The word is out. The White House was involved in the Department of Justice (DOJ) decision to fire U.S. Attorneys who had failed to "investigate" corruption involving Democratic candidates for the House and Senate, and/or possible voter fraud by Democrats in closely contested elections. The DOJ point man, D. Kyle Sampson, Attorney General's Gonzalez' Chief of Staff, resigned yesterday.
The Times' reports that Harriet E. Miers, the White House counsel looked into replacing all U.S. Attorneys but, with Mr. Sampson, decided that was "inadvisable." Instead, in January 2006, Sampson sent the White House a list of seven prosecutors whom he regarded as candidates for dismissal.
Two months later, March, 2006, Republican Senator Arlen Specter slipped a provision into the revised version of the Patriot Act that had not been approved or even debated by the House or the Senate. He did it at a midnight meeting at which only Republicans were present. It revoked the Senate's power to confirm appointment of all U.S. Attorneys. The President named the U.S. Attorney and he had the job, relinquishing a traditional Senate power. Why the secrecy? Why the rush? Was it purely coincidental?
Given the circumstances, I think the Judiciary Committee, of which Specter is the ranking member, should now take the Senators testimony. Did he amend the Patriot Act at the request of the White House or the DOJ? Why did he choose to surrender a historical Senatorial prerogative?
Paul Krugman reminds us, in The New York Times brings up another question. In September '06, just before the election, Chris Christie, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, brought subpoenas "in connection with allegations of corruption on the part of Senator Bob Menendez," the Democratic candidate for the Senate. The subpoenas were leaked and became front page news.
Karl Rove had made no secret that the 2006 campaign would feature Democratic corruption as an antidote to Abramoff, Cunningham, Fry, etc. He had polled on their effectiveness and seemed satisfied with the results and Menendez' opponent, Tom Kean, ran commercials based on the allegations. Nevertheless, Menendez retained his seat. Christie retained his job while other prosecutors who had failed to heed suggestions that they launch pre-election investigations into possible Democrat corruption are now out of work. The Judiciary Committee must take testimony from Christie: Were there any suggestions from anyone that he issue subpoenas before election day? If so, from whom?
Two other prosecutors (Washington and New Mexico) had refused to bring fraud charges in statewide elections decided by less than 5,000 votes. They were fired, too. It seems clear now that one of the Bush credentials for appointment as U.S. Attorney is the willingness and the ability to challenge any close election that has gone to the Democrats.
The big question Krug man raises is what other actions will U.S. Attorneys have to take at their master's bidding? All of this smacks of Tammany Hall, the political organization that ran New York City from 1860 - 1960. Every appointee, every employee in New York City was expected to vote for and get out the vote for the Democratic candidate. Smear campaigns were expected and enjoyed because we all knew that's the way local politics operated. It's that sort of politics that Bush and Rove and Gonzalez have elevated to the national level.