OK, reporters from the major papers, like TPM readers, spent a bleary-eyed night scanning the emails released last night. Let's look at the highlights.
The Washington Post reports that Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. Attorney for Chicago, got a middling rating from Alberto Gonzales' chief of staff and purge meister Kyle Sampson in early 2005 (the Plame investigation was in full swing). Since that information is actually redacted in the released emails, the Post got that helpful bit of information from certain "administration officials."
Sampson had a three-tiered rating system, remember -- loyal Bushies, "not distinguished" and weak. Certainly Fitzgerald is no loyal Bushie, and apparently even Sampson couldn't bring himself to rate him as weak, given that he'd won the Attorney General's Award for Distinguished Service in 2002.
The Post also notes the email cited last night by U.S. News as the "most worrisome" to Justice Department officials -- one that has Gonzales "extremely upset" at his deputy Paul McNulty because McNulty had the gall to admit that U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins was pushed out for no other reason than to install Karl Rove's former aide. But why was he really so upset? As Gonzales' spokesman put it in the email, "I think from a straight news perspective we just want the stories to die."
The AP cites an email written on February 1st, as the scandal was brewing. At the time, Kyle Sampson was understandably unhappy at the prospect of Bud Cummins testifying:
"I don't think he should," Gonzales' chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, wrote... "How would he answer: Did you resign voluntarily? Who told you? What did they say?"
One subscandal of this overarching scandal, remember, is that a Justice Official, on at least two separate occasions, threatened the fired U.S. attorneys with the release of bad information if they continued to speak out.
The AP also flags one of the more embarrassing emails, which shows DoJ #2 McNulty having second thoughts about canning Nevada's Daniel Bogden:
'I'm a little skittish about Bogden," McNulty wrote in a Dec. 7 e-mail to Sampson. "He has been with DOJ since 1990 and, at age 50, has never had a job outside government."
Still, McNulty concluded: "I'll admit have not looked at his district's performance. Sorry to be raising this again/now; it was just on my mind last night and this morning." [my emphasis]
And yes, Bogden was one of those "performance related" firings.
The Los Angeles Times flags an exchange that has Kyle Sampson assuring everyone after McNulty's testimony before the Senate in early February that this whole flap is blowing over:
[DoJ spokeswoman Tasia] Scolinos also told Sampson that she "didn't think the hearing had gone all that well" for the Justice Department.
But Sampson told Roehrkasse and Scolinos that McNulty felt good after testifying, and believed the matter was about over.
"He's hearing good reports from the committee. In particular, Sen. [Charles E.] Schumer's counsel told him that the issue has basically run its course, that they need to get a little more information from us â¦ but that will be it."
The LA Times also focuses on the many emails from one of the fired prosecutors we haven't heard very much about, Margaret Chiara. Chiara, apparently, got wind that she would be fired in early November, and immediately contacted McNulty with the hope of keeping steady work. And after it was said publicly that she was being asked to step aside for "performance reasons, she wrote McNulty asking him to "reconsider" that rationale, adding "It is in our mutual interest to retract this erroneous explanation."
Apparently Chiara thought she was being forced out for other reasons. As The New York Times reports, Chiara also wrote in the emails that "she was being removed to make way for a member of Congress who was expected to lose his seat in the November election."
The Times also flags an exchange that displays the wooden comedy of assistant AG Bill Mercer:
After a colleague said in a July 8 e-mail message that he was âsadâ about something, Bill Mercer, a top Justice Department official, jokingly suggested some reasons.
âThat Carol Lam canât meet a deadline,â he wrote, âor that youâll need to interact with her in the coming weeks or that she wonât just say, âO.K. You got me. Youâre right, Iâve ignored national priorities and obvious local needs. Shoot, my production is more hideous than I realized.â â
Apparently, Lam was something of a punching bag for Mercer and his buddies. Yet somehow that disdain didn't work it's way into the department's official evaluations of Lam's performance.
Stay tuned as we dive in to last night's comment thread to see what TPM readers have dug up. And did I mention that there are some 2000 more pages to be put online today?