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What Remains Unsaid

Here’s my favorite exchange from Stanford Lawyer’s interview of Carol Lam (h/t bmaz):

YOU SERVED UNDER BOTH JOHN ASHCROFT AND ALBERTO GONZALES.  HOW DID THAT TRANSITION FROM ASHCROFT TO GONZALES AFFECT YOUR LIFE AND YOUR DUTIES AS A U.S. ATTORNEY?

The structures of the department were in place, so I didn’t expect a lot of impact from the change in attorney general under the same administration. There are a great many traditions that have built up over the years at the Justice Department that should carry the institution forward on its own momentum. The people come and go, but the institution carries on. So I was surprised by how much change there was.

Note carefully. The question was "How did the transition from Ashcroft to Gonzales affect your life?" To which Lam answers "It shouldn’t have–all the structures of DOJ should have prevented it–but it did, to a surprising degree." Not really an answer to the question, but telling nonetheless.

The only place where Lam really provides any hint of what those changes are is when she describes DOJ having a "straight shot" to the White House.

What these events did show me is that you can’t have a Department of Justice that’s a straight shot to the White House, and that was really the problem here.

We’ve been told the investigation into the USA Purge is ongoing. And Senator Whitehouse’s bill to expose the involvement of the White House in DOJ matters passed out of SJC with large bipartisan support. But we don’t yet know the extent of the White House’s involvement in everyday DOJ operations. And Carol Lam isn’t really telling about those details, either.

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