The excellently well-prepared Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), probably one of the best senators in Congress, offered up a real eye-opener in today’s Senate Judiciary hearing. The hearing ostensibly dealt with politicization in the Department of Justice but provided little new regarding Gonzales.
Mean, harsh, repetitive and stupidly thuggy Sens Arlen “Bash Anita Hill” Specter (R-PA) and Chuck “check kiting” Schumer (“D”-NY) did their usual thing — 90% wasting time, 10% good points or what should have been, and 100% self-dispay — while as usual making me feel sorry for Gonzales.
Critics of the administration have good points to make, to put it mildly. They should act that way. Grandstanding and meanness make them sound as though they themselves do not actually what’s wrong about politicizing the Department of Justice. Congress had the option of reining in the administration back in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006. That it largely waited until GWBush was down in opinion polls with hospital waste does not speak well for its grasp of essentials. Hectoring someone like Alberto Gonzales, who clearly misplaced his trust in Bush and genuinely does not handle aggression well — like many of us — proves only that individuals like Specter and Schumer never should have been elected.
Whitehouse asked questions about two memorandums from two Attorneys General, Ashcroft and Gonzales, and provided print copies of the memos. The first, dated April 15, 2002, was signed by John Ashcroft. The second, dated May 4, 2006, was signed by Gonzales. Both enunciated the position, “It is imperative that there be public confidence that the laws of the United States are administered and enforced in an impartial manner,” and laid out procedures for communication between the Department of Justice and the White House.
The memorandum Gonzales signed on May 4, 2006 — and who knows who wrote it — drastically widened channels of communication, if you call them that, between DOJ and White House regarding criminal investigations and cases.
The Ashcroft memo allowed as-needed communications on criminal matters only “between the Office of the Deputy Attorney General and the Office of the Counsel to the President,” and on appellate matters only between president’s counsel and either the Deputy AG or the Solicitor General.
The May 4, 2006, memo opened the floodgates re info on criminal investigations. Communications were newly allowed between the DOJ and — not just president’s counsel, but the entire EOP (Executive Office of the President). And then there’s a footnote, as pointed out by Senator Whitehouse:
“As used in this memorandum, the term ‘EOP’ means the White House Office, the Office of Policy Development, the Executive Residence, the Office of Administration, the National Security Council staff, the Homeland Security Council staff, the Council of Economic Advisers, the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Council on Environmental Quality, the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. For convenience, the executive functions of the Vice Presidency are referred to in this document as the “office of the Vice President” or “OVP,” AND THE PROVISIONS OF THIS MEMORANDUM THAT APPLY WITH RESPECT TO COMMUNICATIONS WITH THE EOP WILL APPLY IN PARALLEL FASHION TO COMMUNICATION WITH THE OVP.” [emphasis added]
In other words, from at least May 4, 2006, on — assuming this isn’t just a de jure ratification of something that had already been going on de facto for almost four years — the Office of the Vice President had access to presumably anything the Department of Justice knew about any criminal investigation. There is every reason to believe that the OVP had access to any continuing investigation into, for example, the Plame-CIA leak case.
It is not known whether the Office of Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald was given this information.
And yet we have the hideous rightwing noise machine brazenly arguing that the Special Counsel was going on some kind of fishing expedition. If anything, the CIA leak investigation was taking place in a giant goldfish bowl, where anyone liable to be affected by it probably knew almost everything that could happen — except for individual talent and conscientiousness on the part of prosecutors, jurors and judge in the matter.
More on that May 4 date later. For now, the work to do with Gonzales is not to keep dragging him in as a witness before the Specters and Schumers of Congress, bashing him as a substitute for doing anything effective for the American people. For a start, there is already more than enough evidence that the Judiciary Committee should unite across party lines to censure Bush and Cheney. Any decent Republican would do it in reaction to what Bush-Cheney have put Gonzales through.
As to the Democrats, they had ample help recognizing that the Bush White was “politicizing” agencies of government starting as early as 2001; I among other local writers noted it. New members of Congress were of course not able to do anything back then, but any claim by members like Schumer that he is somehow newly shocked by politicizing federal entities is bogus and should be treated as such.