Lost in Libbyland: More Scandalous Justice News
While we all were focusing Tuesday upon I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's sentencing, there was on Capitol Hill another important hearing focusing upon improper and perhaps even illegal practices at the Justice Department. The Senate Judiciary Committee hosted a fellow named Bradley Schlozman, a supervisor at Justice's Civil Rights Division, who candidly told the panel that he was all about politics, and bringing into the fold conservative lawyers, when he worked for the feds. Schlozman's testimony is still more proof that for years now the Department has been adrift in a sea of rank partisanship.
Here's how the Boston Globe's Charlie Savage put it: "His testimony had been widely anticipated because former career Justice Department officials have accused Schlozman of trying to 'remake' the Civil Rights Division in a more conservative mold. During Schlozman's tenure at the Civil Rights Division, prior experience in civil rights among newly hired civil service attorneys plunged, while conservative credentials rose, résumés show...Throughout the hearing, Schlozman sat hunched and alone at the witness table with his hands clasped tightly. No Republican senator attended the hearing, allowing Democrats to grill him without respite. Schlozman's testimony was also anticipated because Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales installed him as the first replacement U.S. attorney last year after the firings began, though he had no prior trial experience. Schlozman went on to serve 13 months as the top prosecutor in the western district of Missouri, bypassing Senate confirmation."
Schlozman's testimony infuriated Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.). To get a flavor for how things went, here is how the folks at McClatchy saw it:
Things got testy when Leahy questioned Schlozman on his indictment of four voter registration workers one week before the November 2006 elections, despite a department policy that discourages politically sensitive indictments close to an election.
Schlozman testified that he brought the indictments against the employees of ACORN, a liberal community activist group that registers poor people and minorities to vote, "at the direction of the Public Integrity Section," the Justice Department unit that oversees voter-fraud prosecutions.
"At your instigation," Leahy said.
"The Department of Justice does not time prosecutions to elections," Schlozman said.
"Yes they do," Leahy shouted, his voice echoing through the packed hearing room. Leahy held up a department manual that lays out parameters for bringing election-related prosecutions.
Schlozman said that the timing of the prosecutions didn't violate the longstanding department policy. He added that he "did not think it (the prosecution) was going to have any effect on the election."
"Amazing," Leahy responded.
Amazing indeed. Keep your eyes now on the Office of Professional Responsibility and the Office of the Inspector General. The folks in those offices are full-on into their investigations into this mess. And when their shoes drop, this scandal will go to a whole new level. At least that's one humble blogger's opinion.
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