JUDICIARY: Clubbing a Baby Seal Redux

With damning new details about the U.S. attorney firings still emerging, and with increasing evidence of White House involvement, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales returns to Capitol Hill today to appear before the House Judiciary Committee.

APRIL 10, 2007 by Faiz Shakir, Nico Pitney, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, and Matt Corley
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CORRECTION: Yesterday, The Progress Report incorrectly identified the Senate sponsor of a bill to commission an intelligence assessment of the impact of global warming. That bill has been introduced by Sens. Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE). A similar bill has been introduced in the House by Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA).


Clubbing A Baby Seal Redux

With damning new details about the U.S. attorney firings still emerging, and with increasing evidence of White House involvement, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales returns to Capitol Hill today to appear before the House Judiciary Committee. The last time Gonzales testified, even White House allies were “flabbergasted by how poorly they think the attorney general [had] done,” having claimed on more than 70 occasions that he could not recall or did not remember events surrounding the dismissals. One prominent conservative compared his testimony to “clubbing a baby seal.” Now, Gonzales appears ready for a repeat performance. Asked Wednesday during a news conference whether he’s refreshed his memory, he replied: “I can only provide information as to what I know and to what I recall, and that’s what I intend to do, as I have done in the past.” Thankfully, the truth about the firings is slowly being learned despite his stonewalling. “This is going to get worse, not better,” fired U.S. Attorney John McKay told journalists this week. “I think there will be a criminal case that will come out of this.

THE BAD EXCUSE: In his opening statement today, Gonzales will explain how the blunders of the U.S. Attorney scandal are, in the end, the fault of his former chief of staff Kyle Sampson. “I delegated the task of coordinating a review to Mr. Sampson in early 2005,” Gonzales will say, explaining how he tasked Sampson to “collect insight and opinions, including his own, from Department officials with the most knowledge of U.S. Attorneys,” and use those opinions to produce a “consensus recommendation” on who should be fired. The problem is that virtually every high-ranking Justice Department official has explicitly denied that they named attorneys to be dismissed. “Michael Battle, the former Director of the Executive Office of United States Attorneys, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, Kyle Sampson, and William E. Moschella, the principal associate deputy attorney general, all have told Congress that they did not put any names on the list.” David Margolis, the senior career official at the Justice Department, says he recommended only one name, Kevin Ryan, “the only U.S. attorney who everyone agrees had actual performance issues.” The only official yet to explain her role is Monica Goodling, former counsel to Gonzales and, notably, former liaison to the White House.

THE WHITE HOUSE CONNECTION: “There has to be a paper trail” explaining the firings, former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias said recently. “I haven’t seen it yet. If it’s not at the Justice Department, it has got to be at the White House.” Indeed, there is increasing evidence that White House officials, notably Karl Rove, were the true ringleaders of the U.S. attorney purge. Rove is long known to have complained about U.S. attorneys who failed to pursue alleged voter fraud cases vigorously, and it was Rove who asked in a January 2005 e-mail “‘how we planned to proceed regarding U.S. attorneys‘ — whether the expected firings would be selective or en masse.” A report last week noted that Rove participated in a “hastily called meeting at the White House two months ago” to coach Gonzales aide William Moschella on what he should say to Congress about the prosecutor firings. Also, Kyle Sampson told congressional investigators that Gonzales was “extremely upset” with his deputy Paul McNulty when believed McNutly had inadvertantly “exposed the White House’s involvement in the firings — had put its role ‘in the public sphere,’ as Sampson phrased it.”

We also learned this week that “there were not 8 but 9 US Attorneys fired last year by the Department of Justice — the earliest, Todd Graves in Kansas City, way back in March 2006, right after the passage of the revised USA Patriot.” Graves said yesterday he was told simply that he should resign to “give another person a chance.” That other person was a controversial Justice Department figure named Bradley Schlozman, who was installed in Graves’ position without Senate confirmation. The news about Graves directly contradicts “repeated suggestions by Gonzales and other senior Justice officials in congressional testimony and other public statements that the firings did not extend beyond the eight prosecutors already known to have been forced out.” The Washington Post noted yesterday that an aide to Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) urged the White House to replace Graves in 2005; months later, “Graves’s name was included on a Justice Department list of federal prosecutors the Bush administration was thinking of pushing out of their jobs.”


ADMINISTRATION: BUSH’S NEW USAID NOMINEE: HISPANICS ARE ‘LAZY’: President Bush plans to nominate Henrietta Holsman Fore to head the U.S. Agency for International Development “to replace Randall Tobias who resigned after his name was linked to an escort service.” Fore is currently the State Department undersecretary for management. When Bush nominated her for this position in 2005, The Progress Report noted that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) grilled Fore over previous comments in which she suggested blacks prefer pushing drugs on the street to working in factory jobs. Fore’s remarks came from a speech she gave at Wellesley University in 1987. In a Feb. 12, 1987, article, the New York Times wrote, “But in a letter to the college newspaper, Ms. Holsman reiterated her statement that she had trouble keeping black assembly-line workers from going ‘back to the street to earn more money’ selling drugs. In her lecture, Ms. Holsman also said she had found Hispanic workers to be lazy, white workers resentful of having to work with machines, and Asians, while very productive, likely to move on to professional or management jobs.” In a July 13, 2005 letter, Fore promised Obama that she “would work with the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in identifying the best practices that can be used to strengthen diversity in the State Department” [AP, 7/19/05]. But as Raw Story reports, CBC members confirm that the committee has not had any contact with Fore in the past two years. Although Fore met with Latino legislators on two occasions, the content of the meetings was not disclosed. Additionally, the “State Department’s own accountability reports show little change in the make up of the workforce since Fore took over in 2005.”

IRAQ — 0.1 PERCENT OF COMMERCE DEPARTMENT RESPONDS TO BUSH’S PLEA TO MOVE TO IRAQ: In a January address announcing his escalation plan, President Bush unveiled a broad new plan to recruit U.S. government officials to move to Iraq to aid in reconstruction efforts. “We will double the number of provincial reconstruction teams. These teams bring together military and civilian experts to help local Iraqi communities pursue reconciliation, strengthen the moderates, and speed the transition to Iraqi self-reliance,” Bush said. In an effort to carry out Bush’s call, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez sent an e-mail to employees last week. “I am asking all Commerce employees to consider supporting this important effort. The Department of State is seeking highly motivated, action-oriented, resilient people with a strong desire to assist in the Iraqi rebuilding effort. Volunteers must demonstrate willingness and ability to work in a difficult foreign environment under challenging circumstances with access to few amenities,” he wrote. Gutierrez received a dismal response. Of the 39,000 Commerce employees who received the e-mail five days ago, just 40 people responded, and the department refused to note how many of those were “yes” answers. Such a response has been typical. The Washington Post noted in February that the administration’s recruitment efforts have been met with “outright refusal to fill certain vital posts” by several other departments. For example, so many State Department employees refused Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s call to serve in Iraq that she was forced to request an already overstretched U.S. military to fill their positions. As the New York Times notes, “The reluctance highlights a problem with the administration’s new strategy for Iraq…when the lack of security on the ground [in Iraq] makes it one of the last places people, particularly those with families, want to go.” See Gutierrez’s e-mail to the Commerce Department HERE.

CIVIL LIBERTIES — ARMY SENDS THREATENING E-MAIL TO CRITIC OF BLOG POLICY: On May 2, Steven Aftergood told Wired News that new Army regulations requiring soldiers to “clear content” in personal blogs and e-mails with a superior officer were “outrageous.” Aftergood, an expert on government secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists, then posted a copy of the new regulations document on his website, Secrecy News. Two days later, he received an e-mail from Cheryl Clark of the U.S. Army Publications Directorate telling him, “You have Army Publications hosted on your website illegally, there are only 5 Official Army Publications Sites. You are not one of them, you can link to our publications, but you cannot host them. … Please remove this publication immediately or further action will be taken.” Aftergood responded with his own e-mail, informing the Army that he would not comply with their request. “You indicate that we have posted Army documents ‘illegally.’ That is not true. The posted documents are ‘works of the United States Government under 17 U.S.C 101. Such items cannot be copyrighted, as explained in 17 U.S.C. 105,” wrote Aftergood. “Nor to my knowledge is there any other law that would prohibit posting of such documents on a public or private web site.” Aftergood did agree to add a disclaimer to his website’s Army doctrine web page indicating that the collection of Army records is not an official Army source. Wired News, which also offers the Army document on its web site, told ABC News on Tuesday that the Army had not asked them to remove it. “I don’t know if it’s a clumsy attempt at intimidation, but it’s not persuasive,” Aftergood told ABC News of the e-mail.


Tony Blair, a man “whose decade of achievements have faded into the shadows of the Iraq war,” said Thursday that he will step down as British prime minister on June 27. As the war “turned from a military cakewalk to the nightmarish years-long aftermath, Blair’s popularity ratings dived; they stand at just 28 percent today,” the same level as President Bush.

“The Pentagon has placed unprecedented restrictions on who can testify before Congress, reserving the right to bar lower-ranking officers, enlisted soldiers, and career bureaucrats from appearing before oversight committees or having their remarks transcribed.”

59 percent: The proportion of black respondents who described their lives as “disrupted” more than a year after Hurricane Katrina, “double that of whites who said the same (29 percent).”

Congress plans to “introduce a bill this morning that would increase by at least 20,000 the number of Iraqi refugees eligible for resettlement in the United States in 2007 and 2008. It would also admit 15,000 ‘special immigrant status‘ Iraqis and their families for each of the next four years.”

World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz was given until Friday evening — two additional days — to make his case in writing against charges of misconduct before the Bank board decides his future. In the meantime, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been lobbying European foreign ministers, expressing her support for Wolfowitz.

A report released by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) yesterday revealed that four Education Department officials “who helped oversee a federal reading program for young students have pocketed significant sums of money from textbook publishers that profited from the $1 billion-a-year initiative.”

The House Armed Services Committee is considering a measure would cut $160 million from funds for President Bush’s missile defense program. A statistical analysis conducted by the Center for American Progress bolsters the case for funding cuts, finding the threat from ballistic missiles has steadily declined over the past 20 years.

And finally: Yesterday, President Bush toured tornado-ravaged Greensburg, KS. The AP reports that in the midst of the solemnity, Bush was able to joke around. “He briefly grabbed a chain saw, ripping it into action for the cameras and other media that accompanied him. ‘How are you all?’ Bush asked as he moved among residents. ‘Stylish looking hat,’ he joked to a man in a green fedora.”

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Yesterday, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D) signed legislation creating “domestic partnerships” for gays and lesbians, along with a bill outlawing “discrimination based on sexual orientation.”


KANSAS: Kansas Board of Education repeals abstinence-only provisions and other conservative sex-ed policies.

MASSACHUSETTS: Gov. Deval Patrick (D) proposes a $1 billion dollar infusion into stem cell research.

OKLAHOMA: Gov. Brad Henry (D) signs the “harshest anti-immigration bill in the whole United States.

CIVIL RIGHTS: “Two states leading a revolt against the Real ID Act have picked up new firepower in the U.S. Senate.”


THINK PROGRESS: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates contradicts President Bush, says “I don’t know” if 2002 war authorization is still valid.

BOVARD: Why did the National Endowment of the Humanities honor a Harvard professor who argued that the President is above the rule of law?

WASHINGTON BABYLON: If there’s a smoking gun at Abu Ghraib, it’s in John Yoo’s hands.

INSIDE CABLE NEWS: Fox News’s right-wing “satire” show, the 1/2 Hour News Hour, to return on Sunday.


“Well, Iraq’s looking good. … I think we’ve turned the corner, if you will.”
— Vice President Cheney, 12/18/05


“[W]e’ve got a long way to go.”
— Cheney, 5/9/07

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