Archive: agag

Good Riddance

When historians look back upon the disastrous tenure of Alberto R. Gonzales as Attorney General of the United States they will ask not only why he merited the job in the first place but why he lasted in it as long as he did. By any reasonable standard, the Gonzales Era at the Justice Department is void of almost all redemptive qualities. He brought shame and disgrace to the Department because of his lack of independent judgment on some of the most vital legal issues of our time. And he brought chaos and confusion to the department because of his lack of respectable leadership over a cabinet-level department among the most important in the nation. He neither served the longstanding role as "the people's attorney" nor fully met and tamed his duties and responsibilities to the Constitution. He was a man who got the job not because he was supremely...

By Andrew Cohen | August 27, 2007; 08:46 AM ET | Comments (289)

The More Things Change...

I go away for a few days and what happens? The same sad stories keep repeating themselves.

By Andrew Cohen | August 6, 2007; 08:08 AM ET | Comments (14)

Gonzo Vox Pop, Part II: His Defenders

Yesterday online critics of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales got their moment in the spotlight (such as it is) here at the Bench Conference. Today his supporters get their turn. Nestled in among the hundreds of anti-AG comments are folks who were willing to spend at least a few seconds at their keyboards to chime in on behalf of Gonzales -- or at least against his detractors. There were three main themes to these pro-Gonzo comments. First, I was a biased hack out to "get" the attorney general on behalf of a zealous liberal media. Second, the Clinton-Reno team was far worse than the current partnership of Bush and Gonzales. And third, since the U.S. attorney scandal is none of Congress's business, the AG is right to stick to his story no matter how unpersuasive it appears to be. Of course, none of these arguments posits that Gonzales is a...

By Andrew Cohen | July 26, 2007; 12:21 PM ET | Comments (20)

Gonzo Vox Pop

If so many people are so angry with and frustrated by Alberto R. Gonzales, why isn't more being done to get rid of him?

By Andrew Cohen | July 26, 2007; 08:00 AM ET | Comments (19)

Gonzo on the Hill: A Comedic Tragedy

Forget about the politicization of the Justice Department. Forget about the falling morale there. Forget about the rise in violent crime in some of our biggest cities. Forget about the events leading up to the U.S. Attorney scandal and the way he has handled the prosecutor purge since. Forget about the Department's role in allowing warrantless domestic surveillance. Forget about the contorted and contradictory accounts he's offered before in his own defense. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales deserves to be fired for his testimony Tuesday alone; for morphing into Jon Lovitz's famous "pathological liar" character (or maybe just one of the Marx Brothers) as he tried to dodge and duck responsibility before the Senate Judiciary Committee not just for his shameful leadership at Justice but also his shameless role in visiting an ailing John Ashcroft in the hospital to try to strong-arm him into renewing the warrantless surviellance program. Can...

By Andrew Cohen | July 24, 2007; 11:53 AM ET | Comments (519)

Don't Go Away Mad, John -- Just Go Away

The architect of one dangerous Bush administration policy after another -- torture, warrantless domestic surveillance -- now is defending the White House's dubious assertion of executive privilege in the U.S. attorney scandal. John Yoo, who never dreamed of a presidential power he wasn't willing to turn into an overbearing and arguably illegal policy, writes in today's Wall Street Journal that Republicans should rally around President Bush and help him stave off congressional Democrats' attempts to make former White House counsel Harriet Miers and former White House political director Sara Taylor answer under oath relevant questions about the prosecutor purge....

By Andrew Cohen | July 23, 2007; 08:43 AM ET | Comments (37)

Smoke the Salmon, Hold the Shame

A little smoked salmon, a few bacon-wrapped scallops, and absolutely no sense of shame or irony from the leaders at the Justice Department.

By Andrew Cohen | July 18, 2007; 07:56 AM ET | Comments (32)

Taylor to Miers to Chance

So much for former White House political director Sara Taylor taking a stand for the truth. So much for her choosing to be courageous and honorable instead of just another self-serving weasel the Bush administration trots up to Capitol Hill to say nothing about nobody involved in the U.S. attorney scandal. And so much for former White House counsel Harriet Miers ever again seeing the light of day. Taylor's brief (and for the most part meaningless) attempts at candor before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday helped doom any chance of seeing Miers skulk behind an overinflated notion of "executive privilege" asserted by her longtime patron, President Bush. Turns out Miers isn't even going to bother to perform before the House Judiciary Committee the same kabuki dance that Taylor did for the Senate committee. The once-upon-a-time Supreme Court nominiee is going to pretend instead that the White House's "request" that she...

By Andrew Cohen | July 11, 2007; 08:53 PM ET | Comments (47)

Hey, Sara Taylor: Be a Hero Today

This is it, former White House political director Sara Taylor: Your moment is here. Your chance, too. You say you are a dedicated public servant who wants what is best for this country? That you are devoted to the rule of law? That you put country ahead of party? Then stand before the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning and ignore President Bush's attempt to muzzle your testimony under the guise of executive privilege. Tell him "thanks but no thanks" -- tell your lawyers to back off -- and simply give the senators the full and complete truth as you know it about the U.S. attorney scandal. The law will support you. And if the law doesn't, history will. Sure, it will infuriate your former bosses and colleagues at the White House. It will rankle conservatives everywhere. But you are smart enough to understand that you now owe less to them...

By Andrew Cohen | July 11, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (99)

The Scorched-Earth Subpoena Strategy

The decision by White House officials to take an extreme position on executive privilege -- we won't even offer to Congress the log of privileged communications, never mind the actual substance of those communications -- is simply and clearly designed to delay a court fight on the merits of the dispute. It could take months to resolve the matter of the log before the fight is ripe for a substantive ruling. Thus we have the spectacle of veteran White House lawyers acting like first-year litigation associates told by their senior partners and clients to scorch the earth in order to delay a case. It's not hard to understand why the White House doesn't want to turn over the contents of the emails or allow its personnel, current or former, to testify. The Bush administration has been obsessive to the point of criminal in protecting and expanding the power and authority...

By Andrew Cohen | July 9, 2007; 03:32 PM ET | Comments (40)

Another Justice Attorney Bashes Gonzo

I don't know John S. Koppel from a hole in the ground. But the Justice Department attorney Sunday offered precisely the sort of in-house denunciation of Alberto R. Gonzales that ought to shake President George W. Bush out of his pouty stupor so he can finally fire one of the worst Attorneys General in history. "I have never been as ashamed of the department and government that I serve as I am at this time," Koppel's op-ed piece begins. You get the idea where it ends. Koppel's courageous criticism of his current bosses-- clearly not a loyal Bushie, you wonder why he hasn't been fired-- cuts directly at one of Gonzales' most glaring and unquestionable failures at Justice; his inability to protect both the independence of the Department and the professional reputation and morale of the good men and women who work there. Men like Koppel. What else does the...

By Andrew Cohen | July 9, 2007; 08:30 AM ET | Comments (22)

Un-Mighty Gonzo at the Bat

Like the lousy or slumping ballplayer who consistently finds himself at the plate with the bases loaded and the game on the line, trouble and pressure typically finds those who are vulnerable to it. In the world of politics and law, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales is that lousy player -- devoid of independence, leadership competence or courage. And so, naturally, trouble and controversy keep finding him. The flap over Vice President Dick Cheney's fight with the National Archives is just the latest example of this. Now Gonzales is in the cross-hairs, too. Last week, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House of Representatives Oversight Committee, went public with a letter to Cheney's office in which he asked the Vice President to explain how and why his subordinates believe that the Vice President's office is not "within the executive branch" for purposes of a national security review by...

By Andrew Cohen | June 25, 2007; 08:17 AM ET | Comments (5)

Why Does This Guy Still Have a Job?

Why does Bradley Schlozman still have a job at the Justice Department? Why are taxpayers still funding his professional career despite a growing body of evidence that suggests he has brought nothing but shame and scandal and rank partisanship to the department? And if Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales can't bring himself to demand Schlozman's resignation, can he at least question his judgment? It's just another example of the appalling lack of accountability, leadership and honor at the Justice Department....

By Andrew Cohen | June 21, 2007; 08:13 AM ET | Comments (39)

The Ol' E-Mail End Run Works Like a Charm

We all have e-mail accounts, many of us more than one. So what's the big deal about White House officials, including Karl Rove, using their Republican National Committee e-mail accounts to conduct official government business? I mean, an e-mail's an e-mail, right? And who precisely is the human-resources cop at the White House who is going to tell Rove and other White House bigwigs that they have to make sure they use the correct e-mail accounts for the proper reasons? No biggie. Just another Democratic fishing expedition. It's likewise no biggie that we learned Monday from a preliminary report from the House of Representatives' Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that: "There has been extensive destruction of the e-mails of White House officials by the RNC. Of the 88 White House officials who received RNC e-mail accounts, the RNC has preserved no e-mails for 51 officials... Although the RNC has...

By Andrew Cohen | June 18, 2007; 09:44 PM ET | Comments (23)

The Price of Blind Loyalty

For months now we've talked about how the scandal at the Justice Department would have a terrible impact upon the government's ability to adequately and accurately enforce and ensure the rule of law. Now we are beginning to see precisely how this is happening. No longer can anyone claim that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales' lack of leadership and candor hasn't hurt his troops "on the ground" -- in the federal courts. In this morning's Los Angeles Times, Richard Schmitt tells us: "Defense lawyers in a growing number of cases are raising questions about the motives of government lawyers who have brought charges against their clients. In court papers, they are citing the furor over the U.S. attorney dismissals as evidence that their cases may have been infected by politics. Justice officials say those concerns are unfounded and constitute desperate measures by desperate defendants. But the affair has given defendants...

By Andrew Cohen | June 18, 2007; 08:13 AM ET | Comments (41)

No Confidence? How About No Shame?

Put yourself in Alberto R. Gonzales's skin today for just a moment. As the 80th attorney general of the United States, you have contributed to and presided over a period of infamy at the Justice Department you purport to lead. Even as Congress contemplates a barrage of subpoenas that would escalate this scandal, the Senate today will hold a "no confidence" vote about your dismal tenure -- and it is a certainty the measure will pass with some bipartisan support. Only your long relationship with your stubborn patron, President Bush, has kept you in office -- but he continues each day to pay a political price for his loyalty, sounding more and more loony when defending you. You clearly aren't wanted any longer -- you clearly aren't doing right by the public you are supposed to be serving -- so why don't you just leave? Really. If you worked in...

By Andrew Cohen | June 11, 2007; 07:58 AM ET | Comments (62)

Gonzales's Failures Broader Than Prosecutor Purge

Another Guantanamo Bay detainee apparently killed himself yesterday amid concerns that conditions at our terror suspect prison camp in Cuba have not gotten measurably better for the condemned men now going on Year Six of indefinite confinement there. The news came on the same day that the Office of Professional Responsibility at the Justice Department announced it had widened the scope of its inquiry into the Department's hiring practices as a result of Monica Goodling's damning testimony last week before the House Judiciary Committee. No, I'm not arguing that the two developments are related. But the suicide is a timely reminder that the scandal over the firing of U.S. Attorneys last year is not the only or even the most serious failing of the Justice Department under the stewardship of Alberto R. Gonzales. Even if you contend that the prosecutor purge was "politics as usual"-- a procedural failure -- then...

By Andrew Cohen | May 31, 2007; 08:19 AM ET | Comments (36)

It's Hard to Find Good People These Days

The federal prosecutor scandal isn't just some theoretical fight over ideology and power. It has real consequences and here are just two of the latest examples that have come to our attention thanks to good reporting by good journalists. The excellent reporters at McClatchy tell us that the controversy seems to be dragging down the pace of applicants for the position of U.S. Attorney. And, really, can you blame anyone? If you were a good and seasoned attorney with political connections-- or, more likely a political hack who wanted to pad your resume for future public office-- would you want to go through the ringer these days to get to the Justice Department so that Alberto R. Gonzales could be your boss? Didn't think so. Nor should you be surprised that the administration's practices toward the hiring of immigration judges has generated a cadre of.... unprepared and unworthy judges! As...

By Andrew Cohen | May 29, 2007; 08:05 AM ET | Comments (18)

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...

By Andrew Cohen | May 25, 2007; 08:09 AM ET | Comments (32)

Missing Their Chance With Monica

I do not necessarily blame Monica Goodling for such a lackluster day of testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. She was as forthcoming as she needed to be given the circumstances. Instead, I blame the Democratic members of the committee, who with their unfocused questions and lack of follow-up made their counterparts in the Senate look like a pack of Perry Masons. First, who is the Einstein who decided that the lawmakers would get only five minutes each to ask their questions? It devolved into a farce. By the time Goodling was getting to the meat of her answers, or by the time that the politician-questioner had finished with his or her run-up to a good question, time was up. ("You have five seconds left," said Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) over and over again without any apparent sense of irony.) Goodling was off the hot seat until the next...

By Andrew Cohen | May 24, 2007; 08:00 AM ET | Comments (40)

Goodling Trashes McNulty; Mum on Gonzales

Monica Goodling is hours into her testimony before the House Judiciary Committee and if you didn't know the background of the U.S. attorney scandal you would be forgiven for believing that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales runs the Justice Department in absentia from a deserted island through the use of carrier pigeons and haiku. Goodling has barely mentioned her former boss and has barely been asked by lawmakers about the attorney general's involvement in the prosecutor purge or his failed leadership of the department. Maybe that's going to come after lunch -- maybe the committee wants to end with a bang and not a whimper -- but it is a surprise that it has not taken place so far. After all, Gonzales clearly is the most important figure in this story, and someone about whom Goodling ought to be able to talk at great length and with florid detail. So...

By Andrew Cohen | May 23, 2007; 12:45 PM ET | Comments (39)

Don't Cry for Us, Monica Goodling

I swear, if Monica Goodling cries today when she testifies before the House Judiciary Committee about her role in the U.S. Attorney scandal I will be on the phone to Jon Stewart before Goodling's first tear hits the floor of the hearing room. She didn't cry for the good men and women within the Justice Department whom she helped get fired because they weren't "loyal Bushies" like her. She didn't cry for the subversion of justice that the firings (and her hiring decisions) represented. She didn't cry when her former boss, the Attorney General, stonewalled. But she is going to cry when Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) asks her a question? Please. If Goodling truly wants to begin to rehabilitate herself and her place in history she can start today by dispensing with the drama and simply telling the Committee all that she knows about last year's prosecutor purge at the...

By Andrew Cohen | May 22, 2007; 09:32 PM ET | Comments (85)

The Way Out of the Gonzales Mess

President George W. Bush said yesterday that his Attorney General, Alberto R. Gonzales, has "done nothing wrong." Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers continue to make plans to try to hold a "no confidence" vote on Gonzales, Capitol Hill prepares for former Justice Department official Monica Goodling's testimony on Wednesday, and Republican lawmakers continue to leave the Good Ship Gonzales in packs. It's time, in other words, for a smart deal. The spin out of the White House is that the President is sticking with Gonzales because he does not want to undertake the ordeal, the conflict, of two high-profile Justice Department confirmation battles (one for Gonzales and one for his recently-departed deputy, Paul J. McNulty). Never mind that the Department itself is a shambles and getting worse. Or that Gonzales has zero credibility on Capitol Hill. Or that the President-- any president-- should be able and willing to put the interests of...

By Andrew Cohen | May 21, 2007; 07:48 PM ET | Comments (40)

Gonzo Just a Memory by Memorial Day?

Those of us taking the "under" on the continuing tenure of Alberto R. Gonzales got a boost Sunday from two Republican Senate leaders, one of whom said that he believes that the Attorney General could resign before a scheduled "no confidence" vote in the Senate this week and the other of whom refused to publicly support Gonzales when given the opportunity to do so. Gonzales is taking a trip to Europe this week but will be back in time for Friday, the day before the long Memorial Day weekend and typically a prime time to announce bad news-- like the resignation of an attorney general. Could it happen in the next few days? Beats me. But if you are Gonzales and you lose the support of GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who took a pass Sunday when asked if the Attorney General could continue to effectively lead the Justice...

By Andrew Cohen | May 21, 2007; 07:45 AM ET | Comments (36)

"A Very Strong" AG? White House Should Prove it

White House tribunes declared Friday that President George W. Bush still has confidence in Alberto Gonzales as "a very strong attorney general" and sees the upcoming "no-confidence" vote on Gonzales in the Senate as merely a "political stunt." This pronouncement occurred on the same day, maybe even perhaps around the same time, that Gonzales himself was being hammered in a private session with his current crop of U.S Attorneys, by now famously culled (at least partially) to include only the most "loyal Bushies" hand-selected by the White House and people like Monica Goodling. The White House's still-game-for-Gonzo message came following a week in which Republicans were shedding themselves of the hapless Attorney General as quickly as they could scramble to a microphone and clammer for attention. And it came one day before former president Jimmy Carter publicly declared that the Bush Administration is the "worst in history." So, who you...

By Andrew Cohen | May 19, 2007; 10:14 AM ET | Comments (40)

No Confidence in His Competence

The brief ebb tide in the U.S. attorney scandal has gone. Thanks to the startling testimony of former deputy attorney general James B. Comey, and new revelations about dysfunction within the Justice Department, the rip tide of controversy and political pressure is back. Today Senate Democrats will try to engineer a "no confidence" vote on Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. And from the looks of things they'll have plenty of support from their GOP colleagues. From today's New York Times: "Senator Norm Coleman, Republican of Minnesota, said on Thursday that Mr. Gonzales should resign... In addition, Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, said Mr. Gonzales's resignation should now be considered a possibility. 'When you have to spend more time up here on Capitol Hill instead of running the Justice Department, maybe you ought to think about it,' Mr. Roberts said. This week, Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, said Mr....

By Andrew Cohen | May 18, 2007; 07:43 AM ET | Comments (36)

More Injustice at Justice

I had more than a passing interest in the news that at least 26 U.S. attorneys were initially targeted for dismissal by the White House and Justice Department, including a fellow named William Leone, who was then serving as U.S. attorney in Colorado. I happen to know Bill Leone. I worked against him a long time ago in a complicated case and have stayed in sporadic touch ever since. And I am here to tell you that Bill Leone is no Alberto Gonzales. He is no Paul McNulty. He is no Kyle Sampson or Monica Goodling. Leone has more intelligence, integrity and respect for the rule of law in his little finger than those four pillars of partisanship have in their entire bodies. Leone is a brilliant lawyer and a good man, and it is truly a sign of how the world of the Justice Department has been turned upside...

By Andrew Cohen | May 16, 2007; 08:52 PM ET | Comments (42)

Alberto Throws Paul Under Bus: Ditto James to Alberto

What a morning it's been for devotees of the U.S. Attorney scandal. While former Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey was testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee about ghoulish behavior on the part of then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, the Attorney General himself was throwing under the bus his former deputy, Paul J. McNulty, who resigned under fire yesterday from the Justice Department. Got that? The guy who should be Attorney General was highlighting the backhanded way in which the current Attorney General operated back in 2004. And Gonzales, the guy who has kept his job thanks to blind loyalty on the part of President Bush, was unable and unwilling to show any measure of fealty to his own subordinate, savaging him less than 24 hours after McNulty decided to go. All of a sudden, Gonzales, the man who last week said he would take "responsibility" for the disaster at...

By Andrew Cohen | May 15, 2007; 12:51 PM ET | Comments (118)

The Fall of the House of McNulty

Make no mistake. The newly-resigned former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty is not a "fall guy" at the Justice Department or otherwise a victim of the ever-expanding scandal over the firing last year of eight (or nine) U.S. Attorneys. Like his boss the Attorney General of the United States, McNulty knew or should have known that the White House-inspired plan to politicize the Justice Department was wrong; knew or should have known that good, honest, smart federal prosecutors all across the country were unconscionably being sacked in favor of partisan cronies; knew or should have known that the Justice Department is not supposed to be a political fiefdom to be manipulated at the whim of party loyalists or bureaucratic hacks. Even more so than Alberto Gonzales, McNulty, a former federal prosecutor himself, should have stood up for the independence and authority of the prosecutors who were fired. So...

By Andrew Cohen | May 14, 2007; 08:17 PM ET | Comments (74)

The Attorney General's "Monica" Problem

Last month, when Alberto R. Gonzales figuratively flipped off the Senate Judiciary Committee with his evasive, incomplete and simply incredible answers, there were loud rumblings by leaders in both parties that perhaps it was indeed time for him to end his miserable tenure as the 80th Attorney General of the United States. Last week, however, when Gonzales virtually repeated his lame performance, this time before the House Judiciary Committee, there was barely a peep of protest. Gonzales and his dwindling group of cronies at the Justice Department took note of this receding anger and frustration and were said to be expressing growing confidence that this inapt and inept leader would somehow survive in office. The rip-tide against him was said to have ebbed. But then comes a story like the one in Saturday's New York Times, again about the hiring practices of former Justice Department official Monica Goodlling, which ought...

By Andrew Cohen | May 13, 2007; 09:00 AM ET | Comments (13)

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...

By Andrew Cohen | May 10, 2007; 12:34 PM ET | Comments (45)

Gonzales to Congress: Get Over it, I'm Staying

For a man with much to be modest about, Alberto R. Gonzales sure seems to be feeling his oats these days. On Wednesday, in prepared remarks he intends to deliver to the House Judiciary Committee when he testifies again on Capitol Hill today, the Attorney General told the lawmakers to move their pretty little minds past the U.S. Attorney scandal so that everyone at the Justice Department could get back to work. "The sooner that all the facts are known," wrote the man who famously couldn't or wouldn't remember vital details last month before the Senate Judiciary Committee about his role in the controversy, "the sooner we can devote our exclusive attention" to protecting "the American people from the dangers of terrorism, violent crime, illegal drugs and sexual predators." (Memo to file: Under Gonzales' watch, violent crime in many large cities is up, as is drug use in the middle...

By Andrew Cohen | May 10, 2007; 08:30 AM ET | Comments (123)

Forget Censure and Impeachment; Gonzales Needs to Go Now

Columnist Stuart Taylor, Jr. argues this week that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales should be censured by the Congress for his dubious role in the widening U.S. Attorney scandal. Last week, a law professor named Frank Bowman suggested that the Congress could and perhaps should impeach Gonzales for his many failures as a cabinet level official. Neither of these options make sense; neither would accomplish what needs to be accomplished in a reasonable period. The attorney general, who keeps "taking responsibility" for his role in the controversy but then refuses to do anything about it, simply needs to go, either voluntarily or with a push from the White House. Nothing short of that is going to fix this problem as quickly as it needs to be fixed. Why? Because this is an executive branch problem that ought to be solved within the executive branch. President Bush continues to place loyalty...

By Andrew Cohen | May 9, 2007; 07:57 AM ET | Comments (14)

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...

By Andrew Cohen | May 7, 2007; 06:51 AM ET | Comments (31)

How An Attorney General Should Act (and Monica's Mad)

Another man who could and should be the next* Attorney General of the United States, James B. Comey, came to Capitol Hill yesterday and showed why. The former Deputy Attorney General, who worked at the Justice Department from 2003 to 2005, testified before the House Judiciary Committee and showed precisely the sort of candor and leadership that is lacking from the current Attorney General. In his little finger the Republican Comey has more respect among lawmakers and lawyers, and more integrity and independence, than Alberto Gonzales has in his whole body. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Justice Department managed to tick off former high-ranking official Monica Goodling and her attorneys by going public with allegations against her (allegations that she broke the law by giving out jobs based upon political affiliation) before notifying Team Goodling about the matter as a professional courtesy. Given how vital Goodling's testimony will be--...

By Andrew Cohen | May 4, 2007; 07:48 AM ET | Comments (19)

End the Charade

The big news this morning really shouldn't come as any "news" at all. What it should do is finally push Congress over the edge of inaction so that it formally and uniformly demands that President George W. Bush put an end to the charade of propriety and good governance that is otherwise known as the Alberto R. Gonzales Era at the Justice Department. From Eric Lipton and David Johnston at the New York Times: "The Justice Department has begun an internal investigation into whether a former senior adviser to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales improperly tried to fill vacancies for career prosecutors at the agency with Republicans loyal to the Bush administration, department officials said Wednesday. The inquiry focuses on whether the former adviser, Monica Goodling, sought to determine the political affiliations of job applicants before they were hired as prosecutors -- potentially a violation of civil service laws and...

By Andrew Cohen | May 3, 2007; 07:42 AM ET | Comments (91)

Gonzales: The Lawyer Who Lied to the Judge

The Washington Post's Dan Eggen this morning reports that in November 2005 Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales apparently misled a federal judge in Montana about the status of William W. Mercer, the U.S. Attorney for the state. The nation's top lawyer and chief law enforcement official reportedly told the judge that Mercer was not breaking the law by spending his time working in Washington (for the Justice Department) and not Montana (for the people of his state). But this evidently was not true. Because on the same day, Eggen reports, "Mercer had a GOP Senate staffer insert into a bill a provision that would change the rules so that federal prosecutors could live outside their districts to serve in other jobs, according to documents and interviews." Eggen writes: ".... [T]he episode, which received little notice at the time, provides another example in which Gonzales's statements appear to conflict with simultaneous...

By Andrew Cohen | May 2, 2007; 07:10 AM ET | Comments (131)

The Attorney General's Job: Outsourced

We learned Monday that for most of 2006 the Justice Department's ultimate hiring and firing authority was not in the hands of the boss-- the Attorney General of the United States-- but rather in the hands of an inexperienced 37-year-old guy (Kyle Sampson) who briefly wanted to fire fabled U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald and an inexperienced 33-year-old woman (Monica Goodling) who went to a fourth-rate law school founded by Pat Robertson, the mission statement of which was "to produce Christian leaders who will make a difference, who will change the world." Does that help explain why the Justice Department is the pathetic mess it is today? Does it help reaffirm for you the notion that Alberto R. Gonzales is an incompetent leader who wasn't even capable enough to properly delegate to the right people a job he should have been doing in the first place? Even if you accept...

By Andrew Cohen | May 1, 2007; 08:30 AM ET | Comments (19)

Chalk One Up for The Good Guys

After reading this Bench Conference post last week, Justice Department officials conceded defeat and reinstated traditional hiring policies for baby lawyers and interns. No? Okay, how about this. Bowing to political reality, caught red-handed trying to further politicize the Department of Justice, and unwilling to give further ammunition to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales' growing number of critics, partisan loyalists at Justice decided the fight over who gets to pick the summer interns and how just wasn't worth fighting at this time. Dan Eggen and Amy Goldstein over the weekend reported that: "The Justice Department is removing political appointees from the hiring process for rookie lawyers and summer interns, amid allegations that the Bush administration had rigged the programs in favor of candidates with connections to conservative or Republican groups, according to documents and officials.... Justice officials strongly deny that political or partisan factors play any role in who is...

By Andrew Cohen | April 30, 2007; 08:15 AM ET | Comments (22)

Gonzales Offers No "Pleasure for the President"

If America received a dollar over the past few months every time some White House official said the phrase "U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President" our nation's debt would be gone. The great Jon Stewart even made fun of the phrase last month. So when President George W. Bush this week went back to the phrase, and then tried to defend his indefensible attorney general, it got me thinking: what sort of pleasure could Alberto R. Gonzales possibly be giving the President these days? And, no, this isn't a wind-up to some lame off-color joke. Surely the President is receiving no pleasure from the fact that the scandal over the firing of the eight U.S. Attorneys could have a negative impact on pending and future federal cases brought by the Justice Department. Surely the President is receiving no pleasure from the fact that day by day Republican...

By Andrew Cohen | April 27, 2007; 07:34 AM ET | Comments (144)

Robert Novak is Right* and Monica is on Her Way

As if the continuous defection of Republican lawmakers from the camp of Alberto R. Gonzales wasn't a bad enough sign for the Attorney General, today comes word that the grandaddy of all conservative columnists, Robert D. Novak, also is abandoning ship. In today's Post he notes that the U.S. Office of Special Counsel this week began a new investigation into allegations that the White House illegally participated in the firing of one of the U.S. Attorneys. And has these (familiar to those of you who read Bench Conference) things to say about Gonzales: "While the current cliche is that Bush never should have named Gonzales attorney general in the first place, the consensus in the administration was that Gonzales also was at sea in his first post, as White House counsel. Colin Powell, Bush's first-term secretary of state, was so appalled by Gonzales that he shunted contact with him off...

By Andrew Cohen | April 26, 2007; 08:00 AM ET | Comments (73)

'Get Out Get Out Now' Is the Message to Gonzales

"I don't think the attorney general has served the country or the president particularly well," Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told the Washington Post Tuesday. "I think there is a huge credibility issue at the Justice Department," added Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn), "I continue, even after his (Alberto R. Gonzales') testimony, to have grave doubts." Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) added a temporal component to his concerns. "I think the attorney general is on a tightrope and he and the president need to make a decision before very long," he said. "He's a distraction," added presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, another prominent and well-respected Republican. Another day, another flock of Republicans fleeing the scene of the car wreck that is the Gonzales' Justice Department. What is particuarly interesting about the fact that this quartet of Republicans chose Tuesday to speak out against the Attorney General is that a day earlier both Gonzales and...

By Andrew Cohen | April 25, 2007; 07:44 AM ET | Comments (58)

Believe Who? The President or Your Own Eyes?

The art of politics, I suppose, is the art of trying to convince someone of something that you yourself don't really believe; to convince someone that they ought to believe you and not their own lying eyes. I know this but I still cringe whenever I hear a politician say something totally at odds with objective reality. I cringe because I consider it a waste of my time to be listening to it and a waste of the speaker's time in saying it. And so it was Monday that President George W. Bush said that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales' performance last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee "increased" the President's "confidence" that Gonzales can continue to do his job as the nation's chief law enforcement official. He is an "honest" and "honorable man," President Bush said, and the hearings and investigations into the U.S. Attorney scandal have not demonstrated...

By Andrew Cohen | April 23, 2007; 10:15 AM ET | Comments (90)

The Revolt of the Working Class at Justice

Lost last week amid the fire and storm of bigger news-- Virginia Tech, abortion, etc.-- was the revelation of yet another layer of inappropriate partisanship at the Justice Department. If there were any lingering doubt before about the extent to which its current crop of leaders are trying to douse the Department with one particular ideology at the expense of others, and to undermine intellectual rigor and independence in doing so, it now ought to be erased completely by the story of how Republican cronies at Justice are skewing long-standing (and sensible) hiring practices to bring to the Department a new generation of crony wannabes. Even as they dilute the work of nonpartisan career professionals (and U.S. Attorneys) by politicizing the "grown-up" staff at Justice, officials there also apparently have turned their greedy eyes to the Department's student "Honors Program" and "Summer Law Internship Program." The Attorney General and his...

By Andrew Cohen | April 23, 2007; 08:00 AM ET | Comments (34)

The Right Also Sees Wrong in Attorney General

Early this week, long before his testimony (see below) before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales received a letter from the American Freedom Agenda, a group comprised of a few heavy-hitting conservatives. A mash note designed to steady Gonzales before his appearance before the Committee? Nope. A tepid show of support for the embattled Attorney General by his political allies? Nope. A biting demand that he resign? You got it. "Mr. Gonzales has presided over an unprecedented crippling of the Constitution's time-honored checks and balances," the authors wrote. "He has brought the rule of law into disrepute, and debased honesty as the coin of the realm. He has engendered the suspicion that partisan politics trumps evenhanded law enforcement in the Department of Justice.... In sum, he has proven an unsuitable steward of the law and should resign for the good of the country." If the Attorney General...

By Andrew Cohen | April 20, 2007; 07:45 AM ET | Comments (57)

Out of Touch, Out of Line and Running Out of Time

If there was one single moment in this morning's testimony by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales before the Senate Judiciary Committee that encapsulates the sheer gall and shamelessness of the man in the hot seat, it occurred at about 10:52 when he said that questions about "partisan politics" within the Justice Department actually are an insult to (and criticism of) the career attorneys who bring controversial cases. For that cruelly cynical statement alone-- pretending that legitimate criticism of his own failed leadership as Attorney General actually is instead unfair criticism of some of the victims within the Justice Department-- Gonzales deserves to be fired. Not in a month. Not in a week. Today. Gonzales said precisely this: "Because, when you attack the department for being partisan, you're really attacking the career professionals. They're the ones, the investigators, the prosecutors, the assistant U.S. attorneys, they're the ones doing the work." And,...

By Andrew Cohen | April 19, 2007; 02:00 PM ET | Comments (77)

Gonzales Abandoned, From Within and Without

You don't have to believe me when I tell you, as I have for the past few months, that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has made trying times at the Justice Department measurably worse with his failed leadership and intellectual rigor and fairness. You now can also believe Daniel Metcalfe, a former Justice Department official who began his career there during the Nixon Administration. Metcalfe this week tells the Legal Times' Tony Mauro that Team Gonzales "shattered" the independence of the Justice Department with short-sighted political policies. "It becamse quite clear that under Gonzales, the department placed no more than secondary value on the standards that I and my office had valued so heavily for the preceding 25 years -- accuracy, integrity, responsibility and quality of decision-making being chief among them," Metcalfe told Mauro. Do yourself a favor and read the entire interview. It is a fascinating indictment of the...

By Andrew Cohen | April 15, 2007; 05:44 PM ET | Comments (34)

Even Without the Poll Numbers, Gonzales Should Go

Let's go to the polls. The Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg released poll results yesterday on the scandal involving the firing last year by the White House and Justice Department of eight U.S. Attorneys. A slim majority of us, 53 percent, believe that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales should resign from his post for his role in and reaction to the controversy. The poll found that an even larger majority of us, 74 percent, believe that top White House officials should testify under oath about their roles in the affair. On this last point, the poll found, even 49 percent of Republicans agreed that Karl Rove and others should be held to publicly account for their conduct. Now, I am not a big fan of polls, especially on complicated and nuanced issues like the ones in play here. Given the partisanship swirling around the country these days, the fact that...

By Andrew Cohen | April 11, 2007; 07:32 AM ET | Comments (39)

Justice Department Robs Peter to Pay Paul

Today's mismanagment news from the Justice Department comes courtesy of the Washington Post's Dan Eggen, who writes about how a half dozen sitting U.S. Attorneys are serving double duty in the nation's capitol often at the expense of their work back home. Here is his lead graph: "A half-dozen sitting U.S. attorneys also serve as aides to the increasingly beleaguered Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales or are assigned other Washington postings, performing tasks that take them away from regular duties in their districts for months or even years at a time, according to officials and department records." In Montana, Eggen writes, the situation is so bad that the chief federal judge there called for the removal of William W. Mercer, the U.S. Attorney for the state but also acting Associate Attorney General. Mercer's been spending his time in Washington, and not Billings, and it's apparently (and not surprisingly) affecting the...

By Andrew Cohen | April 10, 2007; 08:16 AM ET | Comments (11)

The "Pros" Drain Out of Justice

The forced removal of the "professional" class from the Justice Department is a dangerous trend that has been exacerbated, but was not created, by the disastrous tenure of Alberto R. Gonzales as Attorney General of the United States. The pendulum was moving in this direction-- in the dubious, short-sighted direction of filling the Department with middling political partisans instead of bright career attorneys-- before the Bush administration fired eight federal prosecutors last year for not being "loyal Bushes." But the scandal over the dismissal of the U.S. Attorneys, and Gonzales' hapless stewardship, has cast a new spotlight on the practice; a focus that perhaps will help slow or even stop the brain drain at Justice. In an excellent piece well worth reading, the Boston Globe on Sunday framed the issue in terms of what reporter Charlie Savage called "the administration's hiring of officials educated at smaller, conservative schools with sometimes...

By Andrew Cohen | April 8, 2007; 04:08 PM ET | Comments (38)

The Department of Chaos

Good Friday wasn't so good for the Justice Department and its sinking chief, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. First came word of what Washington Post reporter Dan Eggen called "a revolt" in the Minnesota office of the U.S. Attorney when senior managers there demoted themselves back to line prosecutors rather than continue to work directly with a former Gonzales aide recently confirmed as U.S. Attorney. Then, late in the afternoon came word that Monica Goodling had resigned her post from the Department. Goodling, remember, is the high-ranking Gonzales deputy at Justice who helped choreograph the dismissal of the eight federal prosecutors. She is now known primarily for her decision to invoke her right against self-incrimination and refuse to answer questions from Congress about her role in the affair. When she resigned, she wrote to the Attorney General: "May God bless you richly as you continue your service to America." It is...

By Andrew Cohen | April 7, 2007; 08:32 AM ET | Comments (62)

Gonzales Works for Himself, Not You, As Hearing Looms

The Washington Post yesterday offered a wonderful glimpse into the life these days of the embattled Attorney General of the United States. In advance of a scheduled Congressional hearing later this month, Alberto Gonzales isn't working full-time for you or for me. He is working instead to save his professional hide. Here is how the Post's Dan Eggen and Paul Kane put it: "Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has retreated from public view this week in an intensive effort to save his job, spending hours practicing testimony and phoning lawmakers for support in preparation for pivotal appearances in the Senate this month, according to administration officials." There you have it. The nation's top lawyer is "spending hours practicing testimony." And every hour he spends on that selfish cause-- the cause of defending himself from his own misfeasance-- is an hour he is not spending doing the job for which he...

By Andrew Cohen | April 6, 2007; 09:00 AM ET | Comments (47)

The President is "Sorry It's Come to This"

President Bush told White House journalists yesterday that he is "genuinely concerned" about the reputations of the eight fired U.S. Attorneys but that there is "no credible evidence of any wrongdoing" in their dismissals. "I'm sorry it's come to this," Bush said in front of the television cameras and no doubt he is. I would be sorry, too, if I were president and I had an attorney general and a Justice Department that was unable or unwilling to do right by the rules and the truth. The Washington Times this morning has an interesting piece that advances the story of the scandal involving the dismissal last year of the federal prosecutors. Jon Ward writes: "House Republicans don't believe that the Justice Department did anything illegal by firing eight federal prosecutors last year, but they also don't believe that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales is telling the truth about why the...

By Andrew Cohen | April 4, 2007; 07:59 AM ET | Comments (31)

Boldly (and Badly) Going Where no White House Has Gone Before

Douglas W. Kmiec, a law professor at Pepperdine and a former Justice Department official during the Reagan administration, has an interesting op-ed today in the Los Angeles Times entlted "In Defense of Gonzales." It is well worth reading. Kmiec argues that beleagued Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has "precedent and the Constitution on his side" when he testifies on April 17th before the Senate Judiciary Commitee. Why? Because, Kmiec argues, the law allows the President and the Attorney wide latitude in firing political appointees when they fail to meet policy objectives. Furthermore, he adds, there is no legal or political precedent for having an Attorney General who is independent from presidential direction. Even if that is all true-- and Kmiec is a serious player among former federal officials-- it still does not explain why the current administration was willing to do last year-- fire eight U.S. Attorneys last year-- what...

By Andrew Cohen | March 31, 2007; 08:18 AM ET | Comments (60)

Gonzales Invokes the Homer Simpson Defense

You just cannot make this stuff up. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' former chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, spends much of his Thursday deflating his former boss' story about the eight fired U.S. Attorneys and how does the Attorney General respond? By issuing a written statement late in the day that essentially says this: Yes, Sampson may have been keeping me in the loop on the firings after all but I wasn't really paying attention ("never focused" was the exact phrase) to what he was saying. It's the Homer Simpson defense to the Kyle Sampson story and if this were a Little League game they would have invoked the 10-run rule by now and sent Gonzales go home to Texas to once again become a lucrative private attorney. But, alas, the Attorney General is still with us, at least for today, his credibility and reputation tattered and the wolves-- not...

By Andrew Cohen | March 30, 2007; 09:00 AM ET | Comments (47)

With Friends Like These, Gonzales Doesn't Need More Enemies

So far to me the most memorable moment of D. Kyle Sampson's testimony today before the Senate Judiciary Committee wasn't his stark and damning statement that his former boss, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, was far more involved in the U.S. Attorney scandal than the latter has so far acknowledged. Instead, my moment of zen in all of this came later, during the afternoon, when Sampson testified that he briefly suggested to his bosses that they fire Patrick J. Fitzgerald, then the special prosecutor in the CIA Leak case and still one of the best federal prosecutors in the nation. Sampson was asked: Why did you make that suggestion? And he responded: Because i wanted to get a reaction from high-ranking officials, including then-White House counsel Harriet Miers. I immediately regretted the comment, Sampson told the legislators, but, really, this is what passed for leadership and policy at the Justice Department...

By Andrew Cohen | March 29, 2007; 03:29 PM ET | Comments (22)

Save Gonzales? Blame Sampson

Yesterday was a day for even more apologies and finger-pointing from the Justice Department and a tactical retreat and retrenchment from the man who now (rightly or wrongly) appears destined to be portrayed as the symbol of the ever-evolving controversy surrounding the dimissal of eight U.S. Attorneys last year. And today? Today reckons to be one of the most dramatic yet in this sorry saga as D. Kyle Sampson, Alberto Gonzales' former chief of staff, testifies under oath and in public before Congress about his role in the affair. Sampson intends to tell Congress, and the rest of us, that the decision by the White House and Justice Department to fire the prosecutors was political after all, and not based upon "job performance" the way most of us would understand the way that phrase is commonly used in the context of employment duties. Political loyalty is fully part of a...

By Andrew Cohen | March 29, 2007; 09:00 AM ET | Comments (14)

Getting Worse for Gonzales and his Justice Department

The Attorney General of the United States is caught in a political and legal vise of logic. The harder he tries to wiggle out of it the more squeezed he becomes and the more uncomfortable we all should feel about his continued presence as the nation's top lawyer. Even though it makes perfect sense to presume that the head of the Justice Department would have been closely involved in a decision to fire eight federal prosecutors-- how many bosses aren't closely involved in decisions to fire their most important employees?-- if Alberto R. Gonzales now concedes that he was intimately involved in the decision to fire eight U.S. Attorneys last fall he will directly contradict his early statements on the matter. He will be branded a liar (but not a fink) and his career in public service almost certainly will end despite the support he apparently still continues to have...

By Andrew Cohen | March 26, 2007; 10:32 PM ET | Comments (47)

Going After The Gang That Couldn't Fire Straight

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, always seems to know how to slice one more piece of carpaccio from the body of a controversy. So, Sunday, rather than simply coming out and saying that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales for his role in Firegate has an enormous credibility, integrity, and honesty problem with leaders of his own party (never mind the rest of us), Sen. Specter said this on NBC's Meet the Press: "Look, we have to have an attorney general who is candid and truthful... And if we find he has not been candid and truthful, that's a very compelling reason for him not to stay on." I don't know if Sen. Specter's committee will ultimately "find" that Gonzales has "not been candid and truthful." When the Attorney General testifies next month, he is likely to try to wiggle out of the latest...

By Andrew Cohen | March 26, 2007; 07:42 AM ET | Comments (45)

Gonzales And His "I Did Not Have Sex With That Woman" Moment

If, as the Cowboy Junkies memorably sing, "good news sleeps 'till noon," than a cardinal rule of politics and journalism is that bad news is dumped upon the collective doorsteps of the nation's media outlets late in the evening on a Friday, when the weekend news cycle already has clicked in and the attention of news consumers is likely to be elsewhere. We've seen it over and over again and we saw it Friday night, when the Justice Department tried (but clearly failed) to whisper to the rest of the world the news that Alberto Gonzales was more closely involved in the firing last December of eight U.S. Attorneys than he told us he was last week. If the Attorney General's reputation and status were shaky before this latest revelation, surely this morning they are downright dissolved. Why? Because now he is established in the court of public opinion if...

By Andrew Cohen | March 24, 2007; 07:56 AM ET | Comments (75)

The Long Knives Are Out for Gonzales

Over the past 24 hours it has become clear that there is an internal struggle within the White House over the fate of the hapless Attorney General. Yes, it is true that the only man who truly counts, President George W. Bush, is firmly behind his old friend Alberto R. Gonzales. But a few pay grades below, the battle roils on. Yesterday, we were told by some in the pro-Gonzales camp that the Attorney General indeed has a spine and was even willing to stand up to his boss on the issue of an investigation into the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program. But this morning, the anti-Alberto faction struck back. The New York Times has a big and important story reporting that Gonzales recently argued against closing the Guantanamo Bay terror detainee facility even though the new Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, suggested that it be done. Here is how...

By Andrew Cohen | March 23, 2007; 08:03 AM ET | Comments (15)

The Alberto Gonzales Magical Mystery Tour

With his stock plummeting in Washington, and with the controversy over the firing of eight federal prosecutors looking to get worse before it gets better (ready, aim, subpoena!), Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has decided to do what any hapless pol would have decided to do: he's getting out of dodge for a few days to try to "rally his troops." Well, not exactly "rally" since he reportedly intends to apologize to U.S. Attorneys around the country (not for the firings themselves but) for the way his Justice Department (and theirs) handled the dismissal of eight of their colleagues. And not exactly "troops" since if we have learned anything yet from this lame episode it is that the Attorney General was nowhere close to the kind of "general" his so-called "troops" (line prosecutors) deserved to have when the going got rough for them late last year. Taking advantage of the...

By Andrew Cohen | March 22, 2007; 07:57 AM ET | Comments (25)

White House Wins on Law, Loses on Politics

Welcome to the morning after or, as I should say, the first morning after, since we all appear destined now to head into a period of political and legal brinksmanship over the investigation into the firing last December of eight federal prosecutors. Even as I type this, Congressional Democrats are preparing subpoenas to launch at the White House while executive branch lawyers are poised in the castle to respond with court action. Alas, I wish this looming conflict would just go away-- that a few grown-ups on each side of the debate would step forward and broker a deal (this deal) that would give the Congress what it wants, protect executive privilege, ensure the removal of the hapless attorney general, and allow us all to move beyond the controversy to greener pastures. Would that it be so. Instead, I offer my two cents worth, briefly for now, on what we...

By Andrew Cohen | March 21, 2007; 09:40 AM ET | Comments (31)

Documents Dumped, Questions Remain

I haven't perused all 3,000 or so documents released late last night by the Justice Department as part of its effort to stem the riptide of recriminations over the firing of eight federal prosecutors last December. But I feel like I have seen enough of the documents to make the following five points. Point 1: The document dump in no way is going to make this controversy go away. In fact, it is much more likely to grow even larger as new questions are raised by the factual nuggets contained in the material. Why? Because even if you believe entirely the story that White House and Justice Department officials now are offering in their own defense the email exchanges between them, those that we have been able to see anyway, show a level of confusion and uncertainty that belies any claim that these dismissals were ordinary, typical and part of...

By Andrew Cohen | March 20, 2007; 08:08 AM ET | Comments (17)

Gonzales Series: Vox Pop Postscript

Our just-completed four-part series "Rough Justice"-- on Alberto Gonzales and the office of Attorney General of the United States-- sure did come at the right time, didn't it? My bosses and I here at washpost.com started talking it about it only a few weeks ago, just at the very start of the latest controversy over the White House/Justice Department firing of eight federal prosecutors. I was hoping to be ahead of the curve by a week or so. Turns out we were struggling to catch up with that curve. Even as I was writing it, last weekend and into last week, the story burgeoned into what it is today-- a very big deal that is likely to get bigger if and when people like Karl Rove and Harriet Miers are subpoenaed. The series generated a lot of comments, not just below, but on other sites as well. Some readers were...

By Andrew Cohen | March 19, 2007; 09:00 AM ET | Comments (5)

Part IV: The Case for Attorney General Patrick Fitzgerald

If Nixon could go to China, and if Reagan could make peace with the Soviets, then for the good of the nation President Bush surely could embrace White House nemesis Patrick J. Fitzgerald and install him as Attorney General.

By Andrew Cohen | March 16, 2007; 10:14 AM ET | Comments (92)

Part III: Alberto Gonzales: The "Empty Suit" AG

Gonzales is to the Justice Department, and to the Constitution, what former FEMA chief Michael Brown was to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

By Andrew Cohen | March 15, 2007; 09:06 AM ET | Comments (61)

Part II: Alberto Gonzales, Presidential Enabler

Let's leave it to former White House counsel John Dean to sum up Gonzales' qualifications before he took over as Attorney General. Dean told me in an email earlier this week: "Frankly, I have a degree of sympathy for Alberto Gonzales, who I suspect is a terrific Texas real estate attorney."

By Andrew Cohen | March 14, 2007; 10:06 AM ET | Comments (72)

Part I: Alberto Gonzales: A Willing Accessory at Justice

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales is the 80th attorney general of the United States and if recent events in the law and at the Justice Department are any indication, he is rapidly staking a claim to being among the worst.

By Andrew Cohen | March 13, 2007; 12:47 PM ET | Comments (147)

Rough Justice: The Case Against Alberto Gonzales

About this series: This is a four-part series on Alberto R. Gonzales and his role as Attorney General of the United States. Part I looks at the role of the Attorney General in American history, about current perceptions about that role, and Gonzales' view of it. Part II looks at Gonzales' record before he assumed office in 2005. Part III looks at Gonzales' record as Attorney General and the final part in the series focuses upon the candidates for his successor....

By Andrew Cohen | March 13, 2007; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (3)

The Department of InJustice

The New York Times this morning reports that "violent crime in cities" showed a "sharp surge" over the past two years. Kate Zernike writes: "While overall crime has been declining nationwide, police officials have been warning of a rise in murder, robbery and gun assaults since late 2005, particularly in midsize cities and the Midwest. Now, they say, two years of data indicates that the spike is more than an aberration." Is it a coincidence that this two-year period coincides roughly with Alberto Gonzales' tenure as Attorney General of the United States? Probably. But that makes the Justice Department's recent woes no less outrageous. While murder rates rise sharply, our Justice Department plays loosey-goosey with ethical rules and allows good, decent U.S. Attorneys-- the backbone of the federal justice system-- to be replaced by political hacks chosen by the White House. While meth use in the nation's heartland increases, our...

By Andrew Cohen | March 9, 2007; 09:30 AM ET | Comments (20)

Gonzo Law

When President Bush delivered his sixth State of the Union address Tuesday night missing from the Capitol was U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Apparently, it was his turn to stay away from his fellow leaders just in case something catastrophic were to occur inside the chamber. And if that horrible something had come to pass, Alberto Gonzales would have been in charge of the country, at least temporarily, until the lines of succession could begin to flow again. A scary thought, indeed, when you consider that Gonzales has achieved in just a few years what many legal scholars and court watchers had presumed impossible: he has made his predecessor, John Ashcroft, seem studious, grave and competent. Each week, it seems, our nation's top lawyer does or says something so unsettling, so inapt, so obviously unlawyerlike, that it leaves you wondering how he still is able to maintain his job even...

By Andrew Cohen | January 25, 2007; 10:30 AM ET | Comments (12)

One Zany Day in the Life of the War on Terror

There are some days on the terror-law beat that drone on endlessly. You read the same old briefs alleging the same old civil rights violations made by the same old creepy government officials. And then there are days like today, when chaos and consternation abound, and the turf upon which the legal war has been fought suddenly heaves up and is made new again. Where should I start? I suppose I could start with the pathetic performance offered this morning by the nation's top lawyer, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who seems more hapless, overwhelmed, disrespected, and ineffective each time he appears in public. On this occasion, Gonzales played it coy with the Senate Judiciary Committee when its chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) asked for information about the terms of a deal reached between the White House and the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court-- which was created by Congress, remember,...

By Andrew Cohen | January 18, 2007; 04:15 PM ET | Comments (7)

 

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