I've had this picture in my mind lately, an editorial cartoon-like drawing, of a dam about to break and someone (Obama?) leaning hard up against it in futile hopes of keeping it from bursting forth. The dam and its contents, in my mind's eye, are labeled "Bush Administration Crimes and Failures." I've been pondering, over the last several days, how we're soon likely to learn that everything we think we already know about the historically-unparalleled failures, crimes and cover-ups of the Bush administration, will likely prove to be barely the tip of the iceberg as the Bushies lose their power, and "the files" are finally opened for all to see.
It's likely to take years, after President Obama is sworn in next week, to unearth the entire breadth of the degradation, filth, corruption and dismantling of federal law and U.S. Constitution under the current administration, and to piece together all of the unshredded and likely-shredded evidence both, and to take in the information likely to pour forth from officials and former officials who finally find the courage to tell the world just how bad it all really was and is (even if many of them would now be doing so only to salvage their own hide.)
One hint of what will be found beyond the tip of that iceberg, or inside that near-to-bursting dam (take your metaphorical pick) comes in today's remarkable report [PDF] from the DoJ Inspector General on the illegal politicization of the hiring practices at the DoJ's Civil Rights Division and "other improper personnel actions" in the division.
It's remarkable on several fronts. Not only because it describes the politicization of the department under the Bushies, their strictly illegal hiring practices; their determined dismantling of a core of career attorneys devoted to years of legal-processes in the fight for civil rights; as well as perjury and out-and-out lying to Congress, but also because the report itself --- in one last classic stroke of corrupt Bush Administration gaming of the system --- was completed last July, prior to the election, but held for release until today, just 7 days before the criminals (or at least those who won't be still-embedded like cancer cells within the federal buearocracy for years to come) take their leave.
And, as if all of that isn't bad enough, with the out-and-out finding of criminal wrongdoing in the report (such as illegal hiring practices and lying about them to Congress), the Bush Administration's own DoJ has decided that no prosecutions should be brought against the Bush Administration's own DoJ for the Bush Administration's own DoJ's now-well-documented actions in breaking federal law.
The bastardization of the DoJ Civil Rights division is a topic which we've covered closely over the years here at The BRAD BLOG, and even played a part in helping to expose, for example, when the head of the Voting Section in that division, John Tanner, was forced to resign from his post, not long after we'd video-taped and published controversial (and inaccurate) comments he made at a 2007 conference in Los Angeles declaring that disenfranchising Photo ID restrictions at the polling place were more of a concern for the elderly than for African-Americans because "minorities don't become elderly the way white people do. They die first."
(See our now-infamous video, shot by our own Alan Breslauer, at right.)
As today's (actually July's) report reveals, that wouldn't be the only unfortunate --- and one might say, "ironic", given his position --- derogatory remark made about African-Americans by Tanner. But the bulk of the report, it seems, is devoted to one Bradley Schlozman, who insidiously twisted the mission of the Civil Rights division, brought political prosecutions in order to try and affect the outcome of elections, in violation of written DoJ policy, and attempted (and arguably succeeded) in helping to engineer an outright illegal, and ideological purge --- an ethical cleansing, if you will --- at the department, in an attempt to stack it with far rightwing brethren from the Federalist Society, or "right thinking Americans" (RTAs), as he referred to them among friends...
Talking Points Memo beats us to much of the East Coast punch this morning, but we're happy to distill and collate much of their copious reporting on this, as they've posted about 10 different items already today while combing through the stunning report.
Before getting to some of the ugly and amazing details, the key finding, ignored by the Bush Administration's U.S. Attorney in D.C. who chose not to prosecute, is this:
The report goes on to note that Schlozman, who has since been pushed out of the department, following exposure in Democratic-led investigations after they took over Congress in 2006, is therefore "not subject to disciplinary action by the Department." It is recommended, however, "that, if criminal prosecution is declined these findings be considered if Schlozman seeks federal employment in the future," because, as the report finds, "his violations of the merit system principles set forth in the Civil Service Reform Act, federal regulations, and Department policy, and his subsequent false statements to Congress render him unsuitable for federal service."
After the Democrats took over Congress, and the U.S. Attorney Purge, from which Schlozman benefited when he was installed as USA in Missouri's Western District, began to come to light (thanks to blogs like TPM, as opposed to mainstream corporate media who continued, as they do to this day, in their stultifying role of PR mouthpiece to the elected, usually-Republican, elite), Schlozman was forced to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee where he went on, the report finds, to perjure himself.
As a DoJ Civil Rights staffer at the time, misunderestimated in an email to The BRAD BLOG just as Schlozman had finished testifying, "his testimony was on the razor's edge of perjury." In fact, as the IG report finds, it was beyond the "razor's edge" and smack-dab in the perjury zone. Schlozman was later forced to recant some of his testimony, after pressure from colleagues who he'd previously blamed for his prosecution of a "voter fraud" cases in Missouri just days prior to the 2006 election in strict violation of written department policy disallowing such prosecutions that close to an election.
TPM offers a video collection of the highlights (or, rather, lowlights) of Schlozzie's June 2007 testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, though our favorite exchange is still the incredible 2:30 minute cross he had with chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who blew his top during the questioning, as posted at right.
And now for some of the incredible highlights (or, rather, lowlights) of statements made via email by the slimy, anti-civil rights zealot, Schlozman --- tapped to oversee hiring in the DoJ's Civil Rights division --- as detailed in the IG's report.
Remember, as you read these excerpts from the report, that the politicized hiring of career attorneys based on ideology is illegal, and that Schlozman would testify to Congress that political affiliation was not taken into account when hiring such attorneys:
As part of the same e-mail exchange, on July 16, 2003, Schlozman wrote, "My tentative plans are to gerrymander all of those crazy libs rights out of the section."
In addition, while interim U.S. Attorney in the Western District of Missouri, Schlozman wrote an e-mail to a friend, dated June 15, 2006, contrasting his job as U.S. Attorney with his position in the Civil Rights Division. He wrote:
It has been months since I felt the need to scream with a blood-curdling cry at some commie, partisan subordinate (i.e., most of the [Voting] section staff until recently). And I feel like the people I now work with are all complete professionals. What a weird change. Granted, these changes are nice in many respects, but bitch-slapping a bunch of [Division] attorneys really did get the blood pumping and was even enjoyable once in a while. I think now it's all Good Cop for folks there. I much preferred the role of Bad Cop..... But perhaps the Division will name an award for me or something. How about the Brad Schlozman Award for Most Effectively Breaking the Will of Liberal Partisan Bureaucrats. I would be happy to come back for the awards ceremony.
But those "Liberal Partisan Bureaucrats" were not just "mold spores" and "crazy libs", they were also apparently "psychopathic" and hoping to "overthrow the government" (ironic as that statement would now seem, given his own behavior in dismantling the government), according to Schlozzie, who left the following voicemail for a colleague in February of 2006:
As well, Schlozman was a hands on guy at the Civil Rights division, according to the report, working closely with his fellow anti-civil rights, "voter fraud" zealot buddy Hans Von Spakovsky (who would later be recess-appointed as Chair of the Federal Elections Commission by Bush) to keep those "libs" from handling cases on which they wanted to ensure the appropropriate outcome, assigning those "RTAs" instead, as inexperienced as they were, to the job:
And, in another email on a similar point, Schlozman wrote to von Spakovsky about giving an assignment to one particular Voting Section attorney as "a great way" to keep the "crazy lib...out of our hair for 6 months."
That last of the obnoxious revelations from the report, for the moment, is one that ensnares both Schlozman and the aforementioned Tanner --- who, we'll remind you once again, was placed in charge of the DoJ Civil Rights division's Voting Section --- even as he made the astounding remark noted below, which was subsequently thought so wonderful by Schlozman, that he circulated it to other "RTAs" in the division:
Berry is an African-American who was the Chairperson of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from November 1993 until late 2004. Schlozman forwarded the e-mail chain to several Department officials (including Principal DAAG Bradshaw) but not Acosta, with the comment, "Y'all will appreciate Tanner's response."
Acosta said that when he was made aware of the incident, he required Schlozman to make a written apology to him for his role in forwarding the e-mail and that Schlozman did so. Acosta said that he believed Schlozman wrote him the apology in an e-mail, but we were unable to retrieve Acosta's e-mails and did not find such an e-mail among Schlozman's recovered e-mail messages.
Have we mentioned that these people were running the Civil Rights division at the DoJ?!
The reasons and chain-of-custody for the decision to not bring criminal charges, despite the findings that Schlozman broke federal law, and then lied about it to Congress, remain murky still at this hour. Zackary Roth at TPM has begun to ask some questions and has received some unsatisfying answers which sound like a whole bunch of bullshit to me.
And then there's still the questions of who determined to bury the report until now, instead of releasing it --- at the very least to Congress --- in July of 2008 when it was completed, so that they might have had the opportunity to recommend that DoJ prosecute for them having been lied to, under oath, by Schlozman.
Leahy released a statement following the release of the report earlier today, noting that "Not only did senior Republican appointees violate the law in hiring based on politics in the Civil Rights Division, they also lied about it when called to explain themselves to Congress."
He went on to note that "Lying to Congress undermines the very core of our constitutional principles and blunts the American people's right to open and transparent government. Not only did [Schlozman] lie to me and the Committee, but he then refused to cooperate with Justice Department's internal oversight offices' investigation into illegal hiring practices in the Department's Civil Rights Division."
But Leahy reserved his most pointed outrage for comments made this morning on the floor of the Senate describing what happened as "a heinous crime":
And when somebody deliberately, purposely sets out to subvert the constitution of the United States, and then lies about it, lies about it, Mr. President, I find that a heinous crime. We will see some kid who steals a car, they'll be prosecuted as they probably should. But when you have a key member of the DoJ lie about it under oath, who subverts the constitution of the United States, all the more reason to prosecute that person. Mr. President what Mr. Schlozman did was reprehensible, it was disgusting, it was wrong, goes at the very core of America's principles.
And when you have somebody who is part of the Justice Department lie under oath, and do it in a way to cover up subverting the laws that protect all of us, the civil rights laws protect all of us, white, black, brown, no matter what our race, our creed, it protects all of us. And what has marked this country since the time I was a young lawyer in the sixties, is our adherence to the civil rights laws. You can't go back to a time where they're enforced for some but not for others.
Ultimately, Barack Obama may be judged --- at least by folks like me, though I believe I share the opinion of the majority of Americans, if not the politicians on this --- as much for what he does, or doesn't do, to enforce the law on the past crimes of the Bush Administration, and thus, in defense of the U.S. Constitution, as he will be for whatever else he may do on the economy, on foreign wars, national security etc.
While an Accountability Division ought to be opened at the DoJ, in truth that's what the entire department is, theoretically, already devoted to --- at least until the Bush Administration dismantled and bastardized it, in order to use it as their own, personal, political bludgeon instead.
There has been much discussion, of late, about whether Team Obama will or won't make accountability for past misdeeds a part of their prime mission. We already know that the Democratic Congress will do everything they can to "move on", under the rubric of "looking forward, not back." Obama's people have given indications that they are of the same mind, and the corporate media will undoubtedly join them all, since any such accountability will also ensare them in questions about why the hell they chose to enable the administration by failing to do their jobs --- indeed their Constitutional responsibility, as members of the free press --- in exposing all of these crimes years ago.
But there will be --- as Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald described Dick Cheney while prosecuting his Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, as part of the investigation into who outed a covert CIA agent for the first time in the history of the White House --- a "dark cloud" hanging over the Obama Administration for as long as they ignore accountability for the crimes of the Bush Adminstration. If they refuse to hold Bush accountable, then the citizens ought to hold them accountable.
In some late good news, however, a federal judge has found today that "the incoming administration of Barack Obama must be given copies of documents the Bush White House has been withholding from Congress on the firings of nine U.S. attorneys."
Those documents, and the testimony of key White House staffers such as Karl Rove, Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten, have been withheld from the U.S. House Judiciary Committee for years. Perhaps they'll finally get them, presuming they're not already shredded (our money is on "shredded").
What Congress and/or Obama decide to do with that information, however, will be up to them. We'll hope they weigh that decision carefully, as there are many of us prepared to hold them as accountable for their actions, as we were to hold the Bush Administration accountable for same.