Tommy Stevenson, of the Tuscaloosa News, reports that the 60 Minutes story on the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman is completed and will air when the network's coverage of the National Football League playoffs is over. But the bigger news in Stevenson's report is his bizarre interview with U.S. Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL).
Up till now, Davis has appeared to be a leader in investigating blatant corruption in the Bush Department of Justice (DOJ). But in his interview with Stevenson, Davis seems to be saying he and his Congressional colleagues are pretty much packing it in on the DOJ scandal. The tone is this: Bushies don't want to cooperate by testifying and turning over documents, and that's fine with us. We see no reason to push any harder in our "fact finding."
I hope I'm wrong, but that's how I interpret Davis' interview. And if I'm right, you have to wonder what is behind Davis' change in tone.
Davis said he was interviewed by 60 Minutes and was critical of the Birmingham media's coverage of the Siegelman case. But then he turns around and sounds just as weak-willed and lazy as The Birmingham News.
"The point we tried to make," Davis said, "is the court of public opinion is ultimately going to decide, is going to evaluate what they think happened to Don Siegelman."
This is just one of several comments Davis makes in the Stevenson interview that I find troubling.
The court of public opinion is going to decide? What in the heck does public opinion have to do with anything? This is a totally different tone from the one Davis took last fall when the Bush (DOJ) first began to stonewall the House Judiciary Committee's attempts to investigate the Siegelman case and others that appeared to have been politically motivated.
In a press release last fall, Davis cited Congress' constitutionally derived authority of oversight, noting that the DOJ is funded by Congress and is bound to enforce laws that are passed by Congress. On that occasion, Davis spoke with toughness and determination. Now, in the Stevenson interview, he sounds wishy-washy and weak.
Another example: "I think all of us are waiting to see what the 11th Circuit does," Davis says. "Gov. Siegelman has filed an appeal, and an appeal is not something that Congress can influence."
What? Congress' role is not about influencing Siegelman's appeal. It is about investigating possible wrongdoing by members of the Bush DOJ--and there is overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing--and to take steps to hold people accountable. The Siegelman appeal will only determine whether Siegelman was unlawfully convicted or not; it will only look at issues that are in the official trial record. It will not examine what went on behind the scenes, what led up to the Siegelman prosecution. It will not examine the issue of prosecutorial misconduct and selective prosecution, the whole point of a Congressional hearing last fall. For the life of me, I can't understand why Davis and his fellow members of the Judiciary Committee are waiting on the 11th Circuit.
And then, get a load of this quote: "I think Congress rightly believed that we needed to try to do some fact-finding around the question of whether there was some pervasive politicization of the process. I think it's good that Congress had a hearing, I think it's good that Congress did fact-finding."
And that's it? By his repeated use of the past tense, Davis seems to be saying there will be no more fact-finding, there will be no more hearings. Sounds to me like Artur Davis is issuing a "get out of jail free" card to Karl Rove, Leura and Bill Canary, Alabama prosecutors Louis Franklin and Steve Feaga, Mississippi prosecutor Dunn Lampton (of the Paul Minor case), and God knows who else.
What about the blatant corruption of Judge Mark Fuller in the Siegelman case and Judge Henry Wingate in the Paul Minor case? And what about GOP stonewalling? Are Davis and Co. just going to shrug their shoulders and let that go?
Alabama Republican whistleblower Jill Simpson put her life and career at risk for this? Scott Horton, of Harper's.org, has presented an extraordinary series of investigative posts for this? Larissa Alexandrovna and Raw Story are in the midst of a five-part series on the Siegelman case only to have Congress walk away?
I've conducted enough interviews in my time to know it is an imperfect process. Perhaps Davis did not express himself in the way that he intended. Perhaps Stevenson misunderstood some of what Davis said.
But if this interview is complete and on target, I think Davis is saying that he and his Democratic colleagues on the Judiciary Committee are going to tuck tail and let perhaps the worst scandal in American history pass. No search for truth, no accountability, no punishment for wrongdoers, nothing.
Evidence strongly suggests the DOJ scandal far surpasses Watergate. As a result of this scandal, we actually have at least four political prisoners in America right now. I'm talking about Siegelman from Alabama and Paul Minor, Wes Teel, and John Whitfield from Mississippi.
I believe Davis needs to issue an immediate statement to clarify his intentions, and those of the House Judiciary Committee. And if that group truly plans to play softball as Davis' comments indicate, Democrats, moderates, and anyone else who cares about justice should be outraged.