Bloch: I Don’t Get No Respect

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January 29, 2008 11:24 a.m.

It’s hard enough to get the facts straight when allegations are made. But everything gets all the more complicated in the Bush Administration’s hall of mirrors; it’s all pots and kettles.

Consider this dust-up between the Office of Special Counsel and the Justice Department. In one corner, you have Special Counsel Scott Bloch, who heads an obscure little office that is charged with investigating whistleblower complaints, Hatch Act violations, and the like — but who is himself being investigated for retaliating against whistleblowers and politicizing his office. Oh, and he used a tech service called Geeks on Call to scrub his hard drive at work (he says all the info was personal). In the other corner, you have the Justice Department, and well, you know all about that.

In a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey last week, Bloch charged that the Department was blocking his probe of politicization in the DoJ, his investigation of U.S. Attorney David Iglesias’ firing (was it because of his Navy reserve service?), and a whistleblower complaint against former U.S. attorney Rachel Paulose. Eric Black, who reported on the letter last night, has helpfully posted a copy here (pdf).

In the letter, Bloch complains that 1) after the Justice Department launched its own internal investigation of the U.S. attorney firings and politicization in the Department last spring, they asked him to back off, and 2) the DoJ has refused to investigate a whistleblower complaint against Paulose.

Bloch’s job, at least under the Bush administration, is to write investigatory reports which the White House will then ignore. Tellingly, Bloch complains in the letter that he’s been trying to get White House counsel Fred Fielding on the phone for two months and had no luck.Bloch does have authority to investigate such matters. But he has very little actual power to pursue those investigations. So when the Department refuses to comply with a document request or stifles a whistleblower probe, all he can do is complain and threaten to complain elsewhere. As he puts it in his letter: “Are you requesting I report to the president that you refuse to investigate disclosures made by a career federal prosecutor, and employee of your agency?” Bloch can also complain to Congress — and the judiciary and oversight committees were notably copied on this letter to Mukasey. But that’s all he can do.

As for the Justice Department, the joint probe by the inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility remains ongoing, and expectations remain high. But Bloch charges that the Department is doing all it can to sweep the Paulose matter under the rug — it won’t be covered by the joint probe and they’re refusing to investigate the whistleblower complaints. It seems from Bloch’s letter that the DoJ disputes all this, however.

Who to believe?

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