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Specter Predicts Alberto Gonzales Will Quit

Senator Arlen Specter predicts Alberto Gonzales will resign as Attorney General before the "no confidence" vote.

The New York Times in an editorial today explains why the scandal matters.

One question, though. I reported here in February, via the Washington Post, that Tim Griffin, the acting U.S. Attorney for Arkansas, named to replace Bud Griffin, said he would decline the permanent appointment. So why does the Times say:

As a result of the purge, Tim Griffin, a Republican operative and Karl Rove protégé, was installed as the top federal prosecutor in eastern Arkansas. Rachel Paulose, a 33-year-old Republican activist with thin prosecutorial experience, was assigned to Minnesota. If either indicted a prominent Democrat tomorrow, everyone would believe it was a political hit.

Griffin appears to be a lame duck.

As for Paulose, the stated problems with her are her management style, probably caused by her relative youth as opposed to inexperience. To be fair, many U.S. Attorneys don't have prosecutorial experience as the job is a political plum. They aren't appointed because they have crackerjack conviction rates. They are appointed because they've been recommended to their state's senators, usually as a result of political clout or efforts.

The issue is that once installed in the job, they are supposed to be apolitical in the way they mete out justice. So I think the Times' analogy is off in that respect.

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Let's Not Fall for Re-Inventing John Ashcroft as a Good Guy

The Washington Post re-invents former Attorney General John Ashcroft, casting him as a protector of civil liberties in comparison to Alberto Gonzales.

Who are they kidding? John Ashcroft may have had a moment on his hospital sick bed in which he balked at re-authorizing the warrantless NSA surveillance program, and he may have expressed reservations about indefinite detentions at Guantanamo, but he was just as abominable as an Attorney General, and in my opinion, more so than Alberto Gonzales.

From his push on the Patriot Act, to his initiating warrantless monitoring of attorney-client conversations, to his many failed terrorism cases, his connection to Abu Ghraib, his insistence on prosecuting medical marijuana cases even in states that had legalized it, his attempt to keep tabs on federal judges, his belief that the undocumented could be held indefinitely and most spectacularly, his crusade to increase the use of the death penalty in federal cases, over the objections of his own prosectors and a federal judge, he should not be re-evaluated for his one moment of lucidity.

He was the worst Attorney General ever.

A blast from the past: The criticisms of Senators at his confirmation hearings.

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Sen. Ken Salazar Calls for Gonzales to Resign

Colorado Senator Ken Salazar has joined the roster of Senators urging Alberto Gonzales to resign.

Salazar, D-Denver, has long been considered one of Gonzales' few Democratic allies in Congress, and until today he had declined to join many fellow Democrats and handful of Republicans who have been calling for Gonzales to step down in the wake of a controversy over the firing of federal prosecutors last year.

In a press conference in Denver, Salazar said he has become concerned about a "politicization" of the Department of Justice. He said he spoke to Gonzales and urged him to resign, saying it was "time for the Department of Justice to get a fresh start."

Salazar is hardly a liberal Democrat. He's not only centrist, but a well known compromiser who values bi-partisanship.

I'm beginning to think Gonzales may actually resign. If it wasn't likely, I don't think Salazar would have taken a lead role in this.

Then again, perhaps Salazar, formerly the Attorney General of Colorado, just feels particularly strongly about the job.

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Gonzo: Must Have Been A Different Illegal Surveillance Program

Yesterday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was asked by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee about his sworn testimony that "the Terrorist Surveillance Program had aroused no controversy inside the Bush administration, despite congressional testimony Tuesday [by James Comey]that senior departmental officials nearly resigned in 2004 to protest such a program."

Gonzo's response? "The Justice Department said yesterday that it will not retract . . ." Must have been talking about some different illegal surveillance program. But these questions still stand; does Gonzales still stand by these statements?

I take my responsibilities very seriously in respecting the role of the Department of Justice, given to the department by Congress, to decide for the executive branch what the law requires . . .

I understand and it's my judgment that I don't get to decide for the executive branch what the law is. Ultimately, that is the president, of course. But by statute, the Department of Justice is given the authority to provide advice to the executive branch.

And so, while I certainly participate in discussions about these matters, at the end of the day, that opinion represents the position of the department and therefore the position of the executive branch.

James Comey testified that Gonzales did not accept the Justice Department as the "decide[er] for the executive branch what the law requires." Surely then either Gonzales' above testimony requires clarification at the least or Gonzales needs to refute Comey's testimony.

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Gonzales' Troubling Testimony


Via mcjoan, Sens. Schumer, Feingold, Kennedy and Durbin are concerned about discrepancies in Gonzales' Congressional testimony concerning the objection of then Deputy Attorney General James Comey to the BushCo warrantless surveillance program:

In very dramatic testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, former Deputy Attorney General James Comey testified . . . that you and former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card went to Mr. Ashcroft's bedside at George Washington Hospital, where he was in intensive care, in an effort to get him to agree to certify the legality of a classified program that he and Mr. Comey, who was serving as acting Attorney General at the time, had concluded should not be so certified. . . .

. . . You testified last year before both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Judiciary Committee about this incident. On February 6, 2006, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, you were asked whether Mr. Comey and others at the Justice Department had raised concerns about the NSA wiretapping program. You stated in response that the disagreement that occurred was not related to the wiretapping program confirmed by the President in December 2005, which was the topic of the hearing.

. . . We ask for your prompt response to the following question: In light of Mr. Comey's testimony yesterday, do you stand by your 2006 Senate and House testimony, or do you wish to revise it?

I have one more for the Senators. During his confirmation hearings in January 2005, Gonzales testified that:

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James Comey Video

Politics TV has the video of James Comey's testimony yesterday about his rush to the hospital to pre-empt Alberto Gonzales and Andy Card's attempt to get former Attorney General John Ashcroft to sign off on the extension of the warrantless NSA wiretap program.

Update: Don't miss Marcy Wheeler on Comey in The Guardian today, The Constitution is in Intensive Care.

Via Jane at Firedoglake, Glenn Greenwald provides context and the Washington Post editorial calls the White House actions alarming.

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Comey, Ashcroft and the Hospital Wiretap Visit

Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee today. Marcy Wheeler live-blogged it over at Firedoglake.

The MSM is reporting on Comey's testimony regarding Alberto Gonzales' and Andrew Cards' 2004 hospital visit to former Attorney General John Ashcroft to get him to sign off on an extension of Bush's warrantless NSA electronic surveillance program.

I covered that extensively here and here in January, 2006, including reporting from the New York Times and Newsweek.

Think Progress has the transcript of today's Comey testimony.

Did Comey add anything today to the story that wasn't previously known? Is it really as shocking as Charles Schumer makes it sound? Or should Schumer have done something about it back in 2006 when the story was widely reported and we were all complaining about it?

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Court Grants Monica Goodling Immunity Request

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Hogan granted the House Judiciary Committee's request for immunity for Monica Goodling so she can be forced to testify at an upcoming hearing. I've uploaded the immunity application and order (pdf.)

The New York Times adds a new name to the mix:

Two years ago, Robin C. Ashton, a seasoned criminal prosecutor at the Department of Justice, learned from her boss that a promised promotion was no longer hers.

“You have a Monica problem,” Ms. Ashton was told, according to several Justice Department officials. Referring to Monica M. Goodling, a 31-year-old, relatively inexperienced lawyer who had only recently arrived in the office, the boss added, “She believes you’re a Democrat and doesn’t feel you can be trusted.”

The Times also reports details of the questions Goodling asked applicants, including whether they ever committed adultery:

Ms. Goodling would soon be quizzing applicants for civil service jobs at Justice Department headquarters with questions that several United States attorneys said were inappropriate, like who was their favorite president and Supreme Court justice. One department official said an applicant was even asked, “Have you ever cheated on your wife?”

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Another US Atty Scandal: Missouri

Are you ready for another U.S. attorney scandal? We haven't talked about Bradley Schlozman, but this NY Times editorial tells the story:

From the facts available, it looks like a main reason for installing Mr. Schlozman [as US Attorney in Missouri] was to help Republicans win a pivotal Missouri Senate race.

Jim Talent, the Republican incumbent, was facing a strong challenge from Claire McCaskill last year when the United States attorney, Todd Graves, resigned suddenly. Mr. Graves suspects that he may have been pushed out in part because he refused to support a baseless lawsuit against the state of Missouri that could have led to voters’ being wrongly removed from the rolls.

Schlozman had no reservations about interfering with the election.

Days before the election, he announced indictments of four people who were registering voters for the liberal group Acorn on charges of submitting false registration forms.

What were Schlozman's qualifications?

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DOJ Okays Limited Immunity for Monica Goodling

It's official. The Justice Department will allow the House Judiciary Committee to offer limited immunity to Monica Goodling for her testimony about the U.S. Attorney firings and Alberto Gonzales' role in them.

The move means that Goodling is likely to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee on a broad range of questions about the firings that she helped coordinate, including the extent of involvement by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and the White House, officials said.

I'm not sure what the "limited" qualifier means in this case. According to the letter sent by DOJ, it sounds like they are agreeing to whatever immunity the House asks for.

The Judge is expected to grant the request Friday.

Update: Another name to add to the mix: Jay Apperson. The line that caught my eye:

When he was counsel to a House subcommittee in 2005, Jay Apperson resigned after writing a letter to a federal judge in his boss's name, demanding a tougher sentence for a drug courier. As an assistant U.S. attorney in Virginia in the 1990s, he infuriated fellow prosecutors when he facetiously suggested a White History Month to complement Black History Month.

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Waas: Alberto Gonzales' Secret Firing Order

Update: Think Progress has Sen. Patrick Leahy's response to Murray's disclosure.

*****

Murray Waas breaks new ground in the U.S. Attorney firing scandal, by unconvering a secret, March 2006 order signed by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales broadly delegating hiring and firing of non-civil service Justice Department officials, including high-level staff at the Criminal Division, to his then Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson and to Monica Goodling who became his White House liason a month after the order was signed.

In the order, Gonzales delegated to his then-chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, and his White House liaison "the authority, with the approval of the Attorney General, to take final action in matters pertaining to the appointment, employment, pay, separation, and general administration" of virtually all non-civil-service employees of the Justice Department, including all of the department's political appointees who do not require Senate confirmation. Monica Goodling became White House liaison in April 2006, the month after Gonzales signed the order.

The existence of the order suggests that a broad effort was under way by the White House to place politically and ideologically loyal appointees throughout the Justice Department, not just at the U.S.-attorney level. Department records show that the personnel authority was delegated to the two aides at about the same time they were working with the White House in planning the firings of a dozen U.S. attorneys, eight of whom were, in fact, later dismissed.

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New Document Dump in U. S. Attorneys' Firing


It's Friday afternoon and time for a new document dump over at the House Judiciary Committee which is investigating the firing of U.S. Attorneys.

The documents are here.

Another group were released yesterday, available here.

TPM readers will be analyzing them in the comments here.

Christy at Firedoglake discusses James Comey's upcoming testimony before the Committee next Thursday. He was No. 2 at DOJ.

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House Grants Monica Goodling Immunity

Think Progress reports that the House Judiciary Committee has voted to grant Monica Goodling immunity for her testimony about the firing of U.S. Attorneys.

On MSNBC yesterday, fired U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, in addition to saying he filed a Complaint with the Office of Special Counsel against Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales (and Goodling) for violating the Hatch Act,

It’s is something I filed back on April 3 of this year…based on, you know, Special Counsel having powers to investigate where evidence goes. I actually filed a Hatch Act complaint against Gonzales, McNulty, Sampson and Goodling and they’re already getting documents from the Justice Department and possibly from the White House. […]

...I think Monica Goodling is holding the keys to the kingdom. I think if they get her to testify under oath with a transcript, and have her describe the process between the information flow between the White House counsel, White House and the Justice Department, I believe the picture becomes a lot clearer.

As to Rove,

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Will Dumping Gonzales Really Make a Difference?

Conservative and liberal bloggers alike are predicting a downfall for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

If you missed today's hearing, and don't have the time to watch it, here's the full transcript.

And this from the New York Times news article (not editorial) on the hearing:

In more than five hours of often-combative testimony, Mr. Gonzales, who sat grim-faced, clasping his hands and hunched over, struggled to offer a coherent explanation for the dismissals. He apologized for his mistakes in what he described as a flawed process, but defended the removal of eight United States attorneys as proper.

I'm not as charged up about this as most people. What will change with Gonzales gone? Bush will appoint another one of his loyal faves to replace him. The war on drugs, war on civil liberties and trend towards draconian sentences will continue. Say what you want about Gonzales, he's nowhere near the threat to constitutional rights that John Ashcroft was. He's continued Ashcroft's policies, but he seems to be more of a follower than a take-charge innovator of new ways to deprive people of their freedom.

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Bill Clinton: Gonzales Should Resign

Via Think Progress: Former President Bill Clinton said on Larry King Live tonight that Alberto Gonzales should resign.

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