Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer
While many Americans were preparing to eat barbecue and shoot fireworks for the Fourth of July, the U.S. Senate engaged in an extraordinary act of cowardice--not to mention neglect of duty.
The Senate approved by voice vote on June 30 the appointment of George Beck as U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama. Beck replaces Leura Canary, the Bush appointee who helped turn the Don Siegelman case into perhaps the most notorious political prosecution in American history.
But here's the kicker: Beck also played a prominent and highly questionable role in the Siegelman case. Beck's nomination was an opportunity for senators to grill a key figure in the Siegelman prosecution, to help determine how the U.S. justice system went badly off track in the Bush years.
The Senate, however, elected to punt, giving Beck a free pass into his new position and throwing an extra load of dirt onto a coverup of Bush-era criminality. For progressives who once had hope for the Barack Obama administration on justice matters, consider this: Beck is an Obama nominee, and the Senate is controlled by Democrats.
Have Democrats come to "own" Bush/Rove scandals that made a mockery of the U.S. constitution? It sure looks that way from here.
Why does the Beck "confirmation hearing" emit such a foul odor? Andrew Kreig, director of the D.C.-based Justice Integrity Project, provides answers in a splendid overview piece out today:
The U.S. Senate approved by voice vote June 30 a new U.S. attorney for Alabama, thereby extending a series of disgraces blighting the federal justice system in that state and nationally. The Senate voted to approve George Beck, 69, to run the Middle District office in Alabama's capital city of Montgomery. The Senate failed to require that Beck, right, appear at a hearing to answer questions about a host of pending issues.
The most important question is how he could supervise personnel in that office who framed former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman after Beck himself represented the main witness who helped secure convictions. It remains as the nation's most notorious political prosecution of the past decade. In 2008, CBS 60 Minutes reported that DOJ's prosecutors coached and threatened Beck's client Nick Bailey in up to 70 interrogations without required disclosure to the defense. Our Justice Integrity Project's four-part investigative series cited below explains further why Beck's role is especially disturbing.
Is the Senate interested in actually serving the public, making sure that citizens understand how the justice system they fund went so haywire? Apparently not. Writes Kreig:
Confirmation hearings and trials are two of the rare moments when the public has a chance to learn the secrets of powerful figures in law enforcement via cross-examination. But the Senate shirked that process and rubber-stamped Beck. Siegelman's 2006 conviction on corruption charges was enabled by the flagrant bias of a partisan Republican trial judge, Mark E. Fuller. He is the chief federal judge in the district. . . . As the trial and appeal moved forward, Fuller secretly obtained $300 million in Bush contracts for Doss Aviation, Inc., a closely held company the judge controls as by far its largest shareholder. The company primarily refuels Air Force planes and trains Air Force pilots, but also makes uniforms for military and civilian federal personnel. . . .
We and others have published countless stories about scandals associated with the Siegelman prosecution and his trial judge, Fuller. Among my investigative reports was one in 2009 describing sworn testimony that Republicans picked Fuller to frame Siegelman. We reported also that Republicans had a plan to steer a $35 billion Air Force contract for mid-air tanker refueling planes to Europe's EADS, manufacturers of Airbus.