The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Sunday, May 06, 2007

NY Times - A Scandal That Keeps Growing

A Scandal That Keeps Growing

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales declared recently, while batting down bipartisan calls for him to resign, that he had many things to do and “can’t just be focused on the U.S. attorneys situation.” It’s not surprising that Mr. Gonzales wants to change the subject. At best, the firing of eight United States attorneys, most of them highly respected, is an example of such profound incompetence that it should cost Mr. Gonzales his job. At worst, it was a political purge followed by a cover-up. In either case, the scandal is only getting bigger and more disturbing.

New reports of possible malfeasance keep coming fast and furious. They all seem to make it more likely than ever that the firings were part of an attempt to turn the Justice Department into a partisan political operation. There is, to start, the very strong appearance that United States attorneys were fired because they were investigating powerful Republicans or refused to bring baseless charges against Democrats. There is reason to believe that Carol Lam of San Diego, who put Randy Cunningham, the former Republican congressman, in jail, and Paul Charlton of Arizona, who was investigating Representative Rick Renzi, among others, were fired simply for their nonpartisan pursuit of justice.

The Justice Department opened an internal investigation last week into whether Monica Goodling, a former senior adviser to Mr. Gonzales, applied a political screen to applicants for assistant United States attorney positions. That kind of political test would violate department policy, and possibly the law. Ms. Goodling, who has invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, was also a key player in the United States attorney firings.

The National Journal brought to light an “internal order” in which Mr. Gonzales gave Ms. Goodling and his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, the power to hire and fire many of the department’s top officials. His willingness to hand this authority off to two young, highly political staff members is further evidence that partisanship and not professionalism was the driving force in hiring and firing.

More testimony has also emerged that undermines the department’s weak claim that the prosecutors were dismissed for poor performance. James Comey, who was deputy attorney general from 2003 to 2005, told a House committee last week that all but one of the prosecutors were worthy of remaining in office. He called Ms. Lam “a fine U.S. attorney” and Mr. Charlton “one of the best.”

Mr. Gonzales, Mr. Sampson and the others have given so many conflicting, barely credible stories for the firings that it is impossible not to suspect a cover-up. Some of the fired prosecutors strengthened that impression last week in written statements to Congress, in which they described being pressured by Michael Elston, an aide to the deputy attorney general, not to talk about their dismissals. John McKay, of Seattle, said his impression was that “Mr. Elston’s tone was sinister” and that he was “prepared to threaten me further if he concluded I did not intend to continue to remain silent about my dismissal.”

In her statement, Ms. Lam said that she was given just weeks to pack up, and that Justice Department officials told her that her dismissal came “from the very highest levels of the government.”

It is long past time for President Bush to fire Mr. Gonzales. But Congress, especially the Republicans who have dared confront the White House on this issue, should not be satisfied with that. There are strong indications that the purge was ordered out of the White House, involving at the very least the former counsel, Harriet Miers, and Karl Rove.

It is the duty of Congress to compel them and other officials to finally tell the truth to the American people.


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