In his Senate testimony yesterday, former DOJ Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson strove hard to be a "Loyal Bushie" and continually denied that the unprecedented mid-term firing of 8 U.S. Attorney's was for "political reasons" - but in doing so he may have damaged the credibility of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales beyond all hope of repair.
From the NYTimes.
Mr. Sampson 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.
Under oath Sampson stated.
"I don’t think the attorney general’s statement that he was not involved in any discussions of U.S. attorney removals was accurate."
Just as a refresher, that would be this statement made by Gonzales on 3/12/07 that:
"I was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on."
Yet According to Sampson Gonzales was apparently involved in five discussion of the Attorney firings. Via Atrios.
"So he (Gonzales) was involved in discussions in contrast to his statement" this month? Specter asked.
"Yes." Sampson replied.
Sen. Charles Schumer then asked about Gonzales also claiming that he saw no documents on this matter.
Sampson replied: "I don't think it's entirely accurate."
Schumer: "There was repeated discussions??
Sampson: "Yes...at least five."
Forgetting one single meeting most people could understand, maybe two - but five!? It seems to me where headed full bore for Libby-ville (where Scooter claims that he first heard about Valerie Plame-Wilsons' CIA connection from Tim Russert was contradicted by at least six seperate witnesses)
How's that grill taste Abu?
Still, Sampson probably felt little qualms about revealing Abu mis-statements since he continued to hold to the Administration line that the President has discretion to fire anyone at anytime for ANY REASON - but this time the reason certainly wasn't politics - oh - heaven forfend not!
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.
Sampson claimed not to be able to fully explain the purge, since the final decision was made by Harriet Miers and Alberto Gonzales:
Mr. Sampson’s claim that he had only casual knowledge of these highly sensitive investigations was implausible, unless 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. He added to the suspicions that partisan politics were involved when he made the alarming admission that in the middle of the Scooter Libby investigation, he suggested firing Patrick Fitzgerald, the United States attorney in Chicago who was the special prosecutor in the case.
Sampson also attempted to claim that Carol Lam was fired for her failure to pursue immigration cases, however Diane Feinstein wasn't going for it.
Feinstein told Sampson, "It is a real surprise to me that you would say here that the reason for her dismissal was immigration cases." She then revealed a letter of commendation to Carol Lam dated Feb. 15, 2007, signed by the director of field operations of the United States Customs and Border Protection Agency. She read some excerpts to Sampson:
The letter concludes, "I speak for my entire staff when I say that we are honored to have had the privilege of working with you and your staff for the past four years. ... Again, thank you for your support; you will be missed."
Despites Sampsons unbelievable denials at least one former U.S. Attorney, Joseph Rich, has come out and flatly stated that the firings weren't just political, but were intended Fix The Vote.
From the LA Times.
I spent more than 35 years in the (Justice) department enforcing federal civil rights laws — particularly voting rights. Before leaving in 2005, I worked for attorneys general with dramatically different political philosophies — from John Mitchell to Ed Meese to Janet Reno. Regardless of the administration, the political appointees had respect for the experience and judgment of longtime civil servants.
Under the Bush administration, however, all that changed. Over the last six years, this Justice Department has ignored the advice of its staff and skewed aspects of law enforcement in ways that clearly were intended to influence the outcome of elections.
It has notably shirked its legal responsibility to protect voting rights. From 2001 to 2006, no voting discrimination cases were brought on behalf of African American or Native American voters. U.S. attorneys were told instead to give priority to voter fraud cases, which, when coupled with the strong support for voter ID laws, indicated an intent to depress voter turnout in minority and poor communities.
At least two of the recently fired U.S. attorneys, John McKay in Seattle and David C. Iglesias in New Mexico, were targeted largely because they refused to prosecute voting fraud cases that implicated Democrats or voters likely to vote for Democrats.
After six hours of testimony Sampson finally admitted that the firings, particularly of David Iglesias may have been a mistake. Hmmm. ya think?
SCHUMER: Do you still think David Iglesias deserved to be fired?
SAMPSON: Senator, looking back on all of this, I wish that we could do it over again.
SCHUMER: So you’re saying you think he shouldn’t have been fired?
SAMPSON: Senator, I don’t know. That was a decision that was made. In hindsight, in hindsight, I wish the Department hadn’t gone down this road at all, and I regret my role in it, and that’s one of the reasons I resigned.
SCHUMER: So if the choice were up to you, just thinking back on that fateful December 7, would you now — knowing what you know now — have put David Iglesias on a list, choice solely up to you if he should be fired?
SAMPSON: In hindsight, sitting here today –
SAMPSON: I would not.
Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda is not exactly the way to run a country. Particularly when one of the Attorney on the hit-list was Patrick Fitzgerald.
The Washington Post reported recently that Patrick Fitzgerald — the special prosecutor in the Libby trial — was given a poor ranking by the Bush administration despite being described by his colleagues as a "legal star":
U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald was ranked among prosecutors who had "not distinguished themselves" on a Justice Department chart sent to the White House in March 2005, when he was in the midst of leading the CIA leak investigation that resulted in the perjury conviction of a vice presidential aide, administration officials said yesterday.
The ranking was drawn up by Kyle Sampson, but the reference to Fitzgerald "is in a portion of the memo that Justice has refused to turn over to Congress."
Exactly how Abu intends to squirm his way out of this fine mess should be somewhat entertaining, but I for one think that his days are marked and numbered.
If this is how a tried and true "Loyal Bushie" treats him, the Senators who've been bullied by Bush for the last six years should greet him with a wide warm embrace when he testifies next month.
Oh yes, it will be old home week.