are “[un]candid” and “misspoke” against the law?

Posted on Friday 31 August 2007

The Justice Department’s inspector general says he is looking into whether the outgoing attorney general was candid during congressional hearings.

The Justice Department’s inspector general acknowledged Thursday that he was examining whether outgoing Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales made false or misleading statements to Congress about the National Security Agency’s terrorist surveillance program, the fired U.S. attorneys affair and other subjects.

Responding to a congressional query, Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said his office was investigating Gonzales’ conduct as part of several ongoing probes into the activities of department lawyers on Gonzales’ watch. Though it had long been assumed that the statements Gonzales had made would be part of those inquiries, it was the first public confirmation by the department’s internal watchdog.

"You identified five issues and asked that we investigate whether the statements made by the attorney general were intentionally false, misleading or inappropriate," Fine wrote in a letter to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.). "The OIG has ongoing investigations that relate to most of the subjects addressed by the attorney general’s testimony that you identified."
Gonzales also has come under attack for telling members of Congress that there was little dissent within the Bush administration about the legality of a warrantless electronic surveillance program that was launched by the NSA after the Sept. 11 attacks.

But that appeared to be contradicted in testimony by a former deputy attorney general, who said several top Justice officials at one point threatened to resign over a disagreement with the White House.

Without identifying the program, James B. Comey testified that he and other Justice officials were very concerned about its legality, which led to an unusual hospital-room standoff in 2004 between Gonzales and then-Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft. Comey, acting for Ashcroft, had refused to approve the program; Gonzales, then the White House counsel, tried to persuade the bedridden Ashcroft to countermand Comey, although Ashcroft refused.

In July, Gonzales’ testimony was further undercut by FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, who told the House Judiciary Committee that he had had serious reservations about the wiretapping program.

In an Aug. 16 letter, Leahy asked Fine to assess other statements by Gonzales, including testimony that he had not talked with other Justice employees about the ongoing U.S. attorney probe because he did not want to be perceived as trying to influence the investigation. A former top aide who was involved in the firings, Monica M. Goodling, subsequently testified that Gonzales had tried to engage her in a discussion about the series of events leading to the dismissal of the prosecutors and that the approach had made her "uncomfortable."

Gonzales has said that he misspoke when he told reporters that he was not involved in selecting U.S. attorneys to be fired. He has stood by his testimony that there was no internal dissent over the anti-terrorism program — but acknowledged there was dissent with other intelligence activities that remain classified. Gonzales has also denied trying to influence the testimony of Goodling, saying he was only attempting to reassure a distraught employee that she had done nothing wrong.
Alberto Gonzales wasn’t uncandid or misspeaking. He was lying to a Congressional Committee. At issue is what to do about it. Reading the bio of DOJ Inspector General Glenn A. Fine, he sounds "fine." But let’s suppose he concludes that Alberto Gonzales was guilty of being uncandid and misspeaking. What then? I believe the next step would be a DOJ Special Prosecutor, and then a Grand Jury. If they indict him, there’s then a trial [and a Presidential pardon]. It’s not such a pretty picture. Sounds kind of "Scooter-ish" to me. 

So far, Leahy, Schumer, Waxman, Conyers, and their committees have been extremely successful. They’ve run off Harriet Miers, Sara Taylor, Karl Rove, Alberto Gonzales, and most of the rest of Bush’s corrupt DOJ. The block now is in the fact that there’s no Attorney General, and little likelihood that there will be an effective Attorney General between now and January 2009. If there’s a case in all of this to pursue, I’m not sure these guys are the one to go after. I’m for going after Karl Rove and the missing emails. I’m for going after the records Bush and Cheney are hiding behind the Executive Privilege firewall.

The Bush Administration is unquestionably corrupt and many different levels and that needs exposing. The question to me is, "where are they vulnerable?" That is an answerable question. They’re very "short sighted." They’ve react to the problems in front of them without much thought to what’s down the line. So, "uh oh. Joe Wilson wrote an op-ed. Let’s out his wife." or "Comey won’t sign the N.S.A. authorization. Al, go to the hospital and get Ashcroft to sign it." or "We’ve got problem precincts. Let’s prosecute voter fraud and scare them." or "They’re trying to get us out of Iraq. Let’s have a Surge." The examples are endless…

So, given that. There are several points to chase. If there’s anything to pursue about Gonzales, it’s his refusal to answer the question, "Did the President order you to go to Ashcroft’s hospital room?" If he won’t answer that directly, issue a Contempt of Congress citation and send him diectly to jail. Then, there are the emails. "Hell, I’ll just use the RNC account for my email. That stuff gets erased monthly." But mostly, Bush is petulent. Anyone close to Bush has dealt with his short-sightedness and heard him spout off. So take all the claims of Executive Privilege preventing people close to the President from testifying to the Supreme Court by issuing a series of Contempt of Congress citations. The only fish in this pond that matter are named George W. Bush, Karl Rove, and Dick Cheney. It won’t take many more stories like the one Comey told to bring down this House of Cards. Investigating Alberto Gonzales and the DOJ gang is an interesting aside, for thoroughness. But it’s time to go after the big fish head on…

UPDATE: I love Waxman!

A Democratic House leader asked presidential counsel Fred Fielding on Thursday to turn over a report first requested three months ago about the White House’s problems with lost e-mail.

In a letter to Fielding, Rep. Henry Waxman set a Sept. 10 deadline for the White House to turn over information about the missing e-mail, a problem that apparently was discovered by administration officials in 2005.

The letter from Waxman, D-Calif., revealed new details about the issue that came from two White House lawyers who briefed Waxman’s staff about problems archiving electronic messages. White House e-mail problems first came to light during a special prosecutor’s investigation into whether someone on President Bush’s staff illegally leaked a CIA agent’s identity and again during congressional inquiries into the role of presidential aides in firings of U.S. attorneys.

At a May 29 briefing, Keith Roberts, deputy general counsel for the White House Office of Administration, said a review apparently found that on some days a very small number of e-mails were preserved and that on some days no e-mails were preserved at all, Waxman’s letter stated.

An analysis by the White House Office of the Chief Information Officer summarizing these findings was presented to the White House counsel’s office, said Waxman’s letter, which requested the information by Sept. 10.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said Waxman’s letter is being reviewed and that the administration will respond "expeditiously."

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