Thursday, June 14, 2007

Is Alberto Gonzales Approaching His Wolfowitz Moment?

Paul Wolfowitz’s moment of truth and (effectively) his firing, wasn’t even remotely connected to paying big bucks to his girlfriend. Wolfie’s real downfall was predicated on gross mismanagement at the World Bank and, as usually happens with a mis-manager, the thorough trashing of subordinates.

Paulwolfowitz2 Paul Wolfowitz’s moment of truth and (effectively) his firing, wasn’t even remotely connected to paying big bucks to his girlfriend. Wolfie’s real downfall was predicated on gross mismanagement at the World Bank and, as usually happens with a mis-manager, the thorough trashing of subordinates.

Decoded, Wolfowitz was brought down by no one left to speak up--a bizarre reversal of 'we will stand down as they stand up.'

So, Dan Eggen’s article in today’s Washington Post is prescient;

The Justice Department is investigating whether Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales sought to influence the testimony of a departing senior aide during a March meeting in Gonzales's office, according to correspondence released today.

In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the two officials who are leading an internal Justice Department investigation of the dismissal of nine U.S. attorneys last year said their inquiry includes the Gonzales meeting, which was revealed during testimony last month from former Gonzales aide Monica M. Goodling.

"This is to confirm that the scope of our investigation does include this matter," wrote Glenn A. Fine, the inspector general, and H. Marshall Jarrett, counsel of the Office of Professional Responsibility.

The disclosure could represent a serious legal threat to the embattled attorney general. Fine's office is empowered to refer matters for criminal prosecution if warranted.

Perhaps you read that with eyes half closed, as did I. Yeah, Justice investigating itself—big deal. The part about Fine’s office being empowered and the possibility of criminal prosecution, both residing within the same sentence, got my attention.

Glennfine Glenn Fine is a non-partisan (as nearly as any of us can claim that distinction) Inspector General, elevated to that position from inside the Justice Department during the Clinton administration.
Fine appears not to be a guy who is likely to roll over politically. The parsing of details comes down to a meeting between Gonzales and Monica Golding, prior to her testimony before the Monicagoodling2 Senate.

Goodling testified that Gonzales had laid out his general recollection of events surrounding the prosecutor dismissals during a meeting between the two in March, as Goodling was preparing to leave the department. Gonzales asked whether Goodling "had any reaction to his iteration," and she said the conversation made her "a little uncomfortable" because of ongoing investigations into the issue, according to her testimony.

"I didn't know that it was maybe appropriate for us to talk about that at that point, and so I just didn't," Goodling testified. "As far as I can remember, I just didn't respond."

Gonzales has said in a statement that he "never attempted to influence or shape the testimony or public statements of any witness," including Goodling, and that his comments "were intended only to comfort her in a very difficult period of her life."

An ‘iteration’ (as compared to comforting) is a repetition and a lawyer asking another lawyer if they had any ‘reaction’ to their iteration is perilously close to inquiring as to whether they think they’re being coached. That would be a no-no and it could be a criminal no-no, depending upon what was said--and if the possibility of perjury was sneaking around anywhere inside that ‘iteration.’

SenpatrickleahyRepublicans and particularly the White House have been pressing the opinion that Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has been on nothing more than a partisan Democratic a fishing expedition.

In their view, the president can hire and fire U.S. Attorneys at will. Which is true. What Gonzales may not do is to use the Justice Department for partisan political purposes. He also may not act illegally when dealing with Leahy’s committee.

So far, Alberto has gotten by with a failed memory, an altogether missing sense of personal shame and total disregard for the good of the department which he was chosen to run. Chosen by the president and confirmed by the very Senate that just came within a whisker of painting him with a ‘no confidence’ vote.

Bushgonzales It’s been a sad and ugly performance thus far, but Gonzales is very nearly Bush’s last standing nominee—at least the last one that is personally close to him. If George Bush can brazen this one out (and he thinks he can), he will certainly do it. He'll ride it out, no matter the cost to the reputation of the Justice Department or (for what little reputation is left) his own.

But Wolfowitz, another of the long list of departed who enjoyed the ‘full confidence’ of the president, ultimately left the World Bank because the employees hated his guts and hated what he was doing to their institution.

Justice’s Mission Statement reads;

To enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law; to ensure public safety against threats foreign and domestic; to provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; to seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.

Theirs is a proud tradition of separation from politics. Justice has ten times as many employees as the World Bank and they are, through no fault of their own, white-hot with shame over how their institution has been dragged through the slime of Alberto Gonzales’ ethical failures. All of Alberto's top people have resigned. That’s a mirror of the resignations surrounding Wolfowitz, except for the fact that the Justice resignations go Albertogonzalesdeeper to the bone.

Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee in April that he had not talked to any potential witnesses about the firings "because of the fact that I haven't wanted to interfere with this investigation and department investigations."

It will be interesting to see if an internal investigation by the Inspector General of the Justice Department is able to do what the Congress of the United States has thus far been unable to accomplish.

112,500 federal employees at Justice are hoping, this time, for justice.


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