Emails Implicate White House in Prosecutor Purge

I was sort of gobsmacked that Bush appointee Attorney General Michael Mukasey would appoint a federal prosecutor to further investigate the 2006 purge of federal prosecutors who were disloyal to the Bush administration in various ways, instead having the unmitigated temerity to uphold the law. I was surprised because the Bushies have done such a deviously splendid job of stonewalling investigators that the whole thing seemed pretty much dead in the water. But when new evidence emerged implicating the White House, and the White House continued to obstruct the investigation with refusals to participate, Mukasey was left with little choice.
In 18 months of searching, Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine and Office of Professional Responsibility chief H. Marshall Jarrett have uncovered new e-mail messages hinting at heightened involvement of White House lawyers and political aides in the firings of nine federal prosecutors two years ago.

But they could not probe much deeper because key officials declined to be interviewed and a critical timeline drafted by the White House was so heavily redacted that it was "virtually worthless as an investigative tool," the authorities said.

"We were unable to fully develop the facts regarding the removal of [David C.] Iglesias and several other U.S. Attorneys because of the refusal by certain key witnesses to be interviewed by us, as well as the White House's decision not to provide … internal documents to us," the investigators concluded in their report.

The standoff is a central reason that Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey on Monday named a veteran public-corruption prosecutor, Nora R. Dannehy, to continue the investigation, directing her to give him a preliminary report on the status of the case in 60 days.
All of this comes back to what Joseph Hughes and I called the Hidden Scandal Within the Prosecutor Purge, which centers around email usage, particularly the use of nongovernmental email accounts that violate the Presidential Records Act. (And this would be why it's a big deal that Sarah Palin used private email accounts.)

Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (who I'm really beginning to like, by the way) is staying on top of this investigation, penning a letter to Mukasey yesterday "asking whether Dannehy would have the authority to compel documents [and testimony] from the White House" and expressing "concern that any information Dannehy may obtain would be kept under wraps because of grand jury secrecy rules," which would not be in the public's interest: "There are a lot of questions that need to be answered." Good man!

A Justice Department spokesperson has assured him that Dannehy will "have the same authority as any prosecutor to pursue this investigation wherever the facts and the law require."

Bush's secretary is no doubt drafting preemptive pardons for Rove and Miers right now.

[More on the prosecutor purge, aka Attorneygate, here and here.]

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