The evolving scandal in the Bush Department of Justice (DOJ) has focused so far on what we might call "outposts," prosecutor's offices in Alabama, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
But a new report from investigative reporter Murray Waas indicates the trail is leading right to the step of the Bush White House, where Karl Rove once reigned supreme. Waas reports that the internal Justice Department investigation now includes allegations that senior administration officials played roles in providing false and misleading information to Congress.
This raises the possibility of criminal charges against administration officials. And it brings the investigation closer and closer to Rove.
At the heart of Waas' story is the firing of Arkansas U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins, who was replaced with Rove acolyte Tim Griffin. A White House letter sent to Congress in February 2007 states that Rove had nothing to do with Cummins' dismissal. But new evidence before investigators in the Office of the Inspector General indicates White House officials drafted and approved the letter while they had first-hand information showing the assertions were false.
Senior Justice Department officials now say the investigation could become about a cover up, in addition to allegations of politically motivated firings and prosecutions.
A report from Inspector General Glenn Fine is expected before Labor Day, reports Scott Horton at Harper's magazine. In an excellent overview piece, Horton notes the Bush DOJ's persistent problem with "truthiness." This is defined as instinctual, "gut" statements that are not supported by facts or logic--and invariably turn out to be false.
The stage is set for a battle between the agents of "truthiness" and the proponents of "truth." The words sound like, but a massive gulf lies between them.
This is but one strand of a story which leads with increasing clarity directly to the White House, and straight to the office of Karl Rove.
The latest disclosures bring a focus on one issue that the Inspector General will have to address: the persistence of Justice Department “truthiness.” By the sterner view, it is obstruction of a Congressional investigation and lying to Congress: acts which warrant a criminal investigation, possible felony prosecution, and professional disciplinary measures for attorneys, possibly including disbarment. But the prevailing view inside of Justice today is different. It holds that there’s nothing wrong with telling fibs to Congress—it’s all part of the game. If the report takes the path that the latest disclosures suggest, then it will point clearly to the need for a special prosecutor, a person of unquestioned integrity and ability, to make decisions about the indictment and prosecution of Mr. Rove and the immediate past top leadership of the Bush Justice Department. Mukasey has firmly resisted such calls so far, but in doing so he has put his own reputation at risk.
Michael Mukasey tells us that he wants to restore integrity to the Justice Department. That would start with respect for the truth. But Mukasey has made Brian Roehrkasse—an outrageous and well-documented vendor of falsehoods–his principal public relations officer. And yesterday he took a further step down the same road by appointing as his new chief of staff Brian Benczkowski, another political flak best know for defending torture and for a falsehood-laden letter he delivered to Congress defending misbehaving prosecutors. When the report on the U.S. attorneys’ scandal surfaces, the Justice Department response will most likely be managed by Roehrkasse and Benczkowski, two individuals who should be right in the spotlight of the controversy. At Mukasey’s Justice Department the drawbridge is going up, and the battlements are being manned by the agents of “truthiness.” Truth is about to attempt to recapture the Justice Department. And the institution’s reputation and future hang in the balance.