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Do not pass "Go", do not collect $200...go strictly to impeachment and throw his behind out to the curb.

Earlier today, TPMMuckraker picked apart this little ditty from DoJ lawyers:

"The Justice Department does not, nor has it ever, solicited any information from applicants . . . about their political affiliation or orientation."

Riffing off the well chosen word, "solicited" Paul Kiel write this:

Here's how the hiring process went last year, according to a group of anonymous Justice Department employees who've complained to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees: all candidates selected for an interview had to be cleared by the deputy attorney general's office. The employees were shocked when they sent up a list of 600 names and got back a list of 400. They demanded a meeting with the deputy attorney general's chief of staff, Michael Elston, who coolly informed them that "inappropriate information about them on the Internet" had disqualified a number of applicants. So after the meeting, the employees searched online and found out what had been so inappropriate. Most of the disqualified applicants were Democrats.

When that story broke last week, the Justice Department had the same non-denial denial: ""the department does not solicit any information about applicants' political affiliations or orientation."

But that wasn't the allegation. As the higher-ups at the department know full well, it would be totally inappropriate for the Justice Department to ask an applicant for his/her political affiliation. So they didn't. Instead, a small group of people in the deputy attorney general's office googled every applicant to find the information they'd been unable to solicit.

That is damning in and of itself.  But this afternoon we get a slightly bigger piece of the puzzle put into place.  We learn who that "small group of people" included courtesy of Murray Waas who reports AG AG "signed a highly confidential order in March 2006 delegating to two of his top aides...extraordinary authority over the hiring and firing of most non-civil-service employees of the Justice Department."

Those delegates?  Kyle Sampson and Monica (takes the fifth) Goodling.

Nothing surprising about the ultimate motives here -- complete and total politicization of the DoJ...but here's the point: Impeach Gonzales...for this:

An original draft of Gonzales's delegation of authority to Sampson and Goodling was so broad that it did not even require the two aides to obtain the final approval of the attorney general before moving to dismiss other department officials, according to records obtained by National Journal.

Get that?  All the dirty deeds were to be left to the under-Rove and Regent U homecoming queen.  You see, it's not so much AG AG did not recall, but that he wanted to set up the system so that he could not recall hirings and firings.

But, alas, that was even too much for the legal eagles at DoJ:

The department's Office of Legal Counsel feared that such an unconditional delegation of authority was unconstitutional, the documents show. As a result, the original delegation was rewritten so that in its final form the order required "any proposed appointments or removals of personnel" be "presented to the Attorney General... for approval, and each appointment or removal shall be made in the name of the Attorney General."

The senior administration official who had firsthand knowledge of the plan said that Gonzales and other Justice officials had a "clear obligation" to disclose the plan's existence to the House and Senate Judiciary committees -- but the official said that, as far as he knew, they had not done so. When the committees began to inquire into the firings of the U.S. attorneys, the official said, Congress had a right to know that the firings were part of an ambitious effort to install administration loyalists throughout the department. The official spoke on the condition that neither his position nor agency be identified, because he feared retaliation from his superiors and the White House for disclosing aspects of the program.

So there you have it.  Gonzales can't recall that he was required to sign off on everything and tell congress about it.

Read the whole damn thing, then call your Reps and Senators and tell them to throw the bum out.

Update [2007-4-30 21:2:6 by MLDB]: From the comments...I don't know if folks have been emailing or if Patrick Leahy is simply paying attention, but we have this from Leahy's office:

   It is disturbing to learn that the Attorney General was granting extraordinary and sweeping authority to the same political operatives who were plotting with the White House to dilute our system of checks and balances in the confirmation of U.S. Attorneys.

   This development is highly troubling in what it seems to reveal about White House politicization of key appointees in the Department of Justice. The mass firing of U.S. attorneys appeared to be part of a systematic scheme to inject political influence into the hiring and firing decisions of key justice employees. This secret order would seem to be evidence of an effort to hardwire control over law enforcement by White House political operatives.

   This memorandum should have been turned over to Senate and House committees as part of requests made in ongoing investigations. I expect the Department of Justice to immediately provide Congress with full information about this troubling decision as well as any other related documents they have failed to turn over to date.

Will update with a link when available. Statement is up at Sen. Leahy's website.

Update [2007-4-30 21:58:14 by MLDB]:And it's hit the national wires...the AP has it's story up:

When Gonzales issued the order, top Justice Department officials were well into the process of determining which U.S. attorneys to fire. A month later, Goodling became White House liaison. The list eventually was narrowed to eight U.S. attorneys, and their dismissals began in December.


"This revelation shows that the Attorney General was prepared to engage in an extraordinary delegation of power to two young and unaccountable staffers who may have taken their marching orders directly from the White House," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

For what it's worth, it seems they are sticking with the "serves at the pleasure of the president" defense.  But that's the point isn't it?  This story has always been bigger than AG AG.  It goes straight to the top.

Update [2007-5-1 7:0:56 by MLDB]: The Post weighs in...kind of.  The most notable mention is the lame defense at the end of the article:

Administration officials said Gonzales's order, published in the Federal Register and first reported yesterday by the National Journal on its Web site, codifies a process that is standard for agencies throughout the government in dealing with political appointees. "The notion that the White House shouldn't be involved in presidential appointments is bizarre," said White House spokesman Tony Fratto.

[Smaller Update]  This passage noting that the order was "published in the Federal Register" is causing some confusion.  Here's my take...I think the Post is in error.  

The original order was placed in the register on Feb. 1, 2006.  The DoJ lawyers raised constitutional questions and sent AG a memo saying as much in late February: "The Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) advises that permitting the Attorney General's delegates to approve [some] appointments ... would be inconsistent [with the Constitution]."

AG signed a revised memo on March 1, 2006.  This is the one that is marked:  "INTERNAL ORDER-NOT PUBLISHED IN F.R."

Update [2007-5-1 7:0:56 by MLDB]:  AG AG will be in Indianapolis today for...something.  But a part of his visit will be press conferencing.  It's slated for mid afternoon EDT.

Update [2007-5-1 16:41:34 by MLDB]: Well, this should be interesting...AG AG's headed back to the hill to not recall more things.  Mark your calendars for May 10!  Per TPMMuckraker, here's some questions for Abu:

There are a host of unanswered questions about the order, besides the obvious "why?"

  1. Did the order cover interim U.S. attorney appointments? U.S. attorney nominations require Senate confirmation, but a change in the law had made it possible for the adminstration to appoint interim U.S. attorneys indefinitely. No one seems to know the answer to this question.
  1. Why were details of the order kept from the deputy attorney general and other members of the department leadership?
  1. Why did Gonzales try to cut himself out of the loop? The Justice Department has defended the order by saying that the attorney general was still required to sign off on Goodling and Sampson's decisions. But as Waas reported, the original order had no such requirement -- and it was only added after concerns were raised that giving Sampson and Goodling that sort of power was unconstitutional.

Originally posted to MLDB on Mon Apr 30, 2007 at 02:35 PM PDT.

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