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 agag
Previous: How An Attorney General Should Act (and Monica's Mad) | Next: Texas Supreme Court to Juries: Get Bent

Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



The Schlozman story demonstrates what the US attorney controversy is about: using the immense power of the US attorneys' office to affect elections. Those who have been dismissing the scandal as a mere personnel matter, or a simple matter of conflicting prosecutorial priorities between indidvidual US attorneys and the Administration, or of improving "management" in individual districts are blowing smoke. Gonzales of course is the Smoke-Blower-in-Chief. The White House wants to do all in its power to secure a Republican successor to George W. Bush for obvious reasons, not the least of which is avoiding backward looking whistleblowing by a successor Democratic administration. Smoke blowing, good; whistle blowing, bad. These folks also want to do all they can to recapture the House and the Senate in the next election, again for obvious reasons. It's all about securing, retaining, or regaining political power through the use of grand juries, the FBI, and other tools available to the federal criminal prosecution apparatus. Those who deny this are like children who put their hands over their own eyes and say "You can't see me." Well, as the evidence mounts week by week, more and more people can see more and more clearly exactly what this scandal is really about. It reeks of corruption of the worst - and most dangerous - sort.

Posted by: P. Bosley Slogthrop | May 7, 2007 08:49 AM

No immunity grant for Schlozman. He was in Missouri when much of the "to hire" and "to fire" matter was taking place, so the type of information that he might have on deliberations in the firing of the "8" I see as more limited (although he could probably comment on the circumstances surrounding the firing of his successor Todd Graves).

The fact that the White House brought this guy back to D.C. to work in the EOUSA office recently is a pretty sad, but rather consistent statement from this administration. Apparently it has a boundless tolerance for behavior that pushes the lines of legality and ethics. Actually in this case, it doesn't even appear that the lines were "pushed". It looks like they may have been "crossed" many times over.

Posted by: JP2 | May 7, 2007 09:44 AM

The only good news in this mess is that Bush's stubbornness is pushing his approval ratings down to the point where survival will trump loyalty in the alleged minds of Republican congressmen soon. Can this really be America? This banana-republic treatment of the law?

Posted by: Chris Fox | May 7, 2007 11:19 AM

I think that a huge part of this whole controversy and the part that seems under-reported is not who was being fired and why , but who were the replacements going to be and what would they "owe" the White House/ Justice dept for their appointments.
It is one thing to fire those who you think aren't doing what you want, but look closely at who the replacments would be for what kind of impact they could/would have in the remainder of the administration's term. The opportunity became even greater when the Patriot Act revision/reauthorization changed the confirmation process. It made it much easier to install people true to the real "Constitution be damned" agenda of Bush, Cheney, Fredo, et al.

Posted by: jmsbh | May 7, 2007 12:38 PM

The Bush administration politicos should be hauled before committee under oath and then led away in handcuffs. I cannot believe Clinton was impeached for lying. This administration and it's political hacks have subjugated our laws and ethics to the point we are losing the very freedoms our founding fathers principled. God help us all!

Posted by: Mark | May 7, 2007 01:20 PM

All of this is so depressing. I worried about this kind of think when Lapdog Gonzales was appointed.

Posted by: Frank | May 7, 2007 01:22 PM

This scandal illustrates why the administration lost Iraq. In a part of the world where people default to the cynical to explain events, to succeed and be greeted with flowers the US had to be visibly and absolutely clean and mostly selfless. But instead any lonely voice that argued that the US had democracy at heart gets answered with the 2000 Florida vote and later patterns of vote suppression, that argued for "US-style" rule-law with is answered with USAgate habeus corpus and signing statements, that argued for interest in Iraqis is answered by a glance at the US contractors cashing in everywhere and, perhaps most fatal of all, with a link to the New American Century manifesto. There perhaps has been no act as idiotic as the publication of the latter: thinking that you can convince people that you are here to bring freedom when you've published plans for oppression takes a very weird hubris. A campaign to nation build and bring freedom, democracy and rule of law conducted by people who mock nation building, freedom, democracy, and rule-of-law was bound to be received with contempt, and fail

Posted by: wrb | May 7, 2007 01:29 PM

Tim Duncan had 33 points and 16 rebounds -- eight offensive -- and Tony Parker
added 32 points to lead the Spurs to a rugged 111-106 victory Sunday over Nash's Phoenix Suns.

Posted by: acigrabearp | May 7, 2007 01:37 PM

I interviewed with the Civil Rights Division a few years ago. It's tough to move beyond the resume stage and get the interview, so I felt pretty good about my chances. I didn't get the job though. Now I can only wonder if politics was one of the factors in the decision not to hire me. I am personally disheartened.

Posted by: Ian | May 7, 2007 01:44 PM

We're becoming just another banana republic where the ruling party throws political dissidents in the gulag.

Posted by: depressed | May 7, 2007 02:04 PM

wrb: Sorry, I think YOUR position is what should be received with contempt. You say this scandal shows why Iraq was lost, and then support this by listing instances of "cynical" criticisms of U.S. policies. So what you mean is that the criticisms, and in this case, the CRITICAL RESPONSE to the Gonzalez situation (which the facts don't enable you to deny) is the problem, and why Iraq was lost, as if the real fault is the losing of the war (supposed to be won at all costs and any means, huh?); you can't say that the criticisms are baseless, but what you take issue with is with being outraged with Gonzalez, not with what the facts don't allow you to deny that he and the administration have done. Recognizing the action for what it is, not the action, is the real problem, right?
Those positive/non-cynical "lonely" (is that right!) voices of the US only "having democracy in its hearts" to bring " 'US-style' rule-law" with " a campaign to nation-build" and bring " freedom and democracy", forgive my ignorance, how did the Iraqis ask them for these treats, or was it to be forced on them without their asking whether they wanted it or not?What happened to Bush's saying in 2000 that he didn't support the US engaging in the "campaign to nation-build" that you yourself say was the objective?

Posted by: jack gilliam | May 7, 2007 02:13 PM

There is no credible "Department of Justice" now that the Bush administration has subverted it. What we have is a political operation to screw the opposition. Today it is Republicans screwing Democrats. Given the precedent, tomorrow may see only a change in who gets screwed, not in whether Do"J" continues to operate as a political instrument.

Posted by: | May 7, 2007 02:19 PM

Jack G

You misread me.

It isn't the criticism that I see as being at fault, but the fact of Bush Administration actions. They mouth phrases, but then act in ways that reveal hypocrisy and thus undercut any chance of success.

I regal debating Kosovo with a Russian friend. He felt that since the US was ONLY there for imperialistic motives (building bases and stealing coal), there was no point in the Serbs doing anything about rapes etc. I argued that if he looked at the internal US debate, he would see that he was being too cynical: human rights concerns were essential for building the critical mass toward action.

In this case I have no replies for such cynics. The cynical view of the US is accurate, as uncomfortable and unfamiliar as it might be for Americans: you cannot convince cynical people to risk for rule of law when you don't practice it. You cannot build excitement about replacing Saddam the Unitary Executive with another Unitary Executive.

Posted by: wrb | May 7, 2007 02:32 PM

Chris: Unfortunately I don't even see that good news you mention. Bush's low ratings have been mentioned before, even when Democrats oppose him, it all blows over--look at Specter's secretive blandishing of his professed outrage from a week ago. Bush has ideological cronies in at least much of the Supreme Court. Even when the facts are irrefutable, the administration just holds its position as if it is a required absolute, unless forced to otherwise, which the other side doesn't seem to have the courage of its principles to do, even week to week; the administration supporters just blindly repeat and act the party line however divorced from the facts, and then claim the real problem isn't what they undeniably have done (when they can't smokescreen it or out-and-out lie to cover it up)but that the fact of their actions is even mentioned, showing "negativity" and " lack of unity for its own sake.The checks aren't working, not to mention the ones the administration already can disguise or deceive to cover.

Posted by: fred sanger | May 7, 2007 02:39 PM

wrb, thanks for your clarification,and my apologies if misunderstood. Other than your clarified point, I don't believe a mission SHOULD be successful nor have internal support for action if the recipients of it didn't ask for it directly, which I am not aware occurred.

Posted by: jack g | May 7, 2007 02:48 PM


> Can this really be America? This banana-republic treatment of the law?

Res ipsa loquitur, muchachos.

Posted by: TexLex | May 7, 2007 03:06 PM

rex est constituo

Posted by: wrb | May 7, 2007 03:44 PM

It's strange that no one has mentioned that the person who replaced Bud Cummins in Arkansas was not just an aide to Karl Rove, he was an opposition researcher for the RNC. Now why do you suppose Rove wants an oppo researcher with all the power of a US Attorney to be in Arkansas? More Clinton investigations?

Posted by: cgb | May 7, 2007 03:55 PM

CGB: I noticed the same thing. in fact, look at these other "coincidences" involving the fired US Attorneys:

San Francisco (Kevin Ryan) -- Nancy Pelosi's district

Nevada (Dan Bogden) -- Harry Reid's state

New Mexico (David Iglesias) -- Presidential Candidate Bill Richardson's state

Arkansas (Bud Cummings) -- Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton's state

Illinois (Gonzo's chief of staff admitted it was briefly on the firing list before being removed) -- Presidential Candidate Barack Obama's state

In other words, DOJ fired or wanted to fire the US Attorneys in the districts where the top three Democratic presidential candidates, and the top two Democrats in Congress, are located. The other four (Washington, Los Angeles, San Diego, Michigan) were all districts which were actively investgiating local Republicans for corruption.

Is all of this merely a coincidence? Or is it possible that this was all part of a plan to influence the 2008 elections?

Posted by: suspicious | May 7, 2007 04:16 PM

Stick a fork in me, I'm done. To even think that Janet Reno would turn out to be a stronger AG than Gonzales was far-fetched. IT turns out that Janet ran a lot cleaner house than Gonzo.....go figure.

Posted by: | May 7, 2007 04:21 PM

cbg: I've seen Griffin's RNC work mentioned in many articles on the Little Rock job. It's not being hidden.

Posted by: Nor'Easter | May 7, 2007 04:24 PM

Rome lasted as a republic for almost a thousand years before becoming a corruption-ridden dictatorship ensnared in budget-busting foreign wars. The USA only made it to 200 years....RIP USA. We hardly knew ya.

Posted by: | May 7, 2007 05:05 PM

RIP; the corruption became decisive once whims,license,identity became sanctioned as " rights" (and the silent, but primary, agenda for equality of result, rather than of opportunity through real education) and with the institutions of academia (with their ethnic identity ideology departments and the concomitant abolition of general education requirements which might question their ideology), sociology and psychology(behaviorism with continual influence after college however much disproved), along with anthropological cultural relativism, and their techniques (visual association, primacy of the personal/subjective, and 80's "application" of theory/reaction/copying the motions as a legacy from the Civil Rights movement all that are needed, logic/knowledge/objective critical thinking not required or tested) assumed as facts and permeating community colleges, even to grade school for the masses, the ideologues/those blindly trained with these assumptions in control of media, movies (majority of them written as formulas to mimic popular habits so as to sell, as those choosing the scripts can tell you) all ensure bypassing any check, lest there were any chance, on expression of personal license whenever one "chooses".


This is our world OUTSIDE of the political realm, that was enabled when conservatives and "liberal" subversives-turned prominent leaders of all the social areas, got in bed with each other. The administration only uses loopholes that have been concocted as social norms by all the (overpowering when combined) forces not directly regulated, and passively, even self congratulatorily by a large part of the public. This is why much of it has been gone along with. Hate to say it, but I sense the strong influence of widely held women's affiliations (along with the other combined influences) here (and it is a fact that they are a large influence, perhaps THE major one, on much of this administration's thinking and acting).

Posted by: | May 7, 2007 06:50 PM

Exam Question:

How do you prosecute a criminal conspiracy in which the AG appears to be involved?

USAs?

The Federal Bench?

The President?

Members of the Supreme Court?


Seriously: if the enterprise was the mob we would be asking these questions. We aren't out of a hesitation to face the true ugliness before us. Courage and honesty are needed, in this time, for all time.

Posted by: bill | May 7, 2007 07:09 PM

This latest installment regarding the firing of the 8 Federal Attorneys and the hiring of political hacks to replace them should prompt a serious discussion by the people of this Country who believe in the US Constitution and the rule of law.

The conduct of this administration goes way beyond " a banana republic." This is beginning to emit an aroma reminiscent of National Socialism in Germany in the early 1930's. With malicious precision and an absence of ethics and a total disdain for the rule of law and the US Constitution, the administration of Bush the Younger has taken a series of calculated steps to control the electoral process of the United States, and staff it with the political hacks, other miscreants and what was historically referred to as The Luddites. One can only hope that Senators Pat Leahy, Joe Biden and Carl Levin will collectively pull back the dark curtain that Karl Rove has woven from whole cloth to reveal a most unusual sight--- instruction in the fine art of "goosestepping." You might get the feeling that you've stumbled upon a road company of The Producers.

Posted by: CEO in SF | May 7, 2007 07:18 PM

Exactly, cgb and suspicious. Griffin may have been mentioned, but ALL the other cases? How could this be any coincidence at all? No, this should not be ignored or distracted from.

Posted by: jim | May 7, 2007 07:46 PM

very smart =)

Posted by: dertyhiyu | May 7, 2007 08:41 PM

Bill, the short answer is the appointment of a well-respected, politically independent special prosecutor.

Posted by: JP2 | May 7, 2007 09:33 PM

Thank you for this article. I haven't read about Scholzman anywhere else - I guess I should be reading the Boston Globe. Seems that the rest of the media doesn't think corruption at the top of our justive department is very newsworthy.

Posted by: | May 7, 2007 09:50 PM

I have not followed the US Attorney issue religiously but it seems most articles focus on removal of certain USAs. Other than the Arkansas replacement, there has been no discussion of the judicial and political motives.

A large number of federal judges come from the ranks of US Attorneys and their assistants. With the Patriot Act change in the appointment process, the White House can hand-pick part of the pool of potential federal judges.

Traditionally, the ranking Congressional member of the President's party or if none then the ranking state official submits names for USAs and judges. By using the Patriot Act provision, the Bush White House can more effectively foreclose input from states with strong Democratic Congressional delegations and individual GOP Senators/Representatives/Governors that they would just as soon ignore.

For example, the Bush White House could hit the trifecta in Arkansas. First remove a USA they didn't particularly like. Second, install Karl Rove's friend. And third appoint him to the District Court or 8th Circuit if there is an opening before the election.

Posted by: S. Wise | May 8, 2007 01:31 AM

Television is the opiate of the masses. Between the daily grind and must-see TV, there's little time or inclination to become a political activist. People hear a few alarming political trends only to duck their collective heads in the metaphorical sand of evening programming. Our grandparents were much more productive--they even conversed with their neighbors.

Posted by: Dave | May 8, 2007 10:22 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 

© 2007 The Washington Post Company