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US Sponsored Secret Renditions in East Africa "A network of U.S. allies in East Africa secretly have transferred to prisons in Somalia and Ethiopia as many as 150 people who were captured in Kenya while fleeing the recent war in Somalia, according to human rights advocates here. Kenyan authorities made the arrests as part of a U.S.-backed, four-nation military campaign in December and January against Somalia's Islamist militias, which Bush administration officials have linked to al-Qaida." (McClatchy)

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Yesterday, White House counselor Dan Bartlett got out in front of the cameras to say that President Bush had "all the confidence in the world" in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

But, as The New York Times reports, there are murmur in high places:

[Gonzales'] appearance underscored what two Republicans close to the Bush administration described as a growing rift between the White House and the attorney general....

The two Republicans, who spoke anonymously so they could share private conversations with senior White House officials, said top aides to Mr. Bush, including Fred F. Fielding, the new White House counsel, were concerned that the controversy had so damaged Mr. Gonzales’s credibility that he would be unable to advance the White House agenda on national security matters, including terrorism prosecutions.

“I really think there’s a serious estrangement between the White House and Alberto now,” one of the Republicans said....

....inside the White House, aides to the president, including Mr. Rove and Joshua B. Bolten, the chief of staff, were said to be increasingly concerned that the controversy could damage Mr. Bush.

“They’re taking it seriously,” said the other of the two Republicans who spoke about the White House’s relationship with Mr. Gonzales. “I think Rove and Bolten believe there is the potential for erosion of the president’s credibility on this issue.”


As the Times and other papers note, no Republicans have yet called for Gonzales' resignation, although a number of high-profile figures, like Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), who heads up the National Republican Senatorial Committee, have said that they're on their last nerve.

Emails in August of 2006 show that Karl Rove's deputy was intimately involved in getting Tim Griffin, who himself used to be an aide to Rove, installed as the federal prosecutor in eastern Arkansas.

An email from Scott Jennings, Rove's deputy as the Deputy Political Director at the White House, shows that Jennings was in close contact with Grfffin, even working out the logistics of getting Griffin appointed. The email also shows that then-U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins cooperated in ushering Griffin in.

"Tim said he got a call from Bud offering this idea," Jennings wrote to Alberto Gonzales' chief of staff Kyle Sampson in late August, "that Tim come on board as a special [assistant U.S. attorney] while Bud finalizes his private sector plans. That would alleviate pressure/implication that Tim forced Bud out. Any thoughts on that?"

"I think it's a great idea," Sampson responded.

The Justice Department made Griffin a special assistant USA in Arkansas the next month. Finally, in December, Griffin was made the U.S. attorney.

The Justice Department told Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) last month that Rove had "no role" in Griffin's appointment.

In a press conference this afternoon, Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) continued to express exasperation at the Justice Department's firing of his nominee, U.S. Attorney for Nevada, Daniel Bogden.

He said that the attorney general "completely mishandled" the replacement of the prosecutors. But should he resign? Well...

QUESTION: Should the attorney general step down?

ENSIGN: Mistakes were made and changes need to be made in processes. Those changes are being made. And I believe that if we can come out of this with a better system that America will be better off for that.

And so the attorney general is taking steps. They have admitted the mistake to me that they made as far as the process was concerned. And as long as they are taking those steps and as long as folks follow through with what they said, I think that I will be satisfied.

QUESTION: It sounds as if you believe that the deputy attorney general (OFF-MIKE) in January either accidentally or intentionally mislead.

ENSIGN: The deputy attorney general -- the conversations that I had -- he was either ill-informed of the whole process or intentionally misled, one of the two....

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) do you continue to have confidence in Attorney General Gonzales' ability to be in charge over this?

ENSIGN: I want to see how the attorney general leads the Justice Department in this time of crisis. He is presented with a very difficult challenge now.

I want to see if he's wiling to make the changes that are necessary at the Department of Justice because things have been handled poorly up to this point.

Now that Alberto Gonzales has admitted that the Justice Department didn't give accurate information to Congress, it's worth reviewing what they said. Here's an example.

In late February, Richard Hertling, the acting Assitant Attorney General, wrote a letter to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in which he claimed that the "Department is not aware of Karl Rove playing any role in the decision to appoint [Karl Rove's former aide Timothy] Griffin."

Unfortunately, for the Justice Department, however, in an email outlining the media strategy for defending Griffin's appointment, Gonzales chief of staff Kyle Sampson wrote that getting Tim Griffin appointed was "important to Harriet, Karl, etc." You can read the email here.

Update: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had a pretty complete rundown of the false statements made by Justice Department officials to Congress and the press. Transcript below...

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Some background on Kyle Sampson, the now former chief of staff to Alberto Gonzales whom you'd never heard of before today.

From Al Kamen's "In The Loop" column on October 31, 2005, when the Valerie Plame scandal was raging:

Waiting in the Wings

Speaking of Karl Rove , there had been much concern last week that he also might have to resign as a result of Fitzgerald's probe. The loss of Karl's familiar presence -- he's the last of the original "Iron Triangle" of Bush's Texas advisers still in the White House -- would have unsettled many younger aides.

Fortunately, there's a ready replacement: D. Kyle Sampson , chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and formerly in the White House counsel's office. Maybe not exactly the same as Karl but . . .


Ed. Note: Thanks to TPM Reader MV.

Update: A little more background on Sampson, who graduated from BYU in 1993 and went on to University of Chicago Law School, from the LA Times this morning:

Sampson, a former counsel to Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) on the Senate Judiciary Committee, worked as deputy White House counsel for two years under Gonzales starting in 2001.

He joined the Justice Department in 2003 as a counselor to Ashcroft, and stayed on when Gonzales became attorney general. He became chief of staff in September 2005.


Later Update: As some have pointed out in comments, The New York Times ran a generally flattering profile of Sampson today.

Latest Update: We've just added the pictures to help a TPM Reader make her point: "just try to tell me that they weren't separated at birth."

We just watched Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' press conference here. The gist: Gonzales said that he accepts responsibility for the "mistakes" made at the Justice Department... but argued that he is not "aware" of "all decisions" at the Justice Department.

He said that his chief of staff Kyle Sampson, now resigned, headed up the process for replacing the U.S. attorneys, and that Gonzales himself was "not involved in seeing any memos" or "any discussion of what was going on."

He professed to be "dismayed" that Justice Department officials had given false information to Congress, but blamed the problem on information not being "adquately shared within the Justice Department."

But no worry --- he'll get to the bottom of it all. Like any CEO would, he said, he'll make every effort to "assess accountability."

We'll put up a clip from the conference soon.

Update: An earlier version of this post incorrectly read, "was 'involved in seeing any memos" or "any discussion of what was going on.'"

Update: Some video:



Update: And a full transcript is below.

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From CREW:

CREW wants the immediate appointment of a Special Prosecutor to investigate potential criminal violations related to the recent dismissals of eight U.S. Attorneys. Recent revelations indicate that a top-ranking Department of Justice official knew that statements made by top Department officials were not true. Clearly, the Department of Justice cannot investigate itself and prosecute the misconduct of DOJ officials.

My, my. Less than a month before a Justice Department official told Congress that U.S. Attorney for New Mexico David Iglesisas was fired for performance concerns, the Attorney General's chief of staff told Iglesias that he could use Gonzales as a reference.

On January 10, Iglesias wrote to Kyle Sampson and asked if he could use Gonzales as a reference, since "I'll be resigning in the next month or so and am looking for a job."

Sampson responded later that day: "You can list the AG as a reference -- not a problem. Good luck!"

Read the email exchange here.

See it for yourself, the September 13, 2006 email from Alberto Gonzales' chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, to Justice Department liaison to White House counsel Harriet Miers.

Fifteen minutes earlier, Sampson had sent the same email to the Justice Department's liaison to the White House, Monica Goodling, asking "Any corrections?" before sending it over.

In the email, Sampson outlines the "USAs We Now Should Consider Pushing Out." They were: Arizona's Paul Charlton, San Diego's Carol Lam, Western Michigan's Margaret Chiara, Nevada's Daniel Bogden, and Seattle's John McKay. All five were eventually fired. Arkansas' Bud Cummins had his own heading, "USA in the Process of Being Pushed Out."

In the summary portion of the email, Sampson lays out his recommendation to use a legal loophole to install replacements without Senate confirmation.

"I am only in favor of executing on a plan to push some USAs out if we really are ready and willing to put in the time necessary to select candidates and get them appointed -- It will be counterproductive to DOJ operations if we push USAs out and then don't have replacements ready to roll immediately. In addition, I strongly recommend that as a matter of administration, we utilize the new statutory provisions that authorize the AG to make USA appointments.... we can give far less deference to home state senators and thereby get 1.) our preferred person appointed and 2.) do it far faster and more efficiently at less political costs to the White House."


Sampson added, intrigiuingly, that he had "one follow up item I would want to do over the phone."

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