Friday, June 15, 2007

The Base Stench of High Crime

Let’s face it—this one fails the smell test.

Forgive me if you’ve heard some of this before, but humor me a moment. To the best of my recollection, as they say, the timeline goes something like this:

Fall 2006—The Republican-lead Congress passes a provision secretly slipped into the Patriot Act renewal that gives the Attorney General the power to appoint interim US attorneys on an indefinite basis, thus avoiding the usual Senate confirmation process. President Bush signs that provision into law.

December 2006—The Department of Justice fires seven US attorneys without cause. The reason for their dismissals later surfaces: they were deemed by the White House and DoJ not to be “loyal Bushies.” More specifically, the fired attorneys had either pursued corruption investigations against Republicans, or had failed to pursue Democrats or charges of so-called voter fraud aggressively enough to satisfy the executive. (Several other US attorneys, though not officially fired, appear to have been forced to resign over the Summer and Fall of 2006.)

Winter-Spring 2007—Purge-gate, AKA the US Attorney scandal, blossoms to reveal a web of Justice and White House officials working in concert to fill the ranks of the US Attorneys with partisan hatchet-men and women and former associates of Karl Rove using the new authority granted by the shady provision in the Patriot Act.

Spring 2007—Responding to the rush of revelations about the scandal, both the Senate and House vote in overwhelming numbers to strip the interim appointment authority from the law and restore the previous checks and balances to the process.

June 4, 2007—Congress sends S.214, the Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act of 2007, to President Bush for his signature. Bush takes no immediate action.

June 13, 2007—Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is notified by DoJ that Acting US Attorney for the Central District of California, George Cardona, will be appointed to the post on an interim basis by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales using the authority granted under the 2006 USA Patriot Act. Cardona will be able to serve indefinitely without Senate scrutiny. (The Central District was run by Debra Wong Yang until she resigned last October. Yang had been leading an investigation into “lucrative ties” between a lobbying firm and Republican Representative Jerry Lewis, and is believed to have been targeted for ouster by White House Counsel Harriet Miers.)

Senator Leahy reacted this way:

That bill, the Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act of 2007, has been on the president’s desk since June 4th. Do you know it seems he just can’t bring himself to sign it? Instead, we were informed yesterday through the Justice Department that the attorney general has used the power that we voted to repeal again.

It’s almost like they live in an alternate world, as though they’re not realizing the reaction of Democrats and Republicans about this misuse of this power. That’s wrong.

June 14, 2007—Late Thursday night, The White House released this two-line statement:

On June 14, 2007, the President signed into law:

S. 214, the “Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act of 2007.”

Which brings us to today. . . .

Gosh, when you put it all out there like that, it kind of stinks, don’t it? Kind of looks like the President and the Attorney General conspired to subvert the will of Congress, right? People might get upset if they knew how this went down. . . .

If they knew.

Now, what I just did wasn’t hard; I was able to research and type it up in a relatively short time. Indeed, if you are even a semi-regular reader of political blogs, you probably knew most of this already. Yet, a quick look at today’s papers’ on-line editions—including a couple from Central California—reveals no such chronology—in fact, I can’t even find anything on Cardona’s interim appointment beyond the blog work I link to above.

Will tomorrow’s network newscasts deal with this? I doubt it. Will it even show up as a blip on the cable news channels? I’m not holding my breath.

Now, it’s not like no one has noticed. Leahy’s office has, Think Progress and Raw Story have, but that seems to be the full extent of it. Granted, Thursday was a bit full of news (Gaza, Iraq, Lebanon. . . a nasty Supreme Court decision no one has noticed much, either), but this—this clearly intentional foot-dragging to do an end-run around Congress, this collusion between the White House and Justice to pack the ranks of the US attorneys with one more partisan hack, this conscious counteraction to the desire of the American people, this aggressive deceit—this is not trivial, folks!

In fact, this is exactly the kind of stuff that runs afoul of this:

Article II, Section 4: The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.

Like I said, it fails the smell test, but, in doing so, it passes the Constitutional one. Maybe if members of the establishment media took the short time to explain this scandal, as I did above, then the logical next step wouldn’t be so difficult to comprehend. I mean, c’mon, what drives ratings and sells papers better than a good scandal—especially one that leads to impeachment proceeding for the nation’s top cop and the nation’s top crook?

(cross-posted to Daily Kos)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leahy's office is over-reacting. S214 starts a clock on ALL US Attorneys for a 120 day term upon signing the bill. You can look it up.
A correction is in order on your part.
Text of the enrolled bill available here. Read with pleasure.

8:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

correction: That would be all --interim-- U.S. Attorneys, on the clock for 120 day term.

9:03 PM  
Blogger guy2k said...

Someone brought this up Friday in the thread on the cross-post over at dKos, and I posted the appropriate section of S.214 there. I will paste it again here:


(a) In General- The amendments made by this Act shall take effect on the date of enactment of this Act.
(b) Application-
(1) IN GENERAL- Any person serving as a United States attorney on the day before the date of enactment of this Act who was appointed under section 546 of title 28, United States Code, may serve until the earlier of--
(A) the qualification of a United States attorney for such district appointed by the President under section 541 of that title; or
(B) 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act.
(2) EXPIRED APPOINTMENTS- If an appointment expires under paragraph (1), the district court for that district may appoint a United States attorney for that district under section 546(d) of title 28, United States Code, as added by this Act.

Reading this—and I am not a lawyer—I believe you are correct: Cardona’s appointment should expire in 120 days.

The timing of the appointment and signing still provokes a raised eyebrow, however. Is the assumption just that after 240 days at his post, the interim Cardona will be more easily confirmed, or is there something that was going to happen or is now going to happen in the next four months?

After six plus years of Bush, you’ll pardon me if I still suspect this timing is more than just a coincidence.

6:56 AM  

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