Thursday, May 10, 2007

Another Facet to the Justice Department Unraveling

The Attorney General is testifying in front of the House Judiciary Committee today, and it is liable to be ugly for him. You’ll recall that his performance in front of the Senate committee was like watching a baby seal being clubbed. Over 70 times, the AG responded that he was ignorant of the facts (that is what it means when one answers “I don’t know”) or, alternatively, that he “could not remember.” In the three weeks that have passed since that disturbing display, the focus has shifted from the matter of Gonzales incompetence and inability to run his department, to the involvement of the White House in turning the Department of Justice into an arm of the RNC.

From the Kansas City Star:

In the three weeks since Gonzales testified before a Senate committee, the department disclosed that it is investigating whether his former White House liaison, Monica Goodling, weighed the political affiliations of those she considered hiring as entry-level prosecutors. Consideration of such affiliations could be a violation of federal law.

More of the eight fired U.S. attorneys also have told congressional investigators they were warned that if they publicly protested their dismissals, Justice Department officials would publicly criticize their performance. And there have been new allegations that U.S. attorneys were evaluated on their enthusiasm for pursuing voter fraud cases that might benefit Republican candidates.

Gonzales is expected to be asked about those developments Thursday in his first appearance before the House Judiciary Committee since Democrats took control of Congress.

"All of that goes to the larger question," House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., said Wednesday in a telephone interview. He said the bigger question is who put together and approved the list that caused the eight U.S. attorneys to lose their jobs.

Conyers is holding a subpoena for White House political adviser Karl Rove but has not issued it. Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee last week subpoenaed Gonzales for all e-mails the Justice Department has gathered regarding Rove and the firings.

Gonzales is no-doubt experiencing a memory failure on an epic scale even as I type. He issued a statement earlier in the week, saying it’s time to move on. "Recent events must not deter us from our mission. I ask the committee to join me in that commitment and that rededication," he said, citing what he said were accomplishments in protecting national security and fighting pedophiles.

A fine sentiment. Except it rings hollow given the shelling out of the Department of Justice that has happened under the leadership of Karl Rove, to whom the feckless, simpering and incompetent Alberto Gonzales effectively abdicated all responsibility for the day-to-day operations of his department.

When Justice is not perceived to be just - we have lost America.

UPDATE: The Washington Post reports that it was not so brutal to be the AG in front of the House committee as it was the Senate.

Republicans echoed Gonzales' call to move on, indicating that the embattled attorney general may have weathered the political storm.

"The list of accusations has mushroomed, but the evidence of wrongdoing has not," said Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the committee's senior GOP member. "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."

Democrats showed no willingness to quit asking questions about whether White House officials ordered the firings of prosecutors not sufficiently loyal to the Bush administration. Democrats probed whether the Justice Department scuttled more prosecutors than the eight jettisoned over the winter, asking about prosecutor resignations in Los Angeles and Missouri.

"The department's most precious asset _ its reputation for integrity and independence _ has been called into question," said committee chairman John Conyers, D-Mich. "Until we get to the bottom of how this list was created, and why, those doubts will persist."

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