Alberto Gonzales Tells the Tale We've Been Waiting For

Alberto Gonzales did a long interview with NPR’s Michel Martin on his tenure as Bush’s Fredo. As part of it, he gave a long discussion of his actions on March 10, 2004 and thereafter, starting with his insistence that he was not trying to take advantage of Ashcroft when he was in ICU (my transcript–apologies in advance for any errors). 

AGAG: Neither and or I, and obviously, I can’t really speak for Andy, but I’m comfortable saying that neither Andy or I would have gone there to take advantage of someone who was sick. Um, Andy and I both, in fact, talked about the importance of satisfying ourselves as we talked with General Ashcroft that he was in fact competent. We talked about it over at the White House and talked about it in the sedan over to the hospital. We were concerned about that. We were sent there on behalf of the President of the United States. We had just left a very important meeting with the Congressional leadership about a very important intelligence program that the Congressional leadership agreed with the President should continue because it was a particularly heightened period of threats against the United States and against our allies. And I might remind your listeners that the very next morning, you had the Madrid train bombings. It was a very serious period of time, we had a very important program, and everyone–the Congressional branch leadership and the Executive branch leadership seemed to feel that this was something that should continue.

MM: Are you saying the President told you to go?

AGAG: What I’m saying is I was sent there on behalf of the President of the United States. The Chief of Staff, the Counsel to the President, we went to the hospital on behalf of the President to make sure that General Ashcroft had this information. That’s why we went to the hospital.

MM: You mean had information about the Madrid bombing or had information that this was of importance to the President and the Congressional leadership?

AGAG: The Madrid bombing had not happened yet. That would happen then the next morning. We went to the hospital to make sure that the Attorney General had information about the approval of the Congressional leadership. We felt that as a former Member of Congress that that would make a difference for him and as someone who had been involved in the reauthorization of the program for three years we felt that that would make a difference. Read more

Speaking as the Owner of a Perfect Storm Cap

I’m glad Howard Dean didn’t let Chuck and Rahm claim all the credit for a big victory again, like they did in 2006.

This has been a truly historic, transformational election.  Tonight, our country chose hope over fear, the future over the past, unity over division.  This election also reflects the passing of the torch to a new generation.  Barack Obama inspired young voters across this country to answer the call and get involved.  They responded to his promise to put partisanship and divisiveness aside and come together as one nation to find solutions.  They turned out. They made calls. They knocked on doors. And they helped change our country.

The American people have given all of us – Democrats, Republicans and Independents – a simple mandate: to work together find big solutions to the big challenges facing our country.  We must work together to change the direction of our wonderful country and to restore America. With the help of strong Democratic majorities in Congress, President Barack Obama is going to set this nation on a course to provide the change we need.

Today I am humbled by what we have accomplished over the last four years. Together, we can build on this moment to bring our nation together and work as one to overcome the challenges we face. It is what we as Americans have always done.  Under Barack Obama’s leadership, we’ll do it again. [my emphasis]

 Though he didn’t exactly boast about how Obama won by following in Dean’s 50 State Strategy path.

No Consequences for the Wholesale Politicization of Justice

Glenn Fine, DOJ’s Inspector General, showed up before the Senate Judiciary Committee today to talk about the two reports showing pervasive politicization of the Department of Justice.

The big take-away from the hearing–which reinforced what was already evident from the reports–is that those who politicized DOJ have basically gotten away with it: Monica Goodling, Kyle Sampson, Mike Elston, and others will not be held accountable for their actions.

For example, when Chuck Schumer asks Fine about consequences, Fine says the lawyers involved (and not all of them were lawyers) may–possibly–face sanctions from their Bar.

Schumer: On of the most shocking conclusions in your report is that someone like Monica Goodling, who politicized the appointment of Assistant US Attorneys, Immigration Judges, and even Counter-Terrorism positions may not face any consequences for her actions. So let me ask you this, Mr. Fine. Should such blatant politicization and illegal activity be subject to some criminal punishment so there would be some ultimate accountability.

Fine: I’m not sure it’s true to say she escaped any accountability and punishment. As I discussed with Senator Whitehouse earlier, she–people did leave the Department, so they can’t be disciplined by the Department, but we’ve recommended that they never get a job with the Department again and hopefully with the federal government again and that hopefully they consider this report if they ever do reapply. They have been exposed. Their conduct has been exposed in a transparent way for all to see. And then, there may be–I’m not saying there is but there may be appropriate Bar sanctions for–possibly–for attorneys who have committed misconduct and may have violated a Bar rule and so the Bar may look into that.

Sheldon Whitehouse follows up on Schumer’s questions to ask for specifics, looking for some means to hold these guys accountable. Whitehouse seems to be pointing to something bmaz has talked about (update: see this comment)–the difficulty in identifying the Bar rule that such misconduct might have violated.

Whitehouse: Um, with respect to the consequences for the violation of federal law. Can you identify what Bar rules might have been broken. … I did not see OPR making any referrals to the Disciplinary Council as a result, so I’m a little confused about what disciplinary consequences lawyers might face?

Fine: My understanding is, and I’ve had discussions with OPR about this, that OPR intends to, and we will participate in a notification to the Bars of individuals who are found to have committed misconduct, for them to review the conduct. Read more

FISA Liveblog

Reid is on the floor talking about what votes we’ll have tomorrow:


Argh. This means we won’t have 60 there for exclusivity.

Reid and Mitch McConnell had some back and forth on the stimulus package.

Kit Bond:

Thank colleagues for agreeing to a way forward on this bill. Hehehe, it would do no good to pass a good that is good for politics, but does not do what those who protect our country need. With these fixes we’ll have a bill the President will sign.

Shorter Kit: this is very very technical and so we’ve decided to just do away with Congressional review and, while we’re at it, privacy. What Mike McConnell wants, Mike McConnell gets.


In this debate about revising FISA and cleaning up the damage done by the President’s warrantless wiretap program, the Administration expends all its rhetorical focus on what we agree on.

On what terms will this Administration spy on Americans?

The privacy of Americans from government surveillance.

Both Chairmen–Leahy and Rockefeller–have given it their blessing.

As former AG and USA, I oversaw wiretaps, and I learned that with any electronic surveillance, information about Americans is intercepted incidentally.

In domestic law enforcement, clear ways to minimize information about Americans. Prospect of judicial review is an important part of protecting Americans. Bond and Rockefeller have already put into the bill that the authority to review the minimization if the target is an American inside the US. But as will often be the case, the target will often be outside the US. An American could just as easily be intercepted in these situations. This protection (review of minimization) should apply when the intercepted It makes no sense to strip a court based on the identity of the target. It may be that if there’s litigation that a court will decide that it is implied. The mere prospect of judicial review has a salutary effect. The opposite is true as well, when executive officials are ensured that a Court is forbidden to police enforcement, then they are more apt to ignore compliance. Both here, where the FISA bill creates an unheard of limit on Court powers, and in the immunity debate, where we intercede to choose winners and losers. Bad precedent for separation of powers. Those of you who are Federalist Society members should be concerned about this absence of separation of powers. Read more

SJC Mukasey Hearing, Part Three

Leahy: Updates people in the stimulus package, and 15-day extension. So that’s why not everyone is here right now.

"Box Turtle" Cornyn: Office of Government Information Services, FOIA reform. Concerns about moving that office to DOJ, or somewhere else. I wanted to let you know I have reservations. My opinion is that the legislation forecloses moving the office.

"Box Turtle": FISA reform. 15-day extension is kicking the can down the road. Let me just talk about this in human terms. Talked to the father of soldiers who had been kidnapped by Al Qaeda. And his father says if we had an easy FISA law, his son might be alive. Do you think we need to make it easier for people to go through FISA?

[Shorter Box Turtle: I’m going to pretend, once again, that FISA forced a delay of wiretapping, when in fact it was just DOJ disorganization.]

MM: You put a human face on the problem we’re trying to prevent from recurring. We want to lower the burden on the govt in all its presentations to FISA just to make sure that what gets approved are procedures. I hope that DOJ acted with all the speed it could act.

[Interesting dodge by Mukasey, not agreeing that DOJ moved as fast as it could.]

"Box Turtle": I’m okay with a relative basis for torture.

MM: There are clearly circumstances where waterboarding is illegal. I’m not going to get into an abstract discussion of when it’d be legal. Nor am I going to call into question what people do or have done, when it’s not necessary to do so.

Whitehouse: In your analytical stance in your letter, you have assumed the role of a corporate counsel to the Executive Branch. You have taken steps to make sure nothing illegal has happened, but you are unwilling to look back and dredge up anything that may be a problem. That’s not a proper stance, you are also a prosecutor, Prosecutors do look back, dredge up the past, in order to do justice. It’s the mission statement of the DOJ to seek just punishment of those guilty of illegal behavior. Duty of USG, whose interest is that justice shall be done. The president has said we will investigate all acts of torture, you have said if someone is guilty of violating the law. [Cites code on torture] You are the sole prosecuting authority for that statute, the DOJ. Read more