Prosecutor Posts Go To Bush InsidersMarch 31, 2007 23:27 About one-third of the nearly four dozen U.S. attorney's jobs that have changed hands since President Bush began his second term have been filled by the White House and the Justice Department with trusted administration insiders.
The people chosen as chief federal prosecutors on a temporary or permanent basis since early 2005 include 10 senior aides to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, according to an analysis of government records. Several came from the White House or other government agencies. Some lacked experience as prosecutors or had no connection to the districts in which they were sent to work, the records and biographical information show.
The new U.S. attorneys filled vacancies created through natural turnover in addition to the firings of eight prosecutors last year that have prompted a political uproar and congressional investigations.
Alberto Gonzales, White House Looped Over Sampson TestimonyMarch 31, 2007 10:42 The Thursday testimony by former chief of staff D. Kyle Sampson has caused the Justice Department and the White House to go into reversals and spin control. Based upon flip- flops from the White House, it appears, the Whitehouse are looped over the the Samson testimony and the role of Alberto Gonzales regarding the U.S. attorney firings.
Sampson in a Senate hearing directly contradicted statements by Gonzales regarding the Attorney General’s prior knowledge of the White House firings, but on Friday, Gonzales defended his role despite Sampson’s testimony.
Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales yesterday defended his role in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys an event that Sampson said Gonzales gave inaccurate accounts of his involvement in the matter.
In Boston Gonzales said "There obviously remains some confusion about my involvement in this," Gonzales said. "At the end of the day, I know what I did. And I know that the motivations for the decisions I made were not based on improper reasons.
However, D. Kyle Sampson told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the attorney general had been long and deeply involved in an action that Gonzales has said he knew little about. Sampson also gave specific accounts of discussions he had with Gonzales and meetings that Gonzales attended in which the issue was discussed.
Still Gonzales without refuting Sampson might be foretelling his future testimony on the issue. He said on Friday, "I don't recall being involved in deliberations involving the question of whether or not a U.S. attorney should or should not be asked to resign," Gonzales said.
Sampson Testimony Contradicts GonzalesMarch 30, 2007 09:01 More damaging testimony today on Capitol Hill. The former chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was on the hot seat, trying to explain the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.
Fomer Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson contradicted the testimony of his former boss today, and then poured gasoline on the fire. For Alberto Gonzales, the controversy that threatens his tenure as attorney general just keeps on building.
Two weeks ago, the attorney general told reporters he was not personally involved in the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys.
Alberto Gonzales, U.S. Attorney General (March 13): "Was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on."
Today, his former chief of staff came just short of saying the attorney general lied.
Kyle Sampson, Former A.G. Chief Of Staff: "I remember discussing with him this process of asking certain U.S. Attorneys to resign, and I believe that he was present at the meeting on November 27th."
Sen. Arlen Specter, (R) Pennsylvania: "So he was involved in discussions contrary to the statement he made at his news conference on March 13th?"
Kyle Sampson: "I believe yes, sir."
Former Gonzales Aide Says Fired Attorneys Failed To Carry Out Bush Administration PrioritiesMarch 29, 2007 09:01 The former top aide to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is expected to testify that eight U.S. attorneys were fired last year because they failed to carry out President Bush's priorities.
In testimony prepared for delivery Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kyle Sampson says the firings last year were not improper, just poorly explained.
He says any distinction between political and performance-related reasons for firing a U.S. attorney is, in his view, "largely artificial."
Sampson resigned earlier this month as the controversy over the dismissals began to grow.
Democrats allege that the firings were meant to intimidate other U.S. attorneys. The Democrats, joined by some in Mr. Bush's own Republican Party, have called on Attorney General Gonzales to resign.
The White House maintains the attorneys were fired for poor performance, while the eight say they were let go for purely political reasons.
Counselor To Gonzales Says She Won't TestifyMarch 27, 2007 11:35 Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's senior counselor refused to testify in the Senate yesterday about her involvement in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Monica Goodling, who has taken an indefinite leave of absence, said in a sworn affidavit to the Senate Judiciary Committee that she will "decline to answer any and all questions" about the firings because she faces "a perilous environment in which to testify."
Goodling, who was also Justice's liaison to the White House, and her lawyers alleged that Democratic lawmakers have already concluded that improper motives were at play in Justice's dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys last year. Goodling also pointed to indications that Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty blames her and others for not fully briefing him, leading to inaccurate testimony to Congress.
Goodling's refusal to testify illustrates the rising political and legal stakes surrounding the removal of the federal prosecutors and underscores the fissures developing among Gonzales and his current and former senior aides as the attorney general struggles to keep his job.
Goodling's decision contrasts sharply with the approach of her onetime colleague Kyle Sampson, Gonzales' former chief of staff, who resigned March 12. He has agreed to testify before the same committee. Sampson has also disputed allegations by Gonzales and others that he withheld information about White House involvement in the firings, which were initially portrayed as a routine Justice Department personnel matter undertaken without significant White House involvement.
Sampson is expected to say that "the fact that the White House and Justice Department had been discussing this subject for several years was well known" to many senior Justice officials, including Goodling and others, according to a statement issued by his attorney March 16.
"Hearings in a highly politicized environment like this can sometimes become a game of 'gotcha,' " the lawyer, Bradford Berenson, added yesterday, "but Kyle has decided to trust the Congress and the process."
Republican Senators Express Reservations Over GonzalesMarch 26, 2007 00:20 Three Republican senators voiced fresh concerns on Sunday about Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales’s handling of the dismissals of eight United States attorneys amid questions about whether the firings were politically motivated.
The comments, made in separate televised interviews by Republicans with histories of breaking with the White House, provided further indication of waning support for Mr. Gonzales where he needs it most, among fellow Republicans.
Questions over Mr. Gonzales’s future intensified on both sides of the aisle this weekend, after the release of Justice Department documents late Friday that detailed plans for a meeting between Mr. Gonzales and his aides in which they discussed the dismissals last year, 10 days before most of them happened. Mr. Gonzales had previously said that he was “not involved in any discussions about what was going on” and that he had mostly followed the process from a distance.
Speaking on “Meet the Press” on NBC, Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, said he spoke with Mr. Gonzales on Saturday and told him “he was going to have to have an explanation as to why he said he wasn’t involved in discussions — that’s the key word — and now you have these e-mails which appear to contradict that.”
U.S. Begins Process Of Reducing Abramoff Prison SentenceMarch 22, 2007 10:07 Federal prosecutors took the first steps toward reducing the prison sentence of disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is currently scheduled for release in 2011 on a Florida fraud conviction.
Documents filed in federal court say that Abramoff has provided "substantial assistance" in a separate Washington corruption scandal and that he continues to work with investigators from his prison cell in Cumberland, Md.
"However, that cooperation is not yet complete and will not be complete within one year of the defendant's initial sentencing," said assistant U.S. Attorney Paul F. Schwartz in court papers filed Wednesday.
Abramoff, once a powerful Washington lobbyist, and ex-partner Adam Kidan were sentenced March 29, 2006, to nearly six years in prison for concocting a fake $20 million wire transfer during their 2000 purchase of the Fort Lauderdale-based SunCruz Casinos gambling fleet. The bogus transfer enabled the pair to get $60 million in financing for the deal.
Abramoff also has pleaded guilty to three federal charges arising from the Washington corruption probe, which led to the conviction of ex-Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, and other government officials. Other members of Congress have been implicated in that investigation but none have yet been charged.
Schwartz did not recommend to U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck how much Abramoff's sentence should be cut. He said prosecutors will file further documents describing the "nature, extent and value" of his cooperation. Abramoff also has not yet been sentenced in the Washington case.
Life Quickly Gets A Lot Harder For White HouseMarch 21, 2007 22:17 Less than 100 days into the new Congress, Capitol Hill's Democratic leaders have set in motion two constitutional confrontations with a White House unaccustomed to such challenges.
•A House Judiciary subcommittee authorized subpoenas Wednesday to force several of President Bush's closest aides to testify about the firings of federal prosecutors. The Senate Judiciary Committee will follow suit today, said that panel's chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
•The Senate and House have held a series of debates and votes on opposing Bush's plans to increase U.S. troop levels in Iraq. Another may come before week's end: House leaders are trying to pass a bill that ties continued funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to a September 2008 deadline for troop withdrawal. Bush is threatening a veto.
Both moves raise constitutional questions about the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches of government and underscore how much the atmosphere in the nation's capital has changed since voters gave Democrats control of Congress.
"It's like night and day," says Ken Duberstein, a former White House chief of staff for President Reagan. "You're dealing with your ability to control the agenda, to control hearings, to control subpoenas."
Phony Fraud ChargesMarch 21, 2007 18:53 IN its attempts to explain the purge of U.S. attorneys, the Bush administration has argued that the fired prosecutors were not aggressive enough about addressing voter fraud. It is a phony argument; there is no evidence that any of them ignored real instances of voter fraud. But more than that, it is a window on what may be a major reason for some firings.
In partisan Republican circles, the pursuit of voter fraud is code for suppressing the votes of minorities and poor people. By resisting pressure to crack down on "fraud," U.S. attorneys actually appear to have been standing up for the integrity of the election system.
John McKay, one of the fired attorneys, says he was pressured by Republicans to bring voter fraud charges after the 2004 Washington governor's race, which a Democrat, Christine Gregoire, won after two recounts. Republicans were trying to overturn an election result they did not like, but McKay refused to go along. "There was no evidence," he said, "and I am not going to drag innocent people in front of a grand jury."
Later, when he interviewed with Harriet Miers, then White House counsel, for a federal judgeship that he did not get, he was asked to explain "criticism that I mishandled the 2004 governor's election."
McKay is not the only one who may have been brought down for refusing to pursue dubious voter fraud cases.
White House, Congress Refuse To BlinkMarch 21, 2007 18:42 Congress and the White House marched closer to a showdown in court Wednesday after lawmakers rejected President Bush’s offer to let top aides be interviewed about the firings of eight U.S. attorneys only in secret and not under oath.
A House Judiciary subcommittee responded to Bush’s offer by voting Wednesday to authorize subpoenas for Karl Rove, the president’s top political aide, and former White House counsel Harriet Miers, along with their deputies; and for Kyle Sampson, who resigned last week as chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
The vote gives Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., chairman of the full Judiciary Committee, a powerful weapon in lawmakers’ fight to force the administration to explain why the eight U.S. attorneys were forced out of their jobs late last year. It allows him to issue the subpoenas to try to haul the aides up to Capitol Hill to testify under oath at any time.
Hillary, Obama And The Youtube ElectionMarch 21, 2007 11:53 About a month ago, I was on a radio talk show (KALW-91.7 FM) to discuss the 2008 Presidential primary – when a caller predicted that this would be the “YouTube election.” Now that any web-savvy citizen can post a video online (or even create a mash-up video that satirizes a presidential candidate), elections will be decided less through conventional media buys – and more through the grassroots actions of political activists who may have no affiliation with a campaign. With this week’s release of the anonymous YouTube video lampooning Hillary Clinton as “Big Brother,” we know that the caller’s prediction was right. It’s a brave new world, and campaigns must learn to adapt.
For those who haven’t seen it yet, the video is a brilliant parody of Apple’s famous commercial from January 1984 – which introduced Macintosh computers to the world. I was six years old at the time, and a few months later my father bought us a Mac, which was our family’s first home computer. In the new video, Hillary Clinton is the “Big Brother” from the old commercial – while a woman with a Barack Obama t-shirt runs toward the large video screen, hurling a hammer at the last second to break the monotony.
House Panel Authorizes Subpoenas For Top White House AidesMarch 21, 2007 09:53 A US House panel voted Wednesday to authorize subpoenas for Karl Rove and other top White House aides.
The lawmakers want to question them in connection with the firings of eight federal prosecutors.
The White House has resisted, saying the aides should only testify in private and off-the-record.
“It will be regrettable if they choose to head down the partisan road of issuing subpoenas and demanding show trials when I have agreed to make key White House officials and documents available,” President Bush said Tuesday.
“We will not go along with a partisan fishing expedition aimed at honorable public servants,” he said.
The issue could end up before the US Supreme Court.
Hedging Your Bets On Attorney General's FutureMarch 19, 2007 11:51 Gonzales stock, so to speak, is in a nosedive.
The In-Trade prediction market, a live options bazaar trading in current events and politics, gives beleaguered Attorney General Alberto Gonzales a 45 percent chance of resigning before March 31 because of the continuing scandal over eight fired U.S. attorneys. His chances of getting the boot before the end of June rise to 60 percent, and bets are running 86 percent that he'll be out by the end of the year.
An even safer bet is that neither Gonzales nor former White House counsel Harriet Miers will be allowed to parade all the secrets of a notoriously secretive administration -- along with their widely presumed ineptitude -- on national television. White House counselor Dan Bartlett himself put the odds of that testimony to Congress at "highly unlikely."
Although President Bush considers Gonzales and Miers as Supreme Court material, neither are known as the sharpest lawyers in Washington.
Bush's famous loyalty to his closest aides, especially Texans who have worked for him for a while such as Gonzales and Miers, often transcends reason, but he isn't happy that the Gonzales furor already stomped all over his news conference with Mexican President Felipe Calderon last week. Nor can Gonzales and Miers count many friends among the conservative intelligentsia. One hand would easily suffice.
Senator Insists Bush Aides Testify PubliclyMarch 18, 2007 21:42 The Democratic senator leading the inquiry into the dismissal of federal prosecutors insisted Sunday that Karl Rove and other top aides to President Bush must testify publicly and under oath, setting up a confrontation between Congress and the White House, which has said it is unlikely to agree to such a demand.
Some Republicans have suggested that Mr. Rove testify privately, if only to tamp down the political uproar over the inquiry, which centers on whether the White House allowed politics to interfere with law enforcement.
But Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, seemed to rule out such a move on Sunday. He said his committee would vote Thursday on whether to issue subpoenas for Mr. Rove as well as Harriet E. Miers, the former White House counsel, and William K. Kelley, the deputy White House counsel.
Gop Support For Gonzales Erodes FurtherMarch 15, 2007 21:41 Republican support for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales eroded further Thursday amid an intensifying furor over his role in federal prosecutor firings, as new e-mails surfaced indicating that top White House political adviser Karl Rove had an early hand in the dismissals.
A Senate panel approved subpoenas for Justice Department officials Thursday in a probe of the firings. Subpoenas for President Bush's top aides, including Rove, could come next week.
"The new e-mails show conclusively that Karl Rove was in the middle of this mess from the beginning," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., adding that the revelations make it "imperative" that Rove testify under oath before Congress.
A White House e-mail to David Leitch, then deputy counsel to the president, dated Jan. 6, 2005, regarding U.S. attorneys says Rove was questioning "whether we were going to allow all to stay, request resignations from all and accept only some of them, or selectively replace them."
In a reply three days later, Gonzales' chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, tells Leitch that "we would like to replace 15-20 percent of the current U.S. attorneys — the underperforming ones."
"The vast majority of U.S. attorneys, 80-85 percent_I would guess, are doing a great job, are loyal Bushies, etc., etc.," Sampson's e-mail says. Later in the e-mail, Sampson wrote that home-state senators may resist replacing prosecutors "they recommended. That said, if Karl thinks there would be political will to do it, then so do I."
Gonzales’S Critics See Lasting, Improper Ties To White HouseMarch 15, 2007 21:39 As he pressed his case to be confirmed as attorney general, Alberto R. Gonzales made a promise to the Senate Judiciary Committee — and to the nation at large.
“I will no longer represent only the White House,” he testified in 2005 as he prepared to leave his job as White House counsel. “I will represent the United States of America and its people. I understand the differences between the two roles.”
Yet in one of his first acts in his new job, Mr. Gonzales brought over two top White House aides and elevated a third, D. Kyle Sampson, a Justice Department staff member who had worked in the White House. Within days, Mr. Sampson began identifying federal prosecutors to oust, an effort initiated by Harriet E. Miers, the fellow Texan who succeeded Mr. Gonzales at the White House.
The attorney general’s accumulating critics point to the removal of seven prosecutors in December as evidence that Mr. Gonzales, a longtime Bush loyalist, had failed to distance himself and his agency from the White House and its political agenda.
Senate Republican Urges Bush To Fire GonzalesMarch 14, 2007 20:14 President Bush voiced lukewarm confidence in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Wednesday, shortly before a conservative lawmaker became the first Republican in Congress to urge Bush to fire him.
Gonzales appeared to be battling for survival as the nation's highest law enforcement officer amid a mounting political firestorm over his Justice Department's dismissal of eight U.S. federal prosecutors.
"I do have confidence in Attorney General Al Gonzales," Bush said, but he added that Gonzales needed to go to Capitol Hill to answer questions and ease concerns.
"I'm frankly not happy about" how the U.S. attorneys' firings were handled, Bush told a news conference with Mexican President Felipe Calderon in Merida, Mexico.
The Justice Department has said the U.S. attorneys were fired last year largely because of policy differences or performance problems. But critics charge it appears that they may have been ousted for political reasons.
Republican Sen. John Sununu of New Hampshire called for Gonzales' dismissal. He complained about the attorney general's handling of the firings as well as his earlier dealings with Congress on anti-terror efforts.
Lawmakers Urge Investigation Into Administration’s Prosecutor Purge In Abramoff CaseMarch 14, 2007 12:11 In recent weeks, Congress has investigated the Bush administration’s recent purge of qualified, well-respected U.S. attorneys. But one former prosecutor — Frederick A. Black — has received little attention. The administration fired Black shortly after he began investigating Jack Abramoff’s dealings in Guam.
Today in a letter to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, Reps. George Miller (D-CA) and Nick Rahall (D-WV) urge Congress to investigate “the potential political manipulation by Jack Abramoff and his allies in Congress and the Administration” in the Black case:
At the time, we viewed the replacement of the Acting U.S. Attorney as an example of the overly zealous and improper, if not illegal, conduct by the now disgraced and convicted lobbyist, Jack Abramoff.
In light of more recent revelations about political interference with the work of other U.S. Attorneys, however, it is necessary now to re-examine the case as it may represent the beginning of a pattern of behavior by some members of Congress and officials in the Bush Administration to politicize the work of U.S. Attorneys and to quash their independence.
Congressman Says He Doesn't Believe In GodMarch 13, 2007 11:48 If the only choice of God we have is the same concept as George Bush's, I don't believe in him either!
Cue the jokes about godless politicians and Bay Area liberals.
Secular groups Monday applauded a public acknowledgment by Rep. Pete Stark that he does not believe in a supreme being, making the Fremont Democrat the first member of Congress — and the highest-ranking elected official in the U.S. — to publicly acknowledge not believing in God.
The American Humanist Assn. plans to take out an ad in the Washington Post today congratulating the congressman for his public stance and highlighting the contributions of other prominent secular humanists, such as writers Barbara Ehrenreich and Kurt Vonnegut and actress Julia Sweeney.
Fred Edwords, a spokesman for the group, said non-theistic Americans often faced discrimination for their views.
"So often throughout American history, people who are non-theistic or don't believe in a supreme being can't get elected to public office or, if they inform the public of their view, they don't get reelected," he said. "We're trying to increase the acceptance of non-theists as every bit as American as everybody else."
Key Figure In Justice Dept. To Step DownMarch 13, 2007 11:47 D. Kyle Sampson, the chief of staff to Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales, is leaving the Justice Department in the first fallout from the department's bungled firing of U.S. attorneys last year, people familiar with the situation said Monday night.
Sampson, a top lawyer under Gonzales and his predecessor, John Ashcroft, had been identified by congressional Democrats as one of a handful of senior officials whom they wanted to question as part of the deepening investigation into who ordered seven federal prosecutors relieved of their duties in December and why.
The Justice Department is expected to provide further details of its handling of the matter in briefings to congressional leaders this morning, said the sources, who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak and because it was a personnel matter.
The House and Senate Judiciary committees also announced Monday that they would ask President Bush's longtime political strategist, Karl Rove, to testify as part of the widening investigation into White House involvement in the politically charged affair.
Gonzales Said To Stonewall A GOP QueryMarch 12, 2007 09:03 The top Republican on the House's main investigative committee, Rep. Thomas Davis of Virginia, is charging the Justice Department with stonewalling his inquiries about the FBI's assertion that it closed several leak investigations because of a lack of cooperation on the part of other government officials.
In January, Mr. Davis asked the Justice Department about a report in The New York Sun that at least three leak inquiries were shut down after officials at the "victim agency" ignored phone calls and canceled meetings with FBI agents assigned to the probes. The agents said some requests for information were rebuffed for more than a year.
On Friday, the lawmaker, the ranking Republican member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a sharply worded letter to Attorney General Gonzales, expressing "aggravation" at the Justice Department's handling of questions about the aborted investigations.
"General Gonzales, it would be an understatement to say I am frustrated and disappointed by your department's response," Mr. Davis wrote. Mr. Davis said he would agree to procedures for a classified briefing, but that the Justice Department replied that "the concern is not classification." Mr. Davis's letter also disclosed that the director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, is conducting an internal review of the bureau's handling of leak cases.
Unmasked Agent Piles Pressure On 'Liability' CheneyMarch 11, 2007 17:35 THE US vice-president, Dick Cheney, is expected to come under pressure over his role in the outing of Valerie Plame, the former CIA agent, when she testifies before Congress this week.
It was Plame’s exposure - after her husband Joseph Wilson accused the White House of manipulating prewar intelligence over the supposed sale of yellowcake uranium ore to Iraq - that led to the conviction last week of Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Cheney’s top aide, for lying and obstruction of justice.
Jurors felt they had punished only the “fall guy” for the affair after Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, said in his closing remarks that there was “a cloud over the vice-president”.
Plame is bringing a civil case against Cheney, Karl Rove, President George W Bush’s aide, and other officials for revealing her identity. It is a crime to leak the name of a covert CIA agent, although Plame’s precise status has never been revealed.
“This case doesn’t end with Mr Libby’s conviction,” said Maurice Hinchey, a Democratic congressman. “Testimony in the Libby trial made it even more clear that Vice-President Dick Cheney played a major role in Mrs Wilson’s outing.”
White House In Deal With Dems Over Fired AttorneysMarch 09, 2007 11:50 Slapped even by GOP allies, the Bush administration is beating an abrupt retreat on eight federal prosecutors it fired and then publicly pilloried.
Just hours after Attorney General Alberto Gonzales dismissed the hubbub as an ''overblown personnel matter,'' a Republican senator Thursday mused into a microphone that Gonzales might soon suffer the same fate as the canned U.S. attorneys.
''One day there will be a new attorney general, maybe sooner rather than later,'' Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said during a Judiciary Committee meeting.
Among the fired prosecutors was the U.S. Attorney for Arizona, Paul K. Charlton.
A short time after Spector's remarks, Gonzales and his security detail shuttled to the Capitol for a private meeting on Democratic turf, bearing two offerings:
1. President Bush would not stand in the way of a Democratic-sponsored bill that would cancel the attorney general's power to appoint federal prosecutors without Senate confirmation. Gonzales' Justice Department had previously dismissed the legislation as unreasonable.
2. There would be no need for subpoenas to compel testimony by five of Gonzales' aides involved in the firings, as the Democrats had threatened. Cloistered in the stately hideaway of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy, D-Vt., the attorney general assured those present that he would permit the aides to tell their stories.
CIA Leak Case Moves On To Civil CourtMarch 08, 2007 15:11 The CIA leak saga did not end with I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's conviction this week. On top of his lengthy appeals, he and senior Bush administration officials face a lawsuit for their role in the exposure of a former CIA operative.
Valerie Plame believes the administration violated her constitutional rights by leaking her identity to reporters in 2003, and she is demanding compensation. Her attorneys believe the case could reveal more about the inner workings of the Bush White House than surfaced during Libby's monthlong trial.
Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney, White House political adviser Karl Rove and former State Department Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage are named in the case. So far, it has been a matter of dueling legal briefs. Lawyers are due in court this May for a hearing on whether it should be thrown out.
Why Were These U.S. Attorneys Fired?March 07, 2007 16:21 After Republicans lost control of Congress last year, newly empowered Democrats promised to launch a series of tough investigations on everything from the Iraq war to Medicare and high energy prices. But since taking charge on Capitol Hill in January, a series of unexpected new issues have captured their attention, none potentially more damaging to the Bush Administration than the controversy over alleged political influence in the firing of eight Republican U.S. attorneys last Dec. 7, in an episode that some of its victims have already taken to calling the "Pearl Harbor Day Massacre."
The White House approves all U.S. attorneys, who function as the federal government's chief prosecutors in 93 jurisdictions around the country. As political appointees, they serve "at the pleasure of the President," and can be replaced, at least theoretically, at any time for any reason. But group firings in the middle a presidential term are highly unusual. Though Attorney General Alberto Gonzales insisted to Congress that "I would never, ever make a change in a U.S. attorney position for political reasons," critics were outraged at the December dismissals, among them the firing of an Arkansas U.S. attorney to make way for Timothy Griffin, a prot�g� of White House political guru Karl Rove. The outcry forced Griffin to withdraw. Gonzales' top deputy later claimed the firings were necessary because of "performance-related" issues. But it was later revealed that all but two of the dismissed prosecutors had won outstanding evaluations for competence.
Those revelations set the stage for Tuesday's dramatic appearance of six of the ousted Republican prosecutors before House and Senate committees dominated by Democrats. One of the fired prosecutors, David Iglesias of New Mexico, testified that he felt "leaned on" by Sen. Pete Domenici over a case he was pursuing. Iglesias said the New Mexico Republican and former mentor hung up on him after learning Iglesias would not seek indictments in a criminal investigation of Democrats before the 2006 election. "He said, 'Are these going to be filed before November?'" Iglesias recalled. "I said I didn't think so... to which he replied, 'I'm very sorry to hear that.' And then the line went dead. "I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach," Iglesias testified. "Six weeks later I got the call that I had to move on."
Newspapers Dumping Coulter Over 'F' CommentMarch 07, 2007 12:25 At least three newspapers have dropped conservative Ann Coulter’s column as a result of Coulter’s use of the word ‘faggot’ to describe presidential hopeful John Edwards, Editor & Publisher reported Wednesday.
The decisions by the Oakland Press of Michigan, The Mountain Press of Sevierville, Tennessee and the Lancaster New Era (Pennsylvania) are the first indication that Coulter’s remarks are not going over well, in either conservative and liberal circles.
Is Libby Taking A Fall For The White House?March 07, 2007 11:18 Scooter Libby's memory wasn't bad enough. The vice president's former chief of staff was convicted Tuesday on two counts of perjury, one count of obstruction of justice, and one count of making false statements. He had claimed that he did not try to mislead investigators looking into the leak of a CIA agent's identity and that any misstatements he made in his grand-jury testimony or FBI interviews were the result of faulty recollections. The jury didn't buy it. As the forewoman answered "guilty" to the judge's questions for four of the five counts, Libby looked straight ahead. He didn't grimace. He didn't wince. He didn't look at his wife, who wept in the front row where she had sat for the entire trial. A lawyer sitting next to Libby's wife put his arm around her.
Afterward Denis Collins, the former Washington Post reporter on the jury, said the deliberating jurors often wondered about the role of the White House in general and Dick Cheney and Karl Rove in particular. Collins said that "a number of times" the jury asked themselves, "What is he doing here? Where is Rove and all these other guys? ... I'm not saying we didn't think Mr. Libby was guilty of the things we found him guilty of. It seemed like he was … the fall guy." Collins said the jury believed that Vice President Cheney did "task [Libby] to talk to reporters." He said, "Some jurors said at one point, 'We wish we weren't judging Libby. ... This sucks.' "
Evangelical Leader Says Giuliani's Divorce A ProblemMarch 07, 2007 11:14 A Southern Baptist leader said Tuesday that evangelical voters might tolerate a divorced presidential candidate, but they have deep doubts about GOP hopeful Rudy Giuliani, who has been married three times.
Richard Land, head of public policy for the Southern Baptist Convention, told The Associated Press that evangelicals believe the former New York City mayor showed a lack of character during his divorce from his second wife, television personality Donna Hanover.
"I mean, this is divorce on steroids," Land said. "To publicly humiliate your wife in that way, and your children. That's rough. I think that's going to be an awfully hard sell, even if he weren't pro-choice and pro-gun control."
Giuliani married his longtime companion, Judith Nathan, in 2003. They had dated publicly while Giuliani was married to Hanover. His first marriage ended in an annulment.
'Scooter' Libby Guilty On Four Of Five CountsMarch 06, 2007 10:21 Former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby has been found guilty on four of five counts in his perjury and obstruction of justice trial.
Libby, 56, faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and a fine of $1 million.
Libby was convicted of obstruction of justice, making a false statement and two counts of perjury.
Jurors cleared him of a second count of making a false statement.
The indictment against the former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney concerned how Valerie Plame was outed as a CIA operative and what Libby said to a grand jury concerning the case.
Libby was not accused of exposing Plame. He resigned in 2005 after the grand jury indicted him.
Prosecutors contended Libby disclosed Plame's covert profession to reporters as part of a plan to discredit her husband, Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador who alleged that the Bush administration twisted some intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war.
Fired U.S. Attorneys To Defend RecordsMarch 06, 2007 09:27 A Republican senator said Tuesday he's not convinced that the Justice Department acted properly when it fired at least eight federal prosecutors, including some who say they were ousted without explanation amid differences with the department.
Democratic lawmakers want to know whether the Bush administration dismissed the U.S. attorneys for political reasons, and Republican Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said as the Senate Judiciary Committee opened a hearing into the firings that he was also troubled by the cases.
"If the allegations are correct, then there has been serious misconduct in what has occurred in the terminations of these United States attorneys," Specter said. He cautioned his colleagues to withhold judgment on the mass firings and the charges of cronyism leveled against the Justice Department.
But as a former district attorney in Philadelphia, he was clearly troubled by reports that two lawmakers — Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson, both New Mexico Republicans — contacted their state's U.S. attorney about a pending case. Domenici and Wilson have acknowledged making the calls, but denied placing political pressure on prosecutor David Iglesias.
"United States attorneys have to be allowed to do their job in an unfettered way," Specter said.
With Republicans Like These, Who Needs Democrats?March 05, 2007 08:53 Editorials like this just warm my heart...
In years past, a potential Presidential candidate had plenty of time to introduce him or herself to the public between election seasons. But with many states moving their primaries up to bolster their importance in the 2008 Presidential race, nominees will be determined nearly a year before the election takes place. The “common wisdom” says that a candidate who’s not already well-known by the primaries can’t win a general election. That may have been true when the primaries were held only a few months ahead of the general election, but ignoring good, solid candidates in favor of those whose main qualification is media-driven popularity would be a mistake.
Do we really want to throw serious Conservative candidates under the bus in favor of “star power?” Since the Republicans dumped Conservative Tom McClintock because moderate Arnold Schwarzenegger was a “sure win” in the 2003 recall election, California’s Governator has moved so far Left that Grey Davis might as well have been left in charge. Sure, the man’s got an “R” after his name, but letters don’t make policies—people do. Now weak-willed Republicans propose to make the same mistake on a larger scale.
The election of our President should not be reduced to the level of a popularity contest. We’re not electing homecoming king of the local high school, but the leader of the free world. A serious party should put forth a serious candidate—one who represents the best that party has to offer. Yet I fear that the Republican party is being driven towards candidates whose only recommendation is name recognition, regardless of their qualifications or policies.
Coulter Criticized For Slur Against John EdwardsMarch 04, 2007 22:18 Three of the leading Republican presidential candidates Saturday denounced one of their party's best-known conservative commentators for using an anti-gay epithet when discussing a Democratic presidential contender at a gathering of conservatives in Washington, D.C.
The remarks by Ann Coulter, who regularly speaks at conservative events, were denounced by the candidates, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Rudy Giuliani of New York, and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts.
Their statements came after Democrats, gay-rights groups and bloggers protested the remarks.
Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference before an overflow crowd Friday, Coulter said, "I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word ... ," she said, using a common epithet for gays.
Edwards' aides responded with an e-mail that urged supporters to donate to Edwards' campaign.
Political Interference Is Alleged In The Sacking Of A U.S. AttorneyMarch 01, 2007 11:12 Congressional leaders said Wednesday that they'd seek testimony from several U.S. attorneys who were summarily fired by the Bush administration, hours after the top federal prosecutor in New Mexico alleged that he was fired because of political interference.
Democrats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate vowed to hold a new round of hearings to determine if partisan politics played a role in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys across the country. The House is set to vote Thursday on whether to issue subpoenas to four of the prosecutors. The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to ask the U.S. attorneys to testify voluntarily before it decides whether to subpoena them.
The controversy flared up early Wednesday afternoon after David Iglesias, the departing U.S. attorney from New Mexico, told McClatchy Newspapers that he believes he was forced out because he refused to speed up an indictment of local Democrats a month before November's congressional elections.
Iglesias said that two members of Congress called separately in mid-October to inquire about the timing of a federal probe of a kickback scheme. They appeared eager, he said, for an indictment to be issued before the elections in order to benefit the Republicans. He refused to name the members of Congress because, he said, he feared retaliation.
Former Bush FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford Gets Three Years Probation And $90,000 FineMarch 01, 2007 11:10 U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson on Tuesday sentenced former FDA commissioner Lester Crawford to three years of supervised probation and ordered him to pay fines of about $90,000 for false reporting and conflicts of interest related to ownership of stocks in companies regulated by the agency, the AP/Washington Times reports.
In addition, Crawford will have to complete 50 hours of community service and pay for the cost of his supervised probation (Yen, AP/Washington Times, 2/28).
Crawford in October 2006 pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges from the Department of Justice in U.S. District Court. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
According to DOJ, Crawford and his wife owned stock in a number of companies regulated by FDA when he held senior positions at the agency but failed to disclose the holdings and made false reports about stocks he and his wife owned (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 1/22).
During a 90-minute sentencing hearing, Crawford said, "I want to assure you that I accept responsibility for what I've done."
He declined to comment after the hearing. Attorney Barbara Van Gelder, who represented Crawford, said that he should have received a lesser sentence because he did not intend to defraud or misuse his position at FDA for personal financial gain.
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