Purgegate Update

Hillary Clinton is now calling for Gonzales' resignation, too: "The buck should stop somewhere, and the attorney general—who still seems to confuse his prior role as the president's personal attorney with his duty to the system of justice and to the entire country—should resign."

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Dana Milbank has a great recap of Gonzo's presser yesterday, and describes the AG as managing "to contradict himself at least four times as he fought off calls to resign over the firing of U.S. attorneys." Heh.

Ruth Marcus was equally unimpressed with the presser, and wants to know "Is there anyone left—seriously, is there a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee—who has confidence in Gonzales's capacity to fix this mess? Is there anyone who accepts Gonzales's CEO analogy—and thinks that a sentient board of directors wouldn't have fired him long ago?" Good questions.

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It seems like GOP interest in pressuring US attorneys regarding voter fraud was—coincidentally, I'm sure, ahem—rather widespread:

A former chairman of the Washington state Republican Party said Tuesday he talked with the GOP-appointed U.S. attorney in Seattle during the agonizing recounts in the 2004 governor's race.

Chris Vance said then-U.S. Attorney John McKay made it clear he would not discuss whether his office was investigating allegations of voter fraud in the election. He said McKay cut off the conversation.

"I thought it was part of my job, to be a conduit," Vance, who now operates a consulting business, said in a telephone interview. "We had a Republican secretary of state, a Republican prosecutor in King County and a Republican U.S. attorney, and no one was doing anything."
McKay was one of the eight US attorneys who were fired in January.

I'm not sure how much clearer it can get that the GOP was sending an orchestrated message—straight on down from the White House—that if federal prosecutors didn't go after Democrats at their bidding, they'd be shit-canned. This is just pure partisan shite, and they've been doing it so long (and getting away with it) that all of them, like Vance, are taking this "What's the BFD?" attitude about it. "I thought it was part of my job." I bet you did.

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The cavalier posture also went all the way to the White House, from where, the NY Times reports, there are yet more emails making clear how this whole thing went down: "Late in the afternoon on Dec. 4, a deputy to Harriet E. Miers, then the White House counsel and one of President Bush's most trusted aides, sent a two-line e-mail message to a top Justice Department aide. 'We're a go,' it said, approving a long-brewing plan to remove seven federal prosecutors considered weak or not team players. The message, from William K. Kelley of the White House counsel's office to D. Kyle Sampson, the chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, put in motion a plan to fire United States attorneys that had been hatched 22 months earlier by Ms. Miers. Three days later, the seven prosecutors were summarily dismissed. An eighth had been forced out in the summer."

And an email from Sampson, describing how they settled on the eight they fired, rated various US attorneys on whether they "exhibited loyalty to the president and attorney general."

In one e-mail message, Mr. Sampson questioned a colleague about the record of the federal prosecutor in San Diego, Carol C. Lam. Referring to the office of the deputy attorney general, Mr. Sampson wrote: “Has ODAG ever called Carol Lam and woodshedded her re immigration enforcement? Has anyone?” Ms. Lam was one of the seven fired prosecutors.

Two others, Paul K. Charlton in Arizona and Daniel K. Bogden in Nevada, were faulted as being “unwilling to take good cases we have presented to them,” according to another e-mail message to Mr. Sampson, referring to pornography prosecutions.

Another United States attorney, David C. Iglesias of New Mexico, was added to the hit list in the fall of 2006 after criticism from his home state, including a demand by Senator Pete V. Domenici, a Republican, to meet with the attorney general to discuss the performance of Mr. Iglesias’s office.
It just goes on and on, right down to the choreographed phone calls made to the prosecutors to tell them they were outta there.

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And finally, a NY Times editorial deems the whole mess Politics, Pure and Cynical. It begins: "We wish we'd been surprised to learn that the White House was deeply involved in the politically motivated firing of eight United States attorneys, but the news had the unmistakable whiff of inevitability. This disaster is just part of the Bush administration’s sordid history of waving the bloody bullhorn of 9/11 for the basest of motives: the perpetuation of power for power's sake."

And it ends: "In mid-December 2006, Mr. Gonzales’s aide, Mr. Sampson, wrote to a White House counterpart that using the Patriot Act to fire the Arkansas prosecutor and replace him with Mr. Rove's man was risky—Congress could revoke the authority. But, he wrote, 'if we don’t ever exercise it, then what’s the point of having it?' If that sounds cynical, it is. It is also an accurate summary of the governing philosophy of this administration: What's the point of having power if you don't use it to get more power?"

Right on. Oh, and thanks for finally noticing.

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