Monday, July 30, 2007


Crooks & Liars


video_wmv Watch It (Thanks to David and Dan for videos)

Alberto Gonzales is done. First Newt Gingrich stabs the Attorney General’s chances by saying that Bush must replace him because the highest legal office in the land should be filled by a person with the highest perceived sense of ethics. But the knife is twisted all that more painfully by Chris Wallace’s admission at the end:

By the way, we invited White House officials and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee to defend Attorney General Gonzales. We had no takers.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Blowing Down Doors


Yet another dispiriting revelation from Alberto Gonzales' hearing today.

During Gonzales' last hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) questioned him about a memo from Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2002 that had substantially increased White House officials' access to information about Justice Department cases. Under Clinton, only four White House officials had been authorized to discuss pending criminal investigations or cases with only three top Department officials. Ashcroft's 2002 memo had blown the door off that arrangement, raising the number of officials who could discuss such cases from seven to 447 (417 on the White House side). Under Whitehouse's questioning, Gonzales had professed to have been "concerned about that as White House counsel.”

Apparently not so much.

Whitehouse questioned him today about a May, 2006 memo which Gonzales himself had signed while attorney general. You can see it yourself here.

The memo widened White House access to case information even more and seemed to have been crafted with special attention to enabling the Vice President's staff, specifically his chief of staff and counsel, to have the unambiguous authority to discuss ongoing cases with Department officials. Given Cheney's chief of staff David Addington's extraordinary reach into the Justice Department (and the prosecution of Cheney's former chief of staff), that's cause for a raised eyebrow.

Gonzales seemed to have been taken off guard by Whitehouse's questions:

Whitehouse: "What-on-earth business does the Office of the Vice President have in the internal workings of the Department of Justice with respect to criminal investigations, civil investigations, and ongoing matters?"

Gonzales: "As a general matter, I would say that's a good question."

Whitehouse: "Why is it here, then?"

Gonzales: “I’d have to go back and look at this.”

"The memo that has your signature makes it worse," Whitehouse said. As Whitehouse plowed on, Gonzales admitted of his own memo, "I must say I'm troubled by this." Gonzales cautioned, however, that he didn't know whether officials from the vice president's office had indeed taken advantage of such access.

Whitehouse ended by observing that it was difficult to take seriously Gonzales' promise to "restore the Department of Justice," seeing as how he'd apparently worked to help make the Department vulnerable to politicization.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Decision Time


By Josh Marshall

Let me echo Atrios' point here about the hand-wringing consensus on Iraq among so many prestige pundits and return to the point I made back in June on TPMtv about the importance of decision in war leaders.

There does seem to be this pattern developing in which members of the WaPo-Bush consensus, having been heedless of caution when the wind was at their back have suddenly become devotees of prudence and the go-slow or rather no-go approach now that their favored policy has collapsed.

Physical courage isn't the only test of war leaders. Decision is also a key virtue. In many respects it's the key virtue for leaders since in the modern day they are seldom themselves in any physical danger. Yes, withdrawal may be a disaster. In fact, there's little doubt it will be a disaster for some players in Iraq, probably many players. But we're so deep into the pit at this point that our decision-making is inevitably constrained now to choosing from a range of disastrous policy courses and figuring out which is least bad. That's life.

I think one of the reasons for the paralysis Atrios notes is that making a major strategic choice forces us to come to grips with the disaster that is already on our hands. Perpetuating the slow-motion disaster that is the status quo is necessary to sustain our denial. But there is no virtue in paralysis and 'humility' isn't something that comes with a lot of credibility from those who had so little of it when they got us into this mess in the first place.

And one other point. I know there are many people who are for immediate withdrawal. No delays. Out in a matter of months. But I don't think that's a majority position even among those who are strongly against the war. That is because the situation is so bad and so unpredictable that it is hard to make categorical decisions before we've even got the practice started. Speaking only for myself but I suspect speaking for many others as well, the key is that we start the process. The key is that we make a category decision that the US occupation of Iraq is more the problem than the solution. Everybody is for leaving Iraq -- as Fred Hiatt might say. But saying we're going to have to make a decision in six months or after this or that improbable development means never.

For those who are trying to create a straw man argument between staying and leaving in a mad dash, that's a false dichotomy: what's necessary is that basic strategic decision -- which I think almost everyone save the president and his acolytes have made. I think quite a few people who are deeply against the war realize that getting out may not be easy or quick. The issue is starting -- not considering starting in six months, or a month, or after the Iraqis stop killing each other or after the Sunnis and Shia work out their differences about Ali and the family of the Prophet or anything else. All of those equal never because a clear-eyed look at the situation tells you that leaving is never going to be easy or free of bloodshed or, perhaps most importantly, free of the need to recognize that the whole thing was a terrible idea, a war built on deception and deceit at every level.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

MUST WATCH: BILL MOYERS JOURNAL | Impeachment Panel: Left and Right

UPDATE: Here is the whole clip from PBS:

Here is Part II:


UPDATE II: Here is the transcript

"And, you know, the founders anticipated just such a moment. If you look at the discussions in the Federalist Papers but also at the Constitutional Convention, when they spoke about impeachment, one of the things that Madison and George Mason spoke about was the notion that you needed the power to impeach particularly as regards to pardons and commutations because a president might try to take the burden of the law off members of his administration to prevent them from cooperating with Congress in order to expose wrongdoings by the president himself. And so Madison said that is why we must have the power to impeach. Because otherwise a president might be able to use his authority and pardons and such to prevent an investigation from getting to him."

via Crooks and Liars

In these clips, PBS’ Bill Moyers sits down with The Nation’s John Nichols and conservative constitutional attorney Bruce Fein from the American Freedom Agenda to discuss the crimes and abuse of power by George Bush and Dick Cheney and the need to impeach them both. While Nichols and Fein come from different ends of the political spectrum, they are in total agreement on this issue. Congress must put impeachment on the table because if they do nothing to stop Bush and Cheney now, we will see future presidents follow in their footsteps which would be a disaster for our country. This is definitely worth a look…

YouTube - BILL MOYERS JOURNAL | Impeachment Panel Excerpt | PBS

Crooks and Liars had a longer (and better quality) version of the first video below.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Think Progress » ‘We’re making progress.’

Think Progress » ‘We’re making progress.’

The course to the destruction of the Republic

"Our country is now taking so steady a course as to show by what road it will pass to destruction, to wit: by consolidation of power first, and then corruption, its necessary consequence. The engine of consolidation will be the Federal judiciary; the two other branches the corrupting and the corrupted."

Thomas Jefferson, 1821 (from P. 87 of The Assault on Reason)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Fake firm gets nuclear license in U.S. govt sting | Reuters

Fake firm gets nuclear license in U.S. govt sting | Reuters:

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Undercover investigators, working for a fake firm, obtained a license to buy enough radioactive material to build a 'dirty bomb,' amid little scrutiny from federal regulators, according to a government report obtained on Wednesday.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued the license to the dummy company in just 28 days with only a cursory review, the Government Accountability Office said in a report to be released on Thursday.

The GAO, which set up the sting, said the NRC approved the license after a couple of faxes and phones calls and then mailed it to the phony company's headquarters -- a drop box at a United Parcel Service location.

'From the date of application to the issuance of the license, the entire process lasted 28 days,' the GAO said. 'GAO investigators essentially obtained a valid materials license from the NRC without ever leaving their desks.'

The NRC oversees the U.S. nuclear industry and nuclear material safety issues.

The GAO report said its undercover agents made counterfeit copies of the license, changed the wording to remove restrictions on how much they were allowed to buy and then ordered enough radiological materials to build a dirty bomb."

president, constitution ... whatever

Excerpt from testimony of Sara Taylor
duration 1:08

What Would Happen if the Administration Continues to Defy the Subpoenas?

What Would Happen if the Administration Continues to Defy the Subpoenas?:


"Second, Congress can itself prosecute the contumacious official(s) to coerce them to comply -- a power that the Supreme Court has affirmed. See Jurney v. MacCracken, 294 U.S. 125 (1935); Anderson v. Dunn, 19 U.S. (6 Wheat.) 204 (1821); see also Groppi v. Leslie, 404 U.S. 496, 499 (1972). As Justice Scalia explained in Young v. U.S. ex rel. Vuitton et Fils, S.A., 481 U.S. at 820, this legislative prosecution authority is a constitutional anomaly of sorts -- a 'limited power of self-defense' for Congress, permissible because 'any other course 'leads to the total annihilation of the power of the House of Representatives to guard itself from contempts, and leaves it exposed to every indignity and interruption that rudeness, caprice, or even conspiracy, may meditate against it'' (quoting Anderson)."

Congress has not invoked this authority since 1935 and, as far as I know, has never used it against a current or former government official. (The closest case was probably the contempt at issue in McGrain v. Daugherty, 273 U.S. 135 (1927), which was imposed against Mally Daugherty, a bank president and the brother of resigned and disgraced Attorney General Harry Daugherty, who Congress was investigating in connection with the Teapot Dome scandal.)

from the website of the Senate Sargeant-at-Arms:

"As chief law enforcement officer of the Senate, the Sergeant at Arms is charged with maintaining security in the Capitol and all Senate buildings, as well as protection of the members themselves. The Sergeant at Arms serves as the executive officer of the Senate for enforcement of all rules of the Committee on Rules and Administration regulating the Senate Wing of the Capitol and the Senate Office Buildings and has responsibility for and immediate supervision of the Senate floor, chamber and galleries. The Sergeant at Arms is authorized to arrest and detain any person violating Senate rules, including the President of the United States."

Monday, July 09, 2007

Bush justice is a national disgrace


John S. Koppel started working for the Justice Department as a civil appellate attorney in the Reagan administration. Now, 26 years later, Koppel is so disgusted by the actions of the Bush administration, that he felt compelled to write a devastating op-ed in the Denver Post on why the president’s sense of justice is “a national disgrace.”

The piece ran last Thursday, 48 hours after the president’s scandalous commutation of Scooter Libby’s prison sentence. Given Koppel’s resentment, I get the sense that it was this decision that broke the proverbial camel’s back.

As a longtime attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, I can honestly say that I have never been as ashamed of the department and government that I serve as I am at this time.

The public record now plainly demonstrates that both the DOJ and the government as a whole have been thoroughly politicized in a manner that is inappropriate, unethical and indeed unlawful. The unconscionable commutation of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s sentence, the misuse of warrantless investigative powers under the Patriot Act and the deplorable treatment of U.S. attorneys all point to an unmistakable pattern of abuse.

In the course of its tenure since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has turned the entire government (and the DOJ in particular) into a veritable Augean stable on issues such as civil rights, civil liberties, international law and basic human rights, as well as criminal prosecution and federal employment and contracting practices. It has systematically undermined the rule of law in the name of fighting terrorism, and it has sought to insulate its actions from legislative or judicial scrutiny and accountability by invoking national security at every turn, engaging in persistent fearmongering, routinely impugning the integrity and/or patriotism of its critics, and protecting its own lawbreakers. This is neither normal government conduct nor “politics as usual,” but a national disgrace of a magnitude unseen since the days of Watergate — which, in fact, I believe it eclipses.

Keep in mind, Koppel is a current employee of the Justice Department, which means his decision to register his indignation in print, for all to see, took considerable courage. We’ve seen, all too often, the ways in which the Bush administration will crack down mercilessly on those critics who dare to speak up like this. His career is now in jeopardy.

But Koppel did it anyway, disregarding the consequences. He even notes that he expects “unlawful reprisal from extremely ruthless people who have repeatedly taken such action in the past,” but concludes, “[S]ome things must be said, whatever the risk.”

Read it, clip it, send it to your friends.


In more than a quarter of a century at the DOJ, I have never before seen such consistent and marked disrespect on the part of the highest ranking government policymakers for both law and ethics. It is especially unheard of for U.S. attorneys to be targeted and removed on the basis of pressure and complaints from political figures dissatisfied with their handling of politically sensitive investigations and their unwillingness to "play ball." Enough information has already been disclosed to support the conclusion that this is exactly what happened here, at least in the case of former U.S. Attorney David C. Iglesias of New Mexico (and quite possibly in several others as well). Law enforcement is not supposed to be a political team sport, and prosecutorial independence and integrity are not "performance problems ...

I realize that this constitutionally protected statement subjects me to a substantial risk of unlawful reprisal from extremely ruthless people who have repeatedly taken such action in the past. But I am confident that I am speaking on behalf of countless thousands of honorable public servants, at Justice and elsewhere, who take their responsibilities seriously and share these views. And some things must be said, whatever the risk.

Do you know anyone like this?

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall July 9, 2007 07:14 PM

If you do, beware!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Emperor Bush unnerves Republicans

by Andrew Sullivan

* * * *
There is no one to continue Bush’s legacy, or even defend it: no incumbent, and therefore no credible sense of continuity. You can blame the two-term limit if you wish. But the impact is the same: a president with historically weak political leverage.

It doesn’t help that none of the Republican candidates can bring himself to defend Bush’s legacy – on Iraq, on the spending binge, the failure of social security reform, the collapse of immigration reform, the implosion of the religious right or the handling of Iran and North Korea.

Bush’s response, moreover, appears to have been a lonely, surreal retreat into a bunker of curious balm. He has been inviting friendly intellectuals to lunch to buck himself up. He has watched as key aides and advisers have left, and he has found it very hard to replace them. And he gets to read charming anonymous quotes in the press like this one in The Washington Post last week from “a senior House Republican”: “Our members just wish this thing would be over. People are tired of him. There’s nobody there who can stand up to him and tell him, ‘Mr President, you’ve got to do this. You’re wrong on this.’ There’s no adult supervision. It’s like he’s oblivious. Maybe that’s a defence mechanism.”

* * * *
...In some ways the Libby commutation and the immigration stance struck Washington a little like Bush’s doomed nomination of his White House counsel, Harriet Miers, to the Supreme Court in 2005. With Dick Cheney’s view of the presidency as an extra-legal body able to ignore domestic and international law if it so wishes, this is working a few frayed nerves in the capital.

The only thing Washington loves less than a lame-duck president is a completely unpredictable lame-duck president. They are scared that he could do anything, without real consultation. The Libby decision was made just like the decision to authorise torture: it was done outside the normal channels of government, blindsiding key aides, and shocking the establishment. If he did this once – and he has done it many times – he could do it again. And so, for all his failure and polling dive, he retains the capacity for surprise. Which is the capacity for relevance.

This is all he’s got left. The mighty power of the presidency, a predilection for sudden action, and absolutely nothing to lose. This lame duck, in other words, could quack or fly without warning. And Washington, for all its increasingly open contempt for him, is rattled by the possibility. They don’t know what’s coming; but they know they’ll have to adjust.

In this, perhaps for the first time, even Republicans are having a familiar experience. They now know what it’s like to be a European with this president. And they are longing for it to be over.

Public Opinion on full Libby Pardon

Click to enlarge image.


The distribution of opinion on the pardon question (text: "Do you favor or oppose a complete presidential pardon for Mr. Libby?") is shown [above]. More.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Olbermann on the Libby Commutation


Keith Olbermann:

I accuse you, Mr. Bush, of lying this country into war.

I accuse you of fabricating in the minds of your own people, a false implied link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.

I accuse you of firing the generals who told you that the plans for Iraq were disastrously insufficient.

I accuse you of causing in Iraq the needless deaths of 3,586 of our brothers and sons, and sisters and daughters, and friends and neighbors.

I accuse you of subverting the Constitution, not in some misguided but sincerely-motivated struggle to combat terrorists, but to stifle dissent.

I accuse you of fomenting fear among your own people, of creating the very terror you claim to have fought.

I accuse you of exploiting that unreasoning fear, the natural fear of your own people who just want to live their lives in peace, as a political tool to slander your critics and libel your opponents.

I accuse you of handing part of this Republic over to a Vice President who is without conscience, and letting him run roughshod over it.

And I accuse you now, Mr. Bush, of giving, through that Vice President, carte blanche to Mr. Libby, to help defame Ambassador Joseph Wilson by any means necessary, to lie to Grand Juries and Special Counsel and before a court, in order to protect the mechanisms and particulars of that defamation, with your guarantee that Libby would never see prison, and, in so doing, as Ambassador Wilson himself phrased it here last night, of becoming an accessory to the obstruction of justice.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Fitzgerald on Libby Commutation


We fully recognize that the Constitution provides that commutation decisions are a matter of presidential prerogative and we do not comment on the exercise of that prerogative.

We comment only on the statement in which the President termed the sentence imposed by the judge as “excessive.” The sentence in this case was imposed pursuant to the laws governing sentencings which occur every day throughout this country. In this case, an experienced federal judge considered extensive argument from the parties and then imposed a sentence consistent with the applicable laws. It is fundamental to the rule of law that all citizens stand before the bar of justice as equals. That principle guided the judge during both the trial and the sentencing.

Although the President’s decision eliminates Mr. Libby’s sentence of imprisonment, Mr. Libby remains convicted by a jury of serious felonies, and we will continue to seek to preserve those convictions through the appeals process.

& see Schuster/Turley c/o C&L

Sunday, July 01, 2007

¿Constitutional Crisis Looming?


This could get ugly.

The Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the White House for information related to the U.S. Attorney purge scandal. The White House announced a few days ago that it would ignore the subpoenas. This morning on "Meet the Press," Tim Russert asked Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) what happens next.

RUSSERT: You have asked the White House and others to respond to your subpoenas. They are now invoking executive privilege, and you said this: "We will take the necessary steps to enforce our subpoenas backed by the full force of law so that Congress and the public can get to the truth behind this matter." What does that mean, full force of the law? Is -- are we headed to a constitutional crisis?

LEAHY: I would hope not. That's why I say, they -- they've chosen confrontation rather than compromise or cooperation. The other administration -- in fact, I've been here with six administrations, Democratic and Republican, they've always found a way to, to work out and get the information Congress is entitled to. [...]

RUSSERT: Are you prepared to hold the Bush White House, the vice president, the attorney general and his office under contempt of Congress?

LEAHY: That is something that the whole Congress has to vote on. In our case, in the Senate, we'd have to vote on it; in the House, they would have to vote on it. I can't...

RUSSERT: Would you go that far?

LEAHY: If they don't cooperate, yes, I'd go that far. I mean, this is very important to the American people. If you're going to have -- for example, the, the bottom line on this, the U.S. attorneys investigation, is that we had people manipulation law enforcement. You -- law enforcement has, can't be partisan. Law enforcement can't decide, "Well, we'll arrest this person because they're a Democrat but not this person because they're Republican" or the other way around. And that is why I think you've found so many Republicans and Democrats who have been so critical and, and many of those, the most critical, are, like myself, former prosecutors.

If Congress passes a contempt-of-Congress measure, lawmakers would effectively be formally accusing the White House of a crime, which would then be referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia for consideration. Russert asked Leahy this morning, "Are you sure the U.S. Attorney would prosecute?" The chairman responded, "Well, I think it'd be very difficult for him not to." (Crooks & Liars has a video clip of the interview.)

Stay tuned.

-- Steve Benen