ETHICS: No Confidence
ETHICS: No Confidence
The nonbinding resolution introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) would express the "sense of the Senate" that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales "no longer holds the confidence of the American people."
|June 11, 2007||by Faiz Shakir, Nico Pitney, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, and Matt Corley
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Today, the Senate will hold a very rare no confidence vote. The nonbinding resolution introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) would express the “sense of the Senate” that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales “no longer holds the confidence of the American people.” The White House and its conservative allies have written off the vote, with White House Press Secretary Tony Snow stating that it will have “no effect” on President Bush’s confidence in Gonzales. “[T]here’s an attempt to pull this thing like a piece of taffy, seeing if there’s any political advantage in it,” said Snow on Fox News Sunday. “There’s not.” Snow’s comments undermine the seriousness of the no confidence vote and the bipartisan dissatisfaction with Gonzales. As Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) recently noted, this vote is a “historical black mark.”
BUSH’S ‘CONSIGLIERE’: Since Bush swore him in on Feb. 3, 2005, Gonzales has steadily politicized the Justice Department. His involvement in the prosecutor purge demonstrates his willingness to abuse his position and exploit the agency, whose mission is to “ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.” Yesterday, Snow tried to claim, “Nobody found anything untoward.” But throughout his tenure serving Bush, Gonzales has not only fired qualified U.S. attorneys, but driven away respected civil rights officials and replaced them with political appointees, pushed laws that discriminate against minorities, and overseen the erosion of Americans’ civil liberties. As the New York Times recently wrote, Gonzales “has never stopped being consigliere to Mr. Bush’s imperial presidency.” “Whether it was the torture memo, whether it’s Guantanamo, whether it’s Geneva Convention, whether it’s U.S. Attorneys, whether it’s ‘I don’t know, I can’t recall,’ a department as major as this, I don’t think the American people are well served,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). “I’m hopeful this can be worked out. But there comes a time when you have to say what you think, and this is what I think.” According to a recent poll, 63 percent of the American public don’t believe Gonzales is telling the truth about the U.S. attorney dismissals, and a majority believe Gonzales should resign.
RIGHT-WING HYPOCRISY: “The bottom line is the only person who thinks the attorney general should remain attorney general is the president,” notes Schumer. “He’s gotten virtually no support from even Republicans in the Senate, just a handful have supported him, six have called for him to step down, a dozen more have said very negative things about him.” But unfortunately, many of these Senate conservatives who have used criticism of Gonzales as a public relations stunt are now unwilling to oppose the President and support the no confidence vote. On April 19, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) told Gonzales that “the best way to put this behind us is your resignation.” But he has now said that he will oppose today’s no confidence vote and will instead introduce an unrelated pet amendment, “expressing ‘no confidence’ in Congress’ ability to cut wasteful spending or balance the budget.” The five other conservative senators are still “unwilling to tip their hands about how they will vote,” despite previously publicly calling on Gonzales to resign.
ERODING CIVIL RIGHTS: This vote of no confidence comes “after five months of investigation and the disclosure of thousands of pages of internal Justice Department documents” that contradict Gonzales’s explanations for why the U.S. attorneys were dismissed and what role the White House played in the process. But even before the prosecutor purge, Gonzales steadily politicized the Justice Department. The Washington Post reports today that at “least one-third of the immigration judges appointed by the Justice Department since 2004 have had Republican connections or have been administration insiders, and half lacked experience in immigration law.” As the Justice Department spokesman admits, “immigration judges are considered civil service employees who may not be chosen based on political factors.” In the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, just 42 percent of the lawyers hired since 2003 have strong civil rights backgrounds, compared to 77 percent in 2001-2002. These political appointees have aggressively gone after so-called voter fraud, which is, as the New York Times noted, the Bush administration’s “code for suppressing the votes of minorities and poor people.” In 2004, high-ranking Justice political appointees overruled the Department’s attorneys and analysts who “recommended rejecting” Georgia’s voter ID law “because it was likely to discriminate against black voters.” More recently, the Bush adminstration has attempted to cover-up the partisan firings by accusing several of the ousted U.S. attorneys of failing to aggressively pursue charges of voter fraud, even though there has been very little evidence of any such fraud.
TWISTING CIVIL LIBERTIES: Last month’s dramatic testimony by former Deputy Attorney General James Comey described the shocking lengths that the White House went to in order to gain legal sanction for its warrantless wiretapping program. He revealed that Bush called then-Attorney General John Ashcroft’s wife to seek permission for former chief of staff Andrew Card and then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales to visit a debilitated and hospitalized Ashcroft at his bedside. Testifying before Congress in Jan. 2006, Gonzales claimed, “There has not been any serious disagreement about the program that the president has confirmed.” But Comey said that he and several other top Justice officials threatened a mass resignation over the program in 2004. Last week, Gonzales again contradicted himself, stating that he and Comey were referring to the same program. “Comey’s testimony related to a highly classified program which the president confirmed to the American people sometime ago,” he said. If Gonzales is now telling the truth, that can only mean that he lied under oath in 2006.
CRAFTING TORTURE: In 2005, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen wrote that “Gonzales is supposed to be a singular American success story.” In reality, as he noted, Gonzales’s elevation has had unfortunate “Orwellian” consequences for America’s human rights record, paving the way for abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. As White House counsel in 2002, Gonzales prepared a memo for Bush that detainees captured in Afghanistan were not eligible for Geneva Convention protections: “In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions.” He also “argued that dropping Geneva would allow the president to ‘preserve his flexibility’ in the war on terror.”
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TECH INSIDER: Office of Special Counsel report on General Services Administration chief Lurita Doan’s violations delivered to President Bush.
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“Those disagreements [between former Deputy Attorney General James Comey and the White House] did not — were not about the particular activities that the president has publicly described, that we have termed the Terrorist Surveillance Program.”
“Mr. Comey’s testimony related to a highly classified program which the president confirmed to the American people sometime ago.”
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