Questions for Karl Rove – and President Bush
by Elizabeth Holtzman and Cynthia L. Cooper
March 31, 2007
San Diego Union-Tribune
The stealth dismissal of U.S. attorneys by the Bush administration carries echoes of the Nixon administration firing special prosecutor Archibald Cox in 1973. Now, as then, we may be witnessing criminal acts of obstruction of justice at the highest levels of government. If left to fester, they will poison our system.
Cox was investigating White House misdeeds when Nixon told Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire him. Richardson refused and resigned, as did Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus. Third-in-charge, Robert Bork, complied, and the “Saturday Night Massacre,” as it was called, came to epitomize an imperial administration, acting above the law and using its power to interfere with legitimate processes of justice.
Outrage among the American people triggered the impeachment inquiry against Nixon and his eventual resignation.
In the current U.S. attorney massacre, the public outrage and the line of inquiry invited by these events feel eerily familiar: Why were these eight U.S. attorneys ousted? Why did the Justice Department misrepresent the reasons for the firings? Why were political aide Karl Rove and other top administration advisers involved in the decisions of whom to fire? Why is Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ aide who helped coordinate the firings, Monica Goodling, invoking the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying before Congress? And what did the president know and when did he know it?
So far the press and Congress have followed evidence of two patterns of firing – for refusing to smear enemies and refusing to protect friends. Fired prosecutors David Iglesias of New Mexico and John McKay of Washington would not pursue criminal voter fraud charges against political opponents in the way the administration wanted. Fired U.S. Attorney Carol Lam of San Diego had prosecuted and was investigating Republicans.
Removal of Frederick A. Black in Guam immediately after he began investigating lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a Bush friend, may be been a precursor to this.
A third firing pattern may exist: using firings to influence election outcomes.
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