House GOP to Gonzo: Scandal, What Scandal?
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tx.) wins the prize, so far anyway, for the silliest statement made during the House Judiciary Committee's hearing into the U.S. Attorney scandal. With Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales sitting again in the hot seat, and again spouting off the same empty platitudes, Rep. Smith complained not about the complete lack of responsiveness on the part of the nation's top law enforcement official but about the pace of the investigation. "The list of accusations has mushroomed, but the evidence of wrongdoing has not," Rep. Lamar said. "If there are no fish in this lake, we should reel in our lines of questions, dock our empty boat and turn to more pressing issues."
Where to start with nonsense like that? How about here. First, not only has the "list of accusations" against the Justice Department "mushroomed," as Smith says, but so has "the evidence of wrongdoing." Yesterday, for example, a ninth U.S. Attorney, Todd P. Graves from Missouri, came forward to say that he was asked to leave the Department as well in order to give another Republican lawyer "a turn" to play prosecutor and hype up his political resume. Last week, we learned about how top-ranking Justice Department officials may have hired people based upon their political affilation-- a violation of federal law. And we also learned that the Attorney General was telling a federal judge in Montana one thing while doing another in Washington.
Someone ought to tell Rep. Smith that there are plenty of fish in this lake, more than we probably are aware of, and that the only thing stopping us from reeling them all in are weak-kneed lawmakers like him who tie the hands of the investigators and then complain that the investigation is going too slow. And if the "boat" of evidence against Gonzales and the Justice Department is an "empty" one, like Rep. Smith claims, I would love to see a full one. If the Congress wants to start "fishing" in earnest, it'll put more pressure on Gonzales and the White House to answer the legitimate questions that some of Rep. Smith's colleagues had the temerity to ask.
Meanwhile, from the Attorney General, we are getting the same old thing. Here is how the Associated Press put it: "'My feelings and recollections about this matter have not changed,' Gonzales told the House Judiciary Committee, three weeks after telling a Senate panel he could not recall specific conversations or details in response to more than 70 questions." He said he has "no basis to believe" that the Graves matter had anything to do with the firing of the other eight U.S. Attorneys-- which in legalese leaves open the possibility that the Graves matter did indeed have something to do with the Gang of Eight. Remember, this is an Attorney General who still has been unable or unwilling to explain how eight good federal prosecutors could be fired by his subordinates without him knowing during the process who they were or why they were being let go. Three of those U.S. Attorneys, not incidentally, had something to say about the matter yesterday. You can read that here.
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