By Brad Friedman on 2/22/2008, 2:39pm PT  

-- by Brad Friedman

The U.S. Attorney Purge scandal still ranks, in my estimation, as the key to unlocking almost every other unprecedented domestic (and perhaps even foreign) criminal abuse of power by the White House. The matter strikes at the very heart of the dirty dealings by all of the President's men and, if it were to ever be fully cracked open, would likely display the totality of the blood and guts of the Administration's highly illegal, fully politicized takeover and wholesale abuse of the U.S. criminal justice system.

Little wonder then that the White House has determined to go to the mattresses when it comes to fighting off both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees' investigations into the matter. They've determined they are better off playing chicken with Congress and risking criminal contempt charges (which they believe they can either refuse to enforce via the DoJ, or otherwise pardon the players whenever necessary) by refusing to turn over requested documents to Congress and ordering the refusal to testify by top officials such as Karl Rove, Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten.

In order to guard the castle gates, after consigliere Alberto Gonzales could no longer effectively hold off the investigation, they found a man who would play ball for them in AG Michael Mukasey, betting --- correctly --- that Democrats in congress would fold rather than refuse to confirm a man who was, even during Senate hearings, so obviously in the pocket of the White House crime syndicate.

Two stories breaking today each serve as fresh reminders of how much is at stake, and how much is being hidden by the WH stonewalling of the scandal's full investigation. Each of them --- the indictment today of AZ's Republican Rep. Rick Renzi on charges of extortion, wire fraud, and money laundering, and this Sunday's long-awaited 60 Minutes exposé on the Rove/DoJ/WH gang-bang frame-up of Alabama's now-imprisoned Democratic former Governor Don Seigelman --- merely offer salacious clues as to how bad, how corrupt, and how historically unprecedented (in this country, anyway) the illegal machinations at the heart of this scandal really are.

Please keep in mind that at the center of the entire scandal lies the über scandal involving the very gaming of our electoral system by folks who, evidence shows, were willing to do nearly anything to ensure they retained a death grip on American political power and the control of its entire legal apparatus in the bargain.

And both the Democrats in Congress, and the American Corporate Mainstream Media, to their eternal disgrace, have all stood by and allowed the shameful bloodbath --- featuring real blood --- to take place...

Here's the skinny on Renzi's long-awaited indictments, finally, today. First from Think Progress [emphasis ours]...

Renzi, who is one of CREW’s 22 Most Corrupt Members of Congress, has been under investigation by the FBI since 2006. At the heart of the investigation was a land deal worth more than $4 million that Renzi brokered for his former business partner, James Sandlin:

In 2005, mining company Resolution Copper sought to mine for copper in Superior, Arizona. Before mining could commence however, Resolution needed Congress to approve a land swap.

Rep. Renzi agreed to support the land exchange bill if, as part of the swap, Resolution bought a 480 acre alfalfa field in his hometown owned by Mr. Sandlin. When Resolution Copper refused the deal, Rep. Renzi solicited the Petrified Forest Group to purchase the land for $4 million. Rep. Renzi assured the group that he would make sure that the swap got through the Natural Resources Committee.

Around the same time, Sandlin made a $200,000 payment to a wine company owned by Renzi. The payment was never noted on Renzi’s 2005 financial disclosure forms for the House.

In April 2007, the FBI raided an insurance business tied to Renzi, which led Renzi to resign from his committee seats and eventually announce that he would not seek another term in office.

Questions have previously been raised as to whether Paul Charlton, one of the nine U.S. attorneys fired last year, lost his job because of his active investigation of Renzi. Read the full indictment here.

And then a bit more from TPM Muckraker, revealing details of the tie-in to the U.S. Attorney Purge scandal [emphasis ours]...

Update: Yikes. In a completely separate matter, the indictment charges Renzi with a conspiracy to "embezzle and misappropriate client premiums [from his insurance company] to fund his congressional campaign."

Update: It's worth recalling that the Renzi case played a small role in the U.S. attorneys' firings scandal. One of the fired U.S. attorneys was Arizona's Paul Charlton. The investigation dates way back to June of 2005, but it did not surface publicly [until] shortly before the 2006 midterm elections. Renzi's people, obviously, weren't happy, and an aide to Renzi put in a call to Charlton (who in turn reported the contact to the Justice Department leadership).

And the Wall Street Journal later reported that investigators and prosecutors in Arizona had been frustrated with senior Justice Department officials' general reluctance to pursue the investigation. The thrust of the piece was that the investigation had been slow-rolled in the run-up to the election.

So the U.S. DoJ apparatus was called in before the 2006 elections, and happily answered the call, in order to keep the investigation, into multiple acts of criminal wrongdoing by Renzi, off the radar until after the election, to the consternation of the very investigators and prosecutors in charge of the actual investigation back in Arizona.

The Seigelman case, it seems, is far far worse, not just because of the way the justice system was abused by a clear line of command leading straight up to Karl Rove and the White House, but because the former Democratic Governor continues to sit in jail, clearly railroaded, without even being able to appeal his own case since the trial judge --- appointed to the case by no accident, according to the Republican whistleblowers currently fueling the story --- still refuses to release the transcript from the original trial.

60 Minutes finally jumps into the story this Sunday, opposite the Oscars, unfortunately. So it may be difficult for the story to get the full oxygen it needs. But we'll try and help a bit as we can.

Scott Pelley's video preview of the story (3:12) helps set the stage for what is more like a story you'd expect to read about coming out of a South American banana republic, or even the former Soviet Union, than here in the good ole US of A. But this is where it all happened, and continues to happen...

The CBS webpage preview for Sunday's story offers a glimpse into one aspect of the story, and a part of their interview with Jill Simpson on just one small part (perhaps the most minor, in truth), of the entire, bastardized Seigelman miscarriage of justice. But again, we find another window into the politicization and abuse of the U.S. Department of Justice under the control of Rove, Bush, Gonzales and their corrupt company [emphasis, once again ours]...

(CBS) A Republican operative in Alabama says Karl Rove asked her to try to prove the state’s Democratic governor was unfaithful to his wife in an effort to thwart the highly successful politician’s re-election.

Rove’s attempt to smear Don Siegelman was part of a Republican campaign to ruin him that finally succeeded in imprisoning him, says the operative, Jill Simpson.

Simpson speaks to Scott Pelley in her first television interview, to be broadcast on 60 Minutes Sunday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Simpson spoke to Pelley because, she says, Siegelman’s seven-year sentence for bribery bothers her. She recalls what Rove, then President Bush’s senior political adviser, asked her to do at a 2001 meeting in this exchange from Sunday’s report.

"Karl Rove asked you to take pictures of Siegelman?" asks Pelley.

"Yes," replies Simpson.

"In a compromising, sexual position with one of his aides," clarifies Pelley.

"Yes, if I could," says Simpson.

Simpson says she found no evidence of infidelity despite months of observation.
Siegelman was convicted of bribery in a case that has drawn criticism from Democrats and Republicans. In fact, 52 former states’ attorneys general from both political parties petitioned Congress to investigate Siegelman’s case, resulting in hearings held last fall.

"I haven’t seen a case with this many red flags on it that pointed towards a real injustice being done," Grant Woods, the former Republican attorney general of Arizona and one of those who petitioned Congress, tells Pelley. "I personally believe that what happened here is that they targeted Don Siegelman because they could not beat him fair and square."

Given the White House and Mukasey's willingness to go all the way to the wall on this one, the corporate mainstream media's general abdication of their duties beyond an occasional pinkie-toe dipped into the waters of accountability, the Congressional Democrats' timidity and fear of bringing anything but a knife to a gunfight, and the likelihood that they'll all be more interested in "moving on for the good of the country" rather than bringing real accountability should the Dems accidentally manage to take over the White House next year, the full extent of the heretofore complete and total, unprecedented perversion of our system of justice by the Republicanist evil doers will likely never come fully to light.

Even if parts of it do somehow manage to be revealed someday, it'll most likely be in a largely unread book or three, published several years from now and as easily ignored by the corporate media (and even the bulk of the so-called "Progressive" blogosphere), as the recent, startling investigation --- featuring a full seven, on-camera whistleblowers --- into what actually happened in the 2000 election and how someone appears to have quite specifically gamed the paper ballots in the state of Florida before that election. Though the stunning investigative report (see Part 3 of the video report here) into that matter --- well-worthy of a Pulitzer Prize --- was originally aired last August, not a single corporate mainstream media outlet, to this day, has followed it up, or even noted its existence in any report since it originally aired.

While I hope I'm wrong about this biggest of all fishes that will have gotten away --- perhaps the last seven years have made me more skeptical than I ought to be --- I sincerely doubt it.

Instead, career criminals such as Karl Rove --- whose crimes were decidedly not bloodless --- will continue his gigs at Fox "News" and Newsweek (what, John Gotti's deputy wasn't available for a weekly column?) and in turn be granted the respectability that only a fully compromised chimera of a free, fair, and independent Fourth Estate could possibly offer.

The best that Americans who believe in the Constitution and the Rule of Law can likely hope for at this time is for this decade to be seen by history as the worst that America has to offer. The most despicable of the criminals now running this country will likely take the full extent of their crimes with them to their graves, rather than to life-sentences in federal prison where they, all of them, justifiably belong.