Highlights of This Page
Harriet Miers candidacy for Supreme Court implodes. Tom DeLay indicted on corruption charges, linked to Abramoff scandal. Cheney chief of staff Lewis Libby indicted, resigns.
See my Update Information page for an explanation of why this and other pages between September 2004 and September 2006 are not yet complete.
- October 1: Bush tells his radio listeners, "I'm encouraged by the increasing size and capability of the Iraqi security forces. Today they have more than 100 battalions operating throughout the country, and our commanders report that the Iraqi forces are serving with increasing effectiveness." In reality, of course, the Iraqi forces are anything but effective, receiving little more than superficial training and often deserting their battalions to join one of the militias, or working with one or another sectarian group from inside their units. (White House/Democratic Underground)
Harriet Miers candidacy for Supreme Court implodes
- October 3: Bush nominates White House counsel Harriet Miers to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. Miers's nomination is controversial from the beginning. After a long career as a corporate lawyer specializing in tort law, and a brief stint as the head of the Texas Bar Association, Miers joined the George W. Bush bandwagon in 1994, serving as his gubernatorial campaign's general counsel, his representative on the Texas State Lottery Commission (where she proved her loyalty by ensuring nothing untoward would happen to embarrass Bush; see related items), and later his personal lawyer. After working on the Bush campaign in 2000, she accompanied Bush to the White House in 2001, where she has been faithfully serving Bush ever since. She is also a heavy donor to Republican candidates and causes. Her personal and professional support for Bush is effusive, and given to gush, once calling Bush the "best governor ever" and telling the New York Times that "serving President Bush and Mrs. Bush is an impossible-to-describe privilege." It is obvious where her loyalties lie.
- Bush originally chose future Chief Justice John Roberts to replace O'Connor, but after Chief Justice William Rehnquist dies of throat cancer on September 3, Bush shifts Roberts's nomination to replace Rehnquist and selects Miers to replace O'Connor instead. (Democratic Senate Minority Leader suggested Miers as O'Connor's replacement, possibly facetiously, and possibly with an eye to causing Bush embarrassment. If that was Reid's goal, he succeeded admirably.) Several Republicans counsel Bush to select someone from outside the appellate court system, from where most nominees are drawn. Ultimately, Bush wants someone on the Court who is unswervingly loyal to him, and can be relied upon to vote with the extremist conservative bloc of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
- Karl Rove obligingly gins up the conservative machine to promote Miers's nomination, but encounters unprecedented resistance from the right. His first outreach, to evangelist James Dobson of Focus on the Family, goes poorly, even after Rove plays up Miers's membership in "a very conservative church which is almost universally pro-life." Social and religious conservatives have been adamant in pressing for another anti-abortion justice on the Court, one who will ultimately help overturn Roe v. Wade, and Rove believes, correctly, that Miers fits the bill. Though Bush, not Rove, chose Miers, Rove sees Miers as a strong candidate for several reasons: she is a woman, she is staunchly anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage, and her story of a woman who has broken barriers to succeed can be presented with the appropriate flourishes. Rove also appreciates what is perhaps her strongest asset, her complete loyalty to Bush. (Miers's career parallels that of future Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, a Hispanic who rode Bush's coattails through Texas into the White House.) Many moderates and some liberals will be loath to oppose Miers's candidacy simply because she is a woman, Rove believes, and Rove likes the fact that Miers, who has never been a judge, has little of a "paper trail" for critics to pick apart. Authors James Moore and Wayne Slater write, "There was no question that Harriet Miers would be Bush's surrogate on the Court, that her decisions would reflect the president's political will in every regard -- which Rove tried to reinforce with Christian leaders." It doesn't hurt that Miers and Rove have had themselves a long and fruitful working relationship. "She's real close to Karl, very tight," recalls a former Bush advisor from Texas. Miers will be a willing participant in Rove's onslaught against trial lawyers (see related items).
- Rove's strategy is to package Miers as a devout evangelical Christian, and sell her nomination to the religious right. He succeeds in winning the backing of influential minister Richard Land, who has long been a Bush supporter. He is successful in winning the backing of the secretive Arlington Group, a conclave of influential conservative religious leaders that includes Dobson, Gary Bauer, Donald Wildmon, and Paul Weyrich, largely because of his expansive promises about her adamant resistance to abortion rights of any kind. But the support Rove is winning is tepid. Most of the evangelicals echo what others will later say: ultimately, she's Bush's personal lawyer, and a tough sell as a supposedly impartial Supreme Court justice. Nevertheless, Dobson and other evangelicals begin flogging Miers, though not without reservations: "When you know some of the things that I know -- that I probably shouldn't know -- you will understand why I have said, with fear and trepidation, that Harriet Miers will be a good justice," he tells his radio audience. Many religious conservatives see Rove's increasingly transparent manipulations as patronizing, while economic conservatives, less vulnerable to appeals to their faith, see Rove's machinations as clumsy.
- The nomination process goes badly from the start. Her preliminary interviews with the Senate Judiciary Committee are disastrous. One former Texas associate says charitably, "She's not what you would call an intellect." The combination of her extremist ideology and her ignorance of judicial procedure causes the White House to ponder whether to suspend the interviews and spend the time preparing her for the hearings themselves. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter and ranking Senator Patrick Leahy ask Miers to redo some of her answers to the questionnaire submitted to her by the committee, noting that her responses were "inadequate," "insufficient," and "insulting" because she failed or refused to adequately answer various questions with acceptable accuracy or with sufficient detail. Her answers also include a basic error on constitutional law where she cites a constitutional right for proportional representation which the Supreme Court had previously ruled did not exist. In addition to the demand for new questionnaire responses, the committee demands to review internal White House documents that would illustrate her experience as White House counsel and the constitutional issues she worked on, a request the White House refuses.
- During the process, Democratic senator Charles Schumer says, "I think, if you were to hold the vote today, she would not get a majority, either in the Judiciary Committee or on the floor." But Specter, who loves to talk tough before falling in line with the administration, reverses himself and denies that Miers's nomination is shaky. Most Democrats, and not a few Republicans, don't agree with Specter. As the process wends its way towards the hearings, more and more evangelicals back away from supporting Miers, including all of the members of the Arlington Group. Ultimately, their reasons are less ideological than mercenary. They want another Scalia or Thomas that they can use as a lightning rod for fund-raising. "They couldn't make money with her," recalls a powerful figure on the religious right, who refuses to let Moore and Slater use his name because of his close relationship with the White House. "Look who was against her. They couldn't get to their members and get them stirred up for contributions." Miers is not the person to ignite an ideological battle that will encourage donations to stream in. The religious right needs either a liberal over whom they can raise the alarms, or another Scalia to whom they can portray as, in Moore and Slater's words, "imperiled by the forces of secularism. ...Miers was too pastel a figure to rouse the troops."
- The economic conservatives are even less enamoured of Miers. Even though Rove sends Dick Cheney himself to flog Miers on Rush Limbaugh's radio show, and he sends in the usual "independent" 527 groups such as Progress for America to sell Miers to the conservative base, for once, the voters and the big financial backers aren't buying what Rove is selling. As for the Republican senators who will vote on her nomination, they keep calling Rove saying they are unimpressed. And when the press latches hold of her syrupy, sycophantic letters to Bush and his wife, which sound as if they were written by a cheerleader instead of a serious judicial nominee with some sense of gravitas, the nomination really begins to fold. Ultimately, conservative media icons like George Will, Charles Krauthammer, David Frum (himself a former White House speechwriter), and William Kristol will torpedo what credibility Miers has left.
- On October 27, ten days before her Senate confirmation hearings are to begin, the White House announces that Miers's nomination is withdrawn, supposedly at her request. Miers says she fears that the nomination would create a "burden for the White House and its staff and it is not in the best interest of the country." In reality, the confirmation hearings would likely become a sparring match between the White House and the committee over the release of the White House documents, which Bush says will not be provided because to do so "would undermine a president's ability to receive candid counsel." (In early 2007, that line will be revived when it becomes known that eight US attorneys were fired for partisan political reasons, a scandal in which Miers, as White House counsel, is heavily involved.) Miers will leave the White House altogether in January 2007, under pressure from Bush's chief of staff, Joshua Bolten. Bush will instead nominate another hardline candidate, Samuel Alito, an appeals court justice with a long history of conservative activism and a candidate far more to the liking of the conservative base.
- Moore and Slater observe that Rove learned a hard lesson from the Miers nomination. "Uniting the conservative base in spite of its differences required that everybody got something," they write. "In the case of the Miers nomination, nobody did. Bush appointed his loyal general counsel because he trusted her and believed his supporters should, too. After five years of a president's acting in ways inimical to many of his conservative allies -- a soaring budget, a costly prescription drug program for seniors, the imposition of tariffs on foreign steel, amnesty for illegal immigrants -- the reservoir of trust was not particularly deep. The president had kept the base in line through the 2004 campaign with a promise to transform the Court. With Miers, he'd broken his promise." Additionally, with one crisis after another being mishandled by an arrogant and out-of-touch White House, and even Republican supporters muttering about rampant cronyism, overreaching, and corruption, "[i]t was as if the lesson of absolute power had been lost on the newly ascendant GOP." (James Moore and Wayne Slater, Wikipedia)
- October 4: Lieutenant General William Odom, formerly Reagan's head of the National Security Agency, says the best thing to do in Iraq is "cut and run" right now. He recently wrote, "The invasion of Iraq will turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in US history." In his article, "What's Wrong with Cutting and Running?" he says, "The wisest course for journalists might be to begin sustained investigations of why leading Democrats have failed so miserably to challenge the US occupation of Iraq. The first step, of course, is to establish as conventional wisdom the fact that the war was never in the U.S. interests and has not become so." Odom says in an interview with Democracy Now's Amy Goodman that the only interests served in occupying Iraq are the interests of al-Qaeda and Iran, not the US's. He predicts that no matter what the US does in Iraq, eventually Iraq will end up being governed by a hardline, anti-American Shi'ite theocratic dictatorship of one form or another. Few on either side of the aisle want to hear this argument, Odom says. "There is a tendency, it seems to me, among both Democrats and Republicans, to really get nervous about doing anything. They know that we're in trouble, and they're just not willing to face up to the reality that we are going to have to one day pick up and leave and that you're almost -- as I said in the piece, the structure of this piece, essentially saying that all of the things that the administration says will happen if we leave are already happening or they're irrelevant." (Democracy Now)
- October 7: The Republican-led House of Representatives passes a bill written by GOP congressman Joe Barton, called, speciously, the Gasoline for America's Security Act (the GAS Act). Barton, the recipient of $2 million in campaign donations from energy companies, wrote the law to allow oil and gas companies to, among other things, receive lavish government subsidies for the repair of oil refineries along the Gulf Coast damaged by Hurricane Katrina. A good idea, perhaps, but Barton doesn't mention the fact that most of those refineries had already been closed by the oil industry years before in order to decrease gasoline production and raise gas prices. Barton's bill also provides for the absolute giveaway of drilling rights on federally protected lands, including wildlife refuges and closed military bases, to the oil and gas companies. The bill's primary corporate supporter? The National Petrochemical and Refiners Association (NPRA).
- The Republican House leaders violated their own rules by holding the vote open for almost an hour while they browbeat three reluctant Republicans, Wayne Gilcrest, C.W. Young, and Jim Gerlach, to change their minds and vote for passage. The bill passes on a razor-thin 212-210 vote. As the vote concludes, opponents of the bill chant in unison, "Shame, Shame, Shame!"
- The bill never makes it out of committee in the Senate. (SourceWatch, Air America Playbook)
- October 8: Delphi Corporation, formerly Delco, the parts manufacturer of General Motors, files for bankruptcy. Part of its bankruptcy agreement involves the closing of 21 of its 29 plants in the US and the enforced layoff of thousands of workers. In the fall, when CEO Steve Miller knew the company was about to file bankruptcy but had not yet told its workers, Miller demanded that his 33,000 union workers could either give up two-thirds of their pay or give up their benefits. The same day, Miller announced that Delphi's top 486 managers would receive a total of $88 milion in cash bonuses with the promise of $400 million more. Weeks later, Miller announces the company's bankruptcy and the firing of his workers. Using the Delphi debacle as leverage, parent company GM demands that its union workers voluntarily give up $2 billion in health benefits. (Greg Palast)
- October 15: The Iraqi people approve the new constitution by popular vote. (T. Christian Miller)
- October 16: The New York Times publishes its exhaustive reconstruction of the Valerie Plame Wilson leak case, by Don Van Natta and three other reporters. It includes a sidebar by reporter Judith Wilson about her September 30 testimony before the grand jury, and her subsequent additional testimony (see the September 30 item and other items throughout this site for more information). In their book Hubris, Michael Isikoff and David Corn write that the article "was the equivalent of picking at an open scab." The "Miller case" comes off as anything but a principled defense of First Amendment rights; instead, it comes across as a muddle of "conflicting interests, unresolved disputes, and journalistic missteps." Managing editor Jill Abramson, when asked what she regrets about the paper's handling of the episode, replies, "The entire thing." And Miller refuses to take any responsibility for her own sorry involvement, writing, "WMD -- I got it totally wrong.... If your sources are wrong, you are wrong. I did the best job that I could."
- On October 21, executive editor Bill Keller claims in an internal memo that he wished he had been able to deal with "the controversy over WMD as soon as I became executive editor," but the flap over the Jayson Blair plagarism fiasco had disrupted the entire staff, including Keller himself. "By waiting a year to own up to our mistakes," he writes, "we allowed the anger inside and outside the paper to fester. Worse, we fear, we fostered an impression that the Times put a higher premium on protecting its reporters than on coming clean with its readers." He says that Miller "seems to have misled [an editor] about the extent of her involvement" in the Plame leak, and adds, "If I had known the details of Judy's entanglement with Libby, I'd have been more careful in how the paper articulated its defense, and perhaps more willing than I had been to support efforts aimed at exploring compromises" -- a direct reference to the Times's legal challenge to the subpoenas demanding Miller testify before the grand jury.
- The day after, Maureen Down, the prima donna of the Times's opinion staff, excoriates Miller in a column entitled "Woman of Mass Destruction," blasting Miller for her "leading role in the dangerous echo chamber" that had led to war. Miller's credibility as a reporter, much less a champion of reporters' rights, is in tatters.
(Michael Isikoff and David Corn)
- October 16: NBC correspondent Tim Russert, the host of the network's flagship political pundit parade, Meet the Press, has an interesting dilemma in today's broadcast: how to handle a discussion of the White House outing of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson ("Plamegate") without discussing his own involvement in the scandal? Although the New York Times has revealed a portion of Times reporter Judith Miller's own deep involvement in the outing of Plame -- although nothing like the "full accounting" promised by the Times, neither Russert nor NBC has addressed the issue except to issue denials and bland non-answers. And Russert's own involvement is worth a hard look.
- But, for any discussion of Russert's participation and knowledge of Plame's outing, one has to go elsewhere than to Russert himself. Today, Russert addresses the following question to a guest, Democratic senator Carl Levin: "The New York Times today publishes a lengthy article about the CIA leak investigation. Judith Miller, the Times reporter, writes that she had at least three meetings with the vice president's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, in which they talked about Ambassador Joe Wilson's trip to Africa regarding uranium and also some discussions about Wilson's wife. What is your reaction?" Neither in this question nor in any other discussion of Plame's outing does Russert mention his own conversations with Libby.
- What we do know of Russert's involvement is sketchy but troublesome. On May 21, 2004, a federal grand jury convened by prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald subpoenaed Russert for his testimony about whether someone in the White House leaked Plame's identity to the media. NBC fought the subpoena, but lost, and Russert testified under oath on August 7, 2004 -- a fact which NBC did not announce until two days later, even though Russert and NBC lost their battle to stay out of court on July 20. According to NBC's August 9 statement, "Mr. Russert told the Special Prosecutor that, at the time of that conversation, he did not know Ms. Plame's name or that she was a CIA operative and that he did not provide that information to Mr. Libby. ...The Special Prosecutor's questions addressed a telephone conversation initiated by Mr. Libby and focused on what Mr. Russert said during that conversation. Mr. Libby had previously told the FBI about the conversation and had formally requested that the conversation be disclosed. The Special Prosecutor can share Mr. Russert's answers with the grand jury."
- Amazingly, a year later, on July 17, 2005, Russert hosted an entire Meet the Press episode on "Plamegate," with a number of guests from both sides of the political divide and the news media, and never once mentions his own involvement. Harry Shearer, the comedian and political commentator for the Huffington Post, wrote about the huge elephant "in the studio that went unnoticed for the full hour.... Like [reporter] Matt Cooper, Russert had testified to the grand jury on the Plame affair, yet at no point during the interview did the salient fact sally forth to the viewer. The pretense was uninvolved journalist interviewing involved participant: the reality was one pea in the pod interviewing a fellow pea." The next day, Russert discusses the highlights of the episode on the Today show; neither Matt Lauer nor Katie Couric ask him about his own involvement, and he does not broach the subject.
- Over the next week, the media learns, and reports, that Libby is claiming that he first learned of Plame's identity from Russert -- a claim that, over a year later during Libby's trial, is proven to most likely be a lie. (Interestingly, the Washington Post writes that it learned of the Libby-Russert claim from "a source who spoke with the Washington Post, some months ago." The reporters give no clue as to why the Post chose to wait "some months" to reveal the news.) Newsweek's Michael Isikoff reports on July 24, "A deal that special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald cut last year for NBC Meet the Press host Tim Russert's testimony may shed light on the emerging White House defense in the Valerie Plame leak case. ...The deal was not, as many assumed, for Russert's testimony about what Libby told him: it focused on what Russert told Libby. ...This now appears significant: in pursuing Russert's testimony, Fitzgerald was testing statements by White House aides -- reportedly including Libby -- that they learned about Wilson's wife from reporters, not classified documents." (Again, this set of claims that the White House learned of Plame's identity from reporters seems, in light of later evidence, to be a farrago of lies.)
- The same day as Isikoff's article hits the newsstands, July 24, Russert introduces the subject on Meet the Press by saying, "What we know so far is that in terms of journalists, Walter Pincus and Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post, Russert of NBC, Matt Cooper of Time magazine have all testified, either in deposition or before the grand jury. We assume Robert Novak has testified because Judy Miller of the Times who didn't testify is in jail. And there's been numerous newspaper reports that there's a difference between the testimony of some of the reporters and Scooter Libby of Vice President Cheney's office and Karl Rove of President Bush's office. Bill Safire, what do we make of all this?" Shearer responded waggishly, "Russert referred to himself in the third person, as if he were suddenly channeling Bob Dole. Harry Shearer likes that." During the same episode, Russert has an exchange that commentator and blogger Arianna Huffington labels "truly odd:"
Huffington responds in amazement, "He did not know what he said? He did not know her name? He did not know she was a covert operative? What we, the public, know is that we don't know what Russert told Fitzgerald during his testimony. Nor do we know why we don't know. And Russert still has to explain why his viewers don't deserve to know." Huffington asks, apparently without any real expectation of an answer, "Will NBC at least make Russert explain why he won't explain?" (Huffington Post)
- RUSSERT: There has to be an original source, somebody.
- [NBC's David]GREGORY: Yes.
- [NPR's Nina] TOTENBERG: Right.
- RUSSERT: Even if it came from a reporter...
- GREGORY: Right.
- RUSSERT: ...the reporter got it from someplace.
- TOTENBERG: Right. And...
- RUSSERT: But I was asked what I said. I did not know.
- October 16: The Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front alleges that Pakistan turned down Indian offers of aid to earthquake-ravaged Kashmir because of fears that the agencies administering the aid would discover a network of secret terror training camps hosted by Pakistan on behalf of a number of Islamic terrorist organizations. JKLF leader Shabir Chaudhury accuses the Pakistani government of having an "indifferent attitude towards the people of quake-ravaged Pakistan-occupied Kashmir," and says Islamabad "turned down international help in the rubble-strewn areas because of fear of exposure" of militant camps there. "One wonders why the Indian offer of help was refused, which could have saved hundeds of lives and could also have boosted the confidence between both governments," Chaudhury says. "The answer to this is simple if we take militant camps into account." Chaudhury says it is an open secret that Pakistan, though it has claimed to have dismantled all terrorist training camps, still hosts numerous such camps, with over 3,000 militants from around the globe training at these facilities. Chaudhury adds, "Unlike what happens in this part of the world, the natural disaster when it struck didn't distinguish between a man with a gun and a civilian. They, like other civilians, were either killed, injured or were under the rubble. [A]t last, to the relief of some, the camps wee dismantled by forces of nature. ...What explanation could the Pakistan government give if some militants from Bangladesh, Sudan, Algeria and Egypt are seen? This could have been very embarrassing for the military government of General Pervez Musharraf who on more than one occasion claimed there were no camps."
- October 19: Condoleezza Rice testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, after almost a year of stonewalling and ducking requests to appear. She relies on the two reports from her advisor Philip Zelikow about Iraq that he produced in February and September (see those pages for details about the reports). She decides to use his conclusions -- that success in Iraq includes breaking the insurgency, keeping Iraq from becoming a significant base for terrorism, demonstrating some democratic process, and turning the corner fiscally and economically -- almost verbatim. But she lacks a cohesive, understandable, headline-grabbing summary. Zelikow suggests a modification of the "clear and hold" strategy used in Vietnam. Zelikow believes that the strategy, of clearing an area of hostiles and holding it with your own forces, is not enough. Merely holding an area is not enough. Zelikow suggests instead a strategy of "clear, hold, and build." The concept becomes the centerpiece of Rice's testimony. "Our political strategy has to be to clear, hold, and build: to clear areas from insurgent turmoil, to hold them securely and to build durable Iraqi institutions."
- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is furious with Rice's assertions. She is proposing what in essence is a military strategy, and that's his purview, not hers. Worse, Rice's testimony doesn't accurately reflect what Rumsfeld has long insisted should be done: forcing the Iraqis to shoulder more of the burden for themselves. It is wrong to say that the US's "political-military strategy" is all about what the US will do and not what the Iraqis will do. Rice, says Rumsfeld, "felt that a bumper sticker was needed" to explain what her State Department is doing in Iraq. "I didn't need one," Rumsfeld recalls in a later interview. "We've got our job to do. We're doing it. And they had to fashion something like that. And they're right. If you're going to communicate with multiple audiences, including ours -- our Congress, our public -- the Iraqi people, then they want to know, 'Well, what are you doing? Do you have a strategy? Do you have a plan?' The answer is we do have a plan. But the question was, clear is one thing, and my problem was I wanted -- if that is our strategy for the United States, then I worried about it because in fact I wanted -- we've got what, 263,000 Iraqi security forces? I wanted them clearing. And then holding. And I didn't want the idea to be that it was just us."
- Rumsfeld reviews Bush's planned Veterans Day speech, and comes to a halt when he notes the use of the concept of "clear, hold, and build,." with Bush endorsing it as "our strategy." "Take it out," Rumsfeld demands of Bush's chief of staff, Andrew Card. "It's the centerpiece to the speech," Card objects. Moreover, it is now the centerpiece of the entire strategy in Iraq. "I recommend that we take it out," Rumsfeld insists. "Clear, we're doing," he says, meaning the US military. "It's up to the Iraqis to hold. And the State Department's got to work with somebody on the build." Rumsfeld loses this particular battle; the language stays. Speechwriter Michael Gerson doesn't understand Rumsfeld's objections. It is the only effective bumper sticker to explain their counterinsurgency strategy. (Bob Woodward)
Tom DeLay indicted on corruption charges, linked to Abramoff scandal
- Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is formally booked on charges of conspiracy to violate election law and money laundering arising from DeLay's acceptance of illegal campaign contributions through his political action committee, TRMPAC. DeLay is charged, fingerprinted, photographed (in a picture that looks more like a campaign photo than a mug shot), and released on $10,000 bond. The charges are still pending a trial as of May 2007, but several colleagues of DeLay's have also been charged with a variety of crimes, including violations in connection with their and DeLay's long association with convicted GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and are, at last report, cooperating with prosecutors. White House spokesman Scott McClellan says that Bush still views DeLay as "a good ally, a leader who we have worked closely with to get things done for the American people." DeLay will win the Republican primary for re-election in March 2006, but on April 3, three days after his associates Michael Scanlon and Tony Rudy plead guilty to charges growing from the Abramoff scandal, DeLay will announce his withdrawal from the race. In typical DeLay fashion, he then tries to handpick the Republican who will take his place on the ballot, but the courts refuse to allow him to manipulate the system so flagrantly, and DeLay is forced to remain in the race, where he loses badly to Democratic challenger Nick Lampson in November. Evidence of DeLay's huge array of illegal and blatantly corrupt activities in connection with TRMPAC and Abramoff continues to be revealed.
- DeLay has long been one of Karl Rove's closest associates in Congress, and Rove frequently worked through DeLay to ensure passage of legislation that Rove and the White House favored. DeLay, known as "The Hammer" during his time in Congress for his draconian, totalitarian control of his fellow Republicans, showed a breathtaking contempt for the law during his tenure, not just breaking the law, but ignoring it. He routinely collected legal and illegal campaign contributions from large corporations, funnelling over $190,000 to the Republican Party in Washington through TRMPAC, and in return, his hand-picked candidates in Texas received $190,000 in national party donations. DeLay said the transactions were legal, but prosecutors charged him with money laundering. He also oversaw the redistricting of Texas, using the excuse that the 2001 redistricting -- supervised by the courts -- "protected too many Democrats." With friendly, Rove-installed judges in his pocket, DeLay redrew the map of Texas's legislative districts to concentrate Democrats in a few areas, where they voted in candidates with 90% electoral margins, and leaving the large majority of Texas under Republican control. When outraged and outvoted Democratic legislators, ignored in the legislature, left the state to prevent a quorum for a vote to accept DeLay's redistricting, DeLay sent Homeland Security agents to "recapture" them and drag them back to Austin (the US marshals dispatched to corral the legislators, unlike DeLay, obeyed the law and refused to haul them back in shackles).
- DeLay, though willing to do Washington's bidding, was in many ways a loose cannon, and did not enjoy a close relationship with either Rove or Bush, who privately thought of DeLay as a bully. To keep DeLay in line, Rove used Abramoff, who echoed Rove's own strategizing when he said, "It is not our job to seek peaceful coexistence with the left. Our job is to remove them from power permanently." When the Republicans took over Congress in 1994, Abramoff's influence within the party soared. Soon thereafter, he met DeLay at a fundraiser, and the two quickly forged a close personal and political friendship. Abramoff won close access to DeLay the same way he did with many other influential Republicans -- he wined and dined them, and lavished outrageous amounts of money on them, sending them on sumptuous golfing vacations to exotic places, paid for mostly with money he had wangled from various Native American tribes who thought Abramoff was representing their interests in Washington. Abramoff placed his executive assistant, Susan Ralston, in Rove's office, guaranteeing his access to Rove; he also became a Bush Pioneer, raising well over $100,000 for the 2004 re-election campaign. He earned the swaggering nickname "Casino Jack" for his criminal exploits and his easy, arrogant, supremely self-confident manner. Like DeLay, Abramoff thought of himself as untouchable -- beyond the law. After all, it was his friends in the GOP that made and enforced the laws.
- Abramoff had tried and failed to gain the attention of Clinton-era officials, who refused to have anything to do with him. In contrast, he was welcomed with open arms by Bush officials, and managed to place many associates and friends at federal agencies, and helped ensure passage of laws that helped his garment-manufacturer clients in the Northern Mariana Islands enforce slave-labor conditions on their workers. While Bush and his top officials deny having anything more than the most casual contacts with Abramoff, records show that Abramoff had intensive contact with the most senior of Bush administration officials, including top policy advisors to Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft, the Secretary of the Interior, the top US trade representative, and others. Abramoff met over 200 times with White House officials in the first ten months of 2001 alone. But Abramoff's richest plunder was acquired through Congress, and most profitably, through Tom DeLay.
- DeLay, of course, was not the only fish in Abramoff's tank. Senator Jon Cornyn, the Texas anti-gambling crusader, was another of Abramoff's contacts in the GOP membership. Abramoff, who often represented Native American gambling interests, just laughed when he was asked by an associate, Marc Schwartz, how he and Cornyn reconciled his work on behalf of gambling with Cornyn's fervent public opposition to the vice. "It has to do with this giant old game called moving money around," Abramoff explained. "If someone is in a very conservative district, he can't take gambling money. Well, we can get gambling money contributed. How? We launder it through these other people's PACs, and they make contributions directly to the candidate." The fact that he was animatedly talking about felonious behavior didn't seem to dent Abramoff's panache. In just one example, Nevada gambling interests contributed over $80,000 to the Battle Born PAC of GOP senator John Ensign, who then passed the money along to four other Republican senators, including Cornyn. "There's a virtually unlimited supply of capital contributions" to fuel a GOP takeover of Congress, Abramoff bragged to Schwartz. "It's called wealth redistribution, Republican-style."
- The Congressman who benefited the most from Abramoff's "wealth redistribution" was Tom DeLay. Abramoff was a key player in DeLay's "K Street Project," where, in true Mafia fashion, he insisted that if lobbying firms wanted to do business with Congress, they would hire only Republicans. "If you want to play in our revolution," DeLay openly declared, "you have to live by our rules."
- Abramoff even pays conservative columnists to write favorable op-ed columns on behalf of his clients. For years, Abramoff paid Copely News Service columnist Doug Bandow, a Cato Institute scholar, $2,000 per article. He also paid Peter Ferrara of the conservative Institute for Policy Innovation to write similar columns. Copely dropped Bandow's column after Abramoff's media manipulations became public knowledge, but Ferrara was unrepentant, boasting that he took lobbyist money all the time for his writings. (When the Bush administration was shown to have paid conservative columnist Armstrong Williams to write op-eds praising its education policies, the Government Accountability Office termed the practice illegal "covert propaganda.") Rove's method of manipulating the media was to leak information he desired and deny any other access; Abramoff employed a simpler method: payoffs.
- In 2004, a rival lobbyist blew the whistle on Abramoff to the Washington Post, setting off a chain reaction of related scandals that caught, among others, Tom DeLay. In September 2005, White House procurement officer David Savafian was charged with lying to federal prosecutors about his illegal dealings with Abramoff; Michael Scanlon, an Abramoff partner, pled guilty to conspiracy to bribe federal officials and cheat Indian tribes. Scanlon's plea bargain gave prosecutors juicy information on Abramoff's complex web of felonious corruption, and triggered an investigation of Ohio GOP House member Bob Ney, who was proven to have accepted a fleet of casino boats from Scanlon for a bargain-basement price. In return, Ney, among other crimes, inserted comments into the Congressional Record that helped get favorable terms for the sale to Abramoff and his partner Adam Kidan. Kidan will plead guilty in December 2005 to fraud charges, and is also cooperating with prosecutors.
- In January 2006, Abramoff, faced with an array of charges, cuts a plea deal with prosecutors, pleading guilty to defrauding Indian tribes of tens of millions of dollars, bribing government officials, and evading taxes. Abramoff's agreement to cooperate with federal prosecutors threatens over a dozen influential Republicans, including DeLay, and causes Bush and many others to quickly return campaign contributions and deny any knowledge of any dealings with Abramoff. DeLay, who once called Abramoff "one of my closest and dearest friends," will deny any knowledge of Abramoff's underhanded dealings. The evidence proves otherwise. In the months to follow, GOP congressman Randy Cunningham will receive eight years in prison after pleading guilty to a myriad of felony charges resulting from his dealings with Abramoff. The investigation also touches on Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and his sale of stock from the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), a Frist family-owned corporation whose stock prices plummeted just after he sold off his stock for a handsome profit. Though Frist denies any wrongdoing, he will choose not to seek re-election in 2006. Texas governor Rick Perry and Ohio governor Bob Taft are also tainted by association with Abramoff, and Taft will eventually plead no contest to accepting bribes from Ohio GOP moneyman Tom Noe, who himself will be convicted of stealing millions from Ohio's treasury. Noe admitted to funnelling $45,000 in illegal contributions to the Bush campaign in 2004. The widespread corruption in the Republican Party now coming to light threatens to derail Rove's plans for absolute political domination by the GOP.
- "When you win as big as they did in 2004, something kicks in that the Greeks knew something about, a thing called hubris," says presidential scholar Walter Dean Burnham. "We might also call it election excess. And election excess on the part of the majority party has always been a good source for a rollback or kickback." (James Moore and Wayne Slater, Wikipedia)
- October 22: The executive editor of the New York Times, Bill Keller, now admits that reporter Judith Miller misled the newspaper about her role in the outing of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame. Keller sent an e-mail to the newspaper's staff on October 16 (see the above item), saying that until Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor investigating the Plame outing, subpoenaed Miller to testify, "I didn't know that Judy had been one of the reporters on the receiving end" of leaks aimed at Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson. "Judy seems to have misled" Times Washington bureau chief Bill Taubman about the extent of her involvement, Keller writes. Taubman asked Miller in the fall of 2003 whether she was among the reporters who had gotten leaks about the identity of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame. "Ms. Miller denied it," the Times reported earlier. Miller and Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, discussed Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, in three conversations in the weeks before the CIA officer's status was outed by columnist Robert Novak. Keller said he might have been more willing to compromise with Fitzgerald over Miller's testimony, and not support Miller's refusal to testify, "if I had known the details of Judy's entanglement with Libby."
- Miller retorts by blasting Keller, calling his memo "seriously inaccurate," and saying that she "never meant to mislead Phil [Taubman], nor did I mislead him." Miller, of course, is lying. She also denies having any relationship with Libby except as a source, an allegation that is also untrue. Miller was willingly used for years by Libby and other senior White House officials as a propaganda outlet for patently false information about Iraq's putative WMD programs, and published front-page stories in the Times that the administration repeatedly cited as justification for its push for war with Iraq. Miller's lawyer, Bob Bennett, downplays Miller's conversations with Libby about Plame, saying the conversations didn't seem like "a big deal at the time." Bennett is trying to paint Miller, not as a propagandistic mouthpiece for liars in the Bush administration, but "as a heroic journalist."
- The criticism of Miller emerged amid new details about how she belatedly turned over notes of a June 23, 2003, conversation she had with Libby, notes which she claims she merely "forgot." Miller, who testified on September 30 after serving 85 days in jail for refusing to answer Fitzgerald's subpoena, failed to mention the meeting with Libby. She "found" her notes about it only when prosecutors showed her White House visitor logs showing she had met with Libby in the Old Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House. One lawyer familiar with Miller's testimony says the reporter told prosecutors at first that she did not believe the June meeting would have involved Plame because she had just returned from covering the Iraq war. She said she was probably giving Libby an update of her experiences there. However, in reviewing her notes, Miller "discovered" they indicated that Libby had given her information about Plame at that meeting. Fitzgerald then had her return to the grand jury to testify about it. The evidence of that meeting has become important to the investigation because it indicates that Libby was passing information to reporters about Plame well before her husband went public with accusations that the Bush administration had twisted pre-war intelligence on Iraq. Libby and Bush political adviser Karl Rove have emerged as central figures in the probe because both had contacts with reporter who ultimately disclosed Plame's identity in news stories. Conflicts between presidential aides' testimony and other evidence could result in criminal charges. The grand jury investigating the matter for the last two years is set to expire next Friday. (See the October 28 entry below, which notes that Libby will be indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice by Fitzgerald, and other related items throughout this site.)
- Miller will leave the Times in November 2005 after her editors refuse to endorse her nomination for a $1 million prize for journalism sponsored by Israeli businessman Dan David. She continues her career as a freelance journalist, and still lauds Ahmad Chalabi, calling him one of the "smartest people" she has ever met. (San Francisco Chronicle, Michael Isikoff and David Corn)
Cheney chief of staff Lewis Libby indicted, resigns
- October 28: Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, is indicted in the Valerie Plame Wilson CIA leak case, charged with two counts of perjury, one count of obstruction of justice, and two counts of making false statements to the FBI. He faces up to 30 years in jail and fines up to $1.2 million. The indictments, announced by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, accuse Libby of lying in his interviews to FBI agents and during both of his grand jury appearances about his role in the leak and his attempts to blame reporters Tim Russert, Judith Miller, and Matt Cooper for the leak. Fitzgerald reveals some of what he has learned: that Libby had obtained information about Plame from the CIA, that Dick Cheney had told him Plame worked with the CIA's Counterproliferation Division in finding out about Iraqi (and Iranian) WMDs, that Libby had leaked Plame's identity as a CIA agent to Miller and confirmed it to Cooper, that Russert had refuted Libby's claim that Libby learned of Plame's identity from Russert, and that Libby had talked to a senior White House official whom Fitzgerald only identifies as "Official A" who had himself acknowledged speaking about Plame to conservative columnist Robert Novak, who outed Plame in a July 12, 2003 column. ("Official A," is, of course, Karl Rove. The press will confirm this within days.)
- The indictment shows that Libby had discussed Plame with at least eight White House officials, including Rove, Cheney, press secretary Ari Fleischer, Cheney's chief counsel David Addington, and others, all before confirming to Cooper on July 12 that Plame was a CIA agent -- Libby had denied to the grand jury that at the time of his conversation with Cooper that he knew Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, even had a wife, much less that she was a CIA agent. Either Libby lied, or nearly a dozen reputable government officials and journalists had all lied. The Bush administration's assertion that the White House had not been involved in the leak is shattered, and proves that two of the highest officials in the executive branch, Libby and Rove, were at the center of the leak.
- Fitzgerald does not suggest that Libby broke the Intelligence Identities Protection Act by revealing the identity of Plame to an outsider, because the strict standard of the law -- the violator has to be aware of the covert status of the officer -- is so difficult to prove. And Fitzgerald chooses not to file charges against Rove, Cooper's original source for Plame's identity, or against Novak's original source, Richard Armitage.
- Fitzgerald says that Plame's status as a covert CIA agent was "classified" and "not widely known outside the intelligence community." Responding to some of his colleague's uncertainty as to whether any laws had been broken in outing Plame, Fitzgerald says, "It was known that a CIA officer's identity was blown, it was known that there was a leak. We needed to figure out how that happened, who did it, why, whether a crime was committed, whether we could prove it, whether we should prove it." In such an investigation, it is essential that witnesses tell the truth. "Given that national security was at stake," Fitzgerald says, "it was especially important that we find out accurate facts." Libby had impeded the investigation by telling a false cover story designed to cover his own, and perhaps his boss Cheney's, actions. Therefore Libby is being indicted.
- "The substantial bulk of the investigation is concluded," Fitzgerald says. Though he isn't filing charges directly due to the leak, Fitzgerald says that the charges against Libby are just as serious as any criminal charges of leaking classified information. He refuses to say whether Cheney had encouraged Libby to leak or lie: "We don't talk about people that are not charged with a crime in the indictment." He gives the same answer about Rove. He cannot say what damage was done by Plame's outing, and refuses to confirm or deny that Novak had cooperated with the investigation. "This indictment is not about the war," he says in response to a question about the "false premises" of the Iraq invasion. "This is simply an indictment that says, in a national security investigation about the compromise of a CIA officer's identity that may have taken place in the context of a very heated debate over the war, whether some person -- a person, Mr. Libby -- lied or not. The indictment will not seek to prove whether the war is justified or unjustified. ...I think anyone who's concerned about the war and has feelings for or against shouldn't look to the criminal process for any answers or resolution of that."
- Libby resigns within hours of Fitzgerald's indictment. Cheney releases a statement calling Libby, his longtime colleague and close friend, "one of the most capable and talented individuals I have ever known." Bush says of Libby's resignation, "We're all saddened by today's news," but "I got a job to do." The White House sends a memo to all staffers warning them not to talk to anyone about the ongoing leak investigation.
- White House security officers come to Libby's office, take away his passes, and tell him he has to leave at once. Libby, who had broken a bone in his foot, hobbles out of the White House on crutches. He later tells friends he is reading the works of Franz Kafka. Shortly thereafter, Libby hires an array of top-notch defense lawyers, paid by the newly established Libby Legal Defense Trust, whose board includes notable neoconservatives such as James Woolsey, and prominent Republicans such as former senator Fred Thompson, Cheney advisor Mary Matalin, and publisher Steve Forbes. The trust is chaired by GOP fundraiser, former ambassador, and Florida supermarket magnate Melvin Sembler. The trust raises over $2.6 million by the spring of 2006. Libby's defense team is headed by lawyer Theodore Wells, augmented by aggressive litigator William Jeffress. The strategy is simple: bury Fitzgerald under mountains of motions and requests for highly classified documents, reporters' notebooks, and grand jury testimony. Libby will argue that he had been far too busy with helping prosecute the war on terror to remember minor details like outing a CIA agent. While angling for dismissal due to national security concerns, or failing that, an acquittal, Libby's team has one ace in the hole: the possibility of a pardon from Bush.
- Cheney chooses Addington to replace Libby as his chief of staff, and John Hannah as his new national security advisor. Addington has been accused by human rights advocated of drafting policies that led to the abusive treatment of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib and other prisons and detention facilities. Hannah is known to be Ahmad Chalabi's main contact in Cheney's office. The beat goes on. (Bob Woodward, Michael Isikoff and David Corn)