Pick an Angle, Any Angle, on the U.S. Attorney Mess

It's a Friday before a holiday weekend and I would much rather be writing about this happy news than about the U.S. Attorney scandal. But duty calls.* On the Gonzales Watch, there are many angles swirling around today. To wit:

1) The president is still standing by his man; 2) There are larger constitutional issues implicated by the scandal; 3) Monica Goodling's testimony was a bust; 4) Monica Goodling's testimony was rich with new information; 5) The Alberto Gonzales "no confidence" vote is planned for June; 6) Gonzales himself is just a lackey for the "Cheney White House;" 7) The Bush administration is infused with evangelicals like Goodling.

But my favorite U.S. attorney story of the day -- the one I feel is most important -- comes from the Los Angeles Times. Richard B. Schmitt writes in today's paper: "The Justice Department has broadened an internal investigation examining whether aides to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales improperly took into account political considerations in hiring department employees, officials familiar with the investigation said Thursday. The expanded investigation, conducted by the department's Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility, follows testimony Wednesday by former Gonzales aide Monica M. Goodling. She told a House committee that she considered party affiliation in screening applicants to become immigration judges. The Justice Department also announced Thursday that it could find no record to support claims by Goodling in her testimony that taking politics into account in filling positions on the immigration bench had been approved by other department officials."

Lots of meat there. And lots of reason to believe that this story won't be going away any time soon.

*I thought about writing about this story -- the fact that the United States Supreme Court this past week codified a recent trend among trial judges to force plaintiffs to allege more details in their complaints or risk having their cases dismissed. I also thought about focusing today on I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby and his sentencing recommendations, which are due today. I was going to write about my CBS News colleague Kimberly Dozier and the fact that it already has been one year since she was attacked in Irag. I was even going to write about the brilliant proposals offered up this month in Trot magazine to revolutionize harness racing in Canada (and perhaps the United States).

But in the end, I picked the U.S. attorney scandal -- again. The Republicans hope the scandal soon fades into the background or goes away altogether. They can stand in line behind me for that proposition.

Have a safe, happy and fun holiday weekend.

By Andrew Cohen |  May 25, 2007; 8:09 AM ET agag
Previous: Missing Their Chance With Monica | Next: It's Hard to Find Good People These Days


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If the DOJ investigation (or Congressional probes) lead to the conclusion that Goodling (and perhaps others) used illegal criteria in selecting these personnel, would their jobs be in jeopardy?

Posted by: LHJ | May 25, 2007 10:15 AM

Yeah. Like Chiaramente always likes to say, if you want to really read the RELEVANT news, go to the LA Times (how many times have I said THAT in the past few weeks, huh?).

And also like I said, the REAL story is Monica's jaw-dropping admission about using political affiliation in hiring practices-and of course, LA Times got THAT right as usual as well, and ran the story, 'cause they, unlike their stupid Post brethren, understand what is important in the testimony!

The Post and the Times reporters are pathetic, no-nothing little leakers of information-most of them should go work for the check-out counter tabloids-where they belong!

Posted by: chiaramente | May 25, 2007 10:32 AM

Let me be clear when I say "Times" I mean NEW YORK as pathetic, and NOT LA Times!

Posted by: chiaramente | May 25, 2007 10:34 AM

Let me be clear when I say "Times" I mean NEW YORK as pathetic, and NOT LA Times!

Posted by: chiaramente | May 25, 2007 10:35 AM

For the past two months almost all of the talking heads predicted that the Attorney General would be gone by Memorial Day.

Will the self-designated experts now up that to Independence Day?

How about January 20, 2009?

Was Goodling's consideration of politics in hiring illegal or a violation of regulations? That probably depends on which job you are talking about.

U.S. Attorneys by definition are political appointees, so they are out.

Assistant U.S. Attorney are Schedule A appointees, so, maybe.

There are bunch of Schedule C positions in support of those U.S. Attorneys and those appointments are predicated upon the need for a special relationship with the person for whom they work; so, they are probably out, like U.S. Attorneys.

As to lots of other career attorney or General Schedule appointments, it's an interesting question. I'd bet that there's something in the U.S. Code or C.F.R. which prohibits it.

It was interesting how Goodling testified that she specifically wanted to go to a Christian college and Law school; yet, ethics never appeared to be a consideration when it came to work. Maybe she skipped those classes.

Posted by: DC | May 25, 2007 11:09 AM

I hope this story doesn't go away until every player is in prison. Just find the damned e-mails. Start by asking Mr. Palast for the 500 regarding vote caging that he has - that alone should put a few people in prison, including Rove's chosen man in Arkansas.

Posted by: Gardenia | May 25, 2007 12:39 PM

Don't know about this LA Times accolade, and that LA Times Max Boot guy is, forgive me, and for his statements not his party affiliation, an utter MAROON.

Posted by: Gary | May 25, 2007 01:11 PM

"The Justice Department also announced..officials". So they are "investigating" Goodling's admission that she may have (but didn't mean to)used improper criteria but could find no record that this HAD BEEN APPROVED BY OTHER DEPARTMENT OFFICIALS. I see. Of course this is the line they would take. How to get this to blow over now that most of the public has become bored, and direct attention to the war, as our president would like
(has already "warned" that August could be "bloody", what with 20000 new troops to be deployed. "what they are going to try to do is kill as many innocent people as they can to try to influence the debate here at home. They recognize that (this) could shake our will." That's what they are killing many people for, to influence the debate. Gee, that's a worthy reason! But hey, THE PRES ACTUALLY AGREES WITH THEIR [opposition, insurgents, al-Quaeda,who knows]SCALE OF IMPORTANCE. No matter how many Americans are killed, whatever you do, DON'T LET THEM "SHAKE YOUR WILL" or, horrors especially, influence the debate [remember, the terrorists have won if they affect your contentment in your way of life, Starbucks lattes, American Idol etc..]! Don't let the mere death of one's own and those you know shake your support for an abstract cause, the CAUSE above all! If we don't get them there, we'll have to fight them here, as he just said. We don't know where these opposition units are, otherwise we would have of course have bombed them, but they are somehow just not able despite their technological firepower to get to the US! And gee, assuming the position of labelling/interpreting the thoughts of a slef-defined enemy for us is just so trustworthy, so disinterested, esp given everything we know.)

And also those WITHIN the department are the only ones who could have had anything to do with it?

Posted by: Benjamin F. | May 25, 2007 02:09 PM

Just read the LA Times article-very interesting indeed-no nonsense, RELEVANT, to the point-THAT'S my kind of reporting-just the opposite of the Washington Post! (honestly, when are they going to fire Bob Woodward as managing editor, and all those smarmy, self-important Post reporters?)

Things do not look good for Ms. Goodling, that's for sure.

But I have to say, what about that "babygirl" voice of hers? I'm sorry, I just can't square that, with the positions she's held at the DOJ-wasn't she at one time Deputy Director of the EOUSA? (Executive Office of US Attorneys)

Did I READ that correctly? Babygirl, deputy of that office? Is it possible that the Department is truly that politicized? Good God Almighty, Gonzales! Surely to GOD you didn't delegate that much authority to someone like her, did YOU? Astounding! Just astounding! No WONDER the EOUSA is so screwed up!

Posted by: chiaramente | May 25, 2007 02:42 PM

Goodling's appointments might well not have been commensurate, but you can't base this on HER VOICE!

(btw what law school did you go to, if you don't mind my asking)

Posted by: Dan | May 25, 2007 03:04 PM

"...Goodling's appointments might well not have been commensurate..."

Uh, YEAH Dan, THAT'S the understatement of the Year!

Posted by: chiaramente | May 25, 2007 03:20 PM

Another angle

I'd been thinking that the fact that Comey finally found something that he couldn't abide in the conduct of the DOJ a very low bar, and one that doesn't quite justify Andrew's nomination of him for AG.

Lewis Kotch usefully expands the issues here


Posted by: wrb | May 25, 2007 08:48 PM

If reading the LK essay linked just above, please also read sone of the qualifying arguments, especially #s 80 & 86

Posted by: wrb | May 25, 2007 09:13 PM

I've been noticing, according to chiaramente, the only person posting on this blog that has any native intelligence at all is -- wait for it... I know you can do it... chiaramente.

Did you hurt your arm patting yourself on the back so hard? Where did you take your arrogance lessons? I'm sure you could teach Karl Rove a thing or two in that arena.

Posted by: | May 26, 2007 06:42 AM

Thanks ANON, for recognizing that fact! (guess you're too afraid to comee out with a screenname who might reveal who you are, eh?)

And it IS true what you say...maybe that's the first thing you've gotten right on this blog...or elsewhere (smile)

Posted by: chiaramente | May 26, 2007 09:44 AM

p.s. wrb-yeah, NOW you're getting it!

Comey isn't exactly what you would want to call a Mr. "Golden Boy," now, is he? More like, Mr. Self-Serving Hypocrite!

Posted by: chiaramente | May 26, 2007 09:49 AM

Jon Stewart had an amusing little piece the other night on the serial denials by Gonzales, Sampson, and Goodling of responsibility for the firings generally and, more specifically, the making of their little list (shades of Gilbert and Sullivan).

For chiaramente, I note that the piece ended by juxtaposing Gonzales' two diametrically opposed statements about McNulty's role: (1) AGAG's recent remarks at (I think) the National Press Club laying all of this at PM's door and (2) his earlier testimony where he wished he'd involved McNulty more. I found it interesting that there is no quote from McNulty, even from his recent statement rebutting Goodling/Badling.

So, chiaramente, when and how will the poop hit the HVAC for your man McNulty? What should we look for as a leading indicator of a downturn in his fortunes?

Posted by: Alan | May 26, 2007 10:02 AM

Speaking of "native" intelligence, Chiaramente, if this is in fact the case, then what's the deal with the Native American Issues Subcommittee (NAIS)? Within the U.S. attorneys office this appears to have gone from a fairly reputable group to loyal Bushie central within the span of less than a year.

What's going on here?

And why did the Troy Eid the current U.S. Attorney for Colorado, who is now a member of the NAIS, scrub his resume (or have someone at the DOJ scrub it for him) after this scandal broke?

Why did he remove references to his days at Greenberg Traurig (the Abramoff lobbying firm)? Why did he fail to disclose his own lobbying activities with the Interior Department during his time with Greenberg Traurig?

Posted by: JP2 | May 26, 2007 10:28 AM

Alan-I'll get back to my favorite person PAUL MCNULTY later, gotta go now-but we already KNOW what up next for him-another round of testimony-maybe as early as the end of next week or so? not sure!

Time to LAWYER UP, McNulty! (I like that term!) "Il meglio e ancora da venire!

P.S. McNulty's dissembling before the Judiciary Committee isn't all McNulty gots to worry about either- not by a long shot! (smile)

Posted by: chiaramente | May 26, 2007 10:44 AM

Now that chiaramental has checked in with the usual me = smart, you = dum, the grown-ups can proceed with the discussion.

Posted by: | May 26, 2007 10:45 AM


I couldn't agree more with: "Time to LAWYER UP, McNulty!" Here's hoping he gets a little message from a Grand Jury sometime in the near future.

I sense a line of dominoes getting set up.

Hey everyone ... its a holiday weekend. Make sure you get some time with your families.

Posted by: Nellie | May 26, 2007 10:54 AM

Did somebody at Starbucks put too much sugar in chiarmente's latte, or are they just a natural bloviator?

BTW - before you complain about reporters, you would do well to do some fact checking for your postings. (Hint, EOUSA)

Posted by: | May 26, 2007 01:59 PM

JP2 - Are you talking about the Native American Issues group as a subcommittee of the Attorney General's Advisory Committee, as opposed to within a given U.S. Attorney office?

With rotations within the AGAC, and U.S. Attorneys being Presidential appointees, committee and sub-committee makeups of supporters of the President (any President) would be the norm, not the exception.

The change within the past year, may simply be a statistical return to normalcy.

Posted by: | May 26, 2007 02:04 PM

apparant 5/19

Posted by: ANON | May 26, 2007 03:13 PM

Anon 2:04 PM, the changes under more usual circumstances would be normal, because those Presidential nominees, rather than appointees, would have to go through Senate confirmation. Several of the appointees have not received nomination.

Additionally, there is a heavier Washington tilt than before (e.g. even though you have Mercer and Connor, who are effectively based in Washington these days), you also have loyal Bushies extraordinaire in Tolman, Eid, and perhaps even Paoulose(?).

Gone are Heffelfinger and Chiara--former chairs. In fact that seems to be a common denominator among those USAs who were fired (more so than the spurious "border" districts claim).

And no, as far as the management of this Justice Department by this administration, nothing is the norm. When you have to use a special secret order to circumvent a Senate confirmed DAG in personnel matters; when you remove long-standing residency requirements; when you cut out the Senate and the Courts out of the hiring process for replacement USAs it raises questions. These policies, which this administration removed have been in place for decades (in some cases a couple centuries), so, yeah, I'm sure these are routine changes.

Nothing to see here. LOL.

Posted by: JP2 | May 26, 2007 07:02 PM

If the DOJ had simply told the simply told the eight United States attorneys they were being replaced for political reasons, and given them good performance reviews and references, would any of this have happened? Wasn't the one of the main issues at the start the fact that the 8 were told they were being fired for poor performance? And that pissed them off and hurt their careers, since it was not true, and then they basically started this whole thing?

Posted by: jfs | May 27, 2007 02:55 AM

jfs, good question--but I think there still would have been problems. The insulting explanations helped to accelerate the pressure on the White House, but the problems was fundamentally with the decision to fire experienced professionals and replace them with inexperienced partisans. The limited test run in Minnesota and Western Missouri in 2006 was enough of a disaster. Multiply the effects of that decision by a figure of 4, and in time people would have started noticing.

It's still possible that even more U.S. Attorneys would have been fired. And even if the U.S. Attorneys who were removed might not have talked, those who were still in the job may have wondered what was going on.

But as a general rule ill-advised decisions produce ill-advised effects, which in turn produce more ill-advised decisions, etc, etc, etc.

Posted by: JP2 | May 27, 2007 11:21 AM

Thank you Nellie. Spending time with the family wasn't all that fun though (not entirely kidding)!

Posted by: Max | May 29, 2007 02:36 PM

Chiaramente Who?

Posted by: Bill MacLeod | May 30, 2007 10:46 AM

Chiaramente - I pontificate; therefore, I am (and you're not)!

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