Going After The Gang That Couldn't Fire Straight

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, always seems to know how to slice one more piece of carpaccio from the body of a controversy. So, Sunday, rather than simply coming out and saying that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales for his role in Firegate has an enormous credibility, integrity, and honesty problem with leaders of his own party (never mind the rest of us), Sen. Specter said this on NBC's Meet the Press: "Look, we have to have an attorney general who is candid and truthful... And if we find he has not been candid and truthful, that's a very compelling reason for him not to stay on."

I don't know if Sen. Specter's committee will ultimately "find" that Gonzales has "not been candid and truthful." When the Attorney General testifies next month, he is likely to try to wiggle out of the latest contradiction between his words and his deeds by saying that he doesn't remember being at the November 27th meeting in which the plan to fire the prosecutors was discussed. Or, he will say that he was at the meeting but didn't actually do anything but listen so he really wasn't in on any of the discussions that took place (try telling that to your girlfriend, by the way, when she catches you in a "discussion" with another woman). Either way, I don't expect the sort of candor from the Attorney General that is going to generate much clarity of the sort needed to resolve this mess.

If there are ultimately going to be honest answers to tough questions they are much more likely to come instead from the extraordinary internal investigation now underway at the Justice Department spearheaded by two honest and experienced professionals who know how and where to look for things they aren't mean to find. Glenn A. Fine at the Office of the Inspector General and H. Marshall Jarrett at the Office of Professional Responsibility are together going to try to get to the bottom of what happened to those U.S. Attorneys and why. And if either or both men find something beyond mere politics (or the sort of routine incompetence we have come to expect from this Justice Department) we even could see a special prosecutor.

To his credit, the Attorney General reportedly ordered and authorized this internal probe. The problem for him, though, is not only that it may come too late to save his job but also that it may unearth even more information that embarrasses his bosses at the White House. Sen. Specter's parsing aside, we saw this past weekend the further erosion of political support for Gonzales. The work of Fine and Jarrett will go a long way in determining whether the Attorney General and his colleagues stand on weak legal ground, too.

By Andrew Cohen |  March 26, 2007; 7:42 AM ET agag
Previous: Gonzales And His "I Did Not Have Sex With That Woman" Moment | Next: Getting Worse for Gonzales and his Justice Department


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In balancing public interests in having effective law enforcement against the power given over to bureaucracy (particularly one composed of large numbers of legal professionals), there are two sides to consider: What they did; what they did not do.

I hope the committee hearings look with some depth into issues of what they did not do as well. I suspect a lot of citizens' interests got buried by other things on the political agenda.

Posted by: On the plantation | March 26, 2007 11:16 AM

Is this another case of the criminals investigating themselves to determine whether or not they are criminals???How many times has this happened now???How can anyone have any confidence in ANYONE in this den of theives????

Posted by: cincigal74 | March 26, 2007 11:23 AM

**To his credit, the Attorney General reportedly ordered and authorized this internal probe. The problem for him, though, is not only that it may come too late to save his job but also that it may unearth even more information that embarrasses his bosses at the White House.** No matter where they look the investigators are going to find incompetence by the bucketful. This is yet another example of Gonzales* own ineptitude shining through.

Posted by: H5N1 | March 26, 2007 11:58 AM

**To his credit, the Attorney General reportedly ordered and authorized this internal probe. The problem for him, though, is not only that it may come too late to save his job but also that it may unearth even more information that embarrasses his bosses at the White House.**

But will he remember ordering it if the results are not 'Bushy' ?

Posted by: Arizona View | March 26, 2007 12:13 PM

nothing like ordering a probe after congress is investigating you.

Posted by: barb | March 26, 2007 12:24 PM

What we see here is a pattern of abusing the powers of the Justice Department to steer judicial outcomes in favor of the GOP at the expense of the public. This isn't just about the firing of 8 prosecutors for failing to harrass Democrats with bogus voter fraud cases, this is also about Bush appointees dictating the strategy in a lawsuit against tobacco companies to the benefit of those companies and to the expense of the public. Clearly, the Bush administration core players, those who were with Bush in Austin, i.e. Rove, Meiers and Gonzalez, have politicized the Justice Department to the point of corruption. It is time all three of them separated themselves from the US government, and a House Judiciary committee investigation begin into alleged abuses of power by the President of the United States.

Posted by: John | March 26, 2007 12:32 PM

I'm taking bets on how long Specter continues to stand up to the Administration. The last 3 or 4 times, it was only about a week before he folded like a cheap suit.

Posted by: Nellie | March 26, 2007 12:32 PM

The best part of this latest episode of power abuse is that finally, finally, finally we have Congressional committee heads (and soon maybe even the press!) referring to statements by the Administration as .. the envelope, please ...

... lies.

I wonder how long it will take before I will be able to snap open a newspaper and read in print what we have all known to be true for years now: the President of the United States lied to the American people to get us into a war he wanted.

Only then will the world feel sane again.

Chris Fox
Woodinville, WA

Posted by: Chris Fox | March 26, 2007 12:38 PM

And, once again, Clinton's behavior is inserted into the Bush malfeasance. But But Clinton has become a classic Bushie defense. Bush and Bushies' lies are extraordinarily of higher caliber because their lies affect a wider group of people such as the dead troops, dead Iraqis, the entire US population that defends on justice, Padilla & other AlQaeda/Taliban detainees, etc. Clinton lied about a BJ from which he derived personally, he deceived his wife who has forgiven him. What was it to the Republicans and to the greater number of people? Bush lied and lied and lied and so have his minions. They are disgusting.

Posted by: M. Stratas | March 26, 2007 12:46 PM

I am waiting for Gonzales to pull a Clarence Thomas. Thomas, when things got tough, also got tough, he referred to black men getting lynched. Gonzales could help Bush with Hispanics and keep his job by refusing to be dismissed like any latino gardner or houseboy. I bet he will use this way out.

Posted by: candide | March 26, 2007 12:51 PM

Onward marches the inquiry. I suspect you're right, Mr. Cohen, in parsing Gonzales's I-did-not-participate-in-discussions-defense.

Don't forget to remind your audience from time to time that USAs are the chief law-enforcement officers in their districts, the chief local instrumentality of federal prosecutorial policy. Even if Gonzales has been truthful about his lack of involvement in their evaluation and selection for dismissal (and that seems more incredible every day, given the variations on the story that DOJ has been flogging), he's shown a remarkable lack of interest in office-holders whose performance greatly affects achievement of the DOJ agenda, whatever it is, under any administration.

Posted by: Alan | March 26, 2007 01:13 PM

Corrupt Bush loyalists? Just like the 2000 elections, this might come down to a decision by the corrupt Bush loyalists in the same Supreme Court who installed this idiot son of the former President and CIA director. Any Bush appointee is now suspect. How can we ever trust anything these lying incompetents and their enablers say? Bush voters who were taken in by these con men should hang their heads in shame. Too bad the rest of us have to pay for it.

Posted by: thebob | March 26, 2007 01:27 PM

It is not rocket science. At least three of the eight US Attorneys -- McKay, Iglesias, and Lam -- were clearly fired because they refused to use their indictment powers to harass Democrats, or else did use their powers to put a corrupt Republican into prison. Even-handed justice is now career-limiting for a US Attorney.

Posted by: oldhonky | March 26, 2007 01:31 PM

It is interesting to see that the politicians like Pete Domenici and Heather Wilson, who tried to influence the US Attorney have gotten away easy in light of Mr. Gonzales's lies.

Posted by: km | March 26, 2007 01:32 PM

Interesting article today about the Lam firing in the San Diego Union Tribune.


Posted by: JP2 | March 26, 2007 01:37 PM

Specter's role in all of this is as an administration-approved lightning rod.

Tactic: Sound reasonable. Then don't do anything about it. Allay some heat, then let it dissolve.

Take a look at the email dumps. Ask yourself why it was Specter's staffer who put the no-confirmation clause into the Traitors Act.

Too clever by half. He'll go down w/ the rest of this crew.

-- stan

Posted by: Stanley Krute | March 26, 2007 02:01 PM

*I was not involved.* takes on new meaning for me. Honey, I was not involved >>>>>>>>>>>> in the BJ that woman gave me, I just sat there and did not help at all. In hindsight a much better response than *I did not have relations with that woman.*

Posted by: katman | March 26, 2007 02:01 PM

"That shalt not lie"

That is NOT one of the ten commandments...

Posted by: Emmanuel | March 26, 2007 02:11 PM

No it's not. It's the 13th commandment. Thou shall not get caught.

Posted by: katman | March 26, 2007 02:12 PM

It is sickening to come to the reality that moral and financial corruption is as pervasive in our culture at it really is, particularly so at the highest levels of government. What do we NOT know?
I am sickened by the feeling in the pit of my gut that tells me that corruption is so engrained into our culture, that the message ends up being that it pays well to lie and cheat your way to success, or to stay that way.
The best example of these sad and pathetic attributes are exhibited at their best on a daily basis rather openly and arrogantly by this administration, the poster representatives of this disgusting "viral disease".
Does anyone really care who wins American Idol? or what happened to Nicole Smith?


Posted by: Marco | March 26, 2007 02:31 PM

Why the Office of Professional Responsibility and Justice's Inspector General?

It was only after the other Cabinet agencies had Inspectors General for years that the Congress finally decided that the Office of Professional Responsibilty was not sufficiently independent to avoid a conflict of interest in investigating internal Justice matters.

Posted by: Nor'Easter | March 26, 2007 02:55 PM

Why would the admin allow the AG to lie so blatantly in this matter, unless there is something even bigger and more important that needed to be covered up? I find it hard to believe Gonzales' remarks to the press denying knowledge of the firing plan was not approved--or at least know--by the White House.

In any investigative matter, as more information comes forward, stories change and things move around. Interrogators watch for "the thing that doesn't change". This is always the LIE. So far, the thing that hasn't changed is "the firings were not for political reasons".

Posted by: Bongo | March 26, 2007 02:57 PM

The Arbusto Bandito and The Fredo Bandito have turned the White House into mafia headquarters. Mel Carnahan would not be amused by the tactics the Bush mafia uses to defeat the best Americans and bring partisan hacks into the DOJ. Bush might jack Abram off but his other fall guys and Pioneers are walking free. Last month, Legal Times reported that the Jackoffgate investigation has been beset by the high turnover of prosecutors and supervisors in the two sections running the probe, both of which have operated without a permanent leader for more than a year. Whats happening here? Its called obstruction of justice.

Posted by: Peter Jennings | March 26, 2007 03:00 PM

Vast right-wing conspiracy???

Posted by: katman | March 26, 2007 03:19 PM


Posted by: Joel Easton | March 26, 2007 03:30 PM

Arlen Specter? You expect mor from Arlen Specter, Mr. Magic Bullet? Get a life.

Posted by: mors | March 26, 2007 04:08 PM

It is spelled - Frito Bandido. Not Fredo Bandido. Geez, can we all please get Bushs nickname for Gonzo straight? It is Frito and not Fredo!

Posted by: Cartman | March 26, 2007 04:14 PM

I will make 3 observations. 1. I see traitor Novak has no comment section after his opinion piece. Could it be because nobody who has any decency has any use for him and said so? 2. Alberto Gonzales has been in front of Sen. Specter many times lying through his teeth when Specter headed this committee. He deliberately let him get away with it. Now Specter is trying to finesse a session without an oath taken. What a tool. Specter had his chance at oversight and chose not to do his job. It is Sen. Leahys committee now so let's see what he can do. 3. Who cares what Specter thinks he was one of those directly responsible for making the republican party lose badly in 06 because of dereliction of duty. If he and the other short sighted republicans continue to conduct themselves with business as usual the party will disappear in the next election.

Posted by: Redman | March 26, 2007 04:17 PM

NYT news story in the past half hour reports a key aide to Gonzales is citing the Fifth Amendment.

Posted by: On the plantation | March 26, 2007 04:27 PM

since gonzales marches to orders from above, I'd hesitate to give him actual credit for ordering this reveiw of the DOJ.

So, then, whose orders are they and what is the hidden agenda?

Posted by: TheraP | March 26, 2007 04:29 PM

Given the desire of Republican House members and Senators to be re-elected in 2008 and re-gain the majority, I can't understand why they continue to back Bush and his policies. Not that Democrats are perfect on this front either, but can't the R's see that they are doing the very same things that caused them to lose the majority in 2006?

Posted by: Judymusic | March 26, 2007 04:48 PM

It has been reported over and over that the firings, in themselves, were not illegal. However, if they were motivated by a desire to impede an investigation which was otherwise being conducted in accordance with the law, or, conversely, to get somebody into the office to initiate an investigation where the then-existing US Atty. validly declined to do so, isn't that a form of subversion and possibly "obstruction" of justice?

Posted by: Dyinglikeflies | March 26, 2007 05:16 PM

My only concern is that a body in my government feels it has no need to tell the truth when we ask it questions. As far as I'm concerned, ANY time Congress wwants to talk to ANYONE, they should be under oath. The only point in NOT taking an oath is to lie, prevaricate or conceal. NONE of which is appropriate from any administration, ALL of which we've had in abundance from this one. If the real conservatives aren't horrified and dismayed by Bush's utter lack of transparency, it can only be because they are truly afraid of how dirty this government has gotten. Nobody who considers themselves a TRUE conservative can stand up and defend this presidency any more. The most basic tenet of conservatism is personal responsibility. Stand up, be a man, take your lumps for what you've done. Hiding behind executive privilege (again) isn't for those strong on personal responsibility, it's for those hiding activities that will get them jail-time.

Posted by: Fred Evil | March 26, 2007 05:43 PM

Monica Goodling, Gonzales' counsel and one of two top Justice Department officials who planned and executed the purge of US Attorneys, has announced through he attorney that she will take the fifth rather than testify before congress. It is rather late, therefore, for Republican apologists to insist that there's now crime in the scandal.

Goodling earned a law degree. She knows - even if the administration's defenders don't - she knows that conspiring to fire US Attorneys in order to interfere with criminal investigations for political reasons is, like, illegal.

Posted by: Casey | March 26, 2007 06:40 PM

"I don't know if Sen. Specter's committee will ultimately "find" that Gonzales has "not been candid and truthful."


Posted by: | March 26, 2007 09:02 PM

The results of the probe will serve as wonderful evidence for the newly named Special Prosecutor in this case. Yet still, I have 50 to 1 odds that Rove gets off without even testifying under oath.

Posted by: farmasea | March 26, 2007 09:25 PM

A prior comment screamed it out but it is really important that everyone realizes that Arlen Specter is not running the Senate Judiciary Committee any more.

Arlen facilitated the political purge when he introduced the Patriot Act revision that allows Bush to appoint interim US Attorneys who can continue in the position without Senate approval beyond the prior cutoff of 120 days. Incomptetents can be appointed (ref USA P. Green, Chiara's replacement) without recourse. Previously the hacks would have been on the street and judges would appoint an interim until a candidate could make it through the Senate appointment process.

Specter (and his aide Brett Tolman -- now USA in Utah) are directly responsible for a share of this mess. It isn't his committee. It is his scandal.

BTW he 'abstained' on the vote to provide authority to the Committee to issue subpoenas.

Posted by: bogus | March 26, 2007 10:44 PM

Specter is not the Chair, but as the former chair, now in the minority party, what he says and does influences his GOP colleagues (a bit).

Now about Goodling, it is my understanding that one cannot take the Fifth willie-nillie. There has to be a resonable conclusion that the person invoking the privilege has committed a crime. Taking the Fifth because the Senate has already concluded there has been wrongdoing is not a sufficient reason. She participated in something that she and her attorney have concluded puts her at risk of conviction of a crime. -- And I seriously doubt she would have come up with that on her own, having attended that bogus Pat Robertson Law School. What are they teaching their students about the law if Goodling can go so far down the path she chose? Anything goes for the cause? Sounds more like Machiavelli.

Posted by: Nellie | March 27, 2007 08:48 AM

In my opinion Senator Specter is an important part of the reason we have this problem, and his posturing to the contrary is wearing thin.

Taking the big picture, the subtle change in law that was SECRETLY inserted into legislation last year -- the clause that provides the motivation for this entire affair -- makes it OBVIOUS that this was planned from the beginning by people in the White House along with their enablers in the Senate -- chiefly Senator Specter back when he was chair of the judiciary committee!

It is long past time that HE should be asked some penetrating questions about this affair.

Posted by: Ba'al | March 27, 2007 02:14 PM

A reasonable defense will be alone the line of "I might have been physically attending all those meetings and received all those memos BUT as you all know I am a truly incompetent person who daydreams a lot. Only my true master can fire me and I think he won't. So there you have it. What are you going to do about that? Leave me alone!"

Posted by: LoyalBushy | March 27, 2007 04:17 PM

The administration of George W. Bush is has proven itself over and over again to be extremely arrogant and completely lacking of a moral compass. Luckily for us, they're also stunningly incompetent. They lie and they cheat, but because of their incompetence and arrogance they also get caught...a lot.

Posted by: stevieb | March 27, 2007 04:41 PM

Here's my question; why was Bush so quick to get rid of Rumsfeld, but not for Gonzalaez? There was at least debate if Rumsfeld was in charge of the Iraq debacle; here Gonzalez's debacle isn't a source of debate, it's a well-known fact!

Posted by: | March 27, 2007 09:37 PM

Gonzo is going to pay and pay big time, he's has been dancing to Chimpo's tune calling for waaaayyy too many years and it looks like Dubbya, "Mr Loyalty" will be forced to make Gonzo the latest fall guy. Gonzo's bill is due and past due based on the music he played for Dubbya with the Geneva string quartet, the New Age clanks and whistles of telephones beeping and the serenades to mask out the sounds of Abu Ghraib of pain and agony...and ultimately all he will have to fall back upon is that hackeneyed claim - "he was only following orders."

Now where has the world heard that excuse before?

Posted by: The Fidler | March 28, 2007 12:24 AM

It is quite obvious now Senator Specter is also a Whitehouse operative. he has played his role quite well in the past, masquerading as an independent-minded, fair lawmaker. It is sad to see a smart man like him will go down the drain with his idiotic president. Gonzalez is used to attract the Hispanic votes, while the Bush Administration is do indifferent to the poor and the minorities.

Posted by: | April 13, 2007 05:45 AM

It is quite obvious now Senator Specter is also a Whitehouse operative. He has played his role quite well in the past, masquerading as an independent-minded, fair lawmaker. It is sad to see a smart man like him go down the drain with his idiotic president. Gonzalez is used to attract the Hispanic votes, while the Bush Administration is so indifferent to the needs of the poor and the minorities.

Posted by: | April 13, 2007 05:47 AM

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