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Politicizing the Justice System

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Message Mary Ratcliff

PurgeGate has really started to bring out some extremely worrying facts about the state of our legal system. The Justice Department under Bush's pet Attorney General has been riddled with partisan and ultra-conservative US Attorneys who have no respect for our constitution. A classic example of the trouble is one that TPM's David Kurtz posted on today concerning Rachel Paulose who was appointed (and confirmed by the lame-duck Senate in December 2006) the US Attorney for Minnesota.

Kyle Sampson's email described the problem of firing all the US Attorney's and what might be workable was written on January 1, 2006. Here's what he said again (pdf: page 20, emphasis mine):

There are practical obstacles to removing and replacing U.S. Attorneys. First, wholesale removal of U.S. Attorneys would cause significant disruption to the work of the Department of Justice. Second, individual U.S. Attorneys often were originally recommended for appointment by a home-state Senator who may be opposed to the President's determination to remove the U.S. Attorney. Third, a suitable replacement must be found in consultation with the home-state Senator, the difficulty of which would vary from state to state. Fourth, a background investigation must be completed on the replacement -- a task often complicated if the outgoing U.S. Attorney stays in office. Fifth, after nomination, the Senate must confirm the replacement.

None of the above obstacles are insuperable. First, a limited number of U.S. Attorneys could be targeted for removal and replacement, mitigating the shock to the system that would result from an across-the-board firing. Second, the Department of Justice's Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA) could work quietly with targeted U.S. Attorneys to encourage them to leave government service voluntarily; this would allow targeted U.S. Attorneys to make arrangements for work in the private sector and "save face" regarding the reason for leaving office, both in the Department of Justice community and in their local legal communities. Third, after targeted U.S. Attorneys have left office or indicated publicly their intention to leave office, then the Office of the Counsel to the President can work with home-state Senators and/or other political leaders in the state to secure recommendations for a replacement U.S. Attorney. Finally, after background investigations are complete and the replacement candidate is nominated, the Attorney General can appoint the nominee to serve as interim U.S. Attorney pending confirmation, thereby reducing the time during which the leadership of the office is uncertain.

Notice how nicely the little provision added to the Patriot Act helped smooth out some of the problems he noted?

Now consider these points:

  • Paulose's predecessor, Thomas B. Heffelfinger, surprised everyone in February 2006 when he resigned making way for Ms. Paulose to be appointed interim US Attorney. What caused him to resign? Was it the same reason that Debra Wang Yang (U.S. Attorney for LA) resigned -- supposedly a better paying job in the private sector that suddenly cropped up just in time to clear out the ranks for more partisan players? And was he one of the people referred to in Kyle Sampson's email of April 14, 2006 (pdf: page 22) where he noted that two of the people originally on the short list for being pushed out had left?
  • Ms. Paulose was nominated by President Bush in August 2006 (after that sticky background check was done under her watch?), but almost didn't get approved because the DOJ didn't get her home state Senators' backing. Somehow after that oversight, Senator Norm Coleman reconsidered and now the story is she was his choice.
  • She was Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty's senior counsel for all of two months before this position suddenly opened up and while this scheme was being hatched.
  • She is a member of the Federalist society and as such, has an inordinate sense of her own specialness as you can see in the coronation that she had planned for herself. (But as she said, she had lots of family coming from out-of-state that wanted to be there so she really needed to have a big, big affair.)
  • ePluribus Media notes that 14 districts still do not have Senate confirmed U.S. Attorneys.
  • One of those states is Alaska, where Nelson Cohen was appointed on August 22 by the AG under the provision in the Patriot Act over the objections of Senator Ted Stevens.

From McClatchy's article yesterday, Rove named 11 states in his speech before the Republican National Lawyers Association, and in 9 of them, a new U.S. Attorney has been named since January 2006.

Last April, while the Justice Department and the White House were planning the firings, Rove gave a speech in Washington to the Republican National Lawyers Association. He ticked off 11 states that he said could be pivotal in the 2008 elections. Bush has appointed new U.S. attorneys in nine of them since 2005: Florida, Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Arkansas, Michigan, Nevada and New Mexico. U.S. attorneys in the latter four were among those fired.

Every US Attorney appointed this year must be carefully checked out. How many are members of the Federalist Society? We know Ms. Paulose is. And Carol Lam's successor is too. It's becoming very clear that they've been appointed to steal the election in 2008 and to politicize the Justice system to damage Democrats and protect Republican lawlessness. And they must be assumed to be more loyal to the conservative ideology than the rule of law, because, frankly, being appointed under this AG should be considered a stain on their reputations.

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Mary Ratcliff is a senior writer and editor at The Left Coaster and Pacific Views.
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