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Go To The Mattresses

prisonmattresses.jpg

(Photo of somewhat used prison mattresses via macwagen.)

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted this morning to issue subpoenas for the various missing documents, including the e-mails that have been identified as likely coming from RNC laptops and back and forth on RNC servers in violation of the Presidential Records Act.  (One would hope that would also including communications on various blackberry and cell phone devices as well.)  Also, additional subpoenas were authorized for DoJ personnel who had heretofore not been included in the information gathering.  It's a growing list of names with their fingers in the politicization pie, isn't it?

The Muck has the scoop, including some information from a committee press release:

The authorization approved Thursday covers all documents in the possession, control or custody of the Department of Justice and the White House related to the committee’s ongoing investigation. Another authorization for subpoenas was approved by the committee for J. Scott Jennings, Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of Political Affairs; and William E. Moschella, Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General.

The Committee is expected to vote on a similar authorization next week for Sara M. Taylor, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Political Affairs.

Above and beyond that, I wanted to say some special kudos to Sen. Pat Leahy. TPM has some video of his floor speech today in the Senate, and RawStory has an advance copy of his remarks which include such gems as this:

First and foremost, we are making progress restoring the Senate and the Congress to their proper constitutional role. From the FBI’s illegal and improper use of National Security Letters to the politically motivated dismissal of so many of the Nation’s U.S. Attorneys, there are concerns about the competence and independence of the Department of Justice. This pattern of abuse of authority and mismanagement causes me, and many others on both sides of the aisle, to wonder whether the FBI and Department of Justice have been faithful stewards of the great trust that the Congress and American people have placed in them. We need to keep our Nation safe, while respecting the privacy rights and civil liberties of all Americans. Last year in the former Congress, the Administration sought expanded powers in the PATRIOT Act reauthorization to appoint U.S. Attorneys without Senate confirmation, and to more freely use National Security Letters. The Administration got these powers, and they have badly bungled both….

As we learn more details about the ousters of these U.S. Attorneys the story grows more troubling. Had we accepted the initial testimony of the Attorney General and other Department officials we would not have gotten to the truth. The White House and the Attorney General have dodged Congress’s questions and ducked real accountability for years. In the past they counted on a rubberstamping Congress to avoid accountability. The American people have a new Congress, one that looks for answers….

Now we are learning that the “off book” communications they were having about these actions, by using Republican political email addresses, have not been preserved. Like the famous 18-minute gap in the Nixon White House tapes, it appears likely that key documentation has been erased or misplaced. This sounds like the Administration’s version of the dog ate my homework. I am deeply disturbed that just when this Administration is finally subjected to meaningful oversight, it cannot produce the necessary information. This Administration has worn out the benefit of the doubt and undermined whatever credibility it had left. The American people are right that they are entitled to full and honest public testimony of the White House staff responsible for this debacle.

We have asked for Administration officials and now former officials to cooperate with the Judiciary Committee in its inquiry and I hope that they will. Through the Committee’s oversight work so far, we know some of the answers to some of the questions we have been asking, and the answers are troubling. We have learned that most of the U.S. Attorneys that were asked to resign were doing their jobs well and were fired for not bending to the political will of some in Washington. Apparently, their reward for their efforts at rooting out serious public corruption is a kick out the door.

More like this please. And may I take a moment to compliment both Sen. Leahy and Rep. John Conyers, as well as Rep. Henry Waxman for not only providing some much needed oversight and public sunshine on these matters — but also for being willing to go to the mattresses in order to get to the truth. Thank you. On behalf of your nation and its Constitution and all of us who care about such issues as separation of powers and the rule of law. Just…thank you.

And for a really big laugh?  Check out The Muck's coverage of the press gaggle today.  Priceless.

Then, after the chuckle, turn your attention to Dan Froomkin, who did some legwork and managed to corner WH communications staff on why internal communications guidelines and the Presidential Records Act were so recklessly disregarded…for which Froomkin was rewarded with a lot of non-answers and a refusal to allow him to make public a transcript of the call about matters of public import.  And there is this:

Over the past six years, about 50 of the White House staffers most involved in Republican Party affairs — including Rove and his office of political affairs — were given RNC-issued equipment on which to conduct party business. That included laptops and Blackberries.

For Rove, a noted Blackberry addict who holds the position of senior adviser and deputy chief of staff, that would have meant switching from one device to another when alternating from White House business to Republican party business. Apparently he didn't bother.

This blatant disregard for the letter of the law is appalling, brazen and a big fat finger to Congress, which Rove and the rest of the politicos in the White House thought they had in their Parliamentary back pocket when it was under Republican control.  A huge hat tip to reader cbl who found this article in GovExec via National Journal:

RNC spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt said on April 4, "We are in contact with the committee and are in the process of responding." A meeting between RNC representatives and congressional investigators is expected next week.

The RNC's policy, Stanzel said, is to delete e-mails every 30 days, except for the e-mails of White House aides "who use the political e-mail accounts the RNC has provided them." David Almacy, White House Internet and e-communications director, told Computerworld in March that the RNC's archive exception for White House e-mails began in 2004.

Almacy said that White House computers block access to personal or other e-mail accounts to provide security and to preserve records deemed by law to be presidential. That policy does not address the use of BlackBerrys or other portable electronic devices, whether they are personally owned or provided to White House officials by the RNC or others.

One former White House political aide said he vaguely recalled receiving guidance about sending e-mail on an RNC-provided BlackBerry and using a gwb43.com e-mail account, but he had clearer memories of getting "a billion and one" White House ethics briefings.

The e-mail instructions, from Sara Taylor, director of White House political affairs, were meant to help aides juggle dual sets of communications devices to comply with the Hatch Act and the Presidential Records Act, and to use the RNC equipment and accounts "only for political activity."

The aide said that much of the work in his office was by definition more political than official, including coordination with White House advance teams about presidential travel; use of White House equipment for events; and communication with Republican campaign committees and candidates.  (emphasis mine)

Oh, Karl, you are about to find out that elections have consequences. And, if the Republicans in Congress had any sense, they would be backing whatever the Democratic leadership wants to do with this…because the festering stench of Turdblossom has crept into every crack of the Republican party, and has begun to weigh it down like the nasty, fetid anchor that it is.

Sure hope that testimony prep is going into overtime for the AG.  Because from where I sit today, every time I turn around a whole batch of new questions is popping forward.  And if I were Gonzales, I'd have to wonder how much more I would personally be willing to endure to protect Rove's shop.  Let alone all those questions that are still outstanding about Rove's Cooper e-mail, among many many others…and I have got a loooooong list of questions on that one.)

Obstruction of justice?  Violation of the spirit and the letter of the law?  Political dirty tricks by any means necessary, legal or otherwise?  I say go to the mattresses, Congress…and send in the sunshine.  It is well past time for a whole lot of truth.

UPDATEC&L has further video of Leahy's floor speech — don't miss the comparison to the Nixonian 18 minute gap.  Love it.

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com

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