Tuesday, July 24, 2007

GONZALES GETS ANOTHER TONGUE-LASHING: SPECTER SUGGESTS A SPECIAL PROSECUTOR IN US ATTORNEY FIRING SCANDAL

"I don't trust you."
--Senate Judiciary Chair, Sen. Patrick Leahy today to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (AP, 07.24.2007)


"Your credibility has been breached to the point of being actionable." --Senator Arlen Specter, ranking Republican of the Senate Judiciary Committee today. (Bloomberg, 07.24.2007)


Washington D.C.--Jeffrey A. Taylor is a name we'll be hearing a lot more of in the next-few-days--or should. He's the interim (appointed, bypassing Senate approval) U.S. Attorney appointed by Gonzales at-the-behest of the Bush administration, and who's going to continue blocking legitimate congressional oversight and investigations into the firing of 9 U.S. Attorneys last fall. Now we know why--it was an insurance policy for the November 2006 midterms to insulate the White House from legal-scrutiny with the possible (later, literal) demise of the GOP majority.

It all seems to be working well for the Bush administration with a seven-month-long inquiry that shows no signs of ending yet. But Specter's challenge towards the appointment of a special prosecutor might just be that break that was needed, and thrusts the investigations firmly into the realm of bipartisanship.

Sen. Arlen Specter told the embattled attorney general such that a scenario may now be necessary because, the senator maintained, Bush administration officials have made statements that might have the effect of shutting down congressional supervision. "The constitutional authority and responsibility for congressional oversight is gone,'' said Specter, the Judiciary Committee's senior Republican. Gonzales sat just a few feet away, at the witness table, as Pennsylvania Republican declared: "If that is to happen, the president can run the government as he chooses, answer no questions.'' (AP, 07.24.2007)

These are very strong words from one of the most senior Republicans in the Senate. The problem is the all the other Republicans in Congress who continue to protect the White House from any significant oversight. Specter astutely noted that the Bush administration's refusal to allow Taylor to proceed in any investigation and prosecution of anyone in the White House is tantamount to an overturning of fundamental democracy.

There were also more exchanges over Monica Goodling, as well as the bedside visit he and and then Chief of Staff at the White House--Andrew Card Jr., who resigned in March of 2006--had with the sedated, former Attorney General John Ashcroft to renew an intelligence program whose provenance is again being disputed. The Attorney General was a legal counsel for the White House under Harriet Miers (former Bush senior legal counsel) at the time.

Miers has refused to testify under oath before the House and Senate Judiciary committees after being subpoenaed, at-the-behest of the president. In addition, AG Gonzales is now contradicting his June testimony ("I misspoke," which in Justice Dept. parlance sometimes means "to lie") that the program-in-question was the warrantless surveillance one, by now saying it is not the same program, but another one. The highest-ranking Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee prescribed a cure, and very curtly:

Specter raised the prospect of calling for a special prosecutor to press a potential contempt-of-Congress citation over the White House's refusal to provide certain documents and sworn testimony regarding the firing of nine federal prosecutors last year. He denounced the Bush administration's stand that it would prohibit the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia from pursuing a contempt citation. (Washington Post, 07.24.2007)

This isn't unlike what happened in the Plame scandal--and didn't that one work-out well? You have to do something, but one can see this is going to contribute to creating the proper climate towards impeachments in the Bush administration. Events in Iraq could also aid in this effort, as well as other emergent-scandals. Predictably, Gonzales has continued to cast himself in some hero's role, and again claims he's not resigning. The reasons are simple: how else can the Bush administration control the investigations and the comings-and-goings within the Justice Department? If an independent prosecutor is appointed by Congress, that's going to be out-the-window.

Attorney General Gonzales attempted to tout the achievements of Justice under his stewardship, but forgot to note the rise in violent crime in the past year througout the country, the statistics coming from his own bureaucracy. It's worth noting that such an embattled AG is going to have difficultly expediting his legitimate responsibilities while simultaneously trying to defend his past-lapses of the same. This comment from Sen. Specter was very telling:

Specter: Let’s find one you will answer. How about [the] death penalty case? Charlton contacted your office and said [the] case was not appropriate for dp. Testimony that AG spent 5-10 minutes on the issue…is this accurate? (Sen.gov)

Expect an explosive reaction from the White House if a special prosecutor is appointed. Under reported were hints from the Senate Judiciary Committee that Gonzales could face perjury charges for previous testimony, presumably covering the Ashcroft incident. It's being noted widely that the Gonzales testimony today contradicts that of then (2004) Deputy AG James Comey in several areas.


AP Today: http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,,-6801631,00.html

The Washington Post Today: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/24/AR2007072400207_2.html?hpid=topnews>


Bloomberg's excellent piece Today: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=amoeIdSanAzw&refer=home

The Senate Judiciary Committee: http://judiciary.senate.gov/