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duckandcover.jpgWhile the RNC has been hitting the delete button for an estimated 51 out of 88 total White House officials who have been using the outside RNC e-mail accounts — you read that correctly, destroyed e-mail records for 51 White House officials by the RNC the real world implications for this misconduct have already begun.

The fallout from the Bush Administration’s political machinations at the DOJ is rippling outward into criminal prosecutions.  From the LATimes (via reader Hilde):

The firing of the eight prosecutors last year has drawn attention because once appointed, U.S. attorneys traditionally have been allowed to serve until they resign or are ousted because of misconduct. New administrations routinely make changes as well.Gonzales has defended the dismissals as justified for performance reasons, saying that some of the prosecutors failed to follow administration law-enforcement priorities.

But Democrats say there is evidence that the dismissals were part of a Bush administration effort to affect investigations in public corruption and voting cases that would assist Republicans. The probe has also shown that politics may have played a role in the hiring of some career Justice employees, in possible violation of federal law.

The controversy has drained morale from U.S. attorney offices around the country. And now, legal experts and former Justice Department officials say, it is casting a shadow over the integrity of the department and its corps of career prosecutors in court.

There has long been a presumption that, because they represented the Justice Department, prosecutors had no political agenda and their word could be trusted. But some legal experts say the controversy threatens to undermine their credibility.

“It provides defendants an opportunity to make an argument that would not have been made two years ago,” said Daniel J. French, a former U.S. attorney in Albany, N.Y. “It has a tremendously corrosive effect.”

Defense lawyers in political corruption cases often argue to juries that the prosecution was motivated by politics, especially when the prosecutor happens to be of a different political party than the defendant.

B. Todd Jones, a former U.S. attorney in Minneapolis, said such arguments are now “given credence in the public eye because they are seeing that maybe there were political decisions made. Any defense lawyer worth their salt is going to say this is a political prosecution that shouldn’t have been brought.”

The controversy may also be feeding anti-government feelings that many jurors bring to cases, even when defense lawyers do not overtly try to exploit the situation.

“It has become part of the background that jurors have in their minds when they deliberate,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), a former assistant U.S. attorney. “Jurors will think, ‘Gee, is there a political motivation for this? Is it being brought because the U.S. attorney wants to curry favor with the attorney general and keep his job?’ Corruption cases are tough enough to prosecute without having to defend yourself against attack.”

As a prosecutor, the most valuable asset that you have in the courtroom and out of it is your reputation for honesty and integrity, and for upholding the rule of law in a fair and just manner. The Bush Administration tossed that aside for each and every decent attorney working in USAtty offices across this nation in a bid to gain some temporary political advantage is a craven example of how low a regard the Bushies have for any sort of standard of ethics.  And how much emphasis they placed on loyalty to Bush Administration aims above all else, including to the nation as a whole. 

Everything is subordinate to Rove’s math.  Everything.

The Bush Administration has sullied the Department of Justice, and saddled USAttys nationwide with Rovian baggage every single time they step in a courtroom.  They have treated the rule of law as if it were a “do you want fries with that” level of opt-in, and diverted every resource at their disposal toward the Rule of Karl

The fallout from this will be long and arduous, and it must all be laid at the feet of the people who initiated the damage:  the Bush Administration.  Bring on the sunshine.  The only way out of this mess is to know how deeply these festering roots go into the heart of our nation’s justice system — and every other administrative agency across the board.  The time for accountability is now.

(Duck and cover ipod shot via striatic.  Great photo!)

UPDATE:  On the RNC e-mail deletions:  Rep. Waxman has more.  As does the Speaker’s blog.  As does the WaPo.

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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