Did the Bush administration intentionally appoint compromised prosecutors to help ensure that they would not get at the truth on the U.S. attorney and torture investigations? Scott Horton, legal affairs contributor for Harper's magazine, addresses that question in a new post at his No Comment blog.
The charges against Dannehy and Durham involve suppression of exculpatory evidence. In a case of curious timing, Dannehy was appointed to lead the U.S. attorney investigation just four days after her connections to evidence suppression were addressed in a court proceeding. Writes Horton:
It's striking that the court ruling about the unlawful suppression occurred just four days before Dannehy's appointment as special prosecutor to handle the U.S. attorneys case was announced. This makes it likely that Mukasey was fully aware of the suppression findings before he finalized his decision. Did Mukasey tap Dannehy, and later her colleague John Durham, because he could count on both of them to take the probes nowhere and emerge with the conclusion that none of the political appointees could be prosecuted? In any event, that was Mukasey's own predisposition, articulated in a number of speeches.
In other words, did Mukasey appoint Dannehy and Durham because he knew they faced serious ethical charges and could be counted on to deliver whitewashed investigations in order to save their own careers?
That Dannehy would run into problems over evidence suppression is supremely ironic, Horton writes:
The issue of nondisclosure of exculpatory materials was right at the heart of the U.S. attorney's scandal, playing a particularly prominent role in the case of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. As I noted previously, the Justice Department's report makes clear that Dannehy neglected investigation of the entire sprawling scandal, electing instead to focus down on a single case, involving New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias. He was threatened with firing and then was in fact fired because he would not bring a high-profile prosecution of a Democratic officeholder in the heat of an election campaign in a manner calculated to benefit a specific Republican candidate, Heather Wilson. Dannehy reached the farcical conclusion that threats against Iglesias, accompanied by melodramatic gestures like slamming down a receiver, and followed by his actual firing, did not constitute efforts to "influence, obstruct, or impede" a criminal case. A District of Columbia jury might have viewed the evidence quite differently from Dannehy. Her decision to take no action probably protected figures involved in her own appointment as a U.S. attorney.
So evidence strongly suggests that Nora Dannehy, a tainted prosecutor, produced a bogus report in order to protect those who had boosted her career. The question now is this: Will the Obama Justice Department let this kind of skulduggery stand?