TPM News

No surprises here. From McClatchy:

A U.S. attorney in Wisconsin who prosecuted a state Democratic official on corruption charges during last year's heated governor's race was once targeted for firing by the Department of Justice, but given a reprieve for reasons that remain unclear. A federal appeals court last week threw out the conviction of Wisconsin state worker Georgia Thompson, saying the evidence was "beyond thin."

Congressional investigators looking into the firings of eight U.S. attorneys saw Wisconsin prosecutor Steven M. Biskupic's name on a list of lawyers targeted for removal when they were inspecting a Justice Department document not yet made public, according to an attorney for a lawmaker involved in the investigation. The attorney asked for anonymity because of the political sensitivity of the investigation.

It wasn't clear when Biskupic was added to a Justice Department hit list of prosecutors, or when he was taken off, or whether those developments were connected to the just-overturned corruption case.


As I detailed earlier this week, Biskupic was almost certainly put on the purge list in late October of 2006 -- as a result of complaints from President Bush and Karl Rove that he was too soft on voter fraud. The outstanding question, of course, is why he was taken off.

As I pointed out earlier, one of the documents released today apparently catches Kyle Sampson in another bind.

And during a conference call with reporters today, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that Sampson had not been fully honest with the committee last month. At issue is whether Sampson gave a false impression when he said that he didn't have "in mind any replacements" for any of the U.S. attorneys who were asked to resign.

"He left a clear impression that they did not have people in mind for a replacement," Schumer said, calling it "extremely troubling."

"The contradictions continue to pile up.... The issue of replacements now becomes central."

But Sampson's lawyer Bradford Berenson released a statement that there's no contradiction here:

"Kyle's testimony regarding the consideration of replacements was entirely accurate. In December 2006, when the seven U.S. Attorneys were asked to step down, no specific candidate had been selected to replace any of them, and Kyle had none in mind. Some names had been tentatively suggested for discussion much earlier in the process, but by the time the decision to ask for the resignations was made, none had been chosen to serve as a replacement. Most, if not all, had long since ceased even to be possibilities."


So it goes.

Some talking points are so good they just bear repeating.

As we've pointed out before, in brainstorming for reasons that the U.S. attorneys were fired, one Justice Department spokesperson suggested that since three of the U.S.A.s were from border districts, "you could make the connection that DoJ is unhappy with the immigration prosecution numbers in those districts."

The Justice Department took that ball and ran with it. From The Washington Post:

Another document--internal Justice Department "talking points" about the fired prosecutors--shows that Justice officials used identical language to describe alleged shortcomings in immigration enforcement by two U.S. attorneys.

About Carol S. Lam of San Diego, the memo said: "Regardless of what was done by the office in this area, she failed to tackle this responsibility as aggressively and as vigorously as we expected and needed her to do." The same sentence was used for David C. Iglesias of New Mexico, except that "her" was replaced with "him."


Those talking points seem to have been assembled by Monica Goodling, who forwarded them to department official William Moschella the day before he testified before Congress last month.

But in her zeal to demonstrate Lam's failure to take that responsibility aggressively and vigorously, Goodling seems to have gotten too creative. One of the other talking points, for instance, is that 19 members of Congress "complained about her 'catch and release' policies." The only problem with that, of course, is that her office didn't have such a policy.

Read More →

It's just become a routine of the U.S. attorney scandal -- pinpointing a contradiction between something Kyle Sampson wrote or said and something else Sampson wrote or said... and then watching him try to wriggle out of it.

Here for instance, is a mind-bending dodge from last month's hearing. He carefully explained why he wrote in an email last year that Timothy Griffin's appointment was "important to Karl" and then prepared a letter to Congress in February that said the department wasn't aware of Karl Rove having any role in Griffin's appointment. I'd summarize his answer here, but it's complicated.

And here we go again.

As I noted earlier, one of today's documents shows Kyle Sampson suggesting possible replacements for U.S. attorneys to be fired. And as Dan Eggen points out in The Washington Post....

During the March 29 hearing, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) asked Sampson whether he had specific replacements in mind for seven of the prosecutors before they were fired on Dec. 7.

"I personally did not," Sampson replied. "On December 7th, I did not have in mind any replacements for any of the seven who were asked to resign."


But, of course, there's an answer. From ABC News:

"There was some early brainstorming about possible replacements for one or more of the U.S. attorneys who were ultimately terminated. By the time they were let go in December 2006, no specific replacements had been identified or decided upon among any of the seven," one source with knowledge of the discussions about the firings told ABC News.


Nothing to see here.

Nobody is going to be shocked by this, but it's indicative nonetheless.

One of the documents released today by the Justice Department is a chart with information on all 93 U.S. attorneys -- it appears to date from early 2006. The document is broken down into two main categories: prosecution experience (years of experience in various offices) and political experience. One of the subcategories under political experience (along with years on the Hill, at the Justice Department, etc.) is whether the attorney is a member of the conservative law group, The Federalist Society.

It's been apparent that Federalist Society membership was all but a prerequisite to work in the Bush Justice Department. But apparently it really is.

Via Thinkprogress.

Whoops. From the AP:

Karl Rove's lawyer on Friday dismissed the notion that President Bush's chief political adviser intentionally deleted his own e-mails from a Republican sponsored server, saying Rove believed the communications were being preserved in accordance with the law....

"His understanding starting very, very early in the administration was that those e-mails were being archived," Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, said.

The prosecutor probing the Valerie Plame spy case saw and copied all of Rove's e-mails from his various accounts after searching Rove's laptop, his home computer, and the handheld computer devices he used for both the White House and Republican National Committee, Luskin said.

The prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, subpoenaed the e-mails from the White House, the RNC and Bush's re-election campaign, he added.

"There's never been any suggestion that Fitzgerald had anything less than a complete record," Luskin said.

Any e-mails Rove deleted were the type of routine deletions people make to keep their inboxes orderly, Luskin said. He said Rove had no idea the e-mails were being deleted from the server, a central computer that managed the e-mail.

Yesterday, I posted on CREW's revelation that there were as many as five million emails missing from the White House's system. These were emails totally separate from the emails on RNC-issued email accounts. They were in the White House system.

Today, during the White House press gaggle, Dana Perino gave an explanation of sorts:

But there was a conversion sometime between 2002 and 2003 to convert people that were using Lotus Notes when we first arrived to Microsoft Outlook. And I know that the tech people worked to get us all transferred over. We had to save our Word documents and all to make sure that they weren't lost in that transition.

I don't have a specific number for you. Again, I wouldn't rule out that there were a potential 5 million emails lost, but we'll see if we can get to you. If it was 5 million, I think that, again, out of 1,700 people using email every day, again, there was no intent to have lost them.

Read More →

Here's another new document from the ones released today. And it's a good one.

They are two pages of handwritten notes, apparently taken by Monica Goodling -- the now former Justice Department official who's pled the Fifth. The notes appear to have emerged from a brainstorming session on justifications for firing the U.S. attorneys in early February of this year.

At the top of the first page, for instance, is a one word question: "Reasons?"

The session resulted in a chart showing the different supposed deficiencies with each U.S. attorney. In the documents produced, the previous and following documents are emails from Monica Goodling forwarding versions of the charts to her DoJ colleagues. "Here is the chart the [Deputy Attorney General] mentioned wanting to brief and leave behind. Kyle has reviewed it," she writes in one February 12, 2007 email. Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty was preparing to meet privately with the Senate Judiciary Committee.

One of the justifications didn't make it into the chart, however.



Under the reasons for firing David Iglesias, Goodling writes: "Domenici says he doesn't move cases."

That would be Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM). Now, as has been demonstrated, there was a particular variety of case that Domenici wanted Iglesias to move faster on -- corruption investigations into Democrats. Domenici called Iglesias shortly before the election last November to ask if Iglesias was going to bring an indictment on such a case sometime soon.

Domenici has made a similar misleading claim publicly -- that he'd complained about Iglesias because he had been unable to "move more quickly on cases." But as overall statistics for Iglesias' office have shown, that's a bogus allegation. It's apparent that Domenici was really talking about a few very important cases in particular.

One wonders just how Domenici expressed this frustration to Goodling and others... and whether he was more specific in terms of which cases just weren't moving fast enough.

Well, we have our first notable document of the day.

On January 9, 2006, Gonzales' chief of staff Kyle Sampson wrote White House counsel Harriet Miers with a version of the U.S. attorney firing plan.

On his list of U.S. attorneys to be fired, he included four of the U.S. attorneys who were ultimately canned: U.S. Attorney for Little Rock Bud Cummins, western Michigan's Margaret Chiara, San Francisco's Kevin Ryan, and San Diego's Carol Lam.

Sampson suggested replacements for all of them. The only one who ultimately was installed was Karl Rove's former aide, Tim Griffin. In a previous version of the document, Sampson's suggested replacements for the others were redacted. But in this version, they're not.

And the documents show that the other replacements were similarly connected in the administration. Samspon recommended Rachel Brand, for instance, for western Michigan. She's been an assistant attorney general at the Justice Department since 2005.

Others of Sampson's candidates were eventually placed elsewhere as U.S. attorneys. Deborah Rhodes was suggested for Lam's spot -- she was a counselor at the Justice Department but was installed as the U.S. Attorney for southern Alabama instead. Jeffrey Taylor was also suggested Lam's spot -- but he's now the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. He was a counselor to the attorney general from 2002 until 2006.

The House Judiciary Committee has made the new documents available on their website here.

We'll be diving in -- and looking to see what readers come up with in the comments below.

TPMLivewire