Open Thread - Damaging the Justice Department Edition
John Dean reviews Abu Gonzales' performance before the Senators and finds the day was remarkable in two discoveries. The first was how little support Abu had from the Republicans. In fact, on the committee only Senator Hatch (who should be known as Bush's Wormtongue in the Senate) and Senator Cornyn continue to back Abu. The other was about the remarkable charts that Senator Whitehouse displayed at the end of the day.
Some of the most important and revealing information during this hearing did not come from Gonzales, but rather from the newest member of the committee, freshman Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D.RI). Senator Whitehouse is the former Attorney General of Rhode Island, and a former U.S. Attorney. He thus understands well how the Justice Department should operate, and how it actually is operating.
In a premise to a question for Gonzales, Senator Whitehouse said he had found correspondence in the files of the Senate Judiciary Committee from the days when Orrin Hatch was chairman relating to an investigation of the relationship between the Clinton White House and the Justice Department (under Attorney General Janet Reno). Hatch was concerned about the independence of the Department of Justice, so he wanted to know who in the White House could speak with whom in the Justice Department. The correspondence showed that four people in the White House (the President, Vice President, chief of staff, and White House counsel) could speak with three people in the Justice Department (the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney and the Associate Attorney General) - period.
Senator Whitehouse discovered - and created a chart to make the point - that in the Bush White House, a shocking 417 people could speak with 30 different people in the Justice Department. It was a jaw-dropper. As Chairman Leahy said, when he asked Senator Whitehouse to continue when his time expired, in his thirty years on the Judiciary Committee, he had never seen anything like the open contacts from the White House to the Justice Department that had occurred in the Bush Administration.
Gonzales really had no response when asked about this subject. But this information shows that, in this Administration, the Department of Justice has become a mere political appendage of the White House. (I have a number of friends who are career professionals at the Department of Justice, and since Gonzales arrived, they have said that morale at the department has tanked, for they all feel the politicization of the place, and they do not like it. Many of these gifted, experienced professionals are leaving, which will hurt the Department, the government, and ultimately all of us.)
What is remarkable is how Whitehouse's find not only shows the inappropriate politicization wrought on the DOJ by this administration, but he showed the total hypocrisy of Hatch.
Your turn now.