TPM News

This evening, as you probably know by now, the Justice Department turned over 3,000 pages of documents to Congress. And hard working staffers are working the scanners to pump out pdfs at an impressive rate. You can see the result here.

We'll get started early in the morning on those documents (and in the meantime, please let us know what you find).

Also, just for contrast, here are two statements out about the release tongiht. One from the Justice Department:

"Taking a virtually unprecedented step, the Justice Department released 3,000 pages of documents today on the dismissal of the eight U.S. Attorneys and has offered to make Department officials available voluntarily for "on the record" interviews and hearings. The Attorney General wants the Congress and the American people to understand both the reasons for the Department's decisions and its efforts to inform Congress about this matter. The Department did not remove the U.S. Attorneys for improper reasons, such as to prevent or retaliate for a particular prosecution in a public corruption matter. Because the American public must have confidence that such considerations did not factor into the decisions here, the Justice Department is being transparent and forthcoming with the Congress."

And from House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI), who's marvelling at the DoJ's ability to withhold some of the most important information while drowning Congress in documents:

"While I appreciate the Department's willingness to make these voluminous documents regarding the U.S. Attorney firings available to us for review, I am disappointed that they are denying other important information to Congress without any real authority to do so. This investigation has uncovered serious charges of misleading congress, obstructing justice, and abuse of power. I hope we can resolve the outstanding issues over redactions, but if necessary, we are prepared to press ahead to get to the bottom of this growing scandal, using subpoenas if necessary."

U.S. News gives a taste of what's to come: day after Justice Department Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty testified on Capitol Hill about the reasons why eight U.S. attorneys were fired summarily, a Justice Department spokesman, Brian Roehrkasse -- on travel abroad with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales -- sent an E-mail to McNulty* saying Gonzales was unhappy with McNulty's testimony regarding why U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins of Arkansas had been let go.

That email, U.S News reports, is "causing the most concern" at the Justice Department as they ready to turn over thousands more.

Now, why would Gonzales have been upset at McNulty? McNulty had testified about Cummins that "there was a change made there that was not connected to, as was said, the performance of the incumbent, but more related to the opportunity to provide a fresh start with a new person in that position."

So, in other words, McNulty publicly admitted that Cummins was pushed out for no other reason than to give Karl Rove's deputy a shot (which was, by the way, the truth). And that made Gonzales upset. And it looks like there might be more in that email.

Update: An update to the post adds some detail: "In the E-mail to McNulty, Roehrkasse said the attorney general disagreed with his characterization of Cummins's firing, because Gonzales believed that it was at least in part performance related." Right, "in part" performance related, just like all the other firings? Too bad they couldn't keep their stories straight.

*Late Update: The Justice Department has responded to the story with a statement to U.S. News:

The attorney general was "upset," Roehrkasse said, because he believed that "Bud Cummins' removal involved performance considerations and it was that aspect of the DAG's testimony that the Attorney General was questing."

And apparently the email is not sent from Gonzales' spokesman to McNulty, but rather to Kyle Sampson and another DoJ spokesperson.

Note: A Justice Department official also laments to U.S. News amidst the chaos of collecting hundreds and hundreds of documents: "You have no idea ... how bad it is here." I think that's another way of saying that you shouldn't hold your breath for the timely delivery of those documents tonight.

Uh-oh. From The Politico:

Republican officials operating at the behest of the White House have begun seeking a possible successor to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, whose support among GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill has collapsed, according to party sources familiar with the discussions.

Among the names floated Monday by administration officials are Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and White House anti-terrorism coordinator Frances Townsend. Former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson is a White House prospect. So is former solicitor general Theodore B. Olson, but sources were unsure if he would want the job.

Republican sources also disclosed that it is now a virtual certainty that Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty, whose incomplete and inaccurate congressional testimony about the prosecutors helped precipitate the crisis, will also resign shortly. Officials were debating whether Gonzales and McNulty should depart at the same time or whether McNulty should go a day or two after Gonzales.

The House and Senate judiciary committees want to hear from Karl Rove, and it looks like there's going to be a fight before they do. But Rove has already spoken twice on the U.S. attorney firings, and on both occasions, he auditioned a talking point that provides an excellent case for firing Carol Lam -- the only problem with it being that it's not true.

On March 8th, Rove said that Lam had been fired because "[she] refused to file immigration cases… at the direction of the Attorney General, she was asked to file, and she said I don’t want to make that a priority in my office."

One week later, he said that Lam had made a "principled decision... that she would not commit resources to prosecute immigration offenses. She made a decision that that was not going to be a priority of her office. The United States Department of Justice asked her to make it so, she did not."

Now, no one else, either from the Justice Department or the White House, has made a similar assertion. And that's because, as Lam testified repeatedly under oath before Congress, she was never asked (let alone "directed") to change her office's handling of immigration cases.

But that's not all. As recounted numerous times on this blog, the Justice Department wrote a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) vouching for Lam's handling of immigration cases just three months before she was fired. The letter stated that Lam had committed "fully half of its Assistant U.S. Attorneys to prosecute criminal immigration cases," and noted that the number of alien smuggling cases filed in her office had been "rising sharply." Three months later, she was fired.

In other words, Rove's assertion is not only a lie, but a damned lie.

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As I wrote before, every justification given for the Justice Department's firing of the U.S. attorneys is eventually proven not just to be bogus, but spectacularly bogus.

The cases of Nevada's Daniel Bogden and Arizona's Paul Charlton are no different. As Salon reports, among last week's trove of documents from the Justice Department was one email that showed officials fretting that Bogden and Chartlon were "unwilling to take good cases" presented to them by the obscenity task force.

Except, of course, not only were those cases not "good," but both Charlton and Bogden ended up taking them on, Salon's Mark Follman reports.

Nevertheless, the email appears to have been included in last week's release in order to "shore up [the Justice Departments'] explanation for the firings," as Salon puts it.

But as the piece makes clear, this email might in and of itself have been a conscious "shoring up" of the firing. Daniel Bogden and Paul Charlton, after all, didn't make an appearance on Kyle Sampson's hit list until September of 2006. Was it a coincidence that just one week after Sampson included Bogden and Charlton as among those "we should now consider pushing out" in a September 13th email, DoJ officials started complaining in writing about the two of them? Maybe, maybe not. But with this story, suspicion has become the rule.

Yesterday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) revealed that U.S. Attorney Carol Lam had notified the Justice Department on May 10, 2006, that she intended to execute search warrants on CIA executive director Dusty Foggo. The next day, Alberto Gonzales' chief of staff Kyle Sampson wrote in an email that "the real problem we have right now" is with Lam, adding that they should have a replacement ready by November.

U.S. News gives a little more context for Sampson's urgency:

In politically sensitive cases, the U.S. attorney's office notifies senior Justice Department leadership of developments in the case by sending what's known as an urgent report.

In this case, the U.S. attorney in San Diego sent an urgent report to Gonzales and Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty at 10:16 a.m. on May 10, notifying them of the imminent search....

"The phone calls would have been flying," says a former Justice official who has worked closely with the CIA. "The CIA would be jumping up and down and putting pressure to stop it or slow it down."

Many intelligence sources say the concern would not have been over Foggo personally–because he was generally "despised"–but that the CIA would have had an institutional interest in keeping itself out of any scandal.

"There would have been a two-pronged attack," says the former Justice official, "to protect the agency and to get rid of Lam." Even though Foggo had quit the agency, he still had many friends there who viewed themselves as being at risk.

"It's second nature to the CIA," says the former official. "Somebody's causing trouble. Get rid of them."

There are a couple good articles out from The New York Times and Roll Call (sub. req.) this morning on the potential upcoming battle between the administration and Congress.

The central conflict is simple: The administration seems determined to avoid Karl Rove and other White House aides from testifying under oath, particularly public testimony; and leading Democrats are determined to get it.

But where the conflict goes is not simple: in fact, there seems to be no real precedent for the conflict -- while many of President Clinton's aides testified before Congress, that was done voluntarily, and as the Times reports, "each administration, in effect, writes its own rules." So if the White House says no, and the congressional committees go ahead, as they've warned they will do, to issue subpoenas for Karl Rove's testimony, it's not clear what happens next.

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From this morning's press gaggle with Tony Snow.

Q: Does the White House feel, at this point, that it knows everything it needs to know about Gonzales to decide whether he should remain in office? Or are you still fact-gathering?

SNOW: The president's said he's got confidence in Al Gonzales. This is not fact-gathering on whether to allow him to maintain his employment. We hope he stays.

Q: He will remain in office for the rest of the administration?

SNOW: Well, we hope so.


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