Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bush Justice Department Produces Bipartisan Victims

Folks on the right side of the political spectrum have tended to portray the Bush Justice Department scandal as a partisan matter.

A recent example comes from Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), ranking minority member on the House Judiciary Committee. He offers up written questions to former White House strategist Karl Rove regarding the Don Siegelman prosecution in Alabama. Smith is a former client of Rove's, and the Congressman evidently is unaware of how absurd his actions appear.

Larisa Alexandrovna, of at-Largely, is acutely aware of the absurdity here, and she does a bang-up job of illustrating the inanity of Smith's questions, particularly his insistence upon leaving Alabama political operative Bill Canary out of the equation.

Glynn Wilson, of Locust Fork World News, has an excellent overview of the Rove/Smith tango, including comments from exclusive interviews with Scott Horton and Jill Simpson.

While folks like Smith attempt to treat this in a partisan fashion, people who are paying attention know that the Bush Justice Department has created victims on all sides of the political spectrum. In fact, the first known victims, nine fired U.S. attorneys, were all Republicans and Bush appointees. Perhaps the most heroic figure in the whole story, Alabama whistleblower Jill Simpson, is a longtime Republican who has seen her professional life damaged and her personal life threatened.

Scott Horton, of Harper's, reminds us of the bipartisan nature of the Bush DOJ story by presenting a splendid interview with David Iglesias, former U.S. attorney in New Mexico and one of the nine USAs targeted for dismissal by the loyal Bushies at main Justice. Iglesias' crime? Failure to prosecute voter fraud cases when an investigation produced no solid evidence of voter fraud.

Horton notes that rather than honor a subpoena to appear before the House Judiciary Committee, Rove attended a gathering of post-Soviet oligarchs in Ukraine. Why would Rove do such a thing? Horton asks Iglesias if it has something to do with 18 U.S. Code 1503(a), which prohibits "corruptly influencing" a criminal prosecution:

Rove should have appeared before Congress and claimed privilege. Rather, he thumbed his nose at a co-equal branch of government and showed his utter disregard for their powers. His actions are contemptuous per se and he should be held in contempt by the House. The language of 18 USC § 1503(a) is broad since it speaks of “influencing” an “officer…of the United States” in the “discharge of his duties” including the “due administration of justice.”

Applying this test to the allegations concerning the Siegelman matter, for instance, the evidence suggests that Rove influenced a U.S. Attorney in the discharge of her duties. This is a very serious matter and needs to be fully investigated since a non-attorney policy adviser has no business influencing the indictment of an elected official.

What about the future? Horton asks Iglesias about the challenges facing the next U.S. attorney general:

The Justice Department’s reservoir of trust is empty and dry. It will take completely new leadership at main Justice and in the field to re-build the faith the public once had in the fairness of the federal criminal system. This is the real tragedy of the scandal—certainly it is not about a few highly performing U.S. Attorneys being fired for improper political reasons; rather, it is the unintended consequence of serious damage to the reputation to the nation’s premier crime fighting organization. It doesn’t help when the press officers are engaging in a pattern of obfuscation, half truths and untruths as former U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins so forcefully described in his Washington Monthly article. . . .

The next attorney general needs to understand the historic independence and integrity of the U.S. attorney. We are not merely politically appointees—we are the only members of the administration who can take away your life, liberty and property. Ultimately we need leaders at main Justice who understand that the administration of justice is a matter of right and wrong, not a matter of right or left.

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