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Just Wrong

sowrong.jpgAttorney General Alberto Gonzales will be testifying before the House Judiciary Committee this morning, beginning at 9:30 am ET.  The committee website will be streaming the testimony I am told, and C-Span3 will also be broadcasting the hearing according to their website. 

I'll be liveblogging it as well, and I'm sure there will be ample opportunity to talk about the myriad of "I don't recall" answers that we'll be hearing from the ever-informed, ever-in-command-of-all-the-facts AG.  (Yes, I'm expecting nothing less than the same bravura performance that we saw before the Senate Judiciary Committee because, frankly, the AG hasn't done anything to pull himself out of the ditch into which he drove several weeks ago as far as I'm concerned.)

I do hope that the members of the House Judiciary Committee are more prepared with questions this morning because, frankly, they left James Comey hanging in a lot of ways during the hearing last Friday.  A good witness answers only the questions asked, doesn't rise to the bait for anger (as Rep. Cannon of UT was trying to repeatedly do, and given Comey's reputation for verbally eviscerating people who are idiots I would say Cannon was good bait for that, but he failed.), and especially doesn't offer extraneous information because that then adds a taint of agenda. 

For a Congressional witness to be effective in a hearing, what is required is substantial preparation from the members of the committee and, frankly, I was disappointed in a number of them on Friday.  Here's hoping for much better, concise, insightful and targeted questioning today — because the AG owes the American public some honest, thorough answers as to why he was too weak to protect the justice department from a political takeover.

There have been so many bits and pieces that have trickled out about this mess over the last few weeks, but this particular bit of information that was dropped into an interview with the Seattle Times just ticks me off.  I don't care how you dress it up, this is just wrong:

McKay said he began to have concerns about politics entering the Justice Department in early 2005, when Gonzales addressed all of the country's U.S. attorneys in Scottsdale, Ariz., shortly after he took over as attorney general.

"His first speech to us was a 'you work for the White House' speech," McKay recalled. " 'I work for the White House, you work for the White House.' "

McKay said he thought at the time, "He couldn't have meant that speech," given the traditional independence of U.S. Attorneys. "It turns out he did."

He looked around the meeting room and caught the eyes of his colleagues, who gave him looks of surprise at Gonzales' remarks. "We were stunned at what he was saying."

We have been hearing bits and pieces of the politicization of the DoJ for a while now. It has been fairly clear for quite a while that Alberto Gonzales has never been anything other than George Bush's personal lawyer — both in his own mind and in the minds of the folks at the White House who sent him forth to do their bidding whenever it was convenient for them.

But this is the first time that I am hearing about this very public speech of the AG to all of the USAs — all of whom would have heard this and should have raised some questions with the appropriate folks about this sort of "you work for the White House's political needs" mentality. Whether they did or not, though, is a mystery — because this is the first that I have ever heard of this from anyone who would have been at that meeting. 

Which immediately makes me curious, so I'm going to do a little digging.

When Murray Waas scooped his National Journal article on the delegation of authority letter to Sampson and Goodling, I was appalled, but not exactly shocked.  TPM has the letter up now, and Marty Lederman has an excellent dissection of it up at Balkinization that is well worth a read.  From Marty:

So why the change? Obviously, it's because the Bush White House had concluded that as long as the DAG and Associate were in the loop, as a practical matter the White House did not have sufficient control over employment decisions.

And why would that be? Because in the ordinary course of things, the prosecutors and other professionals in the DAG and Associate's offices served as an internal check to make sure that persons hired are not simply partisan hacks — that they satisfy certain minimum professional qualifications and would be among the best available persons for the jobs. In other words, for more than a quarter-century, the process roughly ensured that potential hires would be fully vetted through a comprehensive process, and that eventual employees would satisfy two constituencies — the political/policy folks, and the professionals.

What the WH political shop could not afford was principled, ethical people who thought doing their job properly was why they were hired mucking up the plans for using the DoJ to their own ends. That pesky rule of law and decency business just gets in the way, doesn't it?

I expect we'll be hearing a number of questions on this today, along with many, many others that need to be not only asked but answered.  The only way to cleanse this taint is to spread everything out in the sunshine.  But I'm afraid the most we'll get today is going to be a nasty pile of turdblossom taking cover behind the AG. 

Here is one thing that I do know:  if there are other former (or even current) DoJ employees who are sitting on revelations about this and who have not come forward with them regarding direct involvement of anyone in Rove's WH political shop with this mess, every day they sit on their hands and don't talk to Congress is yet another day that Rove and his fetid minions get to keep their nasty paws on the DoJ.  It is time to step forward — for the sake of your nation, for the public good, and for the rule of law.  True patriots ought to put country before party.

(Please don't put your doggie in a party dress.  Just wrong.  Photo via Coffee Monster.)

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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