Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Justice, Texas Style...Er, Rove Style

The United States is not perfect but one of the things that tends to make us different from other countries is that the powerful do not automatically get a free pass. Lately, of course, it seems powerful Republicans have been getting so many free passes that they take for granted that they can do anything. There's Tom Delay, for example, whose arrogance got so out of control that he started saying things to people like, "I am the government." People that arrogant tend to be genuinely astonished when they're caught.

The powerful in Texas have always had a reputation of getting away with more nonsense than the powerful elsewhere in the United States. Karl Rove was in his element when he was helping Governor George W. Bush in Texas. However, Rove perfected his gamemanship in Texas and has applied his lessons in six years at the White House. Rove has learned his craft so well it's not certain he will ever be brought to justice. The fact that he emerged from Leakgate without being indicted has astonished everyone who cares about the rule of law. That's not a slam against Fitzgerald, that's just acknowledgement that Rove is very slick.

In a number of scandals in Washington, Karl Rove has a knack of showing up one way or the other behind the scenes of the major players in each scandal. Just to name a few, Rove is linked to Leakgate (he was directly involved in the leaking), he's linked to Purgegate (he appears to have recommended that US attorneys be fired and one of his closest associates was called to replace a US attorney in Arkansas), he's linked to the lies that were told to sell the war in Iraq (he was a member of the White House Iraq Group whose job was to sell the war), he's linked to the swiftboating of John Kerry (some of the people involved had longtime associations with Rove) and he's linked to Jack Abramoff (actually a lot of Republicans are linked to Abramoff but Rove is linked in several ways, as is his former assistant Susan Ralston).

I was busy last Friday and missed a post by Steve Soto of The Left Coaster (hat tip to Firedoglake for keeping the information alive):
While the Democrats are focused elsewhere, the Bush Administration is trying today to close off any future damage from the Jack Abramoff mess by tanking the government's case against former industry lobbyist and Interior Department deputy J. Steven Griles. In a court filing this morning, the Alberto Gonzales Justice Department will now allow Griles to plead simply to one count of obstruction of justice by lying to Congress. But Justice will also ask the court for only the minimum sentence for Griles, and will not demand that Griles cooperate with the government’s pursuit of others, including possibly Abramoff, Interior Secretary Gale Norton, GOP representative John Doolittle ☼, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and Grover Norquist. In essence, the Bush Justice Department is covering its tracks and eliminating any trail to the White House by scuttling this case and allowing Griles to walk away from cooperating with them on other investigations.

In fact, the Bush Administration is trying to bury the Abramoff case itself.

It was just this past January that Justice notified Griles that he was a target in the Abramoff case, and now the Bush Administration has moved to remove Griles as a possible problem for them in that case.


What is also true is that DOJ has run the Abramoff case not from a regional office under a United States Attorney, but rather from headquarters using a revolving door of prosecutors and section chiefs, allowing one constant person to maintain control of the case through this turnover: Criminal Division head Alice Fisher, who has already been accused by Democrats of being an under experienced partisan hack (hat tip to Jane Hamsher). Fisher is now in a position through this turmoil and turnover beneath her to sink the Abramoff case and shut off the Griles problem for the White House while the Democrats are focused on the misdeeds at the district office level.

If the Democrats knew what they were doing today, they would note this action by Justice and immediately demand the appointment of a special counsel due to the obvious conflict of interest here. Of course Alberto would reject such a request, but 1) Democrats want Gonzales to do exactly that as a further nail in his coffin; and 2) Democrats need to signal to the federal judge that she shouldn't accept the government's self-serving plea offer here.

I suppose Karl Rove isn't in everything that is crooked in the Bush Administration but I suspect he's the one at risk if the Abramoff investigation goes too far. R. Jeffrey Smith of The Washington Post notes some curious instances of the White House avoiding using official channels to do business from the White House, political business; in other words, games they don't want the public to know about (hat tip again to Jame Hamsher of Firedoglake):
A Democratic House committee chairman yesterday told the Republican National Committee and the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign to retain copies of all e-mails sent or received by White House officials using e-mail accounts under their control, raising the political stakes in the congressional inquiry into U.S. attorneys' firings.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) said his broadly written request was based on evidence that White House officials -- particularly aides to top political adviser Karl Rove -- have used their politically related e-mail accounts to hide the conduct of official business regarding the prosecutor firings and other matters being investigated by Congress.


Waxman noted for example that J. Scott Jennings, the White House deputy director of political affairs, used a "gwb43.com" e-mail account last August to discuss the replacement of the U.S. attorney for Arkansas, Bud Cummins, according to e-mails released to Congress by the White House.

Barry Jackson, a deputy to Rove, in 2003 used a "georgewbush.com" e-mail account to consult with Neil G. Volz, then an aide to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, about nominating one of Abramoff's Indian tribe clients for a Medal of Freedom, according to a copy of an e-mail. Abramoff is now serving a prison sentence for bank fraud, and Volz plead guilty to conspiracy charges last year.

Susan B. Ralston, while she was executive assistant to Rove, similarly used "georgewbush.com" and "rnchq.org" e-mail accounts to confer in 2001 and 2003 with Abramoff, her former boss, about matters of interest to Abramoff's clients.

In a related e-mail, an Abramoff aide said Ralston had warned that "it is better to not put this stuff in writing in [the White House] . . . email system because it might actually limit what they can do to help us, especially since there could be lawsuits, etc."

There's a stink coming from the White House that we can smell all the way out here in California. And there appears to be major damage control inside the White House and Justice Department of the kind that Congress needs to look at closely. Rove is involved. No one should have any doubt of that. I think we we're finally beginning to get some clues on how the no-bid contract system may have worked. That means Dick Cheney. There are signs that Cheney is also linked to the Cunningham scandal (take a peek over at Talking Points Memo). What a pair: Rove and Cheney. And an indulgent president.

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Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Likewise, I suspect, Cheney's role is more extensive and decisive in industrial-strength corruption and dirty tricks than even Rove's.

I also suspect Alberto Gonzales has enough knowledge about some of these things to make dumping him risky business. The White House seemed to be edging away from him for a few days, but then snapped back, with Bush defiantly supporting him.

Makes me wonder if A.G. let it be known he wasn't about to go quietly and see his (ahem) sterling reputation trashed the way Scooter did.

2:58 PM  

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