Wednesday, April 04, 2007

An open letter to Orrin Hatch, etc.

You don't call, you don't write...orrin hatch

I've just about exhausted myself trying to get someone in your office to call me back this week. Please apologize to your adorable receptionist on my behalf - the poor man now gets audibly exasperated as soon as I say "hello".

What I'd like to talk with you about is very simple: on NBC's Meet the Press this past Sunday, you said this about Carol Lam, the US Attorney for San Diego who was fired by the Justice Department in December:

"She was a former law professor, no prosecutorial experience, and the former campaign manager in Southern California for Clinton"

I checked the transcript against the video, and it's clear to me that you weren't misquoted.

Here's my question for you or your staff: what in the Lord's name are you talking about?

Here at Air America, we called John Emerson, who managed Clinton's California campaign in '92 and again in '96 to ask if Carol Lam had been the "campaign manager in Southern California for Clinton" - you might have thought we'd asked him if the sky was green.

First of all, uh, NO, she wasn't.

And second, Carol Lam was an Assistant US Attorney at the time of Clinton's campaigns, and she therefore couldn't have also been a campaign manager for any presidential candidate without violating the (ironically-named) Hatch Act, which restricts political activity by federal government employees.

Then we called a source close to Carol Lam in California, who expressed utter bewilderment at what old Orrin said on Meet the Press.

The source confirmed for us publicly-available documents about Lam's career which indicate that she is not a law professor, she's "been a federal prosecutor for nearly 18 years and [has] never been a fundraiser for any president".

Senator Hatch, what's going on here?

Were you thinking of someone else? You seemed under the weather on Sunday -- did you maybe fall asleep and wake up in the middle of what you thought was a totally different interview - an interview about someone who DID work for Clinton's campaign?

Don't you want to apologize and set the record straight? Won't you be embarrassed if Meet the Press has to run a correction about something you said, that you won't retract?
Or do you have secret information that no one else has, that will back up your off-the-wall claims about Carol Lam?

Senator Hatch, call me.

My voicemails have filled up the systems on all of your press guys' phones, so I know you know how to reach me.

When you call me back, I'll give you all the time you want on my radio show to either explain your top-secret Carol Lam information, or to apologize for your utterly outrageous, inexplicable smear.

I know it's difficult to have to defend the Bush Administration for their political purge of the US Attorneys -- but that doesn't mean you get to make stuff up about the US attorneys that you think will make it seem like they deserved what they got.

Come on, come on, Senator Hatch. I caught you on this one. Return my calls -- I'll help you make it all better.

All best wishes,

Rachel Maddow

Host, "The Rachel Maddow Show"
Air America Radio6-8PM Eastern


Backing up a bit on the transcript (worth reading) to put the Carol Lam comments in context:


SEN. MARK PRYOR (D-AR): The truth is, I was lied to. Because I was told that the attorney general—and he not only said it to me, he said it to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he said it to the world, the attorney general wanted a Senate-confirmed U.S. attorney in every slot. That is absolutely not true in Arkansas based on this e-mail from the Justice Department.
When the attorney general lies to a United States senator, I think it’s time for that attorney general to go.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Hatch, that’s one of your colleagues saying he was lied to.

SEN. HATCH: Well, I don’t think he was. I mean, in the case—in that particular case, they—you know, it’s no secret the White House wanted Griffin put in there, a person with prosecutorial experience who the attorney—who the U.S. attorney who was going to be removed said was his right-hand man and one of the best prosecutors he had. The fact of the matter is they wanted to appoint him as an interim U.S. attorney. And by the way, that is—that is done all the time. Interims are appointed while they wait to get a, a permanent vote by the Senate, and, frankly, the question here is whether an interim is appointed by the courts or by the, the Justice Department itself. And frankly, you know, I don’t think—I don’t think anybody should’ve said that the attorney general lied to them. On...

MR. RUSSERT: (To Senator Leahy) You’re nodding.

SEN. HATCH: On that issue. Certainly not on that issue.

MR. RUSSERT: (To Senator Leahy) You’re shaking your head, Senator.

SEN. LEAHY: Well, you almost—you’re almost thinking, the answer—I love Orrin Hatch, an old buddy—but it’s almost like he’s aware of the fact that today’s April 1st. This is not what happened at all. It is not the case of putting someone in with the idea of them having a confirmation. They were very cleverly using an obscure piece of the Patriot Act that was snuck in by the administration, the last Patriot Act. They were using that to suddenly replace all these U.S. attorneys, planning never to go to the Senate for confirmation. It was very clear from the Sampson testimony, very clear from the e-mails we’ve received that’s exactly what they wanted to do. In fact, it is remarkable that, when that came to light, when the United States Senate, by a vote of 94-to-2, we repealed that, even though the White House was opposed to us repealing it, and the House representatives by about a 4-to-1 margin did. How many times, Tim, have you seen, in this city, that kind of bipartisan rejection of an administration’s policy? I think most people are so offended by what has happened, most people feel that the attorney general has not been truthful, and again, that is why I really—I don’t want any more of these closed door meetings, closed door briefings. I want it under oath, before the public. Let both Republican and Democratic senators ask the questions, let the truth come out.

MR. RUSSERT: But if the...

SEN. HATCH: (Unintelligible).

MR. RUSSERT: One second, Senator Hatch.


MR. RUSSERT: But if the president says, “I’m sorry, Senator Leahy, this is executive privilege. I need honest, unfettered advice from my staff. Karl Rove was not confirmed by the U.S. Senate. He’s not going before your committee. You can do whatever you want, he’s not going,” what do you do?

SEN. LEAHY: Well, first, the president hasn’t claimed executive privilege yet, and, according to the testimony, the president was not involved directly in these things, so it wasn’t a question of advice going to the president. It was more of a, a question of orders coming from Karl Rove, Harriet Miers to the attorney general, who seems to act as though he’s still a member of the White House staff instead of being of the attorney general of the United States. Entirely different thing. I, I think the most important thing, especially in light of the fact that in two years we’re going to have a new president, new attorney general, let’s establish exactly what went wrong here. We know a lot of things went wrong. With the idea that at least with the next president, whoever the next president might be, won’t make these mistakes again.

MR. RUSSERT: But what if Mr. Rove refuses to come before your committee?

SEN. LEAHY: Well, let’s see if that happens.

MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe he will?

SEN. LEAHY: Let’s see if that happens.

MR. RUSSERT: Do you have indications he might?

SEN. LEAHY: No, I don’t. No, in fact, they’ve given us a take it or leave it. They said we’ll—the White House said we’ll only allow a discussion behind closed doors with no transcript and a limited agenda and not under oath. Everybody knows that’s a nonstarter. There’ve been so many misstatements back and forth by people within the administration, I want it in public under oath. I want both Republicans and Democrats to be able to ask questions.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Hatch, here’s part of the problem. There was a letter written by the acting assistant attorney general to Senator Schumer, and it said this about the situation in Arkansas: “The Department of Justice is not aware of anyone lobbying for Mr. [Tim] Griffin’s appointment.” That’s the U.S. attorney in Arkansas. “The Department is not aware of Karl Rove playing any role in the decision to appoint Mr. Griffin.” And then e-mail emerged from Kyle Sampson, which said this, in December: “[I] know that getting [Tim Griffin] appointed was important to Harriet” Miers, “Karl” Rove, “etc.”

And so it was then asked why, if Karl Rove was involved, would the Justice Department send a letter to Congress saying he wasn’t involved? And they said, “Well, the White House counsel’s office gave us that information that Mr. Rove wasn’t involved.” Ask the White House why that happened, and here was the answer from the deputy press secretary: “The [February] letter [saying that Rove had no role in the appointment of Tim Griffin] was received here by an associate counsel named Chris Portion. He was new to the White House counsel’s office. He made suggested edits of the letter. He had very limited knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the appointment of Mr. Griffin as U.S. attorney and the prior conversation with his supervisors, who he had only worked for” “I think about a month or two. And he cautioned the Justice Department to make sure the facts were accurate.”

So the White House saying now that the White House counsel who vetted this wasn’t really experienced enough to do that, and, oh, by the way, he said the Justice Department should have taken other precautions. However, when you look at the e-mails, lo and behold, you find this, that same White House associate counsel writing an e-mail to Kyle Sampson back in December about what? The appointment of Tim Griffin as U.S. attorney in Arkansas. “Seems to me” Senator “Pryor and” Senator “Lincoln are taking steps to back the” Department of Justice, the White House “into a corner on Tim Griffin and commit to not commit on him as a nominee. Tim can call himself ‘U.S. Attorney’ rather than ‘interim’ or ‘acting’ and our talkers should avoid referring to him as ‘interim.’ What are your thoughts?” This is a White House counsel familiar with the nomination sending information that was false to the Justice Department, who then sent false information to Congress. Why wouldn’t you want to bring the White House staff before you and find out what happened and why?

SEN. HATCH: Well, first of all, let’s understand something. This was not well-handled. I think anybody with brains would, would admit that, and they are admitting that. And the Justice Department is admitting it, and the White House pretty well has admitted it. Now, the Justice Department has offered to bring in their people under oath. I presume that General Gonzales will be under oath. These are the people who handled it. These are the people who understand it. With regard to the White House, you’re talking about the top advisers to the president. The president has indicated that he’s going to invoke executive privilege. But they have offered to send Rove, and, in fact, they made an offer to send more. The general counsel Fred Fielding made an offer to send even more people than we had asked for on the Judiciary Committee, but they said, “Look, we’ll send them up there, you can get the facts from them. Yes, we want it to be not under oath with a limited number of people, but this is the way to get to the facts.” And, of course, the Democrats on the Judiciary, Judiciary Committee are not satisfied with that. So if they...

SEN. LEAHY: A lot of Republicans aren’t...

SEN. HATCH: ...if they—they’re going to—now, wait a minute.

SEN. LEAHY: A lot of Republicans aren’t satisfied either.

SEN. HATCH: Let me finish. Let me finish, Pat.

SEN. LEAHY: A lot of Republicans aren’t satisfied with it.

SEN. HATCH: Pat, let me finish. I didn’t interrupt you.

SEN. LEAHY: (Unintelligible)...tell the truth.

SEN. HATCH: Pat, I didn’t interrupt you. Now, let me just tell you something. There is not one shred of evidence here that any of these appointments were made to, to use Senator Specter’s words, to, to, to interfere with an ongoing investigation or case. Not one shred of evidence. This is a tempest in a teapot and, and, and the president—everybody admits that the president—these people served at the pleasure of the president. What happened here is, the president’s goals and purposes were to go after immigration smuggling cases, gun cases, so they get tough on the misuse of guns, on pornography cases. And some of these people were not doing that. Now, where they got in problems is they, they said there were performance problems. What they meant, it seemed to me by the so-called word in performance, was that these people were not following up on these cases.

Take Carol Lam, for instance. Carol Lam was raised on your program, Tim, by Schumer. Carol Lam, it’s amazing to me she wasn’t fired earlier because for three years members of the Congress had complained that there had been all kinds of border patrol capture of these people but hardly any prosecutions. She was a former law professor, no prosecutorial experience, and the former campaign manager in Southern California for Clinton, and they’re trying to say that this administration appoints people politically? Of course they do. That’s what these positions are. But politically they’ve appointed people who have been approved by the Justice Department—the Judiciary Committee, in most cases, who have served well, are strong people and, and, frankly, these, these seven were really mishandled.

One more from earlier in the show:

An interesting cough by Hatch from the same transcript:

MR. RUSSERT: So now we have the chief of staff saying attorney general talked to Karl Rove about the performance of U.S. attorneys. Do you believe that the attorney general has misled the nation?

SEN. HATCH: I don’t believe he has. My experience with General Gonzales is that (coughs) excuse me—is that he is a very honest man.

Update: Rachel Maddow

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TPM timeline

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2010.03.03 Hatching more lies?

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