In George W. Bush's second term, the unwarranted firings of eight U.S. Attorneys did become major news. The Department of Justice ousted Carol Lam of San Diego in a purge of U.S. Attorneys. She put Congressman Cunningham in prison, was in charge of following up on connections to his case, and was close to obtaining House documents on Representative Jerry Lewis, a Californian who had been appropriations chairman. She was one of eight US Attorneys who appeared to have been removed for political reasons. To prevent Senate questioning of the replacements, a new provision of the amended Patriot Act was used in appointing the replacements as interim US Attorneys, who could serve indefinitely and whose appointments did not require Senate confirmation.
The removal of Thomas Di Biagio in Maryland was attributed to his looking into people connected with the Republican Governor Bob Ehrlich funneling money from gaming interest to promote legalized slot machines. Di Biagio also examined their links with a Washington/DC prostitution ring run by Deboraj Jeane Palfrey, later known as the “DC Madame.” She was subsequently prosecuted and she claimed that she was a scapegoat for her customers, whose names were seqled by a federal judge. She speculated that some of her employees were involved in the sex ring associated with former Congressman Randy Cunningham and Mitchell Wade of MZM, Inc.
In Nevada, David Bogden was removed, and it was wondered if the cause was his looking into Governor Jim Gibson’s receiving payments or gifts from a firm that received secret military contracts when Gibson was in Congress. Senator Peter Domenici pressed for the removal of David C. Iglesias because he had not sped up an investigation in time to damage New Mexico Democrats in the 2006 elections. In Washington State, John McKay had angered superiors because he could not prove that the Democrats had stolen the gubernatorial election of 2004. He said he found no evidence and was unwilling to drag innocent people in front of a grand jury. Representative Doc Hastings, former chair of the ethics committee, had called him about the Washington Gubernatorial recount. A Justice official said McKay could have been removed because he was to aggressive in seeking a thorough investigation of the murder of an assistant US attorney, who had been a prominent anti-gun advocate.
Paul Charlton of Arizona was removed while he was investigating very questionable land deals on the part of Republican Congressman Rick Renzi. In Arkansas, Karl Rove associate Timothy Griffin was appointed to replace a man with a good record. Griffin had been research director of the Republican National Committee and in 2004 masterminded the “caging” of 70,000 would be voters. “Caging “ is a method of setting up voters to have their registration challenged by a variety of very effective procedures. Challenging potential voters based on caging lists can occur at the polls. The Republican National Committee was forced to forego caging some years ago in a consent decree because it had targeted black for caging, but the consent decree did not apply to state parties. In most cases they would not know they had been removed until it was too late. They were mostly minority people—some students, some soldiers, and some in homeless shelters. Caging is an extremely effective technique today the HAVA Act of 2002 appears to partially legitimize and facilitate it.
It developed that Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales had discussed this purge of federal attorneys even before Gonzales became Attorney General. However, Gonzales had said that he was not involved in the discussion of the removals. Kyle, Sampson, his former chief of staff, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the Attorney General was very much involved in the process. However, Sampson added that he himself had no idea that any of those prosecutors were involved in very sensitive political investigations. That seemed very implausible. But he admitted that he had suggested firing Patrick Fitzgerald, who was the special prosecutor in the Plame Case. No wonder Republicans on the committee wanted to shut down that hearing.
Evidence was produced that Monica Goodling, once a senior aide to Gonzales, had created a political test for becoming an Assistant U.S. Attorney. This violated long-standing Department of Justice policies. Gonzales also gave her and Kyle Sampson, his former chief of staff, the power to fire the department’s top officials. All this made it much more difficult to deny that the Justice Department had been politicized.
A study by professors Donald Shields and John Cragan showed that of 375 corruption cases under US attorneys under Bush to early 2007, 298 involved Democrats and 67 involved Republicans, and still another 10 involved independents. John Nichols of The Capitol Times, placed the Gonzales question in a larger context: “The Controversy that matters is not about the attorney general’s hiring practices. It is about a lawless administration, and the president who has led this country further and further from its constitutional moorings.” The Gonzales controversy has distracted attention from the sad fate of the Civil Rights Division, which has been gutted, with career lawyers forced out to make way for appointees with very conservative credentials.
It was recalled that U.S. Attorney Chris Christie in New Jersey opened an investigation of Senator Bob Menendez when he was in a close election contest, suggesting that the criminals he testified against at the risk of his life years ago were actually in league with him. It was also recalled that a career U.S. attorney in Guam was removed in 2002. He had been investigating Jack Abramoff’s activities there. Abramoff wrote in March 2002, “I don’t care if they appoint bozo the clown, we need to get rid of Fred Black,” That aspect of the Abramoff investigation ended.
The investigation of the firings was hampered through claims of executive privilege, claims of lost e-mails, and the refusal to turn over other documents. Nevertheless, it produced the admission and incontrovertible evidence that the Bush administration had violated prohibitions regarding the hiring of civil service attorneys on the basis of political affiliation. This was one more piece of evidence that Republicans in the Justice Department put the interests of their party above that of the people of the United States. Traditional barriers designed to separate the work of the DOJ from politics simply dissolved. Under Bush, 471 White House aides were authorized to talk directly to the top 30 people at Justice. In the past, only the President, Vice President, White House counsel, and chief of staff could contact people at the top of the Department of Justice.
In the end, it proved impossible measure the extent to which the Department of Justice had been politicized because the Executive branch simply refused to provide the documents Congressional investigators subpoenaed. The balance between the branches had been badly eroded, and there was little public outcry. The interesting investigation of Puerto Rico’s Democratic Governor, Anibal Acevedo-Vila, probably was related to all this. The island’s career US Attorney, who had been promised Republican backing for a permanent slot, carried on a long and apparently fruitless investigation of the governor. It began with claims of campaign finance irregularities and spread into every aspect of the man’s life including his relations with a delegate to Congress, clothing purchases, whether he had plastic surgery, and whether his hair was a replacement or original. The investigation was marked by many seemingly purposeful leaks.
The Congressional investigation of the political firings began to sputter to a close as the Executive Branch refused to provide needed information and witnesses. It also claimed that it somehow lost millions of e-mails. The final blow came when the Bush Justice Department announced that it was prohibiting US Attorneys from enforcing Congressional subpoenas.
Sherman has written African American Baseball: A Brief History, which can be acquired from LuLu Publishing on line.http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?search_forum
"Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." Orwell-- The US is probably moving toward becoming a heavily controlled Rightist state. This blog is an effort to document how that happened.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
- Sherman De Brosse
- Sherm spent seven years writing an analytical chronicle of what the Republicans have been up to since the 1970s. It discusses elements in the Republican coalition, their ideologies, strategies, informational and financial resources, and election shenanigans. Abuses of power by the Reagan and G. W. Bush administration and the Republican Congresses are detailed. The New Republican Coalition : Its Rise and Impact, The Seventies to Present (Publish America) can be acquired by calling 301-695-1707. On line, go to http://www.publishamerica.com/shopping. It can also be obtained through the on-line operations of Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Do not consider purchasing it if you are looking for something that mirrors the mainstream media!