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Durbin and Whitehouse: Why Did Mukasey Give OLC a Peek at the Yoo/Bradbury Results?

Dick Durbin and Sheldon Whitehouse want to know why the Office of Professional Responsibility gave OLC a chance to review their report on John Yoo’s and Steven Bradbury’s torture memos.

Just last week, they got a response from DOJ on the process the OPR review has gone through, revealing that the report already integrated comments from Mukasey and "OLC" (whose acting head was Steven Bradbury), and was giving Bradbury, Yoo, and Jay Bybee an opportunity to comment, as well. It will take "substantial time" before this review process is done, DOJ says.

OPR has completed its investigation of this matter and in late December 2008, provided the draft report to Attorney General Mukasey and invited comment. Attorney General Mukasey shared the report with Deputy Attorney General Filip and OLC. Thereafter, Attorney General Mukasey, Deputy Attorney General Filip and OLC provided comments, and OPR revised the draft report to the extent it deemed appropriate based on those comments.

In addition, during the course of the investigation, counsel for the former Department attorneys asked OPR for an opportunity to review and comment on the report prior to any disclosure of its results to Congress or the public. Attorney General Mukasey and Deputy Attorney General Filip likewise requested that OPR provide the former Department attorneys with such an opportunity. For these reasons, OPR is now in the process of sharing the revised draft report with them. When the review and comment period is concluded, OPR intends to review the comments submitted and make any modifications it deems appropriate to the findings and conclusions. OPR will then provide a final report to the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General. After any additional review they deem appropriate, the Department will determine what disclosures should be made. Due to the complexity and classification level of the draft report, the review process described above likely will require substantial time and effort.

Which of course raises a whole slew of questions, some of which Durbin and Whitehouse have now posed to DOJ. Such as whether OLC’s review of the document influenced Steven Bradbury’s January 15 OLC memo withdrawing certain earlier opinions. 

Your letter does not indicate whether Steven Bradbury was recused from reviewing and providing comments on the draft report.  Mr. Bradbury, who was then the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of OLC, is reportedly a subject of the OPR investigation. Read more

Monday, 9AM, Roland Burris Is Still Senator

I’ve lost my touch.

It used to be I’d go away for a week and Karl Rove or Alberto Gonzales would resign. Here we are, Monday morning after I’ve been gone a week (thanks to bmaz for really superb work last week!), and Roland Burris is still Senator.

Maybe if I do a recap of Burris’ week, though, and point out the looming holes in his story, then it’ll hasten his departure.

Fitz Joins the Fun

Remember how, in his press conference trying to explain how he forgot to mention his talks with RobBlago and John Harris, Burris couldn’t decide whether he had or had not been contacted by Fitz’ people regarding his negotiations on buying a Senate seat?

That question has now been solved, as Burris spent some time with federal investigators on Saturday.

U.S. Sen. Roland Burris was interviewed by federal authorities for several hours Saturday as part of the ongoing corruption investigation into charges that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich tried to sell a Senate seat for personal or political profit, sources familiar with the talks said.

Burris’ interview, which had been delayed for weeks, took place at his attorney’s offices in downtown Chicago. He has been informed he is not a target of the probe, the sources said.

Several details of this are interesting: what was responsible for the "weeks" delay in Burris’ testimony? Did he have to straighten out his story to the legislature first (though he did not do that with the State Supreme Court), so as to attempt to prevent perjury charges? Or did Fitz just want to make sure they had a complete catalog of the times Burris spoke to Blago’s people–including the multiple phone calls to John Harris that Burris still hasn’t ‘fessed to? Perhaps, too, Fitz wanted to wait until after the FBI started collecting information on Patti Blago’s tenure at the Chicago Christian Industrial League, since that was one way (through Burris’ partner Fred Lebed, who is on the board of the charity) that Burris could have influenced Blago in ways other than fundraising directly. Or, maybe, Burris was negotiating the terms on which he would be very forthcoming to Fitz?

Note that Burris’ secret sources (otherwise known as his attorney, I’m guessing) have gone to the Robert Luskin school of prosecutor-talk. Burris "has been informed he is not a target" of the probe. But did anyone mention anything about him being a subject?

Read more

The Congressional Research Service Says the Senate Can Exclude Burris

Jane (here, here, and here) and bmaz (here, here, and here) have been diligently chronicling the continuing saga of seating Roland Burris. In the last week, we’ve seen Reid and Durbin scream Go! Stop! Go! at Burris.

But it turns out, since last Monday, they’ve had a Congressional Research Service study explaining whether or not they have to seat Burris, one they seem to have lost in all the excitement. It gives a basis I’ve not heard yet on which to exclude Burris (no link yet). 

Under the Powell decision and rationale, and under the express constitutional grant of authority, the Senate (and House) may, in addition to examining “qualifications” of Members-elect, examine the “elections” and “returns” of their own Members, that is, whether an individual presenting valid credentials has been “duly” chosen. A few years after the Powell decision, the Supreme Court in Roudebush v. Hartke, 405 U.S. 15 (1972), clearly affirmed the right of the Senate to make the final and conclusive determination concerning the election process and seating of its own Members.

[snip]

Additionally, the Senate has from time-to-time examined the election or selection process (prior to the adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913, Senators were selected by state legislatures) to see if corruption or bribery has so tainted the process as to call into question its validity.

All that says, really, is to look beyond just Powell to Roudebush as well to see whether or not the Senate can exclude Burris if it wants (bmaz assures me he will look up Roudebush once he gets done with his actual lawyering today).  And that corruption or bribery is fair game.

That said, even with Burris’ admission that he talked to Lon Monk about the seat, the way in which Blago’s defense-or-maybe-not lawyer Sam Adam Jr. brokered the appointment, and other dubious ties between Burris and Blago, it’s not clear that Congress yet has a clear case that Burris’ appointment–as distinct from Blago’s earlier attempts to sell the seat–involved bribery or any corruption outside the norm in Chicago politics. 

Update: Lawrence Tribe weighs in on the "they can exclude Burris" side. Note, this appears to have been published before Obama said he was staying out of this. 

Would George Bush Consider a PatFitzPack of Pardons?

JMart reports that Dick Durbin wrote Bush in support of a pardon for George Ryan (really, Durbin?!?!?!).

Obama’s colleague and close friend Sen. Dick Durbin sent a letter to the president this week requesting that he release Ryan, who is doing a 6 1/2 year federal sentence on corruption-related charges

Crazy as it sounds, I think Durbin’s onto something. In fact, I think he should start pitching a "PatFitzPack of Pardons" for Bush.

After all, we know that Scooter Libby is bound to get a pardon in the next few weeks.  Conrad Black has already asked for a pardon; and what neocon President could resist that request? Throw George Ryan in there, and you’ve got a hat trick.

Isn’t It Time to Chat with Kyle Sampson Again?

Here’s an exchange between Dick Durbin, Senior Senator from Illinois, and Rove acolyte Kyle Sampson about the firing of Patrick Fitzgerald.

Durbin: Were you ever party to any conversation about the removal of Patrick Fitzgerald from his position as Northern District of Illinois US Attorney?

Sampson: I remember on one occasion in 2006, in discussing the removal of US Attorneys … or, the process of considering some US Attorneys that might be asked to resign, that I was speaking to Harriet Miers and Bill Kelley and I raised Pat Fitzgerald. Immediately after I did it I regretted it. I thought, I knew it was the wrong thing to do. I knew that it was inappropriate. And I remember at the time that Harriet Miers and Bill Kelley said nothing, they just looked at me. I regretted it and I withdrew it at the time and I regret it now.

Durbin: Do you recall what you said at the time about Patrick Fitzgerald?

Sampson: I said, Patrick Fitzgerald could be added to this list.

Durbin: And, there was no response?

Sampson: No. They looked at me like I had said something totally inappropriate, and I had.

Durbin: Why did you do it? Why did you recommend, or at least suggest that he be removed as US Attorney?

Sampson: I’m not sure, I don’t remember. I think it was maybe to get a reaction from them. I don’t think that I, I know that I never seriously considered putting Patrick Fitzgerald on a list and he never did appear on a list.

Now put that exchange together with Rove’s non-denial denial that he was involved in having Patrick Fitzgerald fired:

But Robert Luskin, Rove’s attorney, today issued an unequivocal statement about all of this to the Tribune on behalf of Rove, former deputy chief of staff to President Bush, architect of Bush’s presidential campaigns and a private consultant in Washington now.

"Karl has known Kjellander for many years,” Luskin said, "but does not recall him or anyone else arguing for Fitzgerald’s removal. And he (Rove) is very certain that he didn’t take any steps to do that, or have any conversations with anyone in the White House — or in the Justice Department — about doing anything like that.”

Of course, when Rove says "I don’t recall" about an event, it usually means, "I won’t admit it until you show more evidence" about that incident. Read more

SJC Mukasey Hearing, Part Two

DiFi: I’ve been reading your letter. For the first time you disclose that waterboarding is not part of the approved methods. You disclose the method by which a new method is approved. Was this the case in the past?

MM: I’m not authorized to say what happened in the past.

DiFi: It is widely alleged that at least three people were waterboarded. Did the President approve that?

MM: I can’t speak to that.

DiFi: Both MCA and Detainee Treatment act, loophole is CIA. I proposed amendment that would put the entire govt under Field Manual. Accepted by House and Senate. If it comes to floor and remains in bill, once and for all, waterboarding be prohibited by govt.

MM: CIA director becomes aware, however he becomes aware of a technique, describes circumstances by which it’ll be done, to me, I consult with whomever I have to consult with, then it goes to President.

DiFi: I know how they say it works, I don’t know if it’s legal or not.

DiFi: What about contractors?

MM: I don’t know?

DiFi: I’d like to know if it’s legal to contract out enhanced techniques to a contractor.

DiFi: Why hasn’t DOJ responded to Scott Bloch?

MM: There are investigations going on by OPR and OIG into those subjects. A response has gone out to Mr. Bloch is in process.

DiFi: After receiving no cooperation for four months, Mr. Bradbury reiterates the request that we step down. I assume there is some conflict with this.

[So this is coming from OLC? Wow]

MM: Bloch is in an office that is not within the department. I will see to it that he gets a response.

DiFi: Will you copy us on that?

Kyl: Thanks for writing us a letter. Can you send up a list of all vacant slots that this committee needs to act on? [plus lots of stuff about putting brown people in jail]

Leahy: In addition to the list of empty spots, will you also send a list of those spots for which we have not nominee, and a list of letters to which DOJ has not yet responded.

Feingold: Thanks for call regarding treatment of GLBT employees at department. You appear to be embracing the Administration’s position without judgment. You say you don’t want to say whether waterboarding is torture, bc it would tip off our enemies. We have a system of public laws. Your statement suggests you’d not prosecute a govt official for violating such laws. Read more