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.

By Andrew Cohen |  May 10, 2007; 12:34 PM ET agag
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Partisan Politics. When a man with eyes can not see a crime being committed, it begs to wonder if the person is either blind or just not looking at the problem.

Perhaps this politican needs to be on the rceiving end of Mr. Gonzales lack of memory.

The nations top cop lost his memory. How convenient.

Posted by: Patrick | May 10, 2007 01:55 PM

So firing these guys for political reasons is a crime? I wonder where you were when Willie was firing them all. This is nothing more then a lefty witch hunt that guys like you are all too willing to chime in because of your hatred of W. Keep of the good work, I am sure your hate and words will come back to bite you next time a dem does this same thing.

Posted by: KABOOKEY | May 10, 2007 02:03 PM

This administration is dirtier than Nixon's!

Posted by: JBE | May 10, 2007 02:12 PM

These right wing stooges who pretend that nothing illegal happened should remember that Bush had already fired all the US Attorneys back in 2001, and now Gonzales, under orders from Karl Rove, was firing the ones who weren't willing to bring up bogus charges of voter fraud to push the GOP voter suppression agenda.

This is part of Rove's strategy to abuse prosecutorial power to make political hay during the campaigns and to lay the political groundwork to justify voter identification legislation designed to intimidate minorities from voting. It's time for Conyers and Leahy to subpoena Rove and Harriet Miers and have them answer under oath what they did and why they did it.

Posted by: John | May 10, 2007 02:13 PM

Did Bush keep Clinton's attorneys or did he put his team in when he was elected in 2000?

Posted by: George Adjei | May 10, 2007 02:16 PM

For the umpteenth time and in response to Kabookey, Clinton let go all of the Attorneys appointed by the first Bush at the beginning of his Presidency. This is standard practice and has almost always been done by both Democratic and Republican presidents. US Attorney's serve at the will of the president and when administrations change so too do the attorneys. Hence there was no uproar when Bush did the same at the beginning of his presidency. However what Clinton did not do and what the current Bush administration might well have done is to selectively fire attorneys in order to influence polical elections and obstruct investigations into Republican law makers. This is a very different kettle of fish and if true, extremely troubling. Nor will the fact that attorneys do serve at the will of the president excuse the firings if this is indeed the case for there are limits set by the law on the president's exercise of his discretion - Attorneys can be removed but not for the purposes of influencing elections or obstructing justice. Those are insufficient reasons for removal and, would be, if substantiated, illegal actions. It is this hint of illegality that more than likely is behind Gonzales' inability to remember anything.

Posted by: James | May 10, 2007 02:25 PM

Alberto Gonzalez would not know
the "Truth" if it came up and bit him on the Ass. He is an embarrassment to the legal profession of everyone who works for the Justice Department

Posted by: bill | May 10, 2007 02:28 PM

Show Halliburton the money!

Posted by: | May 10, 2007 02:36 PM

The real fun is watching the remaining Busheviks pick up their cues and start running. They don't need to get any advisory emails; they read the talking points and start screeching along, repeating that "there are no indications of wrongdoing" and "prosecutors serve at the pleasure the the president" and my favorite whine "Clinton did it too!!!" Is that ALL you have left, guys?

Posted by: Chris Fox | May 10, 2007 02:46 PM

One of the serious crimes conducted by this Bush mafia is Domestic Intellectual Property Theft against small business for the benefit of Bush Pioneers. That may seem insignificant compared to their use of toxins to intimidate or silence administration critics, but the industry impact is vast.

Posted by: Looted | May 10, 2007 02:48 PM

Take note of just how bad it's gotten, Busheviks: despite all this vote suppression the Democrats now control the House and Senate. And barring a Christ-returns level miracle they will soon control the WH as well. I bet a lot of former Bush administration officials seek amnesty in Israel.

Posted by: Chris Fox | May 10, 2007 02:50 PM

KABOOKEY said "So firing these guys for political reasons is a crime?"

Kabookey, it is not a crime for the Justice Department to have priorities that are inline with the policies of the administration in the White House; if this means appointing or dismissing certain USAs, then fine. Everyone agrees about that. However, it is a crime for the Justice Department to fire USAs because they aren't indicting enough Democrats or because they are indicting too many Republicans. This is even more troubling when specific cases are involved; this type of interference could be called "obstruction of justice".

Yes, Bill Clinton fired all USAs when his administration began. Ronald Reagan replaced them all as well during his administration. In fact, Stuart M. Gerson, assistant attorney general in the administration of President George H.W. Bush, notes that, "It is customary for a President to replace U.S. attorneys at the beginning of a term." Gerson added that "Ronald Reagan replaced every sitting U.S. attorney when he appointed his first Attorney General."

Gonzales is in trouble because he has repeatedly lied in front of Congress; that is the charitable interpretation. The uncharitable interpretation would be that he is so forgetful and incompetent that he couldn't manage a Burger King, let alone the Justice Department. Perhaps Gonzales did nothing improper; it is hard to tell considering how poor his memory is. Is it not troubling that a person with such a poor intellect is in charge of the DoJ? Is this person the one that we want to be ultimately responsible for important prosecutions, like those involving terrorism for example? Come on Kabookey, this is an important issue for both Republicans, if they mean what they say, and Democrats.

Kabookey, I ask you. If a Democratic administration were accused of firing USAs because they weren't indicting enough Republicans, would you not be upset? Would you not want to determine if the accusations were true? Or would you prefer that this sort of behavior be sanctioned through silence on the issue?

I, for one, care about this country too much to see it end up like Zimbabwe. Every American, irrespective of political affiliation, has a vested interested in a fair and equitable Justice Department.

Instead of calling these revelations a "witchhunt", Kabookey, you should be interested in seeing if they lead to actual misdeeds.

Posted by: Radar | May 10, 2007 02:52 PM

Radar your heart is definitely in the right place but you are missing an important point. Everyone, critic or supporter, knows that Bush is lying about the attorney firings and everything else. The difference between the critics and supporters is not in believing that these are lies but in their attitude toward them. The supported embrace and cherish lying as a tactic, the critics deplore it. So please, Radar, reconsider how much energy you care to expend appealing to people who think lying is cool.

Posted by: Chris Fox | May 10, 2007 03:00 PM

"Let's get into power then fix things so we stay in power forever" is a large crack in the edifice of this country, but Gonzales is just a small fish in a big pond. How can anyone with a conscience consider themselves a Republican? This ruling class insists that loyalty to the party trumps loyalty to the nation. Claims of "unpatriotic" only means "not towing the party line." But "unpatriotic" cat calls are the last refuge of scoundrels. Republicans are stinking up the place. There was a time when they could be proud, but the party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt is long gone and has transformed itself into a self serving club of cronies. Rove, Bush and Cheney make Nixon look like a Boy Scout. Gonzales is just a pawn in this play, a foot soldier in the effort to corrupt the nation.

Posted by: Depressed | May 10, 2007 03:05 PM

There's no point arguing with Kabookey, he's just repeating the talking points recited by Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity without actually worrying his pretty little Republican head about whether it's actually true or not.

Posted by: annoyed | May 10, 2007 03:13 PM

I wonder why some of the posters don't just list the administration's talking points, rather than attempting to pass them off as their thinking. I'm an independent. I have voted for more republicans than democrats. Firing every judge is common. Picking and choosing and keeping those who can be led by their political noses and replacing those who can't be distorts the separation that our conststitution set forth for the 3 branches of government. Equal, but separate. How can anyone who supports our great country truly miss that?

Posted by: ppnluv | May 10, 2007 03:20 PM

"Rove, Bush, and Cheny" make Nixon look like a Boy Scout. They sure do!

Posted by: Jackson | May 10, 2007 03:22 PM

Chris Fox, I certainly see your point and I concede that there are some who are unreachable. That is a fact of life, I think. However, I believe this is an important American issue; and for those who are not unreachable, I feel an obligation to explain what I know - however little it may be - about these trouble allegations.

Anyway, as a matter of taste, I detest ad hominem accusations and prefer to discuss substance; so, accusing other bloggers, like Kabookey, is not my thing. It would be nice to engage a DoJ defender on the salient details of the case; so far, I haven't seen that occur.

Posted by: Radar | May 10, 2007 03:44 PM

In the past I've been a GOP voter, but at least at this moment my revulsion at the performance of the House Republicans is so great I can't see myself doing it again. If they are for this suberversion of the country and shameless perjury, they are beneath any contempt. No prosecutor who has watched this can believe that the AG has not spent the day lying.

Posted by: But | May 10, 2007 03:50 PM

Maybe Congress should include a cognitive functioning medical examination in future confirmation processes to weed out nominees who have memory and cognition shortfalls as bad as our current AG.

Posted by: Publius | May 10, 2007 03:53 PM

It's all Bill's fault. He didn't set a good example. Impeachment was too good for him, he needs to carry the burden for all of our sins. Nobody will ever again be responsible for their actions because it's all Bill's fault.

Posted by: vmax02rider | May 10, 2007 04:20 PM

The most distressing aspect of this entire episode is that the evidence points the conclusion that the firings occurred for partisan, political purposes. Certainly, the President has the authority to hire and fire US Attorneys; but when Carol Lam is fired because she agressively prosecutes people favored by the White House, or Tod Graves is pushed out because he declines to prosecute spurious Republican claims of voter fraud, then the US Attorneys become puppets of a political party, and people may be prosecuted for political purposes and not because they have engaged in criminal activity.

Think it cannot happen here? A prime example is the fallacious prosecution of Georgia Thompson by US Attorney Biskupic, a case that was featured prominently in 2006 Republican campaign adds in Wisconsin. The conviction was summarily reversed by the Court of Appeals because - in the words of one judge - the government's evidence was "beyond thin." But Ms. Thompson spent four months in jail before the Appeals Court heard the case and, from the bench, ordered her immediate release.

Recent history is replete with dispicable dictators in Russia, Germany, and Iraq, who used the power of their office - in particular the criminal system - for political gain; thousands were sent to prison for political reasons. Apparently, this White House sees nothing wrong in following in their footsteps.

Is this the America that we want our children to inherit?

Posted by: jhh | May 10, 2007 04:20 PM

`Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tx.) wins the prize`

It,s a Tejas thing and we wouldn,t expect a Wa-r-shingtonian to understand. He used a fish analogy because the issue clearly does not rise to the level of a football analogy.

He was trying to be non-partisan, otherwise his belligerance would have been in evidence [an Oklahoma or a Mother-In-Law analogy]. It would have been way way over the top to touch the third rail of Texas Analogies analogies -- pet dogs.

Give the poor man a break.

Posted by: GTexas | May 10, 2007 04:21 PM

Damn straight, Mr. Cohen. Damn straight.

Posted by: Mark F. | May 10, 2007 04:34 PM

The crime isn't the political dismissals, these were at-will political appointees. The crime -- just like Slick Willie's and Scooter Libby's -- is Perjury or Obstruction of Justice. If no crime was committed, then the stunning managerial incompetence and horrendous memory of AG Gonzalez certainly begs Congressional inquiry about his fitness for duty.

Posted by: Jay Hurst | May 10, 2007 04:44 PM

It's beyond obvious that the White House was very much involved in the firing of the US attorneys, and that the firings were politically motivated. That's just a fact. Mr. Gonzales is being forced to appear an incompetent manager to protect his boss. I think we should let the poor guy serve out his term. Why waste the time and energy to find someone marginally more adequate?

Posted by: Al | May 10, 2007 05:04 PM


>So firing these guys for political reasons is a crime?

Yes, it is.

>I wonder where you were when Willie was firing them all.

You mean like Bush 41 before him? As has been discussed endlessly, which you seem to have missed, an incoming president often fires all the USAs and assigns new ones.

Despite this they are expected to carry out and follow the law; not a political party.

>This is nothing more then a lefty witch hunt that guys like you are all too willing to chime in because of your hatred of W. Keep of the good work, I am sure your hate and words will come back to bite you next time a dem does this same thing.

Actually this is the exposure of lie upon lie and crooked tactic upon crooked tactic. And it's long overdue. Then again, now that there's a Democratic majority in congress Bush no longer gets a rubber stamp.

If you doubt this tell me how many Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, or Ba'hia organizations are being paid Federal dollars in faith based initiatives.

You won't find any.

Posted by: Bingo | May 10, 2007 06:06 PM

This issue is fast becoming redundant. Bush has lied, Cheney has lied, Rove has lied, Gonzales has lied. The Clinton Impeachment was a travesty and abuse of a partisan Republican Congress, with a much greater majority than the Democrats have today. Mr. Clinton's "crime" was a mere matter of indiscretion. I am sorry but all of you idiots out there, an affair in the White House is not a high crime or misdemeanor. What is occuring right now most certainly is, though. And all of the small minded, elephant headed dingbats from
the great state of Texas can spout their crap as long as they want. It does not change the fact that this administraion has blatantly attempted a coup against the constitution of the United States that comes very close to the Soviet takeover of Russia in 1918 or the Nazi take-over of Germany in 1939. And please remember that in the case of the latter, the Nazis were cheered on by a great many members of the Republican party of that day. Nothing ever changes.

Posted by: David K. Eplett | May 10, 2007 06:11 PM

It's time for A.G. Gonzales to face the music (and perjury charges).

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Posted by: gavskanky | May 10, 2007 06:17 PM

GTexas - lol! (and I've never said that before now). Thank you for the cultural translation.

Posted by: One-armed Scale of Justice | May 10, 2007 06:23 PM


While I enjoyed your post, I don't think he was trying to be bipartisan at all. Saying in the middle of the investigation that theres no crime to be found proves that he walked in that room, judgement already made. He probably just wanted the questioning to end because he was worried they were going to need a bigger boat. If he wanted to be constructive, or simply support his man, he could have asked questions that showed gonzales in a better light, or at least refuted the concerns about him. Instead he just buried his head in the sand.

Posted by: MrMCross | May 10, 2007 06:31 PM

The problem here is in the definition of quote political unquote. These firings are political in the same way that using the IRS to intimidate your opponents is political. Or using the military to kill your opponents. It is not political in the same way as, say, appointing USAs who prioritize illegal immigration over corporate crime. It appears that these USAs were fired and hired to obstruct federal investigations into an extraordinary web of corruption reaching through military contractors and the congress and into the White House, and also to use Federal power to intimidate political opponents and suppress votes. The word political does not do justice to it. But we do not really have a word for it because we think of it as so rare in this country. But it is a hallmark of authoritarian governments all over the world.

Posted by: chase | May 10, 2007 06:32 PM

I think that we done caught that fish. It's been layin on the pier wigglin and squirmin.

I think it's bout time that we fillet it, and see what's inside.

Posted by: | May 10, 2007 07:20 PM

Jackson - Let's not let Nixon off the hook. He has his own wing in Hell. The weasels you mentioned will get something appropriate.

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Posted by: AutopatriotCar | May 10, 2007 07:23 PM

The AG is trying his darnest to keep the flood gates closed.But the dike has sprung some major leaks. It all make sense now, DOJ hiring political hacks, Tom Delay ridding K- Street of the Dem's, Brownie as head of FEMA, young Reb's heading up the Iragi reconstruction efforts (provided they swore thier alligence's to Bush). Yep, better check your local Post Office, this thing is deeper than we think.

Posted by: polytick | May 10, 2007 07:35 PM

Graves was replaced by a political hack so voting fraud charges could be filed against Democrats. When those charges got to court, they were thrown out as "baseless." That's pretty convincing proof that, at least in this case, the charges were manufactured deliberately near election time, to make people think Democrats were manupulating voting, where it was really the Republicans.

Posted by: larry | May 10, 2007 08:04 PM

Radar: I admire your style. Enough of the assertion attacks and name calling. Let's learn diplomacy, which starts with being civil to one another. The mainstay of the Rovian political playbook is, divide. Right back to Machiavelli. Set the agenda, stay on message, pre-emptively accuse the other side of what you are doing yourself, and crush anyone who objects. Americans are a good, decent people. None of us can believe our leaders would so abuse the power we gave them. Yet now that the very worst has happened, and we have been manipulated, lied to, spied on, and used as cannon fodder, we are finally of one mind. Get the creeps out of office and put them in jail, where they belong. Starting with Gonzales.

Posted by: | May 10, 2007 08:15 PM

Radar, a fine rebuttal whether or not the meaning is understood.

As far as the low-lights go, I think that Sensenbrenner's line of attack today too was the height of hilarity. He effectively told Gonzales that he better speed up the Jefferson prosecution or else he would cut funding. Rep. Sanchez may have opened up the door to questions about ongoing corruption investigations, but at least she kept the focus on a person who was no longer involved with the prosecution. The key focus was on the removal of Ms. Yang. Sensenbrenner just went all out and tried to get information about an ongoing prosecution, and then threatened to cut funding. Just how incredibly stupid can one man be?

Isn't that the kind of "I am the King of the World" mindset that has gotten us into this mess in the first place?

That moment was emblematic of the sheer unbridled idiocy involved with defending the A.G. or the White House's actions in this incident. I'm sorry there is just no polite way to put this.

Essentially the House GOP defense of the White House and Gonzales boils down to:
We think it's OK to reduce the hiring standards at Justice. We think it's OK for the chief law enforcement officer to lie and for the White House to stonewall.

They might think those things are OK, but frankly I think those are pretty screwed up priorities.

How does lowering the personnel standards at Justice in both retaining talent and recruitment advance the interests of American Justice?

The answer should be obvious, but clearly if the person's name happens to be James Sensenbrenner, and through some twisted sequence of events you find yourself sitting on the House Judiciary committee after several decades of free-loading off of American taxpayers, then the cold hard facts apparently spell out something completely different.

Posted by: JP2 | May 10, 2007 10:19 PM

Note to JP2: It's not without cause that the Capitol Times in Madison, Wisconsin, has referred to the Kimberly Clark heir as "Senselessbrenner." He was one of the leaders in the Terri Sciavo exercise in ghoulishness. He is often the soul of nastiness, disliked by Republicans and Democrats alike.
I watched most of the hearing last night on the DVR while folding laundry. I got more from folding the laundry than I did from the hearing. In an earlier post, I referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing as 'a clown show,' with Gonzales the guy in the big floppy shoes and honking nose. The senators did pretty well, even most of the Republicans. (Let's forget Orrin Hatch's disgraceful show.) At the House hearing, it was hard to count all the clowns. The ground rules under which they operate, with each member allowed only a few minutes of spotlight, almost insures not only that the questioning will be ineffective, but also that the questioners will come off as buffoonish bullies. "Here's my question, Mr. Attorney General, but don't try to answer because I've only got a few minutes. Here's the next question, and don't interrupt with an answere!" God forbid that these folks make some attempt to coordinate their questions so as to permit a coherent line of inquiry. A gaggle of geese is more organized than these congresspeople. On the other hand, it might make little difference if the questioners were organized since most of them don't know how to ask a decent question, how to listen to the answer, and how to follow up. Fulmination and bloviation are preferred to cross-examination. Hats off, however, to California representative Arthur Davis who was both knowledgable and skillful. It's too bad he was almost last man in the lineup of what seemed like hundreds of members of the committee.

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