Alberto Gonzales's resignation was just the latest in the steady flow of departures by senior Justice Department officials involved in the U.S. attorney firings. But Brian Roehrkasse, the Department spokesman who served as the leadership's attack dog as the firings scandal intensified, is staying where he is. In fact, Roehrkasse, formerly the deputy director of public affairs, was actually promoted to the top spot in the office earlier this month.
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Just about every story in the major papers on the scandal this spring and summer featured Roehrkasse's rebuttals. That, of course, is his job. But just as a number of statements from Department officials to Congress have proven false, so have a number of Roehrkasse's public statements. And Roehrekasse surprised many with his personal attacks on the fired U.S. attorneys, most famously calling them "former disgruntled employees grandstanding before Congress." The former prosecutors, of course, had been subpoenaed to appear.
Roehrkasse replaced the former director, Tasia Scolinos, after she retired from the Department. Scolinos is perhaps best known for her brainstorming on how to handle the U.S. attorney firings, for instance suggesting in an email that the "one common link" among the fired prosecutors was that "three of them are along the southern border so you could make the connection that DOJ is unhappy with the immigration prosecution numbers in those districts." Scolinos' suggestion, of course, was duly employed.
Burt Brandenburg, who served as the Justice Department's director of public affairs during the Clinton administration, said being the DoJ's spokesperson is a tough job, dealing with complex issues in a highly politically charged atmosphere. "Every day's a Super Bowl," he said. But "there's a tradition of attorney generals of both parties that you have to be the grown-up, that you have to have some of the thickest skin in Washington and can't be as political as your critics.... You're held to a higher standard."
Roehrkasse has fallen well short of that standard, making a string of public statements about the firings that were dubious at best (e.g. that they were performance-related and part of a "routine process") and downright false at worst (like some of Gonzales'). Below is our brief round-up of the worst of the worst.