Then yesterday it all came crashing down. At 1:22 pm EST that safeguard of Executive Privilege turned out to be rooted in magical thinking. Their imagined protection from the law vanished as President Barack Obama announced an Executive Order on Presidential Records.
These words from President Obama must have sent cell phones and PDAs buzzing from Washington to Texas to Wyoming (emphasis added):
"I will also hold myself as President to a new standard of openness. Going forward, anytime the American people want to know something that I or a former President wants to withhold, we will have to consult with the Attorney General and the White House Counsel, whose business it is to ensure compliance with the rule of law. Information will not be withheld just because I say so. It will be withheld because a separate authority believes my request is well grounded in the Constitution.
Let me say it as simply as I can: Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."
The Republican reaction was fast. At 2:30 the Senate’s Judiciary Committee was schedule to vote on Eric Holder’s nomination. Within a half hour of Obama’s announcement that the Attorney General would have a say in how claims of Executive Privilege by George W. Bush would be resolved, the GOP announce that they would block Holder’s confirmation for at least a week and possibly longer.
Of course Arlen Specter is still there carrying water for the criminals of the Bush years, but a new Champion of Corruption has danced into the spotlight. That would be "Big John" Cornyn of Texas who led the effort to delay the confirmation of Eric Holder. The stated reason was Cornyn’s concern that those responsible for approving and executing war crimes, like torture might, just might, be investigated and—if the evidence proves that a crime was committed—prosecuted. That is the stated reason, but the crimes of the Bush years go far deeper than violations of the Geneva Conventions and war crimes. There are more mundane crimes as well. Graft, bribery, pay for play, abuse of power, vote rigging, partisan prosecutions (remember Don Siegelman) and many others.
One of these Republican crime sprees is the Abramoff Scandal. Turns out that Jack Abramoff had operatives working for him and the Republican Party in the DOJ. Last year, one of them, Robert Coughlin plead guilty to helping Abramoff and his fellow corruptionists commit their crimes from his position within the DOJ. There could be more. The Baltimore office of the US Attorney had to be brought in to investigate Bush appointees in the DC office of the DOJ where Coughlin used to work. That investigation is still very active. And then there are the many ties between Jack Abramoff and John Ashcroft that have yet to bubble up into a news cycle. The ongoing Abramoff scandal is just one example of a corruption investigation slow-walked by the Bush DOJ. That Eric Holder might be willing to accelerate this and other investigations to actively fight the Culture of Corruption in Washington might be very worrisome to certain Republicans. One Senator who has some cause to worry about a more aggressive DOJ investigating political corruption is "Big John" Cornyn of Texas.
According to recent DOJ Court filings in Abramoff related scandal cases the DOJ has a vault filled with millions of Abramoff related emails. As well as millions of other pages of related documents (billing records, interviews, financial records and the like). One name that is certainly frequently mentioned in these documents is John Cornyn. Before he became a US Senator, he was a member of the Supreme Court of Texas. In that role he helped Jack run a few scams on some Native American Tribes and supported the effort by Tom DeLay to take over the Texas Legislature in 2002 and then draw new Republican slanted Congressional Districts in mid-decade. If the Bush documents about torture could be release, then the Abramoff related documents of the Bush White House could be released as well. And an investigation into that scandal trail could put Big John in the Big House.
No wonder he is fighting Holder like his freedom depends on it. It might.
There is a lot of discussion on this site and others about the need to investigate and expose the crimes of the Bush Years. I, like many others, feel that something must be done. The Republican Party through Specter, Cornyn and other corruptionist stooges is trying to extract a commitment that all Bush era crimes will be swept under the rug as the price for Eric Holder’s confirmation. They might get away with this if we let them.
We can not let that happen.
We need to make some noise and get Eric Holder’s back. We need to let the GOP know that there is a price to pay for obstructing this appointment.
Perhaps a fund could be started on Act Blue specifically to defeat Arlen Specter. Perhaps we could make the Republican protection of torture, Abramoff and corruption an issue. Perhaps we could point out the racist undertones and dog whistles of their empty attacks on our Nation’s first African-American Attorney General. Perhaps we could point out the hypocrisy of their opposition to Holder after they supported Ashcroft, Gonzales and Mukasey. Perhaps there are other ways to fight back as well.
Whatever you can do—please do it. We have the power to push a pro-corruption frame onto the GOP and their opposition to Holder. We should be able to extract a price for delaying the Holder confirmation vote.
The time to fight is now. We can not let them extract a commitment to give the crimes of the Bush years a free pass as a devil’s bargain to get Eric Holder confirmed as Attorney General. He needs to be the People’s Lawyer. He needs to always feel that is his duty to expose corruption and root it out regardless of where it goes and regardless of Party. This is an obligation that Cornyn, Specter and the Republican Party seek to destroy. It is what they fear.
The Right-wing nut jobs are testing us with the Holder Nomination. It is time to smack them and knock them back. It is time to smack them hard. It is time to send them slinking back to their caves. It is time to finally return the rule of law to the Department of Justice.