Last week Keith Olberman reported a story that is also available in Newsweek right now.
Remember a couple/few weeks ago Paul McNulty was complaining that his testimony might not have been accurate because he was not properly briefed for it? At the time I thought that sounded a little weaseley like he was blaming his staff for his own lack of candor.
I may owe him an apology, or more accurately, half an apology.
According to the Newsweek/NBC reporting there was a meeting to prepare McNulty and his aide:
At the March 5, 2007, meeting, White House aides, including counsel Fred Fielding and deputy counsel William Kelley, sought to shape testimony that Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General William Moschella was to give the next day before the House Judiciary Committee.
Although the existence of the White House meeting had been previously disclosed by the Justice Department, Rove’s attendance at the strategy session was not—until both Moschella and Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty talked about it in confidential testimony with congressional investigators last week.
At this meeting Rove instructed McNulty and the DOJ gang to prepare answers to justify the firiing of the USAs.
According to McNulty’s account, Rove came late to the meeting and left early. But while he was there he spoke up and echoed a point that was made by the other White House aides: The Justice Department needed to provide specific reasons why it terminated the eight prosecutors in order to rebut Democratic charges that the firings were politically motivated. The point Rove and other White House officials made is “you all need to explain what you did and why you did it,” McNulty told the investigators.
Now, when Comey testified before the House Judiciary Committee last week, he recounted his role in the firing, for cause, of two US Attorneys. He had no trouble at all remembering why they were fired. He recounted having been an active participant in recommending that they be fired. IIRC, I think he used the phrase "not a close call" at all.
Compare and contrast that with McNulty and Moschella:
The problem, according to the Democratic aide, is that Rove and Kelley never told Moschella about the White House’s own role in pushing to have some U.S. attorneys fired in the first place. Moschella followed the coaching by Rove and others—and made no mention of White House involvement in the firings during his March 6, 2007, testimony to the House Judiciary Committee. “They let Moschella come up here without telling him the full story,” said the Democratic staffer.
Moschella at one point even appeared to specifically deny that Rove pushed to have one of his former aides, Timothy Griffin, installed at a top job at Justice. “I don’t know that he played any role,” Moschella said when asked by one committee member what Rove played in recommending Griffin to Justice. Since then, the Justice Department turned over to Congress a department e-mail that showed Griffin was installed as U.S. attorney in Arkansas because it was viewed as “important” to Rove and former White House counsel Harriet Miers.
How come McNulty and Moschella didn't already know why these USAs were being fired? Why wasn't it Justice who was informing the White House of the reasons they needed to go? If there were any problems at all with these people's job performance, wouldn't the information about that necessarily have flowed from DOJ to the White House? How would the White House have gotten information about, let's say, attendance–if not from timekeepers in DOJ?
So, if there was performance related problems with these USAs, how would the White House even know about it unless DOJ told them? We know that McNulty's predecessor, Comey, didn't tell the White House this information.
Further, as Emptywheel's timeline makes clear, the work that Sampson and Goodling were doing to get rid of these USAs began before Comey left DOJ, yet — unlike the firing of the two USAs with real cause — it was kept hidden from him.
If we are to believe McNulty and Moschella, it was kept hidden from them too.
At his March 6 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Moschella followed the advice of Rove and others and for the first time talked about specific “performance-related” problems that purportedly led to the prosecutors being dismissed. Moschella’s comments about the “deficiencies” of particular U.S. attorneys—such as their failure to provide “effective leadership” or follow the policy priorities of the Justice Department—infuriated the U.S. attorneys, prompting them to publicly defend themselves against what they saw as an arbitrary and highly politicized process.
At least three participants in the March 5 meeting—Rove, Kelley and Kyle Sampson, former chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales—were aware of the White House role in pushing to have U.S. attorneys fired, according to another Justice Department official who attended the meeting but asked not to be identified talking about a private meeting.
I have one more beef to lay on this table, where the F*** does DOJ get off sending someone to testify under oath about something he has no personal knowledge of, about a project he didn't work on, about something where he obviously did not review any files?
He's supposed to be a lawyer, why didn't he couch his testimony in a way as to make clear which parts were hearsay? In law, when you don't know something of your own knowledge you signal that by saying that you are telling it "upon information and belief". A question I would really like answered is upon what basis did Moschella believe(assuming he did) what he was telling the Committee? A good faith belief has to be founded in ……something.
Even if Moschella didn't have time between the meeting with Rove and his testimony the next day to reveiw the files (does he not know where to get midnight oil?) what's McNuty's excuse? Why didn't he bother to find out?
Why were the people in charge out of the loop? And how/why was Karl Rove allowed to instruct them about their testimony?