The firing of eight US attorneys was handled badly – the left and right can both agree on this. That said, Bush and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had the right to fire them. There are a few cases where you could make the argument that it was politically motivated. After reading piles and piles of information on this case, I’m still not sure who’s right – whether these US attorneys deserved to lose their jobs or whether they didn’t. This is still a lose-lose for the administration. If these were perfectly competent attorneys, then no matter what kind of spin you put on it, there’s definitely a discrepancy between what the AG and Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty have said on this matter. Somebody lied, or under the most charitable interpretation, one of the two was misinformed. Either way, it doesn’t make the administration look all that good.

In a Salon article written by Mark Folman, it’s alleged that the firings were politically motivated. It’s interesting to me that the salon article doesn’t put any names to the allegations that the firings were politically motivated except for David Iglesias (one of the former US attorneys who has spoken out), only referencing “senior Justice Department officials” and so forth. If the allegations came from someone other than McNulty, that’s one thing. But if McNulty has already claimed this, then wouldn’t the anonymity be blown already with his public statements? The only conclusion we can draw from this is that there are others who are not willing to go on the record with their claims. That’s certainly understandable. However, I have a harder time believing unnamed random sources whose stories cannot be verified. The article in Salon also points out that federal appointments are never apolitical. So what exactly is the problem again? It’s not that Gonzales fired the attorneys, it’s that all parties involved in the decision gave different reasons for why these US attorney lost their jobs.

Given that information, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that there might be some kind of cover-up or scandal here. That’s not the case. Both sides don’t trust each other. Congress doesn’t trust the administration to give them the straight story on anything. The Bush administration, likewise, doesn’t trust the Democratic-controlled Congress. There are good reasons for this distrust, especially from the Bush administration. The Democrats, easily distracted from their mission of making America more dependent on government charity and bravely ordering the retreat from Iraq as well as wiping out poverty, have gotten bored with the actual policy-making their job requires, and have decided to investigate the heck out of anyone remotely associated with the President of the United States. Because, ya know…they might eventually find something.

It’s never the seriousness of the offense, but rather the seriousness of the charge. That’s all that matters to the Democrats. Karl Rove must have done something wrong…darned if we know what it is. They couldn’t pin any of the Libby stuff on him, but that’s only because he is such an evil genius and gets away with everything. If he had done even half of what he’s accused of doing, he would be very scary indeed.

I am opposed to fishing expeditions. They were wrong in the past and they are wrong now. That’s a good reason, I think, for the President’s hesitation on allowing Karl Rove to give testimony to Congress. There have been no limits set on what they can ask him, and what’s to prevent Democrats from asking him questions, not only about attorney-gate but about the Scooter Libby trial? These Dems won’t rest until they get a scalp from this administration. Like I said before, I don’t blame Bush for not wanting to offer up Karl Rove to the wolves under those circumstances.

On the other hand, there are legitimate questions about how this whole thing was handled, and Congress deserves answers about that. So if Congress wishes to ask questions about this matter, I don’t see the problem. Talk to the AG. Talk to the Deputy AG. Talk to the folks actually involved in the hiring/ firing decisions at Justice. Somebody needs to be accountable for this, but I’m not sure the bulk of the blame rests with Karl Rove. However, if I were the President, I would have to ask that the inquiry be limited to this particular subject. Frankly, there’s no way this happens if the Dems get Karl Rove under oath.

The Democrats don’t have a legitimate reason to impeach Bush or Cheney. They also don’t have much of a case against Karl Rove, even though they may think that they do. There is more of a reason to question Alberto Gonzales, and I think it’s only right that he answer those questions. But as abhorrent as the idea may be to call for the resignation of Alberto Gonzales, I think it’s the right thing to do. There is more than one reason why he was never the right guy to be Attorney General, and this incident only serves to illustrate why many Republicans had reservations about him from the beginning. Of course this means the Democrats get their victory, but keeping Alberto Gonzales on as Attorney General at this point will do more harm than good for the administration.

11 thoughts on “attorney-gate

  1. I strongly disagree with the myth that the firing of the eight US Attorneys was handled ‘badly.’ It was handled how it was handled. The President has the right to fire any US Attorney he wishes.

    Nobody enjoys being fired. Losing one’s job is unpleasant. But it happens. And it especially happens when a person does a bad job. These eight attorneys, in the opinion of the White House, weren’t doing their jobs to the best of their individual abilities, so the White House and in Justice Department chose to replace them.

    That election reform has not been on the front burner of the American judiciary since the disputed election of 2000 boggles the mind.

    And what boggles the mind even further is that this matter of the eight firings has ballooned into a scandal, when it is anything but scandalous.

    What was certainly scandalous, in every sense of the word, besides the illegitimate media coverage of this non-story, was Clinton’s 1993 firings of all 93 US Attorneys with one single stroke of his pen.

  2. And I, of course, strongly disagree with your strong disagreement. 🙂 I said that I didn’t have a problem with any of them being fired, but that it’s not unreasonable to expect the administration to be straight about why it happened. I don’t think that they were. I also don’t think that it’s a clear-cut case whether the majority of them were fired for cause or not. I’m not ruling out that possibility, but that doesn’t appear to be the case for every single one of those attorneys.

    Now, do I think that this is the massive scandal that the left says that it is? No. I think they are desperately trying to pin something, anything, on this administration that can bring it down. This faux scandal isn’t going to do that.

    About the Clinton firings, if I’m not mistaken, I believe that a couple of the parties were actually investigating public corruption cases. All federal hirings and firings are political. That’s the way it’s always been, but Bush and Gonzales must have done something wrong. At least, that’s how the Democrats look at it.

  3. Yes, there was an investigation underway in Chicago, where the then-US Attorney was reportedly 30 days away from indicting then-House Ways and Means Chair Dan Rostenkowski.

    And the Clintons, those great squeaky clean moralists, were concerned that their various shady business deals would rapidly come under investigation.

    Whack! All 93 US Attorneys, gone. And it was unprecedented. And the press could have cared less.

    Political. It’s always political in DC and that’s how we love it. But the MSM is failing to provide the context and that is what upsets me.

  4. Lisa, I must disagree in some regards to this post, though not all of it. Judging from the testimony yesterday from Sampson that the Attorney General was well aware of the 8 prosecutors being fired, and the White House’s own admission yesterday that the AG needs to speak for himself, I believe there is ample evidence to suggest the administration sought to cover up their true basis for firing the prosecutors in mid-term. Though, like you, I believe fishing expeditions are worthless; however, I find it hard to believe that now all of a sudden Republicans don’t want anything to do with independent investigations set up by Congress. True they might have been wrong in the past; it’s that political karma just doesn’t work that way. We may disagree on this totally, but Bush has yet to go through half of what Clinton did with Congressional investigations. Not to suggest payback is a necessity of Congress or of a new majority, but simply to state that Republicans really have no reason to complain about a mere three months of oversight.

    I do agree with you that there are legitimate questions that need to be answered and it’s Congress’ Constitutional right to get those answers. And only in regards to the purge as well 🙂

    Kent, I’m not sure I’ve seen a more loyal supporter of any one president than you. I mean that in a good way also. Administrations pay big bucks to have staff follow them they way you do. Even if that means all the way down. But I do have to interject about some of what you write and obviously believe to be true.

    It’s true that a president can fire a prosecutor any time they deem it necessary. There really is no limit to interpreting serving at the president’s leisure. But no president has fired a prosecutor in mid-term like Bush did with the eight purged U.S. Attorney’s. And what you say about Clinton is also true for Carter, Reagan the first George Bush and the second George Bush. This isn’t about Bush firing Clinton holdovers. Not at all. When Bush took office in 2001, he also fired every single prosecutor.

    The Bush administration knew that it was unprecedented to fire prosecutors in mid-term as well. In an email from Kyle Sampson, Gonzales’ chief of staff, writes:

    “In recent memory, during the Reagan and Clinton Administrations, Presidents Reagan and Clinton did not seek to remove and replace U.S. Attorneys to serve indefinitely under the holdover provision.”

    The “holdover provision” meaning in mid-term, and having been held over from the first term.

    What we have with these 8 purged prosecutors is the removal of Bush appointed attorneys for the simple fact of not pursuing Democrats or for prosecuting Republicans too much. And the decision to remove the 8 prosecutors was done so from the very top levels of the administration. And, yet, we still have to remember that all 8 purged attorneys are Bush appointees.

    If removing Carol Lam, someone I’m sure you’re familiar with, and someone who won prosecution of the largest Congressional corruption case in American history, for political reasons isn’t a scandal then what is? By removing Lam, the Bush administration has effectively squandered the ongoing investigations into the Duke Cunningham scandal, which was heading in the direction of more Republican indictments. Obstruction of justice by the Bush administration is, at the least, reason enough for Congressional hearings. That’s where the illegality comes into question. And Congress has every right to purse such.

  5. Chris,

    It doesn’t really look like we disagree about very much at all, at least in your comments directed to me. I have said from the beginning that I don’t think the administration had its story straight on the reasons why these US attorneys were fired. On the other hand, political karma is not a legitimate reason to start an investigation. You have asked me and Kent to condemn past investigations by Republicans, which I have done to some extent, but if fishing expeditions were wrong then, they are wrong now. It shouldn’t matter which party is in power.

    I won’t argue the point that Clinton was subject to a few more Congressional investigations than Bush has been. (Maybe that’s because Clinton gave us more reasons to start investigations…) If there are provable charges of obstruction of justice, fine. Ask questions about it. But just digging and digging, trying to find something that probably isn’t there, might not work for the Democrats politically in the long run. Look what happened to the Republican Congress after Clinton was impeached.

    One more thing: Just because no other president had fired any US attorney mid-term before, that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong or illegal when it happens. It does raise a few questions, which the administration hasn’t properly answered. But that action, by itself, isn’t a crime.

  6. Thanks for the reply Lisa. I thought since the post was a few days old that I was out of luck with commenting 🙂

    My sentence about political karma was meant to suggest that some things are just uncontrolable. Karma is something that goes around and comes around. The same is true in politics. It’s not a reason to start an investigation, but because of karma, it’s just going to happen. There’s no stopping it. In politics because of Nixon, it’s probably always going to happen. The trust levels are very low on both sides. And in this age of 24 hour news, there’s always going to have to be a story to cover. I’m not trying to whitewash the reasons for Democrats to start hearings, I’m just saying there was no stopping oversight.

    True, firing US attorney’s in mid-term isn’t a crime. Like I said earlier, “[t]here really is no limit to interpreting serving at the president’s leisure.” The real key to all this is the firing of Carol Lam who was in the middle of an ongoing investigation into the Duke Cunningham bribery scandal. The trial and conviction of Duke Cunningham proved the largest corruption and conviction in the history of America. Though Duke is in prison the investigation is still ongoing, with just another indictment coming two weeks ago. And now Lam is fired? How can the lead attorney who just won conviction of the largest bribery scandal in Congressional history get fired?

    The reasons for her firing and the 7 others has been less than blury by the administration. Some of the reasons given were because of performance issue or because they didn’t pursue enough illegal immigration cases. In other cases the administration admits because they didn’t pursue enough Democrats. Nevertheless, the administration has been less than honest about why they let them go.

    Again, maybe firing attorneys isn’t illegal, but firing ones who are working on the largest bribery scandal in American history, just to keep the Duke bribery scandal from leading to more Republicans is illegal. You agree that the whole thing does raise a few questions which the administration hasn’t answered properly. And the only way to get those answers is to continue digging, which you think shouldn’t be done.

    There are a lot of different issues in the whole purge roundup. But the center of it is Carol Lam. If the president can fire a prosecutor and obstruct justice to keep more Republicans from going to prison, then we have nothing more than an empirial head of state. If Bill Clinton had fired the US Attorney in charge of investigating Whitewater, which brought not one single conviction might I add, I doubt Republicans would be saying a purge is no big deal.

    Finding out why 8 prosecutors were fired in mid-term, which is a totally unprecedented move by a president, in the midst of the largest bribery scandal in American history, which has already sent two Republican congressmen to prison, is a justified act by the Congress. Especially when the administration has been less than honest about the whole thing.

  7. So ask questions of the folks at Justice to get that information. They don’t need Karl Rove to find out what they need to know. There’s a difference of opinion on whether Carol Lam was actually fired in order to stop the investigations into public corruption. The editors at Investor’s Business Daily aren’t buying that argument. I have read some other articles on her, and it’s not clear to me that the administration fired her for this reason.

    Even Pat Leahy, on MTP, admitted that the investigations were designed to get evidence that something illegal happened here. He doesn’t have any evidence to start with, just (i’ll grant you) reasonable suspicion. I’m not opposed to finding out what happened here. It just needs to be limited to this particular subject, and that won’t happen if they get Karl Rove under oath.

  8. “So ask questions of the folks at Justice to get that information. They don’t need Karl Rove to find out what they need to know.”

    That’s like saying only ask questions to the people at SBA about Whitewater and don’t get Clinton involved.

    When the trail definitely leads to Karl Rove and out of DOJ, or to other people, an investigation just can’t stop. And the emails which have been dumped in the thousands clearly show Rove’s office was involved in the decision to fire 8 prosecutors. Also, there is no investigation yet. So far all we have are hearings.

    “Even Pat Leahy, on MTP, admitted that the investigations were designed to get evidence that something illegal happened here.”

    All hearings are designed to collect evidence, not just this particular one. I’ve never heard of any other way to proceed with anything without first collecting enough evidence to proceed to the next level.

    The firing in mid-term of the person who just won conviction in the largest federal corruption case in the history of America is reason enough to collect evidence as to what’s going on. If there is no wrong doing, then fine. But the administration sure is acting plenty shady to suggest otherwise.

    What are the reason(s) for Lam’s dismissal? I find it hard to believe that Gonzales wanted Lam dismissed for not prosecuting enough illegal immigration, since he himself is a product of illegal immigration and it’s the Bush administration that wants amnesty for all illegal immigrants.

    I’m not opposed to finding out what happened either. I just don’t understand how questioning Karl Rove under oath could lead to something else. Unless you mean like how the Republicans got Clinton under oath to talk about Whitewater and then asked about extra marital affairs. Is that the something else that might happen? 😉

  9. I don’t know…is Karl Rove married? 😉 (Did you happen to see the video clips of MC Rove, BTW? That does prompt a few questions…lol.)I brought up Pat Leahy’s answer to Russert because all these allegations have been leveled against the Bush administration and they don’t have any proof yet that anything wrong happened here, just reasonable suspicion. Of course hearings are meant to gather information and evidence, but with the Democrats Bush and Gonzales are guilty until proven innocent, and it probably won’t matter what the facts of the case happen to be.

    You will have to help me out on this, but it’s my understanding that Cabinet members are part of the executive branch, and that it’s a different jurisdiction as far as oversight is concerned. Am I correct in assuming this? If this is true, then wouldn’t there be a different process in getting Karl Rove to appear before Congress and answer questions?

    I would have to agree with you that the reason for Lam being fired couldn’t be a lack of attention to illegal immigration cases, unless the Bush administration was trying to show the conservative Republicans who care about this issue that he was actually doing something to reverse the trend here. But I’ll go with the cynicism and say that this wasn’t the reason. 🙂

    About Clinton…I’m sure that he was guilty of more than we could ever pin on him. I have more faith in President Bush than I ever had in President Clinton. The opposite might be true for you. But Clinton lost me totally after he looked straight into the camera and lied about the Lewinsky affair. I still believe that the Clintons were involved in some shady stuff that the Republicans didn’t have enough evidence to prove. You may believe the same thing about the Bush administration, but until there’s proof of something criminal, I think the Democrats need to back off with the allegations.

    Like I said before, talk to the Justice Department people first, and then if the testimony given leads to Rove, then talk to him. Just because the Republicans asked Clinton questions that shouldn’t have been in the script, that doesn’t give the Democrats the right to do it to Karl Rove.

  10. I still believe that the Clintons were involved in some shady stuff that the Republicans didn’t have enough evidence to prove.

    Congress spent five years and $65M investigating, and the Starr Report concluded that the Clintons could not be linked to any known crime. That’s about as innocent as anyone could possibly be proven.

    Like I said before, talk to the Justice Department people first, and then if the testimony given leads to Rove

    You haven’t been paying attention. The emails have already connected Rove with the firing of the US Attorneys. Rep Waxman has also exposed a violation of the Hatch Act for Rove’s assistants running political meetings in the GSA, where politics is prohibited by federal law.

    If Rove ever gets under oath, it’s over, which is why he is resisting it so much. Too many lies for him to keep straight. Unfortunately for Karl and Bush, the alternative is to keep the discussion alive for the next few months as to why Karl is so afraid to be sworn in, since Bill Clinton had to swear in on a civil matter of no importance to the nation.

    The discussion will center around why Karl has a privilege even the previous president did not have, and there is no way for Karl to look good while refusing to swear to tell the truth.

  11. I’ve seen just a couple seconds of Rove’s rapping abilities. I can’t bring myself to watch all of it. Since I don’t like rap or Rove, the mixture of the two really doesn’t sound appealing 🙂

    “I brought up Pat Leahy’s answer to Russert because all these allegations have been leveled against the Bush administration and they don’t have any proof yet that anything wrong happened here, just reasonable suspicion. Of course hearings are meant to gather information and evidence, but with the Democrats Bush and Gonzales are guilty until proven innocent, and it probably won’t matter what the facts of the case happen to be.”– Let’s remember that President Clinton was impeached, not just investigated to the gills, but impeached and remained in office by a 55-45 vote in the Senate. All of this was done by bringing Clinton under oath to answer questions about Whitewater. Talk about guilty until proven innocent.

    You are correct that cabinet members are part of the executive office, but there is no precedent of not allowing top-level advisers to testify before Congress. Both Reagan (Iran Contra) and Clinton (Ken Starr) had top-level advisers testify under oath to Congress.

    Maybe asking questions that weren’t in the script to Clinton doesn’t give Democrats the right to do the same to Rove– which they haven’t done. But it does give Republicans no leg to stand on when they throw a fit when the same happens to them. And besides, we’re talking about hypotheticals concerning Rove’s testimony. So far he hasn’t given one and no questions have been asked of him– there’s no reason to consider that the Democrats have done any such thing.

    A mere three months of oversight and Republicans seem to have forgotten the six years of investigations they gave the country in ’94-’00.

    I don’t see this attorney purge slowing down any. But I do enjoy your comment section 😉

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