Elliot Mincburg, chief counsel for oversight investigations of the House Judiciary Committee, was one of the primary speakers at a National Press Club forum on political prosecutions.
Mincburg talked primarily about the current status of injustice in America. Birmingham's U.W. Clemon, the first black federal judge in the South, talked about our history of injustice--and provided much of the forum's drama.
David Swanson, of AfterDowningStreet.org., produced a live blog from the forum.
Glynn Wilson, of the Locust Fork News-Journal, was on hand to cover the event and said Mincburg indicated the committee was not influenced by the Obama administration's "look forward, not backward" approach to Bush-era wrongdoing:
In response to my direct questions about when Karl Rove will be called to testify and the controversy over whether his testimony will be fully on the record and subject to contempt laws, Mincberg said a date has been set, but he could not reveal it. He insisted the committee will fully probe Rove on the record in a transcribed deposition that will make him subject to perjury if he lies to Congress. He insisted the deposition will be released to the public when the time comes just like the testimony of other witnesses, including Alabama attorney Jill Simpson’s, who made the trip to Washington for the forum. And he said that might very well lead to public hearings.
Wilson reports that the investigations are wide ranging, touching on a number of hot-button issues during the Bush years:
Mincberg said investigations are continuing on several fronts. At the top of the list is the “unprecedented” firings of U.S. attorneys by the Bush administration, including Republican lawyers who refused to investigate Democrats. Political hiring by the Department of Justice is also on the list of investigations, where the right-wing Federalist Society was used to screen candidates instead of professional, career prosecutors.
The committee is also looking at the Bush administration’s torture policies and massive warrantless wiretapping of American citizens with no connection to overseas terrorists.
In direct response to my question, Mincberg would not confirm a recent report in the New York Times that showed the domestic spying continues “due to classification restrictions.” He said the issue is on the committee’s agenda and “we are very concerned about that.”
The issue of selective prosecutions is also on the list of investigations, where Republican U.S. attorneys prosecuted Democrats and ignored the crimes of Republican office holders, crimes which were far worse in many cases. Abuse by the FBI in issuing national security letters in the so-called “war on terror” is on the list, as well as problems with the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department, the renewal of The Patriot Act, along with state secrets and CIA renditions of suspects without warrants or due process.
Clemon held a front-row seat for a number of politically charged cases during his long career. But he said nothing compares to the abuses he witnessed during the George W. Bush administration:
Retired Chief U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon of Birmingham, the first African-American federal judge in the South, said in his remarks to the press club and in an interview that while in his life he has faced down the likes of Bull Conner as a college student, Paul “Bear” Bryant as a civil rights lawyer, and George Wallace as a state senator, nothing can compare to the abuses of people’s rights that occurred during the Bush years. He indicated that his home town newspaper, The Birmingham News, has always been on the wrong side of history in the fights for justice.
Clemon wrote a letter to Obama Attorney General Eric Holder, asking for an investigation into the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. Clemon and Holder also have talked about the matter, with some encouraging signs:
Clemon said he recently talked to President Barack Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder after writing a letter to him asking for an investigation into Siegelman’s prosecution, and he said Holder assured him there would be a “full investigation” by the Obama Justice Department.