Here is Your Justice Department
Ah, the first weekend in May. Mint Juleps. An exciting Kentucky Derby. Playoff hockey. And news of another high-ranking Justice Department official reportedly hiring federal lawyers based upon their political affiliation-- a violation of federal law. This isn't a repeat of last week's news that Monica Goodling may have hired lawyers for the Justice Department because they were Republicans. This is "new" news that a fellow named Bradley Schlozman, a former "senior civil rights attorney" at Justice, may have told Republican lawyers to delete resume references to their party affiliation and then re-submit their resumes so that they could get their jobs.
That was when Schlozman was in Washington, D.C. In today's Boston Globe, Charlie Savage has another brilliant piece on what Schlozman did after he was promoted to the position of U.S. Attorney for western Missouri following his loyal (and some say heavy-handed) service to the party. "Bradley Schlozman moved aggressively where [Todd] Graves [his predecessor] had not, announcing felony indictments of four workers for a liberal activist group on voter registration fraud charges less than a week before the 2006 election. Republicans, who had been pushing for restrictive new voting laws, applauded. But critics said Schlozman violated a department policy to wait until after an election to bring voter fraud indictments if the case could affect the outcome, either by becoming a campaign issue or by scaring legitimate voters into staying home."
That's how Schlozman handled things in Missouri. Here is what Savage wrote about Schlozman during his time in the nation's capital: "No stranger to election law controversy, Schlozman previously spent three years as a political appointee in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, where he supervised the voting rights section. There, he came into conflict with veteran staff over his decisions to approve a Texas redistricting plan and a Georgia photo-ID voting law, both of which benefited Republicans. He also hired many new career lawyers with strong conservative credentials, in what critics say was an attempt to reduce enforcement of laws designed to eliminate obstacles to voting by minorities. 'Schlozman was reshaping the Civil Rights Division,' said Joe Rich , who was chief of the voting rights section until taking a buyout in 2005, in an interview. 'Schlozman didn't know anything about voting law. . . . All he knew is he wanted to be sure that the Republicans were going to win.'"
No wonder, then, that Congress wants to haul Schlozman back to the Capitol to question him under oath about his hiring practices. Will he pull a "Goodling" and exercise his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent? It would not surprise me if he did. Will the Congress grant him immunity the way it did with Goodling? Too early to tell. At some point, the incentive for the legislators to trade immunity for information at the expense of the possibility of prosecution (which was the calculus for the Goodling deal) will diminish. And when it does, the person without the immunity -- maybe it's Schlozman, maybe it's the next official -- actually may face criminal charges if the evidence against him or her is strong enough.
One thing seems clear, however. With each development like this, with each new accusation of inappropriate conduct, It is becoming increasingly obvious that there are patterns of conduct at play at the Justice Department and among current U.S. Attorneys that beggar not just a fuller explanation from the Attorney General and others but also more investigative work by journalists and legislators. This is rotten business and it was sanctioned, condoned, or even perhaps encouraged by rotten leaders.
By Andrew Cohen |
May 7, 2007; 6:51 AM ET
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