By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Gonzales is just the beginning

Is Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ imminent departure really going to be enough to put the fired-prosecutors story to rest? It shouldn’t — certainly not after today’s disclosure in the Washington Post that Gonzales’ office was teeing up U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald while Fitzgerald was in the midst of the Valerie Plame leak investigation.

Fitzgerald was never actually fired, of course. But for the administration to be making ominous noises about his lack of loyalty at the very moment that he was investigating possible illegal behavior in the White House is repellent, to say the least.

TPM Muckraker has a great synopsis of the latest from last night’s document-dump.

The media are fully revved up now, but the danger is that they’ll drop the story as soon as Gonzales departs. They shouldn’t. Just as Scooter Libby’s conviction in the leak case told us more about Dick Cheney than it did about Libby, so do the shenanigans of Gonzales and his former aide D. Kyle Sampson tell us more about President Bush’s no-hold-bars political operation than it does about Gonzales and Sampson.

Yes, Harriet Miers and Karl Rove, that means you.

Meanwhile, “On the Media” this week has a useful discussion with Slate legal correspondent Dahlia Lithwick, who puts to rest the notion that the Bush administration’s attempt to get rid of eight U.S. attorneys in midstream is somehow analagous to Bill Clinton’s replacing all 93 at the beginning of his presidency.

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  1. J.V. Walt

    Aside from the immediate scandal, I hope someone in Congress or the media will explore what the other 85 US Attorneys did to prove they were loyal Bushies. NH blogger Betsy Devine did a bangup job of revealing the antics of that state’s US Attorney, Thomas Colantuono, at this story is accurate, and there are 84 others like it, we may be looking forward to a whole lot more scandal at DOJ.

  2. Anonymous

    Still waiting for you to revisit your comments on Joseph Wilson, and the relative insignificance of the Libby trial.

  3. Anonymous

    Say it loud, Dan. The Bush administration is great at stuff like this. Remember Don Rumsfeld left? The media went into full ga-ga mode–Oooh, Bush is listening to outsiders, being pragmatic, this is what the November election was all about…and on and on. What was his next move? More troops and general stupidity about Iraq. Alberto’s imminent resignation is simply a distraction, and like a starfish, this administration’s leg will grow back. They throw these little pieces of meat every now and then, and then just go back to what you were doing. One easy way to look at is to gauge the “nothing to see here, just a minor flap” choruses in Rightwingnutjoboland. The louder those dopes get, the more you can be sure this a real scandal.

  4. Anonymous

    When can we expect the hard-hitting expose of why Sandy Berger was hiding classified documents in his underwear?

  5. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 2:39: I have very little use for Joseph Wilson, and I haven’t changed my mind about that. And, in one sense, the Libby trial was insignificant — it was Richard Armitage who blew Plame’s cover, inadvertently. However, I’d agree that it was significant in what we learned about the inner workings of the White House, especially Cheney.

  6. Anonymous

    It was also significant because of perjury, obstruction of justice, making false statements . . .

  7. Don

    They serve at the pleasure of the President. What’s all this other clap-trap?

  8. Dan Kennedy

    Don: That’s like saying it was perfectly legal for Richard Nixon to fire Archibald Cox as special prosecutor. And it was. Cox served at the pleasure of the president.

  9. lou

    Glenn Greenwald had an excellent column in Salon about how outraged Republicans were at the time Clinton fired the 93 USAs. So much for serving at the pleasure of the prez.OF course, Reagan did the same thing and so did GW, but I guess that doesn’t count.

  10. Anonymous

    Dan, you’re saying you learned something about the inner workings of the White House from the Libby trial? Something you (and we) didn’t already know? What’s significant is that CRIMES were PROVEN.

  11. Anonymous

    Dan at 5:01,Your comment that it was Armitage who blew Plame’s cover makes no sense. Plame was still classified after Armitage spoke, and the White House then orchestrated its attempt to expose her. That is a crime, regardless of what Armitage may have done beforehand. If you don’t understand the law, you can’t understand the outrage.

  12. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 11:36: Novak blew Plame’s cover. Armitage was his source. Seems pretty linear to me. Of course I understand that a crime was committed. You haven’t seen me calling for a pardon for Libby, have you?

  13. Anonymous

    Kennedy at 11:36. Please. Think about what Fitzgerald was investigating – the outing of a covert CIA agent. This outing can go on even after Armitage talked. Is that really that difficult to understand?

  14. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 1:33: Last I checked, you can only be outed once. Trust me, I understand what was going on. As I said previously, I’m not calling for a pardon for Libby. So I’m not sure what more you’re looking for.

  15. Anonymous

    Remember Don Rumsfeld left?Reports are that, although Rumsfeld is no longer SecDef, he still occupies an office at the Pentagon. He hasn’t really left.As for Fitzgerald, he is–or at least was–US Atty for the Northern District of Illinois all during the time of the Plame investigation. He commuted to Washington for the Plame investigation, while pursing his other duties in Illinois. That’s one reason why the Plame investigation took so long. I would say I wonder how long he’ll last in Illinois, but if he’s fired, it will probably set off something of a firestorm–but I doubt that Bush would care if it did.–raj

  16. Don

    The conviction had nothing to do with the outing of anybody. It was just Fitzgerald’s power play. Harry Truman would have told them to go to hell.

  17. Anonymous

    Dan at 1:54 pm: Arghh! No, you don’t understand, or you would not have said “you can only be outed once.” Covert status is not like virginity or a piece of glass. It still stands even after the initial outing. You can break the law even if Armitage had already spoken to Novak.

  18. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 5:10: My God, you’re really having a reading comprehension problem, aren’t you? Let me say it for the third time. I understand that Libby broke the law, OK? I understand that all of these sleazemeisters were shopping their stories about Joseph Wilson’s wife. I understand that Cheney is in it right up to the tip of his sneer. But it was still Novak who outed Plame publicly, and it was still Armitage who was his source.By the way, you also seem to have lost sight of the fact that outing Plame wasn’t a crime — or at least Fitzgerald didn’t think it was. The way the law is written, you almost have to be consciously committing an act of treason to be found guilty of violating the law.Again: Don’t misunderstand me. Perjury is absolutely a serious crime, and that’s what Libby was found guilty of. He deserves whatever he gets — except to the extent that he’s taking the hit for Cheney and others.

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