Anonymous Liberal caught a doozy of an e-mail in the Friday DoJ docudump:

Yes, that's an instruction to delete documents. And notice the date: February 12, 2007. That's well after Congress began investigating this matter. I don't believe any subpoenas or document requests had yet been issued (someone please correct me if I'm wrong about that), but it was pretty clear by then that document requests were likely.

Let's review the timeline. On January 17, 2007, Senators Feinstein and Leahy grilled Alberto Gonzales on the recent spate of U.S. Attorney firings. On January 25, 2007, Senator Schumer announced that he was going to hold hearings on the firing of U.S. Attorneys. And on February 6, Schumer held the first set of hearings, in which Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty testified that Bud Cummins was not asked to leave for "performance-related" reasons, but rather to make way for Karl Rove protege Tim Griffin. That damaging testimony helped propel this story to the front pages.

And two days later, on February 8, 2007, Senators Durbin, Schumer, Murray, and Reid sent a follow up letter to Alberto Gonzales asking all sorts of questions arising out of McNulty's testimony, including a number of questions about the replacement of Bud Cummins with Tim Griffin.

It is in this context that Monica Goodling, four days later, sends out the above-displayed email, which attaches updated talking points re: Griffin/Cummins and various other U.S. Attorney related issues and instructs the recipients to delete prior versions of the documents.

As a litigator, I can tell you, that's a real no-no. You never instruct people to delete documents that are relevant to a pending investigation. Never. That's true even when the investigating body hasn't yet got around to requesting those documents. It smacks of obstruction. Indeed, the Obstruction of Congress statute, 18 U.S.C § 1505, specifically prohibits any attempts to obstruct "the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress." The penalty is up to 5 years in prison.

I'm not sure if 18 U.S.C § 1505 has been interpreted to apply to the destruction of documents that have not yet been formally requested–I suspect it hasn't–but it is, at the very least, incredibly dodgy to be instructing people to delete documents that relate to a pending Congressional inquiry. If an employee of a private entity were caught giving such an instruction after an investigation had been initiated, it would incur the everlasting wrath of the government agency or prosecutor's office conducting that investigation. It would be a real mess.  (emphasis mine)

Suddenly, all those e-mails in the custody of the RNC take on an even more urgent context — because there may well be a number of documents which have been deleted from the DoJ included in the e-mail stream in and out of the White House political shop which were sent back and forth through the RNC servers.

And, in the context of a potential attempt to obstruct an ongoing Congressional investigation and, now, a very real question of criminal obstruction? Well, that claim of executive privilege just lost a whole lot of lustre, didn't it?

Beyond that, emptywheel has a compendium of information which still has not been provided.  (Gee, could it be because it was deliberately deleted?  You have to ask yourself that in the context of the Goodling e-mail, don't you?)  And a great piece on the FBI Special Agent In Charge and Carol Lam. 

And Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe finds evidence that the scheme to replace USAttys through an appointment that end-runs the Senate approval process goes all the way back to 2003.  (H/T to Blank Kludge for the link.)  Seems to me it is well past time to ask just exactly how that provision got slipped into the Patriot Act — every little detail, no matter how uncomfortable that might be for Sen. Specter and Sen. Hatch, among others.  Because the public has a right to know just exactly how and why our Constitutional system of checks and balances was attempted to be subverted by folks loyal to the Bush Administration.

And, while we're at it, isn't it time for the Republicans in both houses of Congress to realize that the Bush Administration held them in such low regard that the Bushies thought they could do pretty much anything — including inserting friendly provisions in bills — that enabled them to end-run the requirement of advice and consent?  Honestly, is there anything more embarrassing as a Republican Senator than to know that your leadership was so in question for the Bush White House politicos, that you were considered a neutered, cuckholded legislator who would neither have the power nor the will to do anything about these  actions? 

That your role in running Congress, the separation of powers and questions of accountability were considered to be non-applicable to the Bush Administration because they knew — they KNEW — that the GOP-controlled Congress would enable them to do whatever they wanted and wouldn't hold them publicly accountable for any overreach?  Isn't it time for some sort of institutional honor from someone?  Do you have no pride — or did you sell it for a few pieces of K Street silver and a pat on the head from Mssrs. Rove and Norquist?

Honestly, doesn't anyone on that side of the aisle have any pride in their role in government and their fiduciary obligation to uphold the principles on which this nation was founded, including their Constitutional duty of oversight?  Now is the time to stand up and be counted, if so — because, if you don't, you are nothing more than a cog in the Republican machine that tried to pervert our justice system to their own political ends.  And you ought to be ashamed of your role in this, if nothing else.

Here are my questions, just of the top of my head: 

— Was Goodling being an obstructionist moron on her own, or was she directing the destruction of evidence under the control of the Department of Justice under someone else's direction?  

— If so, whose? 

— Was a similar instruction given at the White House political shop run by Rove? 

— Can the White House Counsel's office be exempted from questions either, considering Harriet Miers involvement in this mess? 

— How soon will Congress be given discovery of the RNC cache of e-mails?  Because, the way I see it, nothing short of full disclosure is appropriate here, both for Congressional oversight and for what should now be a criminal investigation?

— Speaking of criminal investigations, is it time to discuss a special counsel investigation?

— What, exactly, was Goodling trying to hide with the deletion of all those e-mails?  For whom was she hiding it?

— Should the House Judiciary Committee go foward with a grant of immunity for Goodling at this point?  Can it be sufficiently narrowed to prevent interference with a criminal investigation?

— Isn't it convenient that this particular e-mail was disclosed after the House Judiciary Committee voted for Goodling's immunity?  Could it be that this was strategically disclosed in order to construct a potential barrier to her testimony?  If so, to whose benefit would this accrue?  Who has the most to gain from silencing Goodling publicly?

— On what day and time would Mr. Rove like to testify under oath and publicly about his role in all of this?  Ditto for Ms. Miers?

What questions do you have at this point?  I know there are a lot more of them swirling through my cynical mind, but I'd like to hear yours.

PS:  Howie's guest for Blue America today will be Rep. John Hall at 2:00 pm ET/11:00 am PT.  And Bob Geiger has the Saturday cartoons.

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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