Monday, March 26, 2007

Growing White House/Justice Dept. Scandal

The liaison between the White House and Justice Department is taking the fifth; here's the AP story by Laurie Kellman in the Houston Chronicle:
Monica Goodling, a senior Justice Department official involved in the firings of federal prosecutors, will refuse to answer questions at upcoming Senate hearings, citing Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, her lawyer said Monday.

(snip)

Goodling was Gonzales' senior counsel and White House liaison until she took a leave of absence earlier this month. She was subpoenaed last week by the Senate Judiciary Committee along with several of Gonzales' other top aides.

Note the sudden leave of absence as the scandal was deepening. So far, the huge document dumps by the Bush Administration (designed to waste time and slow down investigations) as their response to the political purge scandal has backfired. Too many curious e-mails are showing up, including e-mail accounts from White House officials using RNC e-mail accounts apparently to avoid accountability. This truly is a big deal. Steve Soto of The Left Coaster offers some perspective on the growing scandal (emphasis mine):
The White House’s use of nongovernmental email accounts and servers to mask their political activities done on government time is about to blow up in their faces. It has been noticed by the media and congressional investigators that Karl Rove’s political operation inside the White House has this habit of using RNC and Bush/Cheney campaign email accounts and servers for ostensibly official business conducted inside the White House. In several email releases over the last week tied to the fired federal prosecutors cover-up, it has been noticed that White House officials were using nongovernmental accounts and servers to communicate with the Justice Department.

Henry Waxman has caught up to them, and is now telling both the RNC and Bush/Cheney 2004 to save their emails from purging, as they are now the subject of his inquiry. Sure, the RNC and Bush/Cheney will now furiously delete all these emails if they haven’t done so already, but just the fact that there is a record of such communication means that: 1) it is essential to demand that Rove and others be put under oath to testify to Congress; and 2) claims of executive privilege go out the window if the White House was conducting the allegedly protected communications in a nonsecure, purely political manner through outside cut outs.

As CREW noted today and previously, the White House would use such means to avoid the provisions of the Presidential Records Act, which requires the administration to maintain a publicly accessible record of their actions.

Using e-mail accounts from political operations like the Republican National Committee simply destroys the executive privilege defense. This is a bipartisan issue. If Republicans in Congress still believe in the rule of law, they have to join the Democrats or the government is simply nothing more than the Mayberry Mafia.

Josh Marshall, whose TPM team did the investigation that broke the story open, has this to say today about the curious RNC e-mail accounts:
According to the National Journal, about 95% of Karl Rove's email traffic has been on these RNC email accounts.

Now, I don't know all the legal and constitutional ins and outs of this debate. But whatever claim the White House may have to protect everyone at the White House from congressional scrutiny by invoking executive privilege, this use of outside private email accounts may turn out to be too clever by half.

Can executive privilege even conceiveably cover emails from the Republican National Committee? ...

We already know that Harriet Miers was involved in the scandal. We already know that Karl Rove discussed firing the attorneys. We know the liaison between the White House and the Justice Department is taking the fifth. The story is now just as much in the White House as it is in the Justice Department. The American people deserve straight answers, under oath, and in the light of day.

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