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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

 
"As many loyalists as possible."

by dday

Today the Justice Department's Inspector General, Glenn Fine, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss Monday's report showing serious violations of the law in the hiring of career Department employees. What the IG revealed today was that the attitude of extreme partisanship inside the DoJ was pervasive. Whether people were actively engaging in politicization or just tacitly accepting it, everyone was at least aware of what was happening... everyone except for Abu Gonzales, of course, who does not recall.

FINE: He said he wasn’t aware of what was going on. He said he did not know Goodling used poltiical factors when assessing candidates for career positions, did not know the search terms Goodling used, did not know even that Goodling’s portfolio including hiring for IJs [immigration judges], and basically said he didn’t have knowledge of the role the office of the Attorney General played in identifying candidates.


It is of course grossly incompetent for Gonzales to be unaware of the goings-on in a department he's supposed to manage. But I don't buy this at all. Gonzales came from the White House counsel's office, and it is beyond clear that the politicized hiring originated at 1600 Penna. Charlie Savage finds evidence inside the IG report.

n May 17, 2005, the White House’s political affairs office sent an e-mail message to agencies throughout the executive branch directing them to find jobs for 108 people on a list of “priority candidates” who had “loyally served the president.”

“We simply want to place as many of our Bush loyalists as possible,” the White House emphasized in a follow-up message, according to a little-noticed passage of an internal Justice Department report released Monday about politicization in the department’s hiring of civil-service prosecutors and immigration officials [...]

The report released on Monday by Justice Department investigators said that the context of the May 17, 2005, message from the White House about its priority-hire list “made plain” that it was seeking politically appointed government jobs, for which it is legal to take politics into account. The report did not say who sent the message.

But the message also urged administration officials to “get creative” in finding the patronage positions — and some political appointees carried out their mission with particular zeal.

“We pledge 7 slots within 40 days and 40 nights. Let the games begin!” Jan Williams, then the White House’s liaison to the Justice Department, responded in an e-mail message on May 19, 2005.


But despite this very clear evidence, the IG only consulted with one White House official, Rove protege Scott Jennings, during the entire investigation. It's this compartmentalization - investigating pieces of the federal bureaucracy in a vacuum and refusing to connect the dot to the overall project directed at the highest levels - that feeds the Beltway mindset that restricts accountability at every turn. As Jonathan Turley said yesterday, if Monica Goodling becomes the next iteration of the "few bad apples" at Abu Ghraib, with accountability and punishment ending with her, it would be pathetic.

And even getting Goodling to pay for this would be a stretch. She was given immunity against self-incrimination at her Congressional hearing, and the crime she committed doesn't appear to have a penalty now that she's no longer employed by the DoJ. This made me want to scream today:

Schumer: On of the most shocking conclusions in your report is that someone like Monica Goodling, who politicized the appointment of Assistant US Attorneys, Immigration Judges, and even Counter-Terrorism positions may not face any consequences for her actions. So let me ask you this, Mr. Fine. Should such blatant politicization and illegal activity be subject to some criminal punishment so there would be some ultimate accountability.

Fine: I'm not sure it's true to say she escaped any accountability and punishment. As I discussed with Senator Whitehouse earlier, she--people did leave the Department, so they can't be disciplined by the Department, but we've recommended that they never get a job with the Department again and hopefully with the federal government again and that hopefully they consider this report if they ever do reapply. They have been exposed. Their conduct has been exposed in a transparent way for all to see. And then, there may be--I'm not saying there is but there may be appropriate Bar sanctions for--possibly--for attorneys who have committed misconduct and may have violated a Bar rule and so the Bar may look into that [...]

Whitehouse: Um, with respect to the consequences for the violation of federal law. Can you identify what Bar rules might have been broken. ... I did not see OPR making any referrals to the Disciplinary Council as a result, so I'm a little confused about what disciplinary consequences lawyers might face?

Fine: My understanding is, and I've had discussions with OPR about this, that OPR intends to, and we will participate in a notification to the Bars of individuals who are found to have committed misconduct, for them to review the conduct. Now I don't believe OPR has done a lengthy review of this and say which exact rule but it does intend to and I think it is appropriate to notify the Bars of the individuals who were involved and in fact I think some of them have already been notified; I think individuals have provided our reports to various Bars for the Bar to look at. In terms of the rules, I'm not an expert in the area, potentially Rule 8.4 which talks about the administration of justice and acts going to the fitness to practice law. I'm not necessarily saying that does apply but I do think there are things that ought to be review and looked at and I think the experts in this area ought to do that.


Whitehouse then asked about stripping civil service protection for anyone hired during Goodling's reign, and also about John Nowacki, revealed in the IG report to have lied about Goodling's hiring practices, and STILL employed by the Justice Department. And... crickets.

This, in the end, is the problem, as surely as it's the problem with citing Karl Rove for contempt. There are follow-ups and hurdles and gaps within the law that allow these people to pervert the Justice Department, use it as an arm of the RNC, put honorable people into jail, and get away with it. Because there's no understanding of the big picture here. Krugman gets at it today.

As we all know, the Bush administration essentially brushed aside all notion of due process. It locked up and tortured people it said were “enemy combatants”; it engaged in warrantless wiretapping; and so on.

We weren’t supposed to worry our pretty little heads about this, because we were supposed to take it as a given that these were people we could trust not to abuse their power.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department was interviewing job candidates, and asking,

What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?

In other words, there was a combination of power without oversight and a deeply creepy cult of personality (which was obvious long before we got the latest specifics.)


The deeply politicized Justice Department is the firewall against accountability for the crimes of the Administration. They started that project right away to make sure.

It was in a different context and regarding different criminals, but this is what accountability looks like, courtesy (Lord help us) Republican Ted Poe:

Mr. Speaker, it seems to be this is yet another example of incompetence, waste, and possible fraud against America. If crimes have been committed, the Justice Department needs to prosecute anyone that steals money from America during this time of war. Because the long arm of American law even reaches crooked contractors in Iraq. And where shall we send these people? To the well-built Guantanamo Bay prison where we house war criminals. And that’s just the way it is.


Loyalists have a different opinion.


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