud to be part of the blogosphere today, because Josh Marshall is the one who lit the fuse on this story. The man really knows where to dig, and how to keep digging. TPM, FDL and, dare I say it, the rest of us C-listers really are changing the rules of the game.
UPDATE As Josh points out, there is certainly more to come:
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.
UPDATE Patrick Leahy gets Shrill:
“The White House and the Attorney General have dodged Congress’s questions and ducked accountability as if they still were dealing with a rubberstamp Congress. They are discovering that those days are gone.
“I am outraged that the Attorney General was less than forthcoming with the Senate while under oath before the Judiciary Committee. It is deeply disturbing that this plan appears to have originated from high-ranking officials at the White House and executed in secret with a complicit Department of Justice.
“This is not how justice is served, nor is it how our system of checks and balances is designed to work. [I know what it's not. It's not Constitutional goverment. What is it?] It is an abuse of power committed in secret to steer certain outcomes in our justice system, and then to dust over the tracks. The President of the United States and the Attorney General are responsible for setting the moral standard for this Administration. Apparently this matter does not bother them but it does bother me, and we will summon whoever we need in our hearings to get to the bottom of this.”
Um, Senator, you're almost there. Senator Leahy, what is your plan to restore Constitutional government?
UPDATE As Josh warned, Bush's deep concern for "vote fraud"--detecting it, not committing it [snicker] is going to be the cover story, but we already know Bush's cover story is bogus. Fired U.S. Attorney John McKay:
Two machine counts initially declared [Republican] Rossi the winner. A third hand recount declared [Democrat] Gregoire the winner, by just 129 votes over Rossi.
Republicans sued in Chelan County Superior Court to have the vote declared invalid because of tabulation errors, improper ballots and alleged fraud.
McKay insists that top prosecutors in his office and agents from the FBI conducted a "very active" review of allegations of fraud during the election but filed no charges and did not convene a federal grand jury because "we never found any evidence of criminal conduct."
McKay detailed the work of his office in a recent interview. He spoke out because he believed Republican supporters of Dino Rossi, still bitter over his narrow loss to Democrat Christine Gregoire, continue to falsely portray him and his office as indifferent to allegations of electoral fraud.
McKay also wanted to make it clear that he pressed ahead with a preliminary investigation, despite the hesitation of Craig Donsanto, the longtime chief of the Election Crimes branch of the Department of Justice, who ultimately concurred with McKay that no federal crimes had been committed in the election.
"There should be no controversy at the Department of Justice, or anywhere else in the federal government, about how the 2004 election was reviewed," McKay said.
McKay's work on the 2004 election has become a national issue since he appeared last Tuesday at hearings into the Justice Department's firings of McKay and seven other U.S. attorneys in December. McKay testified that in late-2004 or early-2005 he received a call from Ed Cassidy, then chief of staff for Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., who asked about the status of ongoing investigations of voter fraud.
McKay testified that he immediately cut off the call, telling Cassidy it would be improper for him to discuss the status of any future investigations with Cassidy.
McKay also said that during a meeting last summer with former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and Deputy Counsel William Kelley, to discuss McKay's candidacy to become a federal judge, he was asked to explain why some Washington state Republicans believed he "mishandled" the 2004 governor's race.
McKay says he and four attorneys in his office worked closely with the FBI and the Department of Justice to monitor complaints of criminal wrongdoing.
McKay said that at the conclusion of the trial, Sullivan, Short, Ferbrache and others conducted a conference call with Foreman to see if there was any evidence of criminality that had not been introduced at the trial. "We left absolutely no stone unturned," McKay said. "We were assured by [Foreman] that he did not have any evidence."
Short confirmed the call, and its conclusions.
Foreman did not respond to calls seeking comment.
After the conclusion of the trial and the phone call with Foreman, neither the U.S. Attorney's Office nor the FBI received other credible evidence of federal crimes during the 2004 race.
Consequently, McKay said, "I moved on to other things."