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Democrats Delay Gonzales Testimony "Senate Democrats postponed on Thursday Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' first chance to testify in his own defense over the firings of eight federal prosecutors. The decision to shelve next week's Senate Appropriations hearing frustrated the White House, which wants Gonzales to quickly give lawmakers his side of the story amid calls for his resignation." (Associated Press)

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For Vice President Cheney's lies and distortions to be exposed is common. But it's a rare satisfaction for them to be thrown back in his face on the same day.

Yesterday, Cheney, in an interview with Rush Limbaugh, again touted a relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda, saying:

...remember Abu Musab al Zarqawi, a Jordanian terrorist, al Qaeda affiliate; ran a training camp in Afghanistan for al Qaeda, then migrated -- after we went into Afghanistan and shut him down there, he went to Baghdad, took up residence there before we ever launched into Iraq; organized the al Qaeda operations inside Iraq before we even arrived on the scene, and then, of course, led the charge for Iraq until we killed him last June.... This is al Qaeda operating in Iraq. And as I say, they were present before we invaded Iraq.


Now, as with nearly every Cheney statement, this is about three distortions rolled into one big lie. The three distortions: Zarqawi did not organize operations for Al Qaeda prior to the invasion, in fact, he did not affiliate himself with al Qaeda until 2004; prior to the 2003 invasion, he was in the northern Kurdish portion of Iraq, outside of Saddam Hussein's control, not Baghdad; and there's no evidence of collusion between Zarqawi and Hussein. (A bonus fourth distortion might be the fact that the U.S. reportedly had a prime chance to kill Zarqawi before the invasion, but chose not to -- some say because his presence in Iraq provided justification for the war.) But the big lie is that Iraq and Al Qaeda were allies and co-conspirators.

It just so happens that something else happened yesterday: Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) released a declassified version of the Defense Department's Inspector General's report on Doug Feith's intel shop at the Pentagon, the one tasked with finding a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda in the runup to the war. And the report shows that not only did the Intelligence Community speak with one voice before the war that there was no evidence of a significant relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda, but they were right. From The Washington Post:

...the inspector general's report, in a footnote, commented that it is "noteworthy . . . that post-war debriefs of Sadaam Hussein, [former Iraqi foreign minister] Tariq Aziz, [former Iraqi intelligence minister Mani al-Rashid] al Tikriti, and [senior al-Qaeda operative Ibn al-Shaykh] al-Libi, as well as document exploitation by [the Defense Intelligence Agency] all confirmed that the Intelligence Community was correct: Iraq and al-Qaida did not cooperate in all categories" alleged by Feith's office.

From these sources, the report added, "the terms the Intelligence Community used to describe the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida were validated, [namely] 'no conclusive signs,' and 'direct cooperation . . . has not been established.' "


Sigh.

General Services Administration chief Lurita Doan was raked across the coals last week in a House hearing for having Karl Rove's deputy come and brief government employees on the wellfare of the Republican Party. But apparently that presentation was just business as usual for Rove.

TPM alum Justin Rood reports at ABC News:

The White House political office has been giving presentations similar to the one at GSA since at least 2002, briefing officials throughout the government on Republican campaign information, according to a recent book by two Los Angeles Times reporters.

"[White House political adviser Karl] Rove and [former Bush campaign chief and one-time Republican National Committee head Ken] Mehlman ventured to nearly every cabinet agency to share key polling data" leading up to the 2002 midterm elections, wrote Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten in their book, "One Party Country," "and to deliver a reminder of White House priorities, including the need for the president's allies to win in the next election."

While previous administrations had sent officials to cabinet agencies, the duo wrote, "Such intense regular communication from the political office had never occurred before."


Justin also reports that Doan is under investigation by the Office of Special Counsel. The meeting, and Doan's reported enthusiasm for leveraging the GSA's considerable taxpayer-funded resources to help GOP candidates, is a possible violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits using government resources for political means.

Just a taste of what's to come.

In a letter today to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (who's doggedly preparing for his upcoming testimony), Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) scolded Gonzales for failing to respond to prior questions from the committee and requested that Gonzales prepare a written statement in advance of his April 17 hearing. Leahy said the statement should include "a full and complete account of the development of the plan to replace United States Attorneys, and all the specifics of your role in connection with this matter."

Leahy also not so subtly rebuked Gonzales and the administration for publicly complaining about the late hearing date; the White House has said they want it "sooner rather than later" to "get the facts." Leahy wrote: "As you will recall, my staff had requested earlier dates..., but you had declined those offers."

And after detailing Gonzales' failures in providing answers to written questions from the committee -- sometimes ignoring questions for as long as six months -- Leahy concluded:

You would not tolerate this kind of response time in a Justice Department investigation where months go by without answers and when those answers are finally provided they are outdated or superseded by events. That is not conducive to effective oversight.

As I mentioned over at TPM, today Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) released a declassifed version (pdf) of the briefing slides Doug Feith's office used to sell the relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda to White House officials in 2002.

Feith, remember, ran the office of the undersecretary of defense for policy, an office tasked in the runup to the Iraq War with making the case that a relationship existed between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

It's a remarkable document in a number of ways. First, although Feith, unrepetant as always, has claimed that what his office was doing wasn't intelligence analysis, but "criticsm," the briefing is titled, "Assessing the Relationship between Iraq and al Qaida."

Second, the philosophy behind Feith's shop is on full display on a slide titled, "Fundamental Problems with How Intelligence Community is Assessing Information":



In the slide, the briefer complains about the lofty standard of proof of the intelligence community, which had led to a consensus that Iraq and al Qaeda did not have a significant relationship -- as opposed to the "mature, symbiotic relationship" touted by Feith's shop in one slide. "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence," the slide reads. After all, this was only a case for war.

And just to see it for yourself, in this slide Feith's office pushes the widely discredited claim that 9/11 attacker Mohammed Atta had met with an Iraq spy in 2000.

Now the calls for Alberto Gonzales' resignation are coming from veterans of Bush's own Justice Department. Here it's Mark Corallo, the Justice Department's chief spokesman from 2002 through 2005.

In a piece on Bush's loyalty to Gonzales, USA Today reports that Corallo thinks Gonzales should step down over "mismanagement" of the U.S. attorneys firings. As he put it, "Alberto Gonzales' loyalty to George Bush has got to trump George Bush's loyalty to Alberto Gonzales."

With Senate on Break, Bush Appoints Officials "President Bush on Wednesday appointed as his top regulatory official a conservative academic who has written that markets do a better job of regulating than the government does and that it is more cost-effective for people who are sensitive to pollution to stay indoors on smoggy days than for government to order polluters to clean up their emissions. As director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the White House Office of Management and Budget, Susan E. Dudley will have an opportunity to change or block all regulations proposed by government agencies." (LA Times)

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Virtually everyone in Washington, D.C. -- with the exception of President Bush -- thinks Alberto Gonzales should resign. The reasons range widely. But that's the conclusion pretty much everyone has drawn.

Is that going to stop Gonzales? No, sir. So he's spending every waking hour getting ready for a showdown with the Senate.

It's a scene reminiscent of a training montage from the Rocky movies. From The Washington Post:

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has retreated from public view this week in an intensive effort to save his job, spending hours practicing testimony and phoning lawmakers for support in preparation for pivotal appearances in the Senate this month, according to administration officials.

After struggling for weeks to explain the extent of his involvement in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, Gonzales and his aides are viewing the Senate testimony on April 12 and April 17 as seriously as if it were a confirmation proceeding for a Supreme Court or a Cabinet appointment, officials said.

Ed Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman, and Timothy E. Flanigan, who worked for Gonzales at the White House, have met with the attorney general to plot strategy. The department has scheduled three days of rigorous mock testimony sessions next week and Gonzales has placed phone calls to more than a dozen GOP lawmakers seeking support, officials said.


You can almost hear "Eye of The Tiger" in the background.

As the piece points out, despite the flurry of phone calls, Gonzales will have very few friends when he goes before the Senate Judiciary Committee -- besides Sen. Orrin "Hear No Evil" Hatch (R-UT). The ranking member, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) has privately suggested to Gonzales that he should begin his testimony with an apology, the Post reports. The hearing will only get worse from there. And if it's another one of Gonzales' non-apology apologies, where he apologizes for the way the purge was carried out while not addressing the purge itself, then it will most certainly get much worse.

Note: For those muck junkies among you for whom Timothy Flanigan's name rang a bell, it's because he was President Bush's nominee to be deputy attorney general in 2005 -- his nomination was withdrawn mostly due to his connnection to the Abramoff scandal as a former senior counsel at Tyco.

Ah, the recess appointment. From the AP:

President Bush named Republican fundraiser Sam Fox as U.S. ambassador to Belgium on Wednesday, using a maneuver that allowed him to bypass Congress where Democrats had derailed Fox's nomination.

Democrats had denounced Fox for his 2004 donation to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The group's TV ads, which claimed that Sen. John Kerry exaggerated his military record in Vietnam, were viewed as a major factor in the Massachusetts Democrat losing the election.

Recognizing Fox did not have the votes to obtain Senate confirmation, Bush withdrew the nomination last month.

It's almost too perfect.

When Justice Department official William Moschella was asked why the Department had fired U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, he told Congress that “Iglesias had delegated to his first assistant the overall running of the office. And, quite frankly, U.S. attorneys are hired to run the office.” Internal documents from the time show officials planning to accuse Iglesias of being an "absentee landlord" to justify his firing.

Iglesias did, in fact, leave the office for 45 days each year. But that's because he's a a captain in the Navy Reserve -- something that was no secret to his superiors.

So now the Office of Special Counsel is investigating whether Iglesias was wrongfully terminated due to his reserve duty, Newsweek reports. It is against the law for employers to discriminate against members of the U.S. military.

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