« And if Domenici Won't Support No Confidence, Ask Him Who His First Choice Was... | Main | "None of this Meant that Ashcroft Was a Closet Liberal" »

May 19, 2007


The NYTimes editorial had it right today, the real person to blame for all these scandals isn't the aides (Libby, Rumsfeld, Tenet, Gonzo, Bremmer, Miers) the person responsible is Bush (I'd also blame Rove, twist my arm), yet W must-be-portrayed as majestically unaware of anything that happens around him.

George will have to do it, and won't, until he's had his head shoved into the steaming pile that it's become.

Don't hold your breath waiting.

W. feels he is playing for posterity - he couldn't care less what people think of him now. Criticism of Gonzalez just makes him dig his heels in.

But it does look like the DoJ is grinding to a halt and will become impotent if Abu G. remains in charge. I can see Republicans voting no confidence, but they will not impeach him - their base would hate them for caving to Democrats. To them, any impeachment will be nothing but payback for Clinton.

The only way I see out of it is for W. to get Abu G. to resign over Memorial weekend, and slip in a recess appointment - I think the right-wing base would be fine with that. As we saw from the last debate, they're fine with torture.

If W. talks up his immigration ideas, he may raise a lot of animus against himself in congress. But right now, even though W. is a legless duck, I see a lot of learned helplessness toward the White House among Republicans (and some Democrats) in congress. Furthermore, electoral politics have changed so that there isn't much payoff in playing to the reasonable center - it's all about feeding red-meat to the base.

Keep the links coming, EW--you're definitely on the right track. Kind of interesting that there was no article about the USAs conference and Gonzo until Saturday. Another one of those "timelines" (or a timeline within a timeline, in this case). McNulty, still on the job, took the Monday morning slot, had a nice chat with the disgruntled troops (not counting the "loyal Bushies" in the group--who does Paulouse hang out with at the hotel bar at this event? that's what I want to know!), then stepped out to resign. He was ready to do it, and probably wanted to do what was right for the department and tell all the USAs first what he was going to do. I'm guessing he said something about hanging in there, this will all be over at some point. Did Gonzo know it was going to happen? Then, yes, a fat DoJ Tuesday follows, Gonzo dumps on McNulty while Comey takes his spot next to his pal Fitz in the history books. Gonzo hops a flight down to San Antonio, heading in to meet the troops. Good times.

You'd think that someone with an actual job as a reporter (unlike us) would be following Gonzo around at this point. And no one is hanging around San Antonio when all the USAs are meeting? Even after McNulty resigns? How about a sports reporter covering the Spurs and Suns (although they had their own travesty to deal with, but still)?

Gotta give Gonzo a little credit, at least, for going through the motions at this point. It's a relentless onslaught, and his rationale for hanging around is absurd, but being a true believer will take you a long way. He's a caricature at this point, amusing fodder for Schumer who is getting blunt and saying stuff like "why would we talk to him anymore? He's just going to lie and say he doesn't remember." It's incredible, unprecedented, but a good rule of thumb for the entire Bush presidency is that just when you think things can't get weirder or more insane, stuff twists around a few more times with a nice dose of spite thrown in. Gonzo blaming McNulty just as Comey starts spilling is a classic example.

Speaking of the USA convention, I'm still wondering about McKay's mention of Gonzo's speech when he came into the job, how all the USAs work for the president. I wish somebody had asked Comey about it or it showed up somewhere. But it sounds like Gonzo didn't feel like singing that tune on Wednesday. Times change.


You're right. I was actually monitoring the SA news to see if they printed anything. Nothing. But then Eggen has really done great work on this story, I'm sure Goldstein has a lot of trust among some corners of the USA-sphere. So I suspect news of this meeting was meant to come out, in the appropriate outlet, in its appropriate time.

I'm not sure how much of this is being stage managed. But I'm willing to be there's a lot less coincidence here than it appears.

Most everyone keeps looking to get rid of Gonzo. The real story is is in Comey's testimony. Or should I say alleged felonies by Bush et al. Gonzo will never go with out Bush's ok. Bush cannot afford to let him go because there is no one to replace him who can be confirmed by the Senate. Gonzo goes and the house of Bush will begin to more then teter. Schumer is a former USA. He and the other former USA's on the SJC are slowly but surely building the case against Bush Co. Except for Hatch. This is going to take time. Gonzo going is strictly peanuts. Besides Bush can use the recess appointment to replace Gonzo. So where does this go. Monica should hopefully be a start. Better is Goldsmith and Mr. and Mrs. Ashcroft testimony.I would be real interested in hearing who called Ashcroft's hospital room and spoke with Mrs. A.

It is easy enough to prevent recess appointments.

Recess appointments simply cannot occur if the Democrats avoid going into recess by keeping the appropriate number of congresspersons in D.C. over the Memorial Day weekend.

Even if there is only a 1% chance that Bush would try a recess appointment for the Attorney General position (and I believe it is much higher than that), the Democrats in Congress owe it to the American people to do everything in their power to eliminate this possibility. If a few Democrats need to stay in D.C. when they'd rather be on vacation, so be it.

Why do I believe a recess appointment is within the realm of possibility? Well, it makes sense for Bush on a number of levels.

*The pressure to get rid of Gonzales is likely to continue to mount over time, to the point where even Bush may not be able to resist. Why not get rid of him now and use the recess to appoint, thereby avoiding the public spectacle of confirmation hearings for a replacement?

*Bush looks like he is addressing the problems in the DOJ by taking action on Gonzales. Bush counts on the media to focus on the resignation of Gonzales and to gloss over the matter of the recess appointment itself.

*If the Democrats complain about the use of the recess appointment mechanism, the general public will not be particularly sympathetic because the impropriety of recess appointments isn't something that most people understand.

*If Bush appoints someone like Hatch, he will still have Gonzales-level legal "flexibility" to operate as he chooses. And the underlying realities notwithstanding, Hatch has a certain gravitas that will help Bush from a PR perspective.

Do folks agree that these fears are justified?

I am not certain the recess appointment powers apply to Cabinet Members -- but just the same, someone ought to ask Reid or Leahy about this directly. They are the ones who can prevent it by assigning two Senators to sit in the chamber and allow the slow roll call go on and on.

Since it is Memorial Day Weekend, maybe they could, while they are at it, read into the record the names of the dead from Iraq and Afghanistan.


Thanks for pointing that out - a lot of people have been kicking around the possibility of a recess appointment, but I haven't been able to figure out definitively whether Bush actually has this power.

The other day, Looseheadprop, in a comment at FDL, seemed to suggest that Bush does have this power.

I certainly hope that he doesn't, but I am going to assume that he does until we can confirm one way or the other.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.

The story told from the perspective of bit players far from the main action. That is how the whole DOJ mess sounds to me.

I think Abramoff and Cunningham are important stories, and part of the reason for politicizing DOJ. I think that systematic voter fraud campaigns to suppress the brown vote are also part of the reason.

But I think there is at laast one more out there that is bigger. Just a hunch. But there is something odd about the attitudes. Some imperative that dwarfs normal policical concerns.

Might be connected to wiretapping. Don't know. But I have a feeling that this administration is sitting on something big. And determined to keep the lid on.

My guess is that it will work.

The power of the Executive to make recess appointments extends to any political appointee including cabinet members. Article 2, Section 2, Clause 3 of the Constitution gives the power to any Federal vacancies.

Sara, are those the requirements to avoid a recess-at least two senators present during normal business hours? If so, does that mean only weekdays have to be so covered? I know that a recess can be anything over three days, but I am not sure what it takes for a recess to not occur.

The last quote out of GWB I've heard RE Gonzo is, "I think he's doing a great job." And for GWB's purposes he is. Gonzo is doing a fantastic job, far beyond what anyone could expect of him. Gonzo is doing a great job. Rove is doing a great job. Libby did a GREAT job. The boss is happy and the rest of you can fuck off. Get it? We aren't getting rid of Gonzo without impeaching him. Not one chance in hell.

And XYZ, I certainly do think the recess appointment fear is justified. It could be used to diffuse a lot of heat. Not sure what the legal consequence would be for Gonzo, and the further questioning of Gonzo - bmaz could probably illuminate that for us.
Thus, I will revise my last statement to allow a recess appointment opportunity as the only exception to my pevious statement.

well AGAG is certainly a lousy AG and probably won't make it in that position until June. BUT, remember that this memoryless criminal was floated as a potential Supreme Court Justice. Lord have mercy!

jwp - I think there are many hidden scandals, and several lead actors who are happy for Abu G. to be their asbestos.

Speculation on the more prescient blogs leans toward your wiretapping idea, i.e. What were the NSA doing that led Goldsmith and Comey to start a revolt, what was so beyond the pale that good conservatives (even Ashcroft) were ready to resign en masse if it continued?

They probably started by tapping suspected al qaeda, and followed their leads until they were monitoring a lot of purely domestic traffic. But would that have really revolted such good soldiers?

Since Cheney and Rove's entire ethics consist of power-grabbing for the Executive branch and the right-wing, I could see it starting at al qaeda, spreading to a massive domestic search, and then giving Rove or Cheney ideas. The wiretapping had gone on for what, two years before this palace revolt?

I could easily imagine that it spilled over into dark, personal agendas in that time - spying on Democrats? Republicans even? There is nothing Rove wouldn't do to gain advantage, including schemes so subtle that Ashcroft and the FBI wouldn't even have thought to notice them happening until Goldsmith and Comey started to look at the mechanics of the wiretapping.

Legally, the resignation of Gonzales doesn't affect anything as far as law enforcement or Congressional committee questioning. You are right that sometimes the resignation of the central figure in the storm takes some of the wind out of the sails of an investigation. I am not sure it would here though, people are tired of this crap out of the administration; or so I hope.

Third Man - A lot of people who follow court and law stuff somewhat closely, including me, were absolutely convinced that Bush was going to nominate Conzales for the Supremes; but he nominated John Roberts. Roberts has been, for the most part, predictable so far. I have pretty good hopes that, over time, Roberts might be one of those justices that turn out better and far more enlightened than people thought. This isn't going to happen, if it happens at all, until there has been a Democratic administration in place and at least one, if not two, Dem appointments to the bench. Roberts is young and extremely bright; he is not a lost cause. Alito, on the other hand is a pile of dung and is a lost cause.

Rampant paranoia!

~Get rid of Gonzales! or Don't get rid of Gonzales!~

~He is a bleeding wound killing the Republicans!~ or ~He is protecting the real bad Republican asses!~

Which do you want?
What do you believe?

I don't think you know.
I doubt if the Republicans know either.

Usually in these kinds of things, it is easier to go with the given inertia/momentum and to avoid the unknown.

~He is a bleeding wound killing the Republicans!~ or ~He is protecting the real bad Republican asses!~
Which do you want?
What do you believe?

I believe both; I want neither.

Impeachment of Gonzales will allow for a full investigation (with discovery) and trial... something that Bush won't want.

I'm assuming that the big issue they are covering up is domestic spying and the establishment of a secret police, whether under the NSA auspices or as another Pentagon program, or under the FBI. Such names as Carnivore and TOTAL Information Awareness don't inspire warm fuzzy feelings. These programs don't die. They simply burrow deeper under cover.

Given the rise of the mercenary forces, my assumption isn't unreasonable. We have 150,000 soldiers and 125,000 "contractors" in Iraq. Blackwater is building additional bases in the US and taking over for the National Guard (remember Katrina?). They are only one of the mercenary companies. Bush signed Executive Orders last October 17th giving him total control over the National Guard and the ability to use them for more than their normal purposes, as well as other powers. His last State of the Union message mentioned introducing another type of militia. Many of the newest weapons are designed for "non-lethal" crowd control: microwaves and sonics.

Spying without the ability to act upon it would just get people irked. Most people don't make that much effort to protect their privacy, and there is an assumption that the government is already combining databases. Look at what Rove gave to Mehlmann for the last election: CDs for each state with street-by-street listings detailing how you voted, what car you drove, and which magazines you read. Invasion of privacy alone won't get people into the streets.

Under the War on Terror (TM), we are supposed to spy on our neighbors, and the UPS and mailman are supposed to spy, too. Is this just to raise the apprehension levels? Or is it like the no-fly lists where we don't know what information was collected from whom, and there is no way to correct it?

The danger comes when secretly-collected data is integrated with a secret police force.

Would the government fire upon its own citizens?

Kent state wasn't THAT long ago.

The new toys aren't designed for war, but to put down rebellion.

Since the DoJ is sitting atop a pinnacle combining domestic spying (FISA, the FBI, wiretaps, datamining the stream from AT&T and other providers) as well as enforcement (police, courts, prisons), it is vital for Bush to have his best buddy act like a human shield obstructing any oversight into the illegal gathering of power.

Until we have habeas corpus and our other liberties restored, we are in real danger of no longer recognizing our own country.

If Gonzales resigns (and Bush can sneak in a recess appointment), he could still be indicted and tried... but it wouldn't be under Congress, but the regular judicial system. I suspect that it wouldn't get very far under the greymail defense.

"Usually in these kinds of things, it is easier to go with the given inertia/momentum and to avoid the unknown.

LMAO. That's what the popes said about the earth being flat, slavery, and women voting.

bmaz -- I take my legal advice from the Schivo matter. That was also a recess in the Senate, but Frist left two Senators in place to, when the house passed it over, take up the special Schivo law. I think Hillary Clinton was the only Dem who stayed in town. Anyhow, two voices were enough to keep the Senate in business. This is the reason I think it needs to go to Reid and Leahy directly -- what are you going to do given your proceedural powers, to avoid a recess appointment? Remind them of Schivo. Most important, it is critical this be done in public -- no back-room promises. No Bush is more clever than they are. Leahy has already laid down the line on the qualities and qualifications he seeks in the next DAG -- so confront him, are you going to have the ability to reach that goal?

If one can't get to Reid or Leahy -- ask Robert Byrd. He knows Senate Rules in Latin and Greek. The point is the specific question needs asking.

I still think reading the names of the dead from Iraq and Afghanistan during the "recess" into the record as a Memorial Day event (realize it would be on C-Span) would be an appropriate use of the Senate Floor. Reid could even offer each Senator a slot to read half of the names from their state. (that would keep them all in DC.)

Let's confront and play to win.

I seem to remember hearing about the bedside visit to Ashcroft Moths Ago - - where was the original story about this?? anybody know?

On John Caspar's response to bmaz
when congress is not in session, the president has the power to make appointments up to and including members of his cabinet. The tragic but legal occurrence--e.g. the replacing the AG, the DAG, and 7 USA posts, for example without oversight and the truths such hearing would reveal--can be foreseen. Reid should keep the Senate in session.
It is also proposed that names of the Iraq dead be reading to justify remaining in session. Can the readers of this and other blogs be organized to a. support this move by suggesting it to Reid, b. show their support by offering to attend said session in the visitors gallery.


I'm fairly certain the first reference to the Hopistal visit was a January 1, 2006 article by Lichtblau and Risen. Note two details their sources (taken from both sides of the matter, it seems) don't fully elucidate.

Accounts differed as to exactly what was said at the hospital meeting between Mr. Ashcroft and the White House advisers. But some officials said that Mr. Ashcroft, like his deputy, appeared reluctant to give Mr. Card and Mr. Gonzales his authorization to continue with aspects of the program in light of concerns among some senior government officials about whether the proper oversight was in place at the security agency and whether the president had the legal and constitutional authority to conduct such an operation.

It is unclear whether the White House ultimately persuaded Mr. Ashcroft to give his approval to the program after the meeting or moved ahead without it.

Came across this in another Lichtblau NYT article, 5/6/2004 (emphasis mine)

"In Mr. Ashcroft's absence, James Comey, the deputy attorney general, will effectively be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the department, although he will not assume the title of acting attorney general.

''To the extent that the attorney general is hospitalized or incapacitated,'' the senior official said, Mr. Comey has the power to carry out virtually all of the attorney general's duties."

Full article is here

Does anyone know if Lichtblau is correct? Was Comey acting AG or not - does it matter if he 'assumed the title' or not?

Does anyone know if Lichtblau is correct? Was Comey acting AG or not - does it matter if he 'assumed the title' or not?

according to Comey, he acted as "acting Attorney General" to wit:

"The attorney general was taken that very afternoon to George Washington Hospital, where he went into intensive care and remained there for over a week. And I became the acting attorney general. And over the next week -- particularly the following week, on Tuesday -- we communicated to the relevant parties at the White House and elsewhere our decision that as acting attorney general I would not certify the program as to its legality and explained our reasoning in detail, which I will not go into here."

(note that Ashcroft did not go to the hospital until that evening)


"And as [Ashcroft] laid back down, he said, "But that doesn't matter, because I'm not the attorney general. There is the attorney general," and he pointed to me, and I was just to his left."

My best guess is that Comey's official designation as "acting attorney general" did not happen until Ashcroft was told that he would require surgery and full anesthesia. Since the surgery happened on Tuesday the 9th, the official transfer of power may not have happened until the 8th.

Though it raises an interesting question.

Did Ashcroft and Comey have a formal decision about Comey becoming the "acting" before the hospital scene happened? That is, did they deliberately transfer power because they thought they might need the legal backup?

Just a guess, nothing to back this up, but wouldn't the number 2 man at DOJ automatically become "acting AG" upon the death or incapacitation, even temporary, of the AG? I do know this, there is precedence for the proposition that being on your back in a hospital under a morphine drip is legally "incapacitating". If so, then then the question of existence of a formal declaration is moot.

Yeah, I guess you're right bmaz. That would make sense, legally, wouldn't it.

in re hospital visit: Thanks, Marcy.

I wish I could do more than just rave a shout out about this stuff. I did read your book. It's amazing. I just can't believe that people won't open their eyes to so much malfeasance at the highest level of our government, The Presidency.

Have you seen "V (for Vendetta)" ?


Yes, in fact I did a long post on the interpretation of Count of Monte Cristo in V for Vendetta.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Where We Met

Blog powered by Typepad