US attorneys "serve at the pleasure of the president," but "justice does not serve at the pleasure of the president." -- Democratic senator Patrick Leahy, March 29
Sampson testifies about US attorney firings, confirms that Gonzales heavily involved
- March 29: Kyle Sampson, the former chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
US Attorney firings
Although Sampson denies being directly involved in the firings of eight US attorneys -- a lie easily disproven by already-released Justice Department documents -- he does confirm that Gonzales was far more involved in the firings than he has acknowledged. Sampson also confirms that Gonzales and his aides have made a series of inaccurate claims about the issue -- lies -- in recent weeks. A measure of the complete disgust at the entire situation on the part of most of the senators is seen in Democrat Charles Schumer's remarks -- after he gives a rundown of the "unbroken stream of missteps, mishaps and misstatements" by the Justice Department, he says that at this point it's up to the DOJ to show that they behaved "well," not for the committee "to demonstrate that the Department behaved poorly."
- Sampson says that David Iglesias's name was not added to the list of attorneys to be fired until just before the November 7, 2006 elections -- after presidential adviser Karl Rove complained that Iglesias had not been aggressive enough in pursuing cases of voter fraud. Previously, Rove had not been tied so directly to the removal of the prosecutors, and has, as is his wont, denied any involvement. Sampson's testimony gives further evidence of the involvement of both Gonzales and Rove in the firings, and gives additional weight to claims that the firings were motivated by Republican political concerns and not, as previously alleged, on hard, performance-based data. (The day after the hearings, Senator Charles Schumer demands that Gonzales clear Iglesias's name: "In light of these startling admissions by your former chief of staff, it is imperative that you restore Mr. Iglesias' tarnished reputation by confirming that his performance as a US attorney did not warrant dismissal," he writes in a letter to Gonzales. Gonzales has so far failed to respond.
- Sampson says he suggested firing US attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who was then in the process of prosecuting former Cheney chief of staff Lewis Libby, but he dropped the idea after then-White House counsel, Harriet Miers, and her deputy, William Kelley, warned him that firing Fitzgerald would be a bad idea.
- Much of Sampson's testimony is more side-stepping, including his insistence that US attoney Carol Lam was fired over her failure to adequately prosecute immigration cases, even though documentation shows that under her tenure, her office increased the rate of immigration prosecutions. Sampson doesn't mention Lam's prosecution of Republican Randy Cunningham, and her indictment of former CIA official Kyle Foggo and defense contractor Brent Wilkes. He also says that he barely remembers the critical November 27 meeting where Gonzales, Sampson, and others discussed the upcoming firings.
- Regarding Lam, Senator Dianne Feinstein shows Sampson a letter from February 7. 2007, praising Lam for successfully prosecuting so many immigration cases during her tenure, a letter signed by the director of field operations of the US Customs and Border Protection agency. Sampson cannot reconcile Lam's firing with such glowing praise. When asked by Feinstein if he or anyone else at the DOJ ever contacted Lam with concerns about her immigration record, Sampson says, "I did not and I don't remember anyone else in my office doing that." As for the Cunningham investigation, Sampson denies knowing anything about Lam's intention to execute a search warrant on Foggo in the days before her firing, and says he hardly knew who either Foggo or Wilkes were. He does admit that, when the FBI chief in San Diego publicly protested Lam's firing, Sampson himself called the FBI chief to complain.
- Sampson's professed ignorance, like his boss's, is surprisingly widespread, considering his important position as the chief of staff to the attorney general. Under questioning from Feinstein, Sampson says he knew nothing of an array of high-profile public corruption investigations being conducted by some of the fired attorneys -- including Daniel Bogden's investigation of Republican governor Jim Gibbons of Nevada -- or just knew vaguely about them from news reports -- including Paul Charlton's investigation of Republican House member Rick Renzi of Arizona. He says he knew nothing of the complaints about Iglesias's "failure" to prosecute the aforementioned voter fraud case, and that he knew nothing about any pressure brought to bear on Iglesias by Domenici and Wilson. He also says he knows little about Seattle's John McKay's controversial choice not to pursue an investigation of the 2004 gubernatorial election -- he has no "specific recollection" of being aware of it. GOP senator Jon Kyl asks whether Charlton was fired over his investigation of Renzi; Sampson gives a completely opaque answer, saying that he was the "aggregator of information" but that he wasn't aware of that as an issue. (Kyl asked the DOJ to keep Charlton on as a prosecutor, a request that was ignored.)
- Amazingly, Sampson says that it never crossed his mind that firing a US attorney in the middle of any of these high-profile investigations might influence those cases. Almost as amazingly, Republican senator Orrin Hatch -- Sampson's former boss -- praises Sampson, saying that he can't imagine Sampson "being any more forthcoming." (Hatch also implies that Democrat Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the committee, is guilty of some sort of prosecutorial misconduct.)
- Sampson also professes astonishing ignorance as to the role of the White House in the firings, considering his daily involvement with White House personnel. He says that when he wrote the February 23, 2007 letter denying that Karl Rove was involved in the decision to fire Arkansas attorney Bud Cummins in favor of Rove protege Tim Griffin, "At the time I drafted that letter, I was not aware of Karl Rove having expressed an interest in Tim Griffin being appointed." Sampson says that he had no idea Rove supported Griffin's appointment. Only under repeated questioning does Sampson finally admit with discussing Griffin's appointment with two senior White House officials, Rove aides Scott Jennings and Sara Taylor: "...I assumed because it was important to them, it was important to Karl." Questioned on the inconsistency, Sampson squirms, "When I drafted the letter in February 2007, I remember thinking to myself, am I aware that Karl Rove is interested in Tim Griffin being appointed? I thought to myself, I'm not aware Mr. Rove has that interest. For all I know, I'm not even sure he knows about this. I knew people who work for him are interested." Slate's Emily Bazelon responds, "This, of course, makes no sense. Karl Rove's deputies don't run around axing prosecutors behind his back. Their job is to do what he tells them to do."
- Gonzales has attempted to portray himself as uninvolved in the details of the firings, saying on March 13 that Sampson was in charge of that entire process. Gonzales also then said he "was not involved in any discussions about what was going on" in the process. Gonzales has since admitted to more frequent contacts with Sampson, but has not acknowledged any real involvement. Now, Sampson provides new details of just how deeply Gonzales was involved. Sampson says he had at least five different discussions with Gonzales about the project after Gonzales first approved the idea in early 2005. He also says that Gonzales always knew which attorneys were being considered for firing. "I don't think the attorney general's statement that he was not involved in any discussions of US attorney removals was accurate," Sampson says. "I remember discussing with him this process of asking certain US attorneys to resign." Sampson says after his appearance before Congress that "the decision makers in this case were the attorney general and the counsel to the president [Miers]." He also describes Justice spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos's characterization that Gonzales "did not participate in the selection of the US attorneys to be fired" as "not an accurate statement." Gonzales has said that Sampson didn't share information about the firings with him or other senior DOJ officials who have subsequently testified before Congress, but Sampson disputes that: "I was very open and collaborative in the process." He says that he specifically shared information with the two DOJ officials who have already been found to have lied to Congress about the process, William Moschella and Paul McNulty. "So the Attorney General's statement is false. How can it not be?" asks Schumer.
- The Justice Department, through its spokesman Brian Roehrkasse, says that nothing in Sampson's testimony contradicts Gonzales's previous statements, that Gonzales admitted on March 26 that Sampson had updated him on the firings "from time to time" and that Gonzales "was never focused on specific concerns about United States attorneys as to whether or not they should be asked to resign." White House spokeswoman Dana Perino also attempts to play down Sampson's testimony, saying that the administration has never ruled out the possibility that Rove passed complaints about Iglesias on to Gonzales. Both Roehrkasse and Perino are lying, and lying to cover for their superiors.
- Sampson insists throughout his testimony that he, the White House, and the DOJ did nothing improper in firing the eight attorneys, who are political appointees and "serve at the pleasure of the president." appointees. He also says that the "distinction between political and performance-related reasons for removing a US attorney is, in my view, largely artificial." As Sampson describes it, the process of developing the list was based largely on the perceptions of Sampson and top Justice and White House officials of each prosecutor's loyalty and adherence to Bush administration priorities.
- Interestingly, Sampson admits, under forceful questioning from Democrat Charles Schumer, that Iglesias should have not been fired. He adds, "Looking back on all of this, I wish we could do it over again. In hindsight, I wish the department hadn't gone down this road at all." Whether Sampson is expressing sincere regret for helping to inject partisan politics into federal prosecutions, or if he just regrets being caught, cannot be determined.
- Much of the questioning focuses on Iglesias, who has said he was improperly pressured to open an investigation of baseless voter fraud charges against New Mexico Democrats by two Republican lawmakers, Senator Pete Domenici and his protege, Representative Heather Wilson. Sampson initially ranked Iglesias as a "diverse up-and-comer" who could be tapped for top Justice Department jobs. Instead, he was suddenly added to the firing list between October 17 and November 7. Sampson says he was aware of repeated complaints about Iglesias by Domenici, who called Gonzales and McNulty four times from late 2005 to 2006. Another key factor was complaints from the White House that Iglesias -- who was invited to train other prosecutors at two Justice Department seminars on voter fraud -- had not been aggressive enough in carrying out voter-fraud investigations. "I do remember learning from the attorney general that he had heard complaints from Karl Rove," Sampson recalls. He says he isn't sure who put Iglesias's name on the list; Justice officials have said that Sampson added the name. Sampson says Iglesias's name remained on the list after McNulty told a group of Justice officials that Domenici would be pleased by the firing.
- Iglesias was one of four whose names were put on the list for firing; the other three were removed, says Sampson, because Iglesias's home state senators -- both Republicans -- would not object to his firing. Presumably, the senators from the states of the other three attorneys would have objected. (When asked why Republican senators were informed of the firings but not Democratic senators, Sampson doesn't directly answer, but merely says that decision was a bad idea.) Schumer wants to know who some of the attorneys once listed for firing are, and Sampson's memory again proves faulty. One he does remember is North Carolina's Anna Mills Wagner, but McNulty's chief of staff Monica Goodling suggested that Wagner be removed because of her public success in prosecuting gang members. Sampson just can't remember who the others are. Even under repeated questioning, Sampson just intones, "I was the keeper of the list."
- The senators also grill Sampson about Fitzgerald, the highly competent and dogged prosecutor listed as "undistinguished" by Sampson in his March 2005 ranking. His fellow prosecutors list Fitzgerald as one of the best prosecutors in the country -- but while they are basing their judgment on competence and skill, Sampson based his judgment on his perceptions of Fitzgerald's loyalty to George W. Bush. In 2006, Sampson brought up the idea of adding Fitzgerald to the list to Miers and Kelley. "'Pat Fitzgerald could be added to this list,'" he told the two. "They looked at me if I had said something totally inappropriate, and I had. Immediately after I did it, I regretted it." He defends his rating of Fitzgerald as mediocre by saying, in a convoluted, unconvincing side-step, that he sought to assign a neutral rating because of the sensitivity of the CIA leak investigation Fitzgerald was overseeing.
- Perhaps one of the most illuminating aspects of Sampson's testimony is his admission that Gonzales did not object to the idea of using a new, legalistic work-around to avoid Senate confirmation in filling prosecutor vacancies until after Democratic senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas raised objections to the appointment of Tim Griffin to be US attorney in Little Rock. Justice officials have said that Gonzales rejected the idea but have been unclear about the timing. Sampson -- who wrote e-mails from August to December advocating bypassing confirmation -- said Gonzales did not reject the idea until late December or early January. Pryor said Gonzales told him earlier that no such move had been contemplated -- another Gonzales lie. Sampson tells Republican senator Arlen Specter, whose own staff member slipped in the Patriot Act codicil that authorized the indefinite appointment of US attorneys without Senate oversight, "That was a bad idea by staff that was not adopted by the principals. I did advocate that. It was never adopted by the attorney general or Ms. Miers.... I did recommend that at one point. I was the chief of staff and I had made recommendations of different options...and I did reccommend that. But it was never adopted by the attorney general. It was rejected by the attorney general." Apparently it was rejected by Gonzales only after Pryor began making waves. However, Sampson cannot prove what Gonzales did or didn't say, because, as he says, "I didn't communicate with the attorney general by e-mail." (It is well known that Gonzales doesn't like leaving written or electronic records of his conversations.) Sampson says he isn't sure why he floated the idea of firing Fitzgerald: maybe it was just to "get a reaction out of" Miers and Kelley.
- Interestingly, Sampson says that he kept very little documentation on the firing process. When asked by Democrat Ted Kennedy about any such documentation, he says, "[I]t wasn't a very good file... [T]here wasn't much of a file."
- When asked by Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse whether he has ever prosecuted a case himself, Sampson says he has prosecuted one -- a gun case. He also says he has prosecuted "a handful" of civil cases. Sampson was in line to become a US attorney himself, overseeing the prosecution of cases like the Cunningham investigation.
- The New York Times writes a blistering editorial regarding Sampson's testimony, observing that Sampson tried to be a "loyal Bushie," to use Sampson's own terminology, but that "if Mr. Sampson was trying to fall on his sword, he had horrible aim. In testimony that got so embarrassing for the White House that the Republicans tried to cut it off, Mr. Sampson simply ended up making it clearer than ever that the eight prosecutors were fired for political reasons." Sampson, say the Times editors, "provided more evidence, also, that the attorney general and other top Justice Department officials were dishonest in their initial statements about the firings. [He] flatly contradicted the attorney general's claim that he did not participate in the selection of the prosecutors to be fired and never had a conversation about 'where things stood.' Mr. Sampson testified that Mr. Gonzales was 'aware of this process from the beginning,' and that the two men regularly discussed where things stood. Mr. Sampson also confirmed that Mr. Gonzales was at the Nov. 27 meeting where the selected prosecutors' fates were sealed."
- The Times editors also note that Sampson proved himself a liar, in the now-infamous letter of February 23, 2007, that Sampson all but wrote under the name of assistant AG Richard Hertling (see the March 28 item above). The letter denied that Karl Rove or any other White House official was involved in the firing of Arkansas prosecutor Bud Cummins and his replacement by Rove underling Tim Griffin; Sampson squirmed and wriggled when questioned about his December 2006 e-mail where he said getting Griffin in place was "important" to Rove and former White House counsel Harriet Miers. Sampson finally, and grudgingly, admitted that he had discussed the appointment with two White House aides.
- As for Sampson's denials that he had anything more than casual knowledge of the fired prosecutors' pursuit of corrupt Republicans before their sacking, the Times finds his denials "implausible. ...He was asked if he was aware that the fired United States attorney in Nevada was investigating a Republican governor, that the fired prosecutor in Arkansas was investigating the Republican governor of Missouri, or that the prosecutor in Arizona was investigating two Republican members of Congress;" his answer was either a flat "no," or a claim that he just knew of the prosecutions from glancing at the news. This is impossible to believe, unless, say the editors, "we are to believe that Mr. Gonzales runs a department in which the chief of staff is merely a political hack who has no hand in its substantive work." There can be no other explanation than the rankest of partisan political hackery for Sampson's admission that he advocated firing Patrick Fitzgerald. The Times writes, "The administration insists that purge was not about partisan politics. But Mr. Sampson's alternative explanation was not very credible -- that the decision about which of these distinguished prosecutors should be fired was left in the hands of someone as young and inept as Mr. Sampson. If this were an aboveboard, professional process, it strains credulity that virtually no documents were produced when decisions were made, and that none of his recommendations to Mr. Gonzales were in writing."
- The Times concludes, "It is no wonder that the White House is trying to stop Congress from questioning Mr. Rove, Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel, and other top officials in public, under oath and with a transcript. The more the administration tries to spin the prosecutor purge, the worse it looks."
- Slate's Emily Bazelon writes, "Kyle Sampson tried to stand by his man today. But he just couldn't. His former boss of seven years, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, zoomed so far into outer space this month in claiming that he had nothing to do with last year's firing of eight US attorneys that Sampson could only leave him to orbit. Sampson was sweaty, nervous, and soft-spoken -- nowhere in evidence was the cavalier swagger of the aide who wrote e-mails a few short months ago about replacing one prosecutor without waiting for his 'body to cool.' And that made his testimony about Gonzales all the more damning for its apparent reluctance." (Washington Post, TPM Muckraker, New York Times, Slate, USA Today)
"The decision-makers in this case were the attorney general and the counsel to the president." -- Kyle Sampson
Bush, military lie about need for immediate troop funding
- March 30: Both the Bush administration and the Pentagon have repeatedly and systematically lied over the "urgent" need for "immediate" war funding, according to a Congressional Research Service study.
Iraq war and occupation
Bush officials, military spokespersons, and Congressional Republicans insist that Congress must pass a large, no-strings-attached supplemental appropriations bill right now, or that dire consequences will ensue for American troops in Iraq within the coming weeks. Congress is mired in debate over sending a bill up for a vote that would fund the troops, but would include timetables for withdrawal, an inclusion that Bush and Congressional Republicans adamantly oppose. "[T]the clock is ticking for our troops in the field," Bush intoned ominously yesterday.
- The CRS study shows that the US Army, the branch of the military characterized as in the most immediate need, has enough money to finance its operations in Iraq through the end of July. "The Army could finance the O&M (operations and maintenance) of both its baseline and war program...through most of July 2007" by shifting around money in existing accounts, the CRS reports. The report is largely based on the Army's own data. Democratic House member John Murtha, who has deep and longstanding ties with the military, says he believes the White House's insistence that the Army's money will run out by April 15 is a lie. Based on the inquiries he's made, he says, the Pentagon will start running out of money at the beginning of June. "We've never had a year where they didn't give us bad information," he says. "We've been asking people and we think it'll be the end of May."
- Bush and his fellows have repeately insisted that Congress must provide $100 billion in funding now, or the troops will suffer the effects of a lack of funding within the next few weeks. Bush began demanding the supplemental funding in early February; the Democratic leadership in Congress has responded by providing bills that actually give more money than Bush asked for, but are including conditions: benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet, and timetables for withdrawal of American troops. Bush says he will not tolerate any such attempts by Congress to "micromanage" the war, and will veto any such bill that crosses his desk. General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified to Congress on March 29 that within two weeks, if the Army doesn't get emergency funding, it would have to begin curtailing some troop training, which "could over time delay their ability to go back into combat." And Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said that if funding was not approved by May 15, the Army would have to extend some soldiers' tours, because other units would not be ready, and equipment repair work would not be carried out. "Every day that the Congress fails to act on this request causes our military hardship and impacts readiness," says White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.
- However, Perino is just piling on the lies. The CRS report says that "the Army could finance its O&M expenses through the end of May by tapping $52.6 billion in O&M funding already provided by Congress." Furthermore, with congressional approval, the Pentagon could temporarily transfer money out of other accounts, giving the Army "almost two additional months" to conduct its regular operations and the war. The National Journal reports that the CRS found "the Army has enough money in its existing budget to fund operations and maintenance through the end of May -- about $52.6 billion. If additional transfer authority is tapped, subject to Congress approving a reprogramming request, the Army would have enough funds to make it through nearly two additional months, or toward the end of July. Using all of its transfer authority, the Army could have as much as $60.1 billion available." Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid observes, "This study confirms that the president is once again attempting to mislead the public and create an artificial atmosphere of anxiety. He is using scare tactics to defeat bipartisan legislation that would change course in Iraq."
- Since invading Iraq in March 2003, the Bush administration has refused to include in annual budgets the full estimated cost of the war each year. Instead, for four years it has submitted "emergency" requests that many lawmakers complain have made it difficult to do proper oversight of the war. (Reuters, Think Progress [multiple sources])
"Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the president to explain to us what the exit strategy is. ...I think it's also important for the president to lay out a timetable as to how long [US troops] will be involved and when they will be withdrawn." -- George W. Bush, speaking on the US involvement in Kosovo, April-June 1999
- March 31: Fired US attorney Bud Cummins, who was replaced in mid-2006 by Karl Rove protege Tim Griffin, writes an editorial for the online magazine Salon, in which he says the Department of Justice's credibility has been all but destroyed by the recent controversy over his and seven other US attorney firings.
US Attorney firings
Cummins says he has no specific information about any particular instances of "politicization" of the Justice Department. But, he notes, "the question goes to the most important issue highlighted by the controversy over the dismissal of myself and seven other United States attorneys: the credibility of the Department of Justice."
- Cummins acknowledges that under the law, Bush can fire any or all of the US attorneys at any time, with or without reason. Cummins writes that he and his fellow attorneys accepted their fate without question. But, "[w]hen challenged by Congress, the leaders of the Department of Justice could have refused to explain. Or, they could have explained the truth. But apparently the truth behind some or all of the firings was embarrassing. So, instead, they said it was because of 'performance.' We didn't accept that, because it wasn't the truth. In spite of statements and representations to the contrary, there was no credible performance review process prior to the firings -- at least, not using the definition of 'performance' known to most people. There is not one document to evidence such a review. The department's leaders did not consult any of the reports or the people that could have provided information relevant to the performance of the US attorneys they fired. In fact, in the case of my seven colleagues, they actually fired some pretty damn good U.S. attorneys -- and knowledgeable people in those attorneys' communities back home know that to be the truth. Nobody seems to believe the department's explanations."
- Cummins says he and his fellow victims still can't be sure why they were singled out to be fired. He isn't sure who knows. But, the story as emerging from the ongoing Congressional hearings is, in his words, "unattractive." He continues, "It doesn't appear any laws were broken, so it makes it even worse that there is such a reluctance on the administration's part to simply admit the obvious and move on. It hurts their credibility. ...Put simply, the Department of Justice lives on credibility. When a federal prosecutor sends FBI agents to your brother's house with an arrest warrant, demonstrating an intention to take away years of his liberty, separate him from his family, and take away his property, you and the public at large must have absolute confidence that the sole reason for those actions is that there was substantial evidence to suggest that your brother intentionally committed a federal crime. Everyone must have confidence that the prosecutor exercised his or her vast discretion in a neutral and nonpartisan pursuit of the facts and the law. Being credible is like being pregnant -- you either are, or you aren't. If someone says they 'kind of' believe what you say, they are really calling you a liar. Once you have given the public a reason to believe some of your decisions are improperly motivated, then they are going to question every decision you have made, or will make in the future. That is a natural and predictable phenomenon. ...You only get one chance to hold on to your credibility. My team, which holds temporary custody of the Department of Justice, has blown it in this case. The Department of Justice will be paying for it for some time to come. Lots of sound investigations and convictions are now going to be questioned. That is a crying shame, because most of the 110,000 employees to whom the attorney general referred in a recent news conference are neutral, nonpartisan public servants and do incredible work. A lot of President Bush's political appointees have done a lot of great work, too. Sadly, because of the damage done by this protracted scandal, which the administration has handled poorly at every turn, none of that good work is currently being recognized. And more ominously, the credibility of the Department of Justice may no longer be, either." (Salon)
- March 31: Rudolph Giuliani's longtime business and political crony, Bernard Kerik, is going to be indicted for several felonies, including tax evasion and conspiracy to commit wiretapping.
Kerik's upcoming courtoom battle is expected to have a deletorious effect on Giuliani's campaign for president. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, personally recommended Kerik to Bush as his choice to head the Department of Homeland Security, a recommendation he later termed a "mistake." Giuliani also appointed Kerik to a brief and controversial term as police commissioner of New York City. Kerik's connections to Giuliani go back to his days as Giuliani's campaign security adviser, corrections chief, police commissioner and eventual partner in Giuliani-Kerik, a security arm of Giuliani Partners, which Giuliani established after leaving the mayor's office in 2001. Kerik resigned his positions in Giuliani's firm after he was nominated to the homeland security job. Giuliani has no direct connections to Kerik's alleged crimes, say legal sources familiar with the investigation; he and his consulting firm have cooperated with the FBI's investigation into Kerik.
- Kerik will likely be charged with filing false information to the government during his nomination process as head of DHS -- a Cabinet-level appointment. He will also be charged with tax evasion, by failing to disclose numerous expensive gifts he received while he was New York's corrections commissioner, including costly renovations to an apartment he owned. The FBI is investigating loans he received while he was Giuliani's business partner. Last month, he turned down a plea bargain offer because he has no intention of serving any jail time. His attorney says Kerik will emphasize his innocence of any crime: "He's not going to plead to something that he didn't do," says lawyer Kenneth Breen.
- The case against Kerik that federal prosecutors are preparing could generate uncomfortable political attention for Giuliani because it focuses on Kerik's activities while the two men were in government together and were jointly running Giuliani-Kerik, which was paid millions of dollars for advising startup companies, doing federal work and consulting with clients overseas. Giuliani's campaign has already identified Kerik as a potential campaign liability. Republican political consultant Nelson Warfield says, "Kerik has potential to undermine his image as a competent leader and someone best fit to fight terrorism. Either he had fundamentally bad information about Kerik, or he was reckless in not knowing enough about a man who was that close to him."
- Kerik is also facing charges of conspiracy to commit illegal wiretapping in his dealings with the 2006 candidate for New York attorney general Jeanine Pirro. After Kerik left the Giuliani firm, Kerik arranged for two off-duty Giuliani firm employees to conduct surveillance on Pirro's husband. Pirro and Kerik also discussed bugging a boat where Pirro suspected her husband was having an extramarital affair. Kerik was heard on a wiretap telling Pirro that he did not want to do the bugging because it was illegal. About a year earlier, Pirro, then the Westchester County district attorney, ordered the A&P supermarket chain to hire the Giuliani-Kerik security firm as part of a settlement agreement in a case involving underage alcohol sales. The security firm was ultimately paid $43,000, according to a knowledgeable source who spoke about the terms of the contract on the condition of anonymity.
- Kerik first met Bush in the rubble of the World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks. In 2003, Kerik served a brief, inglorious stint in Iraq, supposedly helping to train Iraqi police officers, but in reality spending his days bragging about his exploits and at night joining armed Marines in conducting photo-friendly, but safe, "raids" on Iraqi homes. Nevertheless, Bush praised Kerik for his "accomplishments" in Baghdad, and in early 2004, named Kerik to head the Department of Homeland Security. A week later, Kerik withdrew his name from consideration, supposedly over his failure to pay Social Security taxes for a nanny. The real reasons for his withdrawal were more murky, including favors he had police officers do for girlfriends, and ties to organized crime. He later pled guilty to state charges of accepting nearly $200,000 in gifts while a public official, including more than $165,000 spent on renovations to his apartment. The money came from companies affiliated with a New Jersey outfit that federal authorities and state gambling regulators have linked to organized crime. In the fall of 2005, Kerik asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in refusing to answer questions before a New Jersey gaming regulatory body about his relationship to the people involved in the apartment renovations.
- Kerik found his partnership with Giuliani equally lucrative -- the A&P deal was only one of many such contracts landed because of the partners' extensive Republican political connections. They include a Justice Department contract and multimillion-dollar consulting arrangements with business clients in the technology and security sectors worldwide. In some cases, Giuliani and Kerik simultaneously advised a private company and the federal agency whose actions could affect it. Giuliani's firm, for instance, was hired by Purdue Pharma to help figure out how to keep sales of its popular painkiller OxyContin from being restricted by the government; street dealers were crushing and converting it into a powerful narcotic offering an instant high. Kerik was personally named to oversee security improvements at a New Jersey manufacturing plant. At the same time, the Justice Department paid Giuliani-Kerik $1.1 million to conduct a management review of the organized-crime drug task force, whose responsibilities included stemming illegal use of OxyContin.
- Giuliani-Kerik has not been shy about exploiting the partners' fame over 9/11, either. Giuliani, Kerik and other firm partners were hired by cellphone carrier Nextel to win Federal Communications Commission approval for a new, emergency-only wireless spectrum for first responders. The idea was to solve one problem for Nextel -- it had long been subject to complaints that its wireless signal sometimes interfered with the communications channels used by police, fire and rescue officials -- while creating an even stronger business opportunity for the cellular carrier. At the same time, Giuliani's firm was brought in by the FCC to participate in a panel that was advising the agency in its efforts to address the future needs of a police, fire and rescue communications system in the aftermath of the attacks. (Washington Post)