Gonzales Resigned 17 Days After This IG Investigation Began

I’ll be doing running commentary on today’s DOJ Inspector General’s investigation of how Alberto Gonzales improperly handled Top Secret information. But I didn’t even get through the first page before being struck by the circumstances behind this investigation. Most curiously, Gonzales resigned just days after this investigation began.

The matter was referred to the OIG by Kenneth Wainstein, former Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division, on August 10, 2007. The White House Counsel’s Office had initially notified the Department of Justice (Department) about the matter, and Wainstein, after consultation with other senior Department officials, referred the matter to the OIG for investigation.

That is, at a time when Alberto Gonzales was weighing down the Bush Administration, Fred Fielding informed Ken Wainstein that Alberto Gonzales was running around town with a briefcase full of TS/SCI documents. Fielding did so just 20 days after the Administration used Pixie Dust to give Cheney carte blanche to make up his own rules about how to treat classified information. And, more interesting still, it happened just 17 days before a weepy Gonzales resigned on August 27.

Gosh. You’d almost think the Administration, after Bush asked Gonzales specially to take notes of a meeting at which members of Congress collaborated with the Administration in breaking the law, then used those notes against Gonzales, to push him out of the Administration.

And if you’re wondering, Ken Wainstein has since been named Bush’s Homeland Security Advisor. 

Update: typo fixed per bobschacht.

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  1. sailmaker says:

    Fred Fielding informed Ken Wainstein that Alberto Gonzales was running around time with a briefcase full of TS/SCI documents

    Sandy Berger redeux.

    If these papers were the lever arm to get rid of AG, what was the fulcrum, i.e. why did they want to get rid of him since he was such a great tool, would sign off on anything they wanted, etc?

    • klynn says:

      Perhaps he was under the public microscope more than they wanted and needed to find a new dude who would streamline the walk to Unitary Executive.

    • skdadl says:

      I sort of see why they wanted to get rid of Gonzales, but I’m chewing on dot two in that paragraph (pixie dust for Cheney). If they had gone to all that trouble on this specific turf, then would they not feel less worried about Gonzales? Or did I just answer my own question … Let me mumble to myself for a while …

      • LabDancer says:

        Might I offer a libretto to your mumbles?

        This all came to a head at a point less than a year after the 2006 mid-terms, the one’s which put a lot of Congress GOOPers in the category of agnostics or even atheists on the Magic Black Hand of Rove, after 6 months of Josh Marshall & his plucky insurgents over at TPM having raised that site at least to Anti-Drudge status, to the point where the WH & DOJ knew who they were …& FEARED them [whoa].

        The effort was right across the Netroots including here, but TPM was what the WH reduced it down to- & given Josh’s band were posting almost exclusively on putting the puzzle together for the Dem Congress critters, pressing for the next line of questions, critiquing who on the two Judiciary Committees was effective, who was floundering, who was a GOOPer slug, and actually affecting the course of slow-cooking AlG. And as Schumer in particular but most of the Alpha Dems on both committees were warming to the fire, the concern had to be that AlG was offering the Dems & awfully marketable alternative to going against Pelosi’s determinination to take impeachment off the table – by qualifying that to the White House but allowing AlG to serve as red meat for those inclined.

        And the way this “administration” operates depends critically on finding & empowering sell-out lawyers, like the loyal AlG, attack dog Addington Fielding [sorry for borrowing] Mumbles Mukasey Wainstein Yoo – gawd there’s no end to how many of them who’s souls were DOA.

        The irony I see is here’s portly little lapdog AlG never daring to let the notes out of his sight or control out of his supercharged loyalty to El Padrone King Jorge, and it gets used against him.

        My recollection too is that there were a number in the corporate establishment media who portrayed his resignation as angering Bush because somehow AlG had the better grip on reality & wanted to save El Padrone the further embarrassment his own courage was hiding from him. I have in mind the Isikoff being among them but I don’t want to be unfair.

        • skdadl says:

          Oh, I know that Mumbles had become a huge public drag. I can recite vast patches of his testimony m’self. But Cheney (among others) had also become a huge public drag, and he’s not gone.

          I was just trying to figure out why EW put sentence two into that paragraph. I think I get it …

          • emptywheel says:

            Because of the possibility they were cleaning up their classified documents problems (recall that Bill Leonard, who was making them obvious, retired in September 2007) all at one time. And that they did what they needed to do to make Cheney’s classified documents problem okay, retroactively, while they made Gonzales’ worse by reporting them.

            Also, recall that, as a Constituional officer, Bush can’t fire Cheney. He can take away all his toys and power, but he’s still VP. And given that Cheney undoubtedly knows where the bodies are buried…

  2. bmaz says:

    And if you’re wondering, Ken Wainstein has since been named Bush’s Homeland Security Advisor.

    He of the extraordinarily long gestation periods for confirmation as I recall; couldn’t sign things to save soldiers etc. – same guy right? Uh huh, I feel very secure.

  3. bobschacht says:

    “Alberto Gonzales was running around time with a briefcase full of TS/SCI documents.”

    EW– perhaps you meant to write “town” rather than “time”?

    At any rate, thanks for this blog!

    Bob in HI

  4. Leen says:

    And now we have another AG doing the Bush administrations bidding. Micheal Mukasey. How is Mukasey different than Gonzales?

  5. SmileySam says:

    Stating the obvious. In your post about Gonzales and his lawyers claim,

    “In the memo, Terwilliger calls such criticism “demonstrably hyper-inflated rhetoric without basis in fact.” He says during the hospital visit Comey was “seeking to interpose himself between the president and a high-level official communication to his attorney general on a vital matter of national security.

    At this time it has to be pointed out that Comey NOT Ashcroft was the Acting Attorney General, making that entire sentence and stance a lie.

  6. Waccamaw says:

    When this story broke yesterday, my first thought was, “Wait ’til ew gets her hands on this!” Looking forward to future installments.

  7. looseheadprop says:

    Intersting tidbit from page 6 of the report. It says that the security program manager for DOJ got a caall saying that the Gonzales security detail could not get the safe at AGAG’s house to open.

    They even tried to use factory default setting for the combination and the safe would not open.

    Did somebody tamper with AGAG’s safe?

    Could there have been a burglar in AGAG’s house? While the Top Secret documents were inan unlocked breifcase?

    This just gets curiouser and curiouser

  8. looseheadprop says:

    Oh and when Scooter Libby was carryig around parts or derivatives of the NIE, were any parts of that still classified? Even with the pixie dust, were all parts of that document dusted?

    es Scooter maybe have a mishandling of classifed documents issue? Oh, that right, the WH won’t tell us exactly what got pixie dusted and they didn’t keep any records , so Bill Leonard doesn’t even know either

  9. MarieRoget says:

    Re: subject of this excellent post- Gonzales is a key, like so many others have been a key less publicly obvious.

    Prends soin, Fredo. You’ve been a loyal soldier, but even loyals are like pawns in this Fed Admin. Very expendable & no protection set.

    Things getting next door to normal in St. Francisville LA, BTW, an email just reassured me.

    Have to go, friends. TTFN

  10. Citizen92 says:

    One Thought.
    I’m recalling the 2006 story when NSA refused to grant clearances to IG Fine’s investigators looking into the initial leak of warrantless surveillance program. That refusal effectively shut down the IG’s ability to find out who leaked the program.

    Any connection? Was Wainstein giving up the goods by turning Gonzales in?

    Second Thought.
    ‘Someone’ made a mental note that Gonzales took notes in that fateful meeting with the Gang of Eight. I didn’t see Addington’s name on that list, but I did see Cheney’s. Both Cheney and Addington are characters who I could entirely see –
    1/ making a mental note of Gonzales’ notetaking (particularly since it was at the behest of the President).
    2/ watching Gonzales walk out the door with the notes.
    3/ using the bureaucracy to attack Gonzales on his attrocious classified matter bedside matter.

    • emptywheel says:

      Nah, the clearance issue was over whether the approval of the program was legal and appropriate, not who leaked.

      Though I suspect this made BushCo a lot less willing to investigate Lichtblau’s and Risen’s sources, seeing as how they can’t account for that safe and the DOJ flunkies who had access to it.

  11. sailmaker says:

    Jack Goldsmith was pretty insulted that the Bush folk thought he might have been one of Liectblau’s and Risen’s sources. Or are my between-the-lines-reading-skills needing a new set of bifocals: Goldsmith was shocked, simply shocked that the Bush folk might have thought him to be the leaker?

  12. lysias says:

    If the programs were illegal, anything about them could not be validly classified. In which case, the laws for how to handle classified information would not apply.

  13. rapt says:

    Hey Lysias now you are getting to the real meat of the matter, and most other matters relating to bushco. Since “it” isn’t legal there are no statutory protections, even if a blackmailed congress (blackmail, now that too is illegal) has created some out of thin air after the fact.

    IMHO we have reached the point where the whole govt is only a charade; most or all of its members are accessories to multiple crimes as either active perps/enablers or for willfully failing to report crimes they know to be in process. And still they draw a salary, staff, perks.

    This sham will end only when the governed take on the responsibility of knowing that there is in fact no government. I have been continually amazed that the current blindness is so self-perpetuating – it has taught that yes indeed we the people are like sheep when managed a certain way.

    OT: A teevee shot of repug meeting last night showed a sea of young white male faces. My wife remarked that one of the interviewees reminded her of a four-year-old, and I had to agree that he was both clueless and baby-faced.