Friday, March 23, 2007

John Dean, the USA 8, and the Nagging Questions that Remain

Former White House Counsel to President Nixon John Dean has a column at FindLaw on the scandalous firing of eight U.S. Attorneys by President Bush, the Unitary Executive Theory of presidential power, as well as the subsequent coverup that we are all now witnessing. (via FireDogLake)

Here's some more on the story from Josh Marshall, who has rightfully earned much of the credit for keeping this story alive over the last few months. Over at TPM Cafe, Mark Schmitt questions what the firings were really meant to accomplish.

I'll add that in my view, one of the big questions that is not being talked about very much (though Paul Krugman was on this angle weeks ago) isn't how wrong it was to fire U.S. Attorneys in order to interfere with their investigations (in other words, to obstruct justice), or how wrong it is to fire them for not undertaking bogus investigations for political purposes--although both of these are obviously important problems at the heart of the scandal-- but rather, what did the other 85 U.S. Attorneys do to keep their jobs?

If the eight U.S. Attorneys at issue were fired for not being "loyal Bushies," then how loyal did the rest pledge to be? Were they similarly contacted by the politicians and asked to pursue or drop particular cases? What investigations were quashed, and what investigations were drummed up for purely political reasons? There are already reports of political pressure exerted on other federal prosecutors beyond the USA-8, like this story here about investigation of Sen. Casey's contributors, or this one here about direct interference in a multi-billion dollar tobacco lawsuit, and this story here about investigations in Western Pennsylvania. This is the real impact of the scandal: the entire federal justice system is called into question, and legitimate criminal prosecutions and corruption investigations will be needlessly called into question by these concerns.

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