Now It Makes Sense

I have been saying for almost two months that this Alberto Gonzales/US Attorneys scandal is serious business that will only get worse. Today the dam is starting to break with an article in National Journal.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales signed a highly confidential order in March 2006 delegating to two of his top aides -- who have since resigned because of their central roles in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys -- extraordinary authority over the hiring and firing of most non-civil-service employees of the Justice Department. A copy of the order and other Justice Department records related to the conception and implementation of the order were provided to National Journal.

In the order, Gonzales delegated to his then-chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, and his White House liaison "the authority, with the approval of the Attorney General, to take final action in matters pertaining to the appointment, employment, pay, separation, and general administration" of virtually all non-civil-service employees of the Justice Department, including all of the department's political appointees who do not require Senate confirmation. Monica Goodling became White House liaison in April 2006, the month after Gonzales signed the order.

The existence of the order suggests that a broad effort was under way by the White House to place politically and ideologically loyal appointees throughout the Justice Department, not just at the U.S.-attorney level. Department records show that the personnel authority was delegated to the two aides at about the same time they were working with the White House in planning the firings of a dozen U.S. attorneys, eight of whom were, in fact, later dismissed. MORE

The best face you can put on this is that Gonzales gave two young, inexperienced staff attorneys almost unprecedented power over the legal machinery of the U.S. government. Given the lack of memory Gonzales professes about hiring and firing decisions, it appears he did little more than rubber-stamp whatever these two aides told him to do. The worst is that the Bush White House has politicized the DoJ to a degree we haven't seen since JFK appointed his own brother as Attorney General.

Steven Taylor at Poliblog asks four important questions.

1. Surely given the ongoing inquiry as to what was going one at DoJ, this memo seems to be rather relevant. Why weren’t these details revealed from the get-go?

2. Can anyone defend the notion that this kind of responsibility ought to be so thoroughly delegated to two fairly young and inexperienced persons?

3. Why would the White House liaison be involved in such a process if the idea wasn’t to ideologically mold the DoJ’s non-civil-service personnel?

4. Since we know that there was a concerted effort to hire DoJ personnel not from the best schools in the nation, but rather from specific Christian law schools, one again is given the direct impression that the issue at hand at Justice under Gonzales has not been the execution of the federal criminal code, but rather the furtherance of specific partisan and ideological goals of the administration.

Read his answers and then tell me that this is all no big deal. Rod Dreher suggests that this almost guarantees congressional subpoenas for Karl Rove and Harriet Miers. So far Bush shows every sign of digging in his heels. Bad move, Mr. President. This problem isn't going to go away, and you are only making it worse.

Unless... there is even more damaging info we don't know about yet. Given that it has been like pulling teeth to find out what little we know so far, I'd say there is almost certainly more. Stay tuned.

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