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Bad faith “good faith” cancer in the White House

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March 15, 2007

The chief legal doctor’s lie: Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales assured the Senate Judiciary Committee that the Justice Department had no intention of avoiding Senate input on the hiring of U.S. attorneys. (1/18/07)

The malpractice case: Just a month earlier, D. Kyle Sampson, who just resigned as Gonzales’s chief of staff, laid out a plan to avoid Senate input on the hiring of U.S. attorneys to replace those who they planned to fire.

The cancer: The e-mail Sampson wrote to an unnamed White House aide on Dec. 19th is like a biopsy slide of a metastasized tumor in the body of the Executive Branch. The memo, below, lays out in appalling detail how they planned to dress the wolf and sheep’s clothing. It is a blueprint for assuring that Arkansas Democrats couldn’t stop the appointment of Tim Griffin, a former protege of presidential adviser Karl Rove, as the U.S. attorney in Little Rock.

 

"We should gum this to death… [A]sk the senators to give Tim a chance . . . then we can tell them we’ll look for other candidates, ask them for recommendations, evaluate the recommendations, interview their candidates, and otherwise run out the clock. All of this should be done in ‘good faith,’ of course.

 

Washington Post article

Here’s more of the email:

 

Officially, Tim is the U.S. Attorney, and will identify himself as such on pleadings and other official documents. I think it’s fine for us to refer to him as "interim U.S. Attorney" in talking points with the understanding that by "interim U.S. Attorney" we mean AG-appointed (as opposed to Presidentially-appointed and Senate-confirmed) U.S. Attorney.

Overall, I think we should take the temperature way down–our guy is in there, so the status quo is good for us. Ask for them to consider him; note that he is qualified and doing a good job whenever asked; pledge to desire a Senate-confirmed U.S. Attorney, and otherwise hunker down.

The only thing really at risk here is a repeal of the AG’s appointment authority. We intend to have the DOJ leg affairs people on notice to work hard to preserve this (House members won’t care about this; all we really need is for one Senator to object to language being added to legislative vehicles that are moving through. There is some risk that we’ll lose the authority, but if we don’t ever exercise it, then what’s the point of having it? (I’m not 100% sure that Tim was the guy on which to test drive this authority but know that getting him appointed was important to Harriet, Karl, etc.)

 

The pathology report: What are we to make of one malignant memo written to one While House aide? It seems obvious to me that the mere fact that this memo was even sent to anybody in the White House indicates that the Attorney General’s chief of staff was comfortable with suggesting a bad faith strategy done blatantly under the cover of good faith.

If someone this high in the Bush administration presumably had no compunctions about sending such an amoral memo to anybody in the White House, it suggests that they knew that no eyebrows would be raised when he wrote about feigning good faith.

Diagnosis: This one memo, these fifty some words, connects the Department of Justice scandal to the White House.

Treatment recommendation: Congress, the media and the American people should demand not only to know to whom this memo was sent (*see update below), but how it may illustrate all the other ways the White House acts in bad faith while pretending good faith.

* (update: Thursday, 6:00 PM – Senator Mark Pryor, D, ARK, read the entire memo to the Senate this morning, stating it was sent to "Christopher G. Oprison apparently at the White House" -I looked him up and determined that his email is Christoper_G_Oprison at who.eop.gov – we need to know what job this person had. Oprison is listed as an assistant in the Office of Counsel to the President of the United States, i.e., working under Harriet Miers, ( seeSourcewatch.org website). Prior to coming to the White House he was an attorney working for the high powered law firm Skaden Arps and ran unsuccessfully for the State House in Virginia in their GOP primary in 2005.

You can read the entire email from Sampson to Oprison near the bottom of this page. It is number 127. Note that a second email on that page indicates that Oprison says he had discussed the matter with Harriet Meirs.

CSPAN published all of the DOJ released documents here. They make very interesting reading. It is significant that many if not most of the emails were cc’d to Harriet Meirs, the president’s attorney.)