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First Alberto Gonzales was forced to resign in disgrace. Now they've stripped his Lawyer of the Year crown from him. What next?

Earlier this week, the American Bar Association Journal, to universal derision, named Gonzales Lawyer of the Year. They tried to make it clear that the recognition was merely for Gonzo's talent for stealing headlines, a talent unmatched among lawyers in 2007, but still, the jarring combination of his picture next to the words "Lawyer of the Year" proved too much for many to bear.

So the journal has issued a clarification:

When this article was posted online on December 12, 2007, it was titled “Lawyers of the Year.” The article defined that term as the year’s biggest legal newsmaker, identifying former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as the major newsmaker of 2007. The Journal regrets that we did not make this theme clear.

We appreciate the feedback we’ve received, and we’re acting on it. So that there can be no confusion, the term “Lawyers of the Year” has been changed in the headline and story to “Newsmakers of the Year.” The story is otherwise unchanged from its original version.


Note: Thanks to TPM Reader MB.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) responding to John Tanner's resignation:

“Mr. Tanner had a clear record of undermining the core mission of the section – protecting the right to vote. In October, my subcommittee held an investigation on the Section, where it became clear that Mr. Tanner was actively seeking to curtail that cornerstone of American democracy. The right to vote is the foundation of all our liberties and it must be protected.

“Indeed, under Mr. Tanner’s leadership, the Justice Department essentially took positions that disenfranchised minorities and the elderly. The departure of Mr. Tanner presents an opportunity for a fresh start of the Voting Section. I urge the Bush Administration to take this opportunity to take politics out of voting rights enforcement by appointing a new chief with a commitment to the letter and the spirit of the Voting Rights Act.”


Update: And here's House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers (D-MI):

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Happy Friday, I can't resist this. Froomkin, go!

John D. McKinnon blogs that Perino was asked yesterday why Bush didn't notice the epidemic of performance-enhancing drugs that was taking hold of the game when he was an owner.

Perino pointed to an ESPN interview in which he said that he's thought long and hard about it, but doesn't recall ever seeing or hearing evidence of a steroid problem.

Writes McKinnon: "A Fox News reporter, Wendell Goler, pointed out that former Ranger Jose Canseco has said 'he cannot comprehend why Mr. Bush didn't know that steroid use was going on on the team.' So does Bush regret not picking up on the problem, Goler asked?

"'I don't think it's a time for regret,' Perino said. 'I think it's time to do what the president has done, which is . . . to shine a light on the issue. And now we have a result . . . a report that is getting a lot of attention, and deservedly so.'"

We tried to figure out just what Kerik had been up to during his three-and-a-half months running the Interior Ministry in Iraq before. So, apparently, did the makers of the brutal Iraq documentary No End in Sight. Though Kerik was interviewed for the film, his section was left on the cutting room floor, but it will be included in a forthcoming book by the same name from the filmmaker. In an excerpt run by The New York Post, Kerik says that he was called in to see Defense Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in May of 2003 to discuss policing policies in Iraq. Ten days later, he was on his way to Iraq. He prepared for the job in part by watching A&E documentaries on Saddam Hussein.

Kerik may have been the "eyes and ears of the Oval Office on the ground" in Iraq, but he says he opposed perhaps the most disastrous decision made then, which was to disband the Iraqi military. And he opposed the "momentum" to do the same with the Iraqi police. Good call.

When the interviewer got on the topic of Kerik's trouble with the law, he was less forthcoming. Asked whether he thought it "raises questions about your judgment and whether it was wise to appoint you," he said no, then:

Ferguson: "How come so many legal problems?"

Kerik: "It's a political year... Look, I'm not here to talk about my case. I'm here to talk about Iraq, so let's talk about Iraq."

From Roll Call (sub. req.):

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis on Friday morning delayed for six weeks the beginning of Rep. William Jefferson’s corruption trial, rejecting a request from the Louisiana Democrat’s lawyers to push the start date back four to six months.

The trial is now scheduled to begin Feb. 25.


So nearly two and a half years after the feds found $90,000 in Jefferson's freezer (he'd accepted a briefcase full of $100,000 in cash from an FBI informant in a hotel parking lot), he'll finally get his day in court. We're looking forward to it.

If there's one thing that the Abramoff scandal has taught us, it's that it pays to snitch.

From the AP:

An environmental advocate who provided Jack Abramoff's entree into the Interior Department was sentenced Friday to two months in a halfway house and four years probation.

Italia Federici, who pleaded guilty in June to tax evasion and obstructing a Senate investigation, was spared prison only because she has become a key witness in the Justice Department's ongoing corruption investigation.


(I would be remiss if I didn't amusedly note the AP's description of Federici as an "environmental advocate." She did indeed head a group called Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy (CREA), so the word "environmental" was in her group's title. But her advocacy was definitely against the environmental movement, not with it.)

Federici was key in helping the feds bag Steven Griles, formerly the deputy secretary of the Interior Department (and formerly her boyfriend). Griles was sentenced to 10 months in prison back in June. And for that, she's been rewarded.

The scheme went this way: Jack Abramoff's tribal clients gave CREA at least $500,000 in contributions, providing practically the entire operating budget for the group. In return, Federici used her close connections to Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton (for whom she used to work) and the #2 Steven Griles (whom she was dating) to make sure that Abramoff's concerns were addressed. Here's the whole rundown.

Today, John Tanner resigned from his position effective immediately as chief of the Civil Rights Division's voting section. His resignation email, with the subject line "Moving On" was sent out at approximately 11 AM to voting section staff. He said that he will be moving on to the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices. The email is reproduced below in full.

With Tanner, it had seemed like a matter of not if, but when. As we reported late last month, his travel habits had angered attorneys in the voting section, leading to an investigation by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility.

And that was after his comments about the tendency of minorities to "die first" led Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and others to call for his removal. When he went before the House Judiciary Committee in October, he was lambasted for his tendency of "basing your conclusions on stereotypes" (like, say, claiming that African-Americans have IDs more than whites because they're always going to cash-checking businesses).

But most of all, Tanner's reign is notable for his collusion with the political appointees who oversaw the section, an ongoing effort to reverse the Civil Rights Division's traditional role in protecting minority voters, particularly African-Americans, into one of aiding thinly disguised vote suppression measures (most infamously Georgia's voter ID law). It was an effort that some career DoJ attorneys later described as "institutional sabotage."

Who'll be taking over? We've got a question into DoJ to see.

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Blink and you'll miss it in today's New York Times piece on the House's torture ban. But Jose Rodriguez, the CIA's ex-operations director who ordered the interrogation tapes destroyed in late 2005, has hired one of Washington's most prominent criminal attorneys:

Mr. Rodriguez has hired Robert S. Bennett, a well-known Washington lawyer, to represent him in Congressional and Justice Department inquiries into his handling of the tapes.

Mr. Bennett has represented a number of high-profile clients — among them former President Bill Clinton, Caspar W. Weinberger, the former defense secretary, and Paul D. Wolfowitz, the former deputy defense secretary and World Bank president.

“Mr. Rodriguez has been a loyal public servant for 31 years and has always acted in the best interest of the country,” Mr. Bennett said. “He’s done nothing wrong.”


How in the world does a retiring CIA official have the cash to hire Robert Bennett?

Update: An answer, from a knowledgeable source. Rodriguez, like many CIA officers, bought a very generous insurance policy in anticipation of getting into some kind of legal jeopardy of one sort or another.

Let it be known: House Democrats oppose waterboarding -- the process of drowning a detainee that's so severe even those who think it "works" don't think we should do it -- and House Republicans support it. The House yesterday voted to restrict CIA interrogation methods to the Geneva Conventions-compliant provisions outlined in the Army's field manual on interrogation. The bill passed on a nearly party-line vote. President Bush, a self-described Christian, promises a veto.

A House panel has begun looking into a former Halliburton/KBR employee’s allegations of rape and forced detention. In a “hearing next Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee will hear testimony relating to allegations made by Jamie Leigh Jones that in 2005, a group of Halliburton/KBR employees in Baghdad drugged her and gang-raped her less than a week into her time in the country.” Meanwhile, the head of KBR, Bill Utt, has sent a memo to employees stating that press reports have mischaracterized the sexual assault and his company’s response. Utt will certainly have time to defend his company in front of Congress or in federal court, as Congress has also begun “asking questions about another ex-employee of government contracting firm KBR who claims she was raped in Iraq.” (ABC’s, “The Blotter”)

Newsweek (via Think Progress) reports that the interrogation techniques used on Abu Zubaydah “sparked an internal battle within the U.S. intelligence community” to such an extent that one agent, so offended by the methods, “threatened to arrest the CIA interrogators.” (Newsweek)

Salon has new testimony from witnesses and victims of Blackwater's September 16th shootings that “provides the most in-depth, harrowing account to date of the U.S. security firm's deadly rampage in Iraq.” One man describes how he “identified his son from what was left of his shoes. His forehead and brains were missing and his skin completely burned. He identified his wife of 20 years by a dental bridge.” (Salon)

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