Dunham to Bush: Unindicted co-conspirator in CIA tape case?

Capitol Hill Blue reports that Bush was so livid that Attorney General Mukasey is pursuing the CIA tapes case investigation that he wanted to fire him. If he knew who Mukasey selected to lead a full-scale criminal investigation was he’d have gone into an apoplectic rage.

Even without the vast powers of a special prosecutor, federal prosecutor John H. Dunham could be a barbed harpoon in Bush’s side for the rest of his presidency and beyond. He’s the career prosecutor U.S. Attorney General Janet C. Reno appointed to investigate allegations that FBI agents and police officers in Boston had been in bed with the mob. Janet Reno!

When Reno appointed Dunham to investigate corruption in Boston she knew he would be unrelenting in uncovering the truth. He wouldn’t (and wasn’t) be deterred by political pressure. Whether she read this 2001 article praising him in The Hartford Courant or not she certainly knew that he would leave no rotting log unturned in the seamy underside of Boston mob’s corruption of law enforcement.

Capitol Hill Blue reports:


While the administration may put on a public face of cooperation, the White House will take a tough stance from prosecutors who will seek interviews with current and former administration officials who participated in a meeting where destruction of the videotapes was discussed.

White House insiders describe the President’s mood as “dour” and “resigned” to the implications of a Justice Department investigation but legal observers in Washington believe the administration can successfully stall the probe and doubt the effectiveness of an administration trying to examine its own criminal behavior. LINK

Dunham would have to be incredibly naive not to be aware of this, and I have little doubt he’ll build as bullet-proof a case as possible before he even gives the president an opportunity to block the testimony of his and Cheney’s closest aides. After all, Mr. Gonzales, when he was White House counsel; Harriet E. Miers, Mr. Gonzales’s replacement as counsel; David S. Addington, then counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney all are said to have discussed destroying the tapes between 2003 and 2005.

This is hitting as close as possible to Bush and Cheney personally.

As the investigation progresses it is always possible Bush will try to thwart it in an even more typical draconian way than trying to block testimony. We’ll soon learn whether Bush refuses to allow government witnesses to testify before the House Intelligence Committee who are scheduled to testify at a hearing scheduled for Jan. 16. My sense is that he couldn’t care less whether they are held in contempt of Congress.

Dunham’s investigation is another matter since he is working for the Justice Department and has the power to indict and prosecute.

If he gets too close to making a compelling case against administration officials Bush might demand Dunham be fired. This could lead to a mini-Saturday Night Massacre where Dunham’s immediate superior, acting deputy attorney general Craig S. Morford and Attorney General Mukasey himself resigns.

Assuming that the investigation moves past January 20, 2009 before indictments are handed down and trials begin, Bush won’t be in a position to grant clemency as he did for Scooter Libby.

I’ll leave it to the legal experts to determine whether he can issue January 19th pardons to officials who haven’t been indicted, let alone convicted.

While we may dream of him actually being indicted and tried for this or other crimes, I don’t think this is realistic. More likely is that if it can be shown he was informed of the plan to destroy the CIA tapes he’ll be an unindicted co-conspirator.

Even if a president can pardon himself in advance, he’d need to be convicted of something. There’s no way Bush can pardon himself in the eyes of history.


  1. Upon Further Review

    Sorry for the reality check, folks, but given the fact that Bush will be out of office anyway in less than a year, this whole topic is utter silliness.

    Hey, I get the fact that a great many left-wing elitists consider it their birthright to rule this country from their ivory towers, and that it galls them to no end that they lost not once, but twice to the likes of G.W. I also get the fact that, after every Super Bowl, there are always fans who want to spend the next 20 years talking about their losing team got screwed by the refs. But most of us get over it.

    Let me add that I’m no arch-conservative, and have issues of my own with the current White House.

    But still … you’re kidding yourself if you believe that anybody in Washington is going to take impeachment proceedings seriously at this point. There’s no political will for it, and considering how much time the current Congress has already wasted with unpopular quests such as the amnesty bills, and that their approval rating is worse than Bush’s, I rather doubt that they’ll have the heart to tilt at this particular windmill.

    I mean, look, if you want to entertain your impeachment fantasy for another year, don’t let me spoil it for you. Talk about it all you want. (You can also discuss your dreams of marrying Angelina Jolie, and that’s fine with me, too.)

    But it ain’t gonna happen, and at some point, probably around this time in 2009, you’re going to have to let go of your seven-year (and counting) impossible dream and find a new bogeyman to blame for everything about this nation — and the world — that you don’t like.

    Face it: The last two presidential elections are over, your side lost, nobody’s going to reverse it, and you can’t lay a glove on the guy who won. Such is life, and any nation that survived the Carter presidency will survive the Bush presidency too.

    Just remember, the trouble with ghost chasing is that those wispy little critters are so darned hard to catch.

  2. mikee59

    One would hope that he would take his oath seriously, but time will tell. The men and women who skulk through the halls of the Executive Mansion, or call themselves the new Republicans (and many Democrats) in Congress, have little regard for oaths, and would just as soon pull our Republic down rather than even appear to concede an inch of ideological ground. I recall quite clearly how, when Newt was trying to ramrod his Contract With America through Congress, Senator Byrd took the Senate floor and, waving a copy of the Constitution at his colleagues, proclaimed it his contract with America. Let’s hope that Mukasey understands that as well.

  3. bryan mcclellan

    Thats quite a bit to digest Eliot (dumped),I had the opinion that JT was railroaded but not to this extent.Where does Dunham and for that matter our new AG fit in all this?Am I correct in assuming this rat hole is emanating from past and present occupiers of the White House and legislature, or is this an Ohio thing exclusively?

  4. Hal Brown

    Dumped Morford?

    I see that as a headline on your link “Eliot” but can’t find it reported anywhere.

    Meanwhile, Rep. John Conyers, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, now a force to be reckoned with as the Democrats control Congress, weighs in with his opinion today. He makes a case for having a special counsel investigate this, and I agree that this would be far preferable.
    Read Conyer’s Opinion piece here.

    However, considering that this is the Bush White House, I have to be glad that at least Attorney General Mukasey has appointed a tough federal prosecutor with a record of integrity.

    I am also please that despite the torent of MSM coverage of the primaries, this story isn’t disappearing. I do expect that once Durham gets down to the nitty-gritty work of investigation that news will be sporadic.

  5. Eliot Ness

    Perhaps Mr. Durham can also investigate his boss (Craig Morford) while he looks into the CIA tapes, now that Mukasey has
    DUMPED the ambitious-but-compromised Mr. Morford!

  6. ekaton

    I’ve probably become way to curmudgeonly and cynical over the years… with apologies to “old curmudgeon” 😉

    — Kent Shaw

  7. Hal Brown

    Mukasey swore an oath…

    sure Kent, he “works for Bush” but consider that he may take his oath to uphold the Constitution seriously, unlike his predecessor, Alberto the Groveling Toady.

    You may be right that this is a sideshow distraction, and time will tell. As I wrote above, a subtle distinction perhaps, instead of expecting the worst and hoping for the best, I’m hoping for the best and prepared for the worst.

  8. ekaton

    Dunham works for Mukasey. Mukasey works for Bush. This investigation is going nowhere. Its nothing but another sideshow distraction. I look for a whitewash at best.

    If a semen stain on a blue dress merits a special independent counsel, then surely illegal wars and torture merit the same.

    As Kurt V. said, “So it goes.”

    — Kent Shaw

  9. Hal Brown

    Thanks Sandy.

    I am still interested in whether a president can pardon himself, and whether he can pardon in advance someone for a crime they haven’t been charged with.

    As Adam Russell (above) reminded me, President Ford’s broad pardon of Nixon was never challenged in court. I assume this would have had to have been decided by the Supreme Court as it involves an interpretation of language in the Constitution.

    In my non-lawyer common sense reading of Article II, Section 2 there is no presidential power to stop a trial, which would be a grant of immunity from prosecution. Nor do I see a way to read this clause as allowing a president to stop a jury finding of guilty. He can grant a reprieve or pardon, but not negate a finding of guilty.

    History will judge Scooter Libby as being guilty, for example, regardless of President Bush’s pardon.

    More on Dunham v. Bush

    Some bloggers are pessimistic, like this one in The Village Voice.

    I am a pretty cynical person but also recognize this is often a defense mechanism, and that it is healthy to temper cynicism with a kind of guarded optimism. Instead of expecting the worst and hoping for the best, perhaps it is better for our sanity to hope for the best and prepare for the worst like being ready to move to Canada if Huckabee is the next president.

    From where I sit (an hour train ride from Boston where Dunham proved himself to me) I believe we have a lot to hope for with Dunham.

    I agree with this Washington Post blogger:

    Tapegate Probe Will Outlast Bush Presidency

    You can’t make this stuff up. The federal prosecutor chosen to lead the criminal investigation into the Central Intelligence Agency’s destruction of interrogation videotapes is the same guy who helped bust up the Boston mob.

    With his choice of veteran prosecutor John Durham to lead the investigation into Tapegate, Attorney General Michael Mukasey has shown that he takes this matter seriously. And by naming Durham, a bulldog who is more professional than partisan, Mukasey also ensures that the investigation will be ugly and long-lasting.

    Read column here.

  10. Sandra Price

    The GOP took a tremendous hit with Nixon and his lies. My family had gone through a series of very difficult earthquakes on the San Andreas and adding Nixon’s evil actions almost did us in. It may the lowest times of my life. It was so bad that I did not even answer my telephone.

    When Ford made the pardon, it was as if the shaking had stopped. Right or wrong, it ended the hysteria. What Bush has done to America is so far worse then anything Nixon did that I cannot believe he can’t be prosecuted for treason. He successfully has salted the Supreme Court knowing damn well he would be found guilty of something. He has run the country using his own House and Senate, carefully elected by his Social Conservatives; something I warned about in 2000.

    We could be facing this again in 2008. I do not want Huckabee in the White House and the women and gays suddenly living in fear of Amendments to the Constitution. Huckabee will be given the chance to change the Supreme Court with just one more Justice sitting on the court.

    Keep writing Hal, we are listening and reading.


  11. hank-the-nite-watchman

    Excuse me, Adam Russell, but would you kindly disabuse me of my fears by advising me that you are a practicing and licensed member of the Bar?