Balkinization  

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Why Gonzales Got In Trouble

JB

It is a sad but altogether predictable feature of our politics that what has finally gotten people to call for Alberto Gonzales' resignation is not his role in facilitating torture, prisoner abuse, domestic surveillance and violations of Americans' civil rights, but the possibility that he was punishing United States Attorneys for failing to indict enough Democrats.

Today at a press conference Gonzales stated, in the by now standard responsibility-denying use of the passive voice, that "mistakes were made" in the firing of U.S. Attorneys.

Yes, mistakes were made. And he made them.

But he did more than make mistakes. He actively contributed to undermining the professionalism of the Justice Department, to violating international law-- including the Geneva Conventions, whose provisions he famously labeled "quaint", to condoning torture through extraordinary rendition, to crafting policies of prisoner abuse, to spying on American citizens, and to violating their basic rights. The passive voice just doesn't do him justice. Indeed, neither does the word "justice."

Comments:

"Gibbetting". I like the sound of that. But I'll settle for the buckets of tar and feathers and a rail.....

Cheers,
 

... let me amend that: "... as long as there's no significant risk of serious organ failure that is incidental to any prescribed legal sanctions."

Cheers,
 

It does seem odd to find Gonzales in more trouble for this than his most grievous crimes. Then again, Al Capone went to jail for tax evasion.
 

Pardon my cynicism, but Democrats are jumping on Gonzales for this, rather than for all the abuses of the "unitary executive" because he is directly threatening their interests here. Sigh.
 

I also find it bizarre that he's in more trouble for this than all the other unconstitutional things that have gone on under his watch.

Could someone address how US attorneys are appointed and confirmed? I've seen a few articles today about how Janet Reno fired all 93 US attorneys at the beginning of the Clinton administration. Is that true (and typical)? Is the current situation different because dismissals occurred in the middle of a presidential term *and* attorneys felt pressured to prosecute Democrats before an election? And what are the implications of the Patriot Act? Do replacement attorneys bypass the traditional confirmation process? Thanks for any insight!
 

Could someone address how US attorneys are appointed and confirmed? I've seen a few articles today about how Janet Reno fired all 93 US attorneys at the beginning of the Clinton administration. Is that true (and typical)? Is the current situation different because dismissals occurred in the middle of a presidential term *and* attorneys felt pressured to prosecute Democrats before an election? And what are the implications of the Patriot Act? Do replacement attorneys bypass the traditional confirmation process? Thanks for any insight!

1. I'm not sure Janet Reno fired all of them, but she did ask for their resignations.

2. Her request was typical. US Attorneys are political appointments, treated similar to Cabinet officials (though expected to behave impartially). Cabinet officials also resign at the beginning of a new Administration.

3. The current situation is unusual in two ways, at least. First, it's unusual to replace attorneys that the Administration itself appointed. Second, it's grossly improper to do so as a form of interference with the exercise of prosecutorial discretion. We wouldn't have an independent judiciary, or one in which we had any confidence, if people believe that prosecutions are undertaken for political reasons rather than on the merits.

4. The renewal of the Patriot Act contained a provision which allowed the replacements to be made without Congressional approval. Previously, US Attorneys had to be approved by Congress. Note that it's not the firing which requires approval, it's the appointment of a replacement.

If you're interested in this issue, I recommend Josh Marshall's site.
 

This comment has been removed by the author.
 

Paul Krugman pointed out in Monday's NY Times that the real scandal is not the firings so much as it is those who were not fired -- those who went along with the White House demands to turn the Justice Department into an arm of the Republican Party. Congressional hearings should focus on prosecutions that were brought against Democrats in the absence of evidence, and that were not brought against Republicans despite strong evidence of a crime. And they should focus on the extent to which prosecutions for alleged Democratic "voter fraud" were attempts to prevent legitimate voting.
 

Absolutely, perfectly said.

Thank you!
 

Once again, Alberto has proved that he is not very Speedy.
 

The GOP is again proving that they are not half the political knife fighters that the Dems are.

I almost spit out my drink when I heard on the news that Hillary Clinton of all people was attacking Gonzales for firing these handful of US Attorneys for "political reasons."

If memory serves, the Clintons fired every US Attorney on the Justice payroll and then appointed to Friends of Bill to take over in Arkansas and Illinois where there were ongoing criminal investigations of the Clintons' various scams back home and of House Committee Baron Rostenkowski's mail fraud.

Now, what were the "political reasons" Justice fired these 8 US Attorneys? They were fired primarily for refusing to investigate and prosecute the variety of Dem voter frauds reported in the press in their jurisdictions leading up to the 2006 elections.

The only constant here appears to be Dem criminal behavior. Yet, the Dems have rather brilliantly turned this into a White House "scandal."
 

Bart,

You mean, at least with respect to Washington state, the "voter fraud" that McKay investigated and found didn't exist? That "voter fraud"?

Keep spinnin'.
 

One more time....

When Bill Clinton took office he replaced all of the USAs just like every president has done upon the assumption of office.

All of his appointees were subject to the Advise and Consent of the Senate. None were later replaced for partisan reasons.

Had Abu Gonzalez replaced all of the USAs, with the Advise and Consent of the Senate, and not tried to lie about it, then his actions would have been unprecedented, but at least legal.

I take this whole situation as evidence that Turdblossom really thought they would keep the Senate and this could be swept under the rug. they certainly didn't have their stories straight ahead of time.
 

mike:

You are welcome to post a link to a source describing Mckay's "investigation" of all the voters registered as Dems who were dead, living in storage facilities and were felons in Washington. McKay, a Dem holdover, did next to nothing.

Then there are all the imaginary voters submitted by ACORN across the country in the jurisdictions of other US Attorneys.
 

The Hubbell Standard:

Take sacked U.S. Attorney John McKay from Washington state. In 2004, the Governor's race was decided in favor of Democrat Christine Gregoire by 129 votes on a third recount. As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and other media outlets reported, some of the "voters" were deceased, others were registered in storage-rental facilities, and still others were convicted felons. More than 100 ballots were "discovered" in a Seattle warehouse. None of this constitutes proof that the election was stolen. But it should have been enough to prompt Mr. McKay, a Democrat, to investigate, something he declined to do, apparently on grounds that he had better things to do.

In New Mexico, another state in which recent elections have been decided by razor thin margins, U.S. Attorney David Iglesias did establish a voter fraud task force in 2004. But it lasted all of 10 weeks before closing its doors, despite evidence of irregularities by the likes of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or Acorn. As our John Fund reported at the time, Acorn's director Matt Henderson refused to answer questions in court about whether his group had illegally made copies of voter registration cards in the run-up to the 2004 election.
 

"Bart" DePalma says:

If memory serves, the Clintons fired every US Attorney on the Justice payroll and then appointed to Friends of Bill to take over in Arkansas and Illinois where there were ongoing criminal investigations of the Clintons' various scams back home and of House Committee Baron Rostenkowski's mail fraud.

You memory doesn't serve. There were no such "ongoing criminal investigations of the Clintons' various scams back home".

As for Rostenkowski, he was indicted in 1994 (by Clinton-appointed attorneys), was stripped of his house positions and lost his seat later that year. He pleaded guilty in 1996 and served seventeen months. Wow, such obstruction of justice....

It is true that Clinton brought in his own attorneys at the beginning of his first term (as did Dubya, but no one is complaining about that). But he didn't fire his own attorneys for resisting political pressure from congressmen and local party stalwarts to conduct partisan prosecutions for which they could find no evidence.

Shorter "Bart": "But ... but ... but ... CLINTON'S< PENIS!!!"

Now, what were the "political reasons" Justice fired these 8 US Attorneys? They were fired primarily for refusing to investigate and prosecute the variety of Dem voter frauds reported in the press in their jurisdictions leading up to the 2006 elections.

You missplelled "alleged by Republican, bit for which no evidence was presented". But that certainly doesn't cover Lam or most of the others....

Not to mention, the lying maladministraiton said they were fired for "performance reasons" before they changed their mind and said they weren't....

But isn't it just like ol' Dubya-butt-kisser "Bart" here to charge to the fore with the latest RNC "spin points" in the face of yet another egregious example of partisam thuggery by the Dubya maladministration and their "brain", Karl Rove? "Bart" is so excrement-covered by this time with his knee-jerk cranial insertion that he can't smell the stench any more.

Cheers,
 

"Bart" DePalma:

Then there are all the imaginary voters submitted by ACORN across the country in the jurisdictions of other US Attorneys.

"Yes, there were Democrat voters all across the country. Arrest them, they're helping the Terraists!"

"Bart" is unhappy that Dubya-appointed DAs can't see the hallucinatons he sees all around him. I recommend the "appointment" of P.R.N. Haldol.

Cheers,
 

"Bart" DePalma cuts'n'pastes from the rabid dogs at the Wall Stree Journal editorial page....

OK, here's my link:

WSJ misstated Seattle U.S. attorney's "grounds" for not pursuing voter fraud charges

Discussing the growing controversy surrounding the Bush administration's decision to fire eight U.S. attorneys, a March 14 Wall Street Journal editorial asserted that former U.S. attorney John McKay -- identified in the editorial, apparently falsely, as a Democrat -- "declined" to investigate allegations of voter fraud in the 2004 Washington state gubernatorial race "apparently on the grounds that he had better things to do." In fact, McKay testified that he did not convene a grand jury to investigate the matter because "there was no evidence of voter fraud."

From the March 14 Wall Street Journal editorial:

Take sacked U.S. Attorney John McKay from Washington state. In 2004, the Governor's race was decided in favor of Democrat Christine Gregoire by 129-votes on a third recount. As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and other media outlets reported, some of the "voters" were deceased, others were registered in storage-rental facilities, and still others were convicted felons. More than 100 ballots were "discovered" in a Seattle warehouse. None of this constitutes proof that the election was stolen. But it should have been enough to prompt Mr. McKay, a Democrat, to investigate, something he declined to do, apparently on grounds that he had better things to do.

During a House hearing on the U.S. attorney firings, McKay testified:

McKAY: It is very true that the controversy surrounding the 2004 governor's election was one that had a lot of public debate. I was aware that I was receiving criticism for not proceeding with a criminal investigation. And, frankly, it didn't matter to me what people thought. Like my colleagues, we work on evidence, and there was no evidence of voter fraud or election fraud. And, therefore, we took nothing to the grand jury.

Further, according to a March 13 Seattle Times article, "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 charge and did not convene a federal grand jury because 'we never found any evidence of criminal conduct.' " The Times also reported: "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."

The Wall Street Journal's assertion that McKay -- who was appointed to the position by President Bush -- is a Democrat apparently stems from a letter sent to Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) by Tom McCabe, executive vice president of the Building Industry Association of Washington, in which McCabe called McKay a Democrat. But Chris Vance, the former state Republican Party chairman, was quoted in a March 14 Seattle Times article referring to McKay as a Republican, stating that "he felt compelled to approach McKay [on the election matter] as a fellow Republican." An October 31, 2001, Seattle Times article about McKay's swearing-in as U.S. attorney described McKay as a "moderate Republican," and a May 20, 1999, Associated Press article identified McKay as a Republican and quoted him referring to the GOP as "our party." The Department of Justice website documented that McKay previously worked for Republican Rep. Joe Pritchard (WA) and as a White House fellow under George H.W. Bush in 1989-90. Also, according to Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Joel Connelly, McKay's family has been "involv[ed] in four Bush Presidential campaigns."


Lies and the lying liars.....

Cheers,
 

Bart,

I think Arne did a pretty good job of obliterating your argument. I'm sure you will keep moving forward as if it was never posted. Nevertheless, I would like to hear your response. I could also link some Congressional testimony that references the fact that McKay was a post-9/11 Bush appointee for emphasis if you like...
 

More on the Arkansas DA here:

In 1992, for example, President Bush's chief counsel, C. Boyden Gray, called Albert Casey, then head of the RTC, to ask about a criminal referral that mentioned the Clintons. Referrals are a collection of data indicative of possible wrongdoing, based on which the Justice Department decides whether to prosecute. Gray wasn't even supposed to know such a referral existed. The mere fact that he called Casey was a violation of the integrity of the RTC--which is supposed to be entirely independent of the executive hranch. (Casey, appropriately, avoided further contact with Gray.) Needless to say, this story didn't make the cover of Time. It barely got covered at all.

and:

The referral Lewis submitted in 1992 was rejected by the U.S. Attorney in Little Rock, Charles Banks, who was a Republican appointee. Banks doubted whether a successful prosecution could be mounted on the basis of the referral and stated that to move forward on the case might amount to "prosecutorial misconduct."

Stewart makes the outlandish claim that Banks, while a Republican, was "an Arkansan first," and therefore reluctant to pursue the Clintons. He also asserts that Banks would have feared that going after the Clintons would hurt his career. But if anything, Banks would have had the opposite motive. In fact, Banks, a Bush appointee, lost his job after Clinton took office.

Other officials agreed with Banks's opinion of Lewis's referral. Mark McDougal, a staff attorney at the Department of Justice, said in a memo that "No factual claims can be found in the referral to support the designation of Mr. or Mrs. Clinton as witnesses." A career prosecutor in the Little Rock office and two FBI special agents assigned to the case also testified in the Senate that they found the inclusion of the Clintons as witnesses to be unsupported.

Lewis was (at least ostensibly) removed from the Madison investigation in November, 1993. Rep. James Leach has suggested that her removal was a political act in response to political pressures. But the record shows that it was directed by the senior counsel to the Kansas City RTC's Professional Liability Section, Julie Yanda, who told the Senated Lewis had been boarding and hidding documents related to Madison. Yanda believed Lewis's conduct was damaging both the investigation and her office. Even after Lewis was "removed" from the case, she continued to work on Madison. She even taped at least one conversion, with April Breslaw of the Washington RTC office--then leaked the tape to Rep. Jim Leach. In sworn testimony, Lewis claimed the taping was an accident; Stewart implies that Lewis did it deliberately. If so, she perjured herself.


While nominally true that Clinton had Banks replaced, it was hardly true that Banks was engaged in "ongoing criminal investigations of the Clintons' various scams back home"; rather the opposite. For more on the partisan hack Jean Lewis (who was not a U.S. attorney) and the whole Arkansas Project, read Conason and Lyons's book, "The Hunting of the President".

Cheers,
 

Not only did Gonzales call the Geneva conventions "quaint", he based this characterization on the false claim that they require prisoners to be supplied with musical instruments. If he wasn't lying, he either relied on his memory without bothering to check or he cannot understand a not particularly difficult legal document.
 

Regarding the quaint comment: didn't Gonzales make that comment before he became attorney general (and while he was Bush's chief counsellor)? (Or did he also repeat it afterwards, while AG?)

And wasn't he simply parroting the Bush admin's policy: for Rumsfeld also effectively repudiated them, before Gonzales even, I seem to recall. And he was the one actually charged with implementing military policy and justice: therefore the most responsible individual, after the president.
 

I still haven't figured out why this story has any legs. Last I knew U.S. attorneys were political appointments, which as we all know are appointed for political reasons. So some get fired. They claim that they get fired for political reasons. No problem until they further claim that somehow it's wrong to have political reasons for firing political appointees who are hired for political reasons. Someone's not connecting the dots in the mainstream media, who keep reporting this as a scandal instead of the tautology that it really is.
 

Jeremy Pierce:

I still haven't figured out why this story has any legs. Last I knew U.S. attorneys were political appointments, which as we all know are appointed for political reasons.

Well, you might want to ask Richard Nixon. No wait, he's dead; how about Robert Bork?

Cheers,
 

As an academic, you might be more careful than to repeat falsehoods that have long ago been refuted. The AG called "quaint" those provisions of the Geneva Conventions:

"...requiring that captured enemy be afforded such things as commissary privileges, scrip (i.e., advances of monthly pay), athletic uniforms, and scientific instruments.”

Hardly the core of the Geneva Conventions, nor what is conveyed by your misrepresentation.

Here's a PDF of the original memo:

http://www.npr.org/documents/2005/nov/torture/torturegonzales.pdf

But hey, don't let the facts get in the way of a really cool lefty narrative.
 

Brian:

As an academic, you might be more careful than to repeat falsehoods that have long ago been refuted. The AG called "quaint" those provisions of the Geneva Conventions:

"...requiring that captured enemy be afforded such things as commissary privileges, scrip (i.e., advances of monthly pay), athletic uniforms, and scientific instruments.”

Hardly the core of the Geneva Conventions, nor what is conveyed by your misrepresentation.


Not quite sure who's not the "academic" here (Yoo's in theory a law perfesser at Boalt). The Geneva Conventions don't say any such thing. This is just a big "straw man" that Yoo threw up.

Admittedly, the Third Geneva Convention does provide that P.O.W.s be paid (See Articles 60-62). But Yoo didn't saw "P.O.W.s"; he said "captured enemy", and they have gone to great lengths to insist that the detainees are not "P.O.W.s". If they are, though, they're entitled to pay.

As for "scientific instruments", this is in the list of things that P.O.W.s are allowed to receive if someone sends it to them. The detaining power doesn't have to provide such.

Cheers,
 

Pardon my cynicism, but Democrats are jumping on Gonzales for this, rather than for all the abuses of the "unitary executive" because he is directly threatening their interests here. Sigh

jaring futsal and jaring golf
 

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