US Attorney firingsThe White House says that DOJ officials reported that the seven attorneys were not doing enough to carry out Bush's policies on immigration, firearms and other issues. Administration officials say that the list of prosecutors was assembled last fall, based largely on complaints from members of Congress, law enforcement officials and career Justice Department lawyers. One of the complaints came from Republican senator Pete Domenici of new Mexico, who raised concerns with the Justice Department last fall about the performance of then-US Attorney David Iglesias, according to administration officials and Domenici's office. Domenici refuses to comment on Iglesias's statements that two unnamed New Mexico lawmakers -- identified as Domenici and Republican representative Heather Wilson by other sources -- pressured him in October to speed up the indictments of Democrats before the elections. Any communication by a senator or House member with a federal prosecutor regarding an ongoing criminal investigation is a violation of ethics rules. Wilson was locked in a tight race with her Democratic opponent, and Iglesias believes Wilson pressured him to file indictments on local Democrats before the elections in order to help her achieve re-election.
US Attorney firingsDemocratic House leader Rahm Emanuel had written Gonzales two letters suggesting that he name Carol Lam, fired as US attorney in San Diego, as an outside counsel to continue her pursuit of the Duke Cunningham case. When asked by a reporter about his failure to respond, Gonzales replies, "I think that the American people lose if I spend all my time worrying about congressional requests for information, if I spend all my time responding to subpoenas." Gonzales does not bother to note that he is legally bound to respond to subpoenas, and that to simply ignore requests from Congress is a direct flaunting of the legislative body. DOJ lobbyist Richard Hertling wrote back to Emanuel 22 days after Emanuel sent his letter, and said in part, "the Justice Department would not ever seek the resignation of a US attorney if doing so would jeopardize a public corruption case. Hertling said the DOJ had no interest in naming Lam as a special prosecutor. (Manchester Union Leader)
Partisan Bush appointeesCohen replaces Rice's longtime confidant, the more pragmatic Philip Zelikow.
US Attorney firingsAt least three of the seven were, before their ousters, conducting investigations involving Republicans; a fourth was ousted after refusing to bring suspect indictments against local Democrats in time for the indictments to affect the November 2006 elections in his state. The House has subpoenaed four former US attorneys, and many believe the Bush administration attempted to politically influence the American judicial system. Yet, none of the flagship news broadcasts from ABC, NBC, or CBS has reported any of this. In fact, those news broadcasts have yet to even mention the firings in the last three months.
Iraq war and occupationThe Sunni insurgency is considered far more dangerous, at this point, to American troops than are the Shi'ite insurgents of the Mahdi Army and other groups, some of whom are funded by Iran. McConnell's testimony highlights government worries that Iraq's civil war could turn into a direct confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia, if by Iraqi proxies, with US troops caught in the middle. Brian Jenkins, a military expert with the Rand Corporation, says, "What we already are seeing in Iraq is an emerging proxy war between Saudi-backed Sunnis and Iranian-backed Shia." If that proxy war cascades into a direct Iranian-Saudi military clash, it could imperil much of the world's oil supply. Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq are the first, third, and fourth nations in terms of the largest of the world's proven oil reserves.
US Attorney firingsNo charges have been filed in the case. Domenici, who has refused to discuss the matter since Iglesias came forward almost a week ago to say that two members of Congress called him to pressure him to file indictments before the November 2006 elections, says he "never pressured him nor threatened him in any way." The other lawmaker, Republican congressman Heather Wilson, still refuses to comment. Iglesias believes he was pressured by both Wilson and Domenici to file the indictments before the elections in order to bolster Wilson's chances to win a tough re-election contest. Domenici also admits to advising Justice Department officials to fire Iglesias, but says his advice came before his October phone call, and that his recommendation had nothing to do with Iglesias's refusal to fast-track the investigation for political purposes. "In retrospect, I regret making that call and I apologize," Domenici says. "However, at no time in that conversation or any other conversation with Mr. Iglesias did I ever tell him what course of action I thought he should take on any legal matter. I have never pressured him nor threatened him in any way." Legal experts say it violates congressional ethics rules for a senator or House member to communicate with a federal prosecutor regarding an ongoing criminal investigation.
US Attorney firingsWhen he received the phone call in December 2006 informing him that he was being dismissed, he asked if the firing was related to his performance or to that of his office. "That didn't enter into the equation," he was told by a DOJ official. After several more phone calls, he says he was told by a senior Justice Department official, "There is a window of opportunity to put candidates into an office like mine. They were attempting to open a slot and bring someone else in."
US Attorney firingsIn 1992, the elder Bush tried to wreck the Clinton presidential campaign by falsely implicating Clinton in criminal investigations. The attempt failed when federal law enforcement officials, including a US Attorney in Arkansas, resisted what they saw as improper White House political pressure. Parry writes, "Now, the younger George Bush is moving to ensure that he won't be sabotaged by similarly independent-minded prosecutors. The Washington Post reported that the White House approved the firing of seven US attorneys at the end of 2006 after the Justice Department identified them as insufficiently supportive of the President's policies" (see the March 3 item above).
GOP campaign strategiesAt the time, the candidates said that they could do nothing to influence the airing of the ads, even after a few of the candidates asked that they not be run. On the heels of the biggest losses suffered by Congressional Republicans in decades, many of the NRCC's former candidates are calling for major changes at the NRCC. They depict the committee as a rogue attack-ad shop that shielded party leaders from having to account for the claims in their ads -- encouraging over-the-top accusations that often hurt GOP candidates. "They weren't just attacking my opponent -- they were, bit by bit, destroying a reputation that I had spent years and years building," says Ray Meier, a Republican candidate in upstate New York whose Democratic opponent was wrongly accused of making adult fantasy calls. The ad on behalf of Meier attacked his Democratic opponent, former county district attorney Michael Arcuri, over a one-minute phone call made from his hotel to an adult sex line, which cost taxpayers $1.25. Though the call was clearly a wrong number -- Arcuri was trying to call the state Department of Criminal Justice Services, which has the same phone number but in a different area code -- the ad ran time and again in New York. Arcuri defeated Meier.
Walter Reed scandalOn Fox News Sunday, Hume says that "the problem" is that it "looks terrible" for the administration. Hume calls the neglect and deplorable conditions at the military hospital a "potential" political firestorm, saying, "This is unfortunate. It looks terrible, which is the problem. The problem is that it looks as if this administration, which has sent troops into harm's way, is now neglecting them when they're injured and need care and help. But make no mistake about it, this was a -- there was a potential political firestorm on Capitol Hill began to brew about this. The administration did what it did to try to get it over with, and it may well have succeeded." Hume adds that had the Democrats not taken over Congress in November, no one would have been fired over the scandal. "This is an administration which is known or had been known for sticking by people even when they were embattled." Hume's guest, NPR reporter Mara Liasson, counters, "I think, you know, to say it looks bad, it also is bad. Those pictures were horrible. These are people -- nobody who is being treated for any kind of injury should have to live in that condition, let alone people who just fought in a war for our country." Apparently Hume feels that it is perfectly fine for America's wounded veterans to be treated with contempt and forced to live in verminous squalor, as long as no one in the Bush administration is held accountable. (Fox News/Think Progress [link to video])
War with IranThe report says military action could lead Iran to change the nature of its program and quickly build a few nuclear arms. Frank Barnaby the nuclear scientist and arms expert who authored the report, says, "If Iran is moving towards a nuclear weapons capacity it is doing so relatively slowly, most estimates put it at least five years away." But an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities "would almost certainly lead to a fast-track program to develop a small number of nuclear devices as quickly as possible." It "would be a bit like deciding to build a car from spare parts instead of building the entire car factory."
Walter Reed scandalProblems such as documented at Walter Reed -- outpatients forced to live in squalor, wounded soldiers and their families treated with disdain and contempt by hospital and military officials, soldiers unable to get needed treatment because of systematic bureaucratic ineptitude, wounded soldiers left to descend into drug and alcohol addiction without intervention -- are rampant throughout the Veterans Administration hospital system, but before the Walter Reed scandal, have been largely ignored by the Bush administration, the US military, and the mainstream media.
Walter Reed scandalOne such soldier, Latseen Benson, a double amputee, remembers meeting a parade of VIPs at the hospital, including Bush, Dick Cheney, and then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Before their visits, Benson's mother Diane Benson recalls, the military hospital would be thoroughly scrubbed. But the improvements would not last long. "I wasn't so bothered by the rats, although there were a lot running around outside, but I really wanted his room to be swept and kept clean," she says. "You couldn't get people to mop the blood and urine from the floor while my son was there with his legs wide open."
US Attorney firingsUntil now, Wilson, who Iglesias says pressured him to file indictments against New Mexico Democrats before the election in an apparent attempt to influence her bid for re-election against a tough Democratic opponent, has refused to confirm that she ever contacted Iglesias. Wilson's Republican colleague and political mentor, Senator Pete Domenici, confirmed yesterday that he called Iglesias about the investigations several weeks before the elections. Domenici is now the subject of a Senate ethics inquiry.
US Attorney firings"There was direct pressure not to pursue these investigations," says DiBiagio. "The practical impact was to intimidate my office and shut down the investigations." DiBiagio says that until now, he has not discussed his firing in public, but he sees disturbing similarities between his ouster and the recent firings of eight other US attorneys. The Justice Department disputes DiBiagio's version of events. DiBiagio's office had been investigating whether associates of Ehrlich had improperly funneled money from gambling interests to promote legalized slot machines in Maryland. DiBiagio says that several prominent Maryland Republicans had pressed him to back away from the inquiries and that one conversation had so troubled him that he reported it to an FBI official as a threat. Instead, he says that the DOJ offered little support and that made it "impossible for me to stay." Several current and former officials in the Baltimore office say DiBiagio voiced concerns in 2004 that the corruption inquiries were jeopardizing his career, a view that they shared. But a DOJ official, David Margolis, says he told DiBiagio in late 2004 that he had to leave because "we had lost confidence in him," blaming DiBiagio's "harsh management style" and saying that DiBiagio's investigation into the gambling case had no impact on the decision to fire him. Ehrlich, who was defeated for re-election in November 2006, says he had nothing to do with DiBiagio's firing, and says that the gambling investigations were pointless.
US Attorney firingsBattle was the DOJ official who personally informed seven US attorneys that they were being fired in December 2006, but the DOJ insists that Battle was not involved in the actual decision making process. Battle himself told the attorneys that the order to fire them had come from "'on high." A Justice Department spokesperson says the timing of Battle's abrupt, unexplained resignation is merely a "coincidence." The DOJ also insists that Battle informed officials there of his resignation as long ago as last summer, which would have been unusual since Battle only came on board in June 2005.
US Attorney firingsMany believe that the Bush administration has used the provision to fire US attorneys and replace them with political pawns that will do the administration's bidding. Lithwick writes, "[W]e seem to have forgotten that even without the mass firings, this law had been changed in the sneakiest way imaginable." The new Patriot Act provision serves three purposes, Lithwick observes: "consolidating presidential power, diminishing oversight, and ensuring that 'interim' prosecutors had permanent jobs.
Walter Reed scandalBy far the most lopsided coverage, measured on March 2 broadcasts, came from Fox News, which devoted 12 times the amount of coverage to Smith than to the Walter Reed scandal -- 10 references to Reed and 121 to Smith. MSNBC was nearly even in its coverage, with 84 references to Walter Reed and 96 to Smith. CNN narrowly favored the Reed scandal over Smith in its own coverage, with 53 mentions of the Reed scandal and 40 of Smith. (Think Progress [multiple sources, links to video])
Conservative hate speech and intolerance(See the above item for the details of Coulter's slanderous remarks, including labeling Edwards a "faggot.") Details of the mobilization of progressives and decent Americans who protested to Coulter's advertisers in the wake of her comments at the Conservative Political Action Conference can be found at the Daily Kos link below. (Daily Kos)