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Goldsmith: In DoJ Hiring Interview, I Was Asked ‘Are You A Republican?’

Wed, 2007-09-05 08:02

In his new book, The Terror Presidency, former Office of Legal Council chief Jack Goldsmith claims “he was quizzed about his political loyalties during his initial job interview” with the Department of Justice. According to Goldsmith, the first question asked in his interview with David Leitch, a deputy to then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, was about his political loyalties:

Goldsmith also said in his book that — like many other Justice Department hires — he was quizzed about his political loyalties during his initial job interview. One of Gonzales’s deputies, David Leitch, opened the conversation by asking him about an $800 campaign contribution Goldsmith had given to a law school dean who was a Democrat. “Why have you never given money to a Republican?” Leitch asked, according to the book. “Are you a Republican?

Hiring career employees based on political affiliation is forbidden under both federal law and internal Justice Department rules. Though Goldsmith is a political appointee, and thus not covered by federal law, his experience is part of a pattern of politicization in the Bush Justice Department that often did cross the legal and ethical line.

During her May testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, former Justice Department White House Liaison Monica Goodling admitted that she had “taken inappropriate political considerations into account” while hiring. Pressed by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Goodling conceded that her actions were “illegal.”

Former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Bradley Schlozman, who recently resigned, also imposed a partisan litmus test in his hiring at the Civil Rights Division, even boasting of the number of Republicans he had hired.

The Inspector General of the Justice Department, Glenn Fine, is currently investigating the politicization of the hiring process at DoJ.

UPDATE: It’s been pointed out that as the head of the Office of Legal Counsel, Goldsmith was actually a political appointee, so he wasn’t covered by the federal law barring the consideration of political affiliation in hiring. The post has been updated to reflect that while still noting the pattern of politicization at the DoJ that did seemingly cross the legal line.

UPDATE II: TPM’s Paul Kiel has more on Goldsmith’s interview, including the fact that Alberto Gonzales and David Addington were also involved.

Kingston refuses to correct reference to ‘Demoncrats.’

Wed, 2007-09-05 07:30

In a statement released over the summer recess, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) referred to Democrats as “Demoncrats.” “Demoncrats and Republicans Split Over Government Healthcare,” the statement read. A Kingston spokeswoman called it a mistake and an “obvious typo,” but CQ reports:

Typo? Probably. But apparently not one Kingston’s office cares to correct. A month after its initial posting, the “typo” statement not only is still on Kingston’s House Web site, it’s been moved to a prominent spot on the opening page.

UPDATE: ThinkProgress spoke to Kingston’s spokeswoman who said that a correction would be sent out “right now.”

UPDATE II: The statement has now been corrected.

Soltz to Senor: ‘You can’t spin me a third time.’

Wed, 2007-09-05 07:11

Last night on Hannity and Colmes, Iraq war vet and VoteVets founder Jon Soltz debated Dan Senor, former senior adviser to Paul Bremer in Iraq. When Senor told Soltz “you got to admit” progress is being made in Iraq, Soltz responded:

When you were in Iraq, I believed you. I trusted you. Our soldiers needed your leadership. You told us weapons of mass destruction, we’ve turned the corner in Iraq. So I’m not going to sit here and be lectured by someone like you. I just can’t have that. I can be lectured by Gen. Petraeus, I can be lectured by our generals. But you spun me once, you spun me twice, you can’t spin me a third time.

Later, Soltz argued that recent ads by Freedom’s Watch are “completely misleading” because there was “no connection between 9/11 and Iraq.” Those soldiers “have been misled by people like Dan Senor,” Soltz said. Watch it:

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Rep. Lamborn apologizes for threatening constituents.

Wed, 2007-09-05 07:03

Jonathan and Anna Bartha recently wrote a critical letter to the editor about Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) in the Denver Post, taking issue with a $1,000 contribution he received from the International Game Technology PAC. Lamborn then left two threatening voicemails on the couple’s answering machine, warning there would be “consequences” if they did not withdraw their letter. Lamborn has now apologized.

ThinkFast: September 5, 2007

Wed, 2007-09-05 06:08

A recent poll finds 52 percent of Australians believe Bush is the worst U.S. president ever, primarily due to his Iraq war policy. Yesterday, Australian Prime Minister John Howard told Bush he would not reduce the 1,600 Australian forces in Iraq.

The nation’s Medicaid directors yesterday told the Bush administration that its new restrictions on the federally funded State Children’s Health Insurance Program will limit the number of children covered. In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, the National Association of State Medicaid Directors “said the new standards reduce flexibility, making it difficult for states to expand coverage.”

“A half-hour before his Saturday news conference announcing his plans to resign, Sen. Larry Craig left a voice mail — at a number he apparently didn’t intend to dial — stating his intent to possibly rethink the decision.” Listen to the audio here.

The Americans Against Escalation in Iraq have released a new ad calling out Bush’s suggestion that he will reduce troop levels. “Do they really mean it this time?” Watch the ad here.

By a vote of 69-24, the Senate approved Jim Nussle to replace Rob Portman as the director of the Office of Management and Budget. Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) voted against Nussle’s confirmation because he feared Republicans could portray a yes vote “as a sign of support for the president’s failed fiscal policy.” (more…)

Bush’s advisers tell him what he wants to hear.

Tue, 2007-09-04 19:36

“President Bush’s senior advisers on Iraq have recommended he stand by his current war strategy, and he is unlikely to order more than a symbolic cut in troops before the end of the year, administration officials told The Associated Press Tuesday.” This advice reaffirms Bush’s stated desire to stay in Iraq.

UPDATE: Watch Keith Olbermann’s special comment on this issue tonight.

Chertoff promised right-wing group charges against Clinton.

Tue, 2007-09-04 19:08

The LA Times reports that in 2001, Michael Chertoff, then head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, met with the conservative group Judicial Watch and “personally assured” them that he would pursue criminal charges against Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) “in connection with a lavish fundraising event in Los Angeles.” Chertoff is now one of the names mentioned to take over the Justice Department, which has been criticized for a lack of independence.

Breaking: Sen. Craig reconsidering his intention to resign.

Tue, 2007-09-04 18:10

Last week, Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) announced, “It is with sadness and deep regret that I announce that it is my intent to resign from the Senate, effective Sept. 30.” Apparently, he is now reconsidering. MSNBC’s Dan Abrams reports that the man who said “he would resign to avoid becoming a distraction is now once again a distraction.” Sidney Smith, Craig’s spokesman, said, “It’s not such a foregone conclusion anymore, that the only thing he could do was resign.” Watch it:

UPDATE: The AP reported today, “Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, suggested Craig’s GOP colleagues who pressured him last week to resign should re-examine the facts surrounding his arrest June 11. ‘The more people take a look at the situation, there may well be second thoughts,’ Specter, a former prosecutor, said Tuesday.”

Service to Cheney is like serving in Iraq.

Tue, 2007-09-04 16:15

On this evening’s Hardball, Ron Christie, a former aide to Vice President Cheney, equated his work in the White House to serving in Iraq. While debating Iraq war veteran Jon Soltz, Christie said to Soltz, “I am pleased and honored by the fact that you chose to wear the uniform of this country, but I also chose to serve this country, and I’ve been involved in public service serving the United States and the American people.” “Unlike you Jon,” he continued, “I’ve actually sat in the Oval Office.” Watch it:

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Gore confirms VP is part of executive branch.

Tue, 2007-09-04 15:05

In June, House investigators learned that Vice President Cheney exempted his office from a presidential executive order, arguing that the Office of the Vice President is not an “entity within the executive branch.” In a recent interview with Harvard’s alumni magazine, former Vice President Al Gore confirmed that the Vice President is indeed part of the executive:

You were often referred to as the most powerful vice president.

GORE: That was before Dick Cheney.

Point taken. Cheney has made the argument that the vice presidency is not part of the executive branch. Is he right?

GORE: (Laughs) Of course the vice presidency is part of the executive branch! But I fear that I’m losing my objectivity where President Bush and Cheney are concerned. Not much surprises me anymore. I have a lot of friends who share the following problem with me: Our sense of outrage is so saturated that when a new outrage occurs, we have to download some existing outrage into an external hard drive in order to make room for a new outrage.

GAO Chief Suggests Administration Is Cooking The Books On Levels Of Sectarian Violence In Iraq

Tue, 2007-09-04 13:46

Gen. David Petraeus has claimed that there has been a 75 percent reduction in sectarian violence. In testimony today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, GAO Comptroller General David Walker said those statistics cannot be independently verified.

The GAO’s statistics, which extend through the end of July, demonstrate that the number of daily attacks against Iraqis remains unchanged. Walker said the Pentagon has refused to provide him with the latest statistics. “We asked for but did not receive the information through the end of August.” he said. “They haven’t given us the data.”

While Walker wasn’t privy to the Pentagon’s information, Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) said he recently met with Gen. Petraeus and was shown “the data in August.” Coleman said the data is “very clear about a reduction in violence. General Petraeus has those charts,” Coleman explained. Walker responded by hinting that a classified version of the GAO report contains more explanation of the administration’s claims about reductions in sectarian violence. He said:

Without getting into detail, let’s just say there are several different sources within the administration on violence. And those sources do not agree. So I don’t know what Gen. Petraeus is giving you. I don’t know which source he’s using. But part of the problem we had in reaching a conclusion about sectarian violence is there are multiple sources showing different levels of violence with different trends.

Watch it:

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Ilan Goldenberg writes that one explanation for the contrary reports is because the military is not counting deaths from car bombs. The National Security Network notes that Petraeus has made a number of statements about the results of escalation that have been contradicted by Iraqi government data, independent media reports, and other U.S. agencies.

NSN writes, “The numbers have raised such alarm bells that a member of the Iraq Study Group, former ambassadors and leading academics have written to Congress asking them to look into the validity of U.S. government claims.”

GOP Power Grab For California Votes Linked To Swift Boat Funder

Tue, 2007-09-04 13:07

This summer, a group of California lawyers filed a ballot initiative that would apportion the state’s presidential electors on a district-by-district, rather than statewide, basis. The ballot initiative “would rig elections in a way that would make it difficult for a Democrat to be elected president, no matter how the popular vote comes out.” The New York Times notes:

The net result of the California initiative would be that if the Democratic candidate wins in that state next year, which is very likely, the Republican candidate might still walk away with 20 or more of the state’s electoral votes. The initiative, backed by a shadowy group called Californians for Equal Representation, is being promoted as an effort to more accurately reflect the choices of the state’s voters, and to force candidates to pay more attention to California, which is usually not in play in presidential elections. It is actually a power grab on behalf of Republicans. […]

If California abandons its winner-take-all rule while red states like Texas do not, it will be hard for a Democratic nominee to assemble an Electoral College majority, even if he or she wins a sizable majority of the popular vote. That appears to be just what the backers of the California idea have in mind.

As more evidence of the initiative’s partisan motives, today the AP reports that the law firm behind the ballot initiative, Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, LLP, has strong ties to a major donor of the 2004 PAC, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth:

Charles H. Bell and Thomas Hiltachk’s law firm banked nearly $65,000 in fees from a California-based political committee funded almost solely by Bob J. Perry that targeted Democrats in 2006. Perry, a major Republican donor, contributed nearly $4.5 million to the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that made unsubstantiated but damaging attacks on Kerry three years ago.

Bell is also the General Counsel for the California Republican Party and the Vice President of the Federalist Society’s free speech and election law practice group. Thomas Hiltachk serves as legal counsel to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA), who has so far given the proposal “a chilly reception.”

There’s no doubt that the Electoral College needs reform. But as Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) put it: “We are all for reforming the Electoral College but that must be done in ALL of the states, not just California.”

(The Carpetbagger Report and Digby have more. Find out the facts about the ballot initiative at Californians for Fair Election Reform.)

UPDATE: Calitics points out that “Bell keeps a life-sized cardboard image of President Bush in his office.”

High school student criticizes McCain on gay marriage.

Tue, 2007-09-04 12:40

This morning, a high school student challenged Sen. John McCain about his age, causing McCain to jokingly refer to the student as “a little jerk.” The troubles for McCain didn’t end there. Another student pressed him with regards to his stance on gay marriage. Here’s the exchange:

Student: “Do you support civil unions or gay marriage?”

McCain: “I do not. I think that they impinge on the status and the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman.”

Student: “So you believe in taking away someone’s rights because you believe it’s wrong?”

McCain: “I wouldn’t put that interpretation on my position, but I understand yours.” […]

Student: “I came here looking to see a leader. I don’t.”

Doolittle aides subpoenaed.

Tue, 2007-09-04 12:20

Rep. John Doolittle’s (R-CA) chief of staff and deputy chief of staff “have been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in a federal probe into ties between Doolittle, his wife and jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff.” FBI agents raided Doolittle’s Virginia home in April “looking for information about a fund-raising business his wife ran that did work for Abramoff.”

Thompson: ‘The Whole’ Middle East ‘Will Become Nuclearized’ If We Redeploy From Iraq

Tue, 2007-09-04 11:34

Former Sen. Fred Thompson has regularly fearmongered about terrorist threats. In June, he warned that undocumented immigration could lead to “suitcase bombs” from Cuba and alleged that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) call to redeploy from Iraq was “encouraging our enemies.

Taking his fearmongering to new heights, yesterday on Hannity and Colmes, Thompson claimed that withdrawal from Iraq would lead to “the whole” Middle East going “nuclear”:

If we leave [Iraq] under bad circumstances, we’re going to have a haven down there for terrorists. The whole area, I’m afraid, will become nuclearized. The Sunni countries are looking at what Iran is doing. And if we can’t help with stability in that part of the world, they’re going to help themselves, and they’re going to go nuclear.

Watch it:

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Thompson added al Qaeda was actively seeking nuclear weapons as reason to stay in Iraq. “We have al Qaeda out there we know trying to get nuclear weapons,” he claimed. “We have 40 countries that have fissile material that could make a bomb.”

Thompson’s fearmongering is reminiscent of the Bush administration’s pre-war attempts to conflate weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein, and al Qaeda into one. In his State of the Union address in 2003, two months prior to the invasion, President Bush declared:

Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda. Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own.

In reality, al Qaeda never chased the nuclear weapons that Hussein didn’t have. The U.S. presence in Iraq is fueling al Qaeda’s growth, not preventing it.

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Why Gonzales finally quit.

Tue, 2007-09-04 10:50

Newsweek reports that although a former colleague urged outgoing Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to quit months ago, he hung on “believing the president wanted him to stay.” But the turning point came when an internal review by chief of staff Josh Bolten “concluded that Gonzales was so politically weak he had become an obstacle to Bush’s agenda, especially on the passage of an updated Foreign Intelligence Surveillance law.” No word on whether Bush asked for a raise of hands.

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GAO Report: Daily Attacks Against Iraqis ‘Have Remained Unchanged’

Tue, 2007-09-04 10:00

The Government Accountability Office has released its congressionally mandated report on the Iraq’s progress towards meeting 18 separate security and political benchmarks. The Iraqi government met 3, partially met 4, and did not meet 11 of its 18 benchmarks.

Contrary to claims made by Gen. David Petraeus that sectarian violence has decreased dramatically, the GAO report is unable to report any progress on this front. Moreover, it notes that “average daily attacks against civilians” has remained unchanged:

It is unclear whether sectarian violence in Iraq has decreased–a key security benchmark–since it is difficult to measure perpetrators’ intents, and various other measures of population security from different sources show differing trends. As displayed in figure 4 (see above), average daily attacks against civilians have remained unchanged from February to July 2007.

Read the a summary of the report here.

When the Washington Post reported on a leaked version of the GAO report last week, the Bush administration quickly tried to water down the report’s findings. Administration officials said the draft report was “unrealistically harsh because it assigned pass-or-fail grades to each benchmark.” White House press spokeswoman Dana Perino complained, “A bar was set so high, that it was almost not to be able to be met.”

But a look at the GAO report demonstrates that the office took careful efforts to detail the status of each benchmark, rather than simply assigning a grade. The report also used a “partially met” grade to offer a more complete picture of the status of each benchmark.

An internal White House memo reported by the AP last week went as far as to claim the GAO report’s standards would “lock in failure“:

The memo argues that the GAO will not present a “true picture” of the situation in Iraq because the standards were “designed to lock in failure,” according to portions of the document read to the AP by an official who has seen it.

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Here’s the “true picture” the White House was so concerned that the public would see: (more…)

Former Bush Official: White House Wanted To ‘Get Rid Of That Obnoxious FISA Court’

Tue, 2007-09-04 09:30

A new book by Jack Goldsmith — one of the “brightest stars in the conservative legal firmament,” good friend of John Yoo, visiting scholar at AEI, and former head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel — has published a book detailing the administration’s extraordinary efforts to expand its wiretapping program.

While Goldsmith “shared the White House’s concern that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act might prevent wiretaps on international calls involving terrorists,” he disagreed with the White House’s unwarranted grab for power. “We’re one bomb away from getting rid of that obnoxious [FISA] court,” Goldsmith recalls Cheney chief of staff David Addington telling him in Feb. 2004, indicating that the White House always intended to do away with the FISA court.

Goldsmith also witnessed Alberto Gonzales’s and Andrew Card’s confrontation of John Ashcroft in his hospital bed on March 10, 2004, when they demanded that the sick Ashcroft approve the administration’s secret spying program, over the objections of Goldsmith and James Comey, then acting Attorney General:

Suddenly, Gonzales and Card came in the room and announced that they were there in connection with the classified program. “Ashcroft, who looked like he was near death, sort of puffed up his chest,” Goldsmith recalls. “All of a sudden, energy and color came into his face, and he said that he didn’t appreciate them coming to visit him under those circumstances, that he had concerns about the matter they were asking about and that, in any event, he wasn’t the attorney general at the moment; Jim Comey was. He actually gave a two-minute speech, and I was sure at the end of it he was going to die. It was the most amazing scene I’ve ever witnessed.”

After a bit of silence, Goldsmith told me, Gonzales thanked Ashcroft, and he and Card walked out of the room. “At that moment,” Goldsmith recalled, “Mrs. Ashcroft, who obviously couldn’t believe what she saw happening to her sick husband, looked at Gonzales and Card as they walked out of the room and stuck her tongue out at them. She had no idea what we were discussing, but this sweet-looking woman sticking out her tongue was the ultimate expression of disapproval. It captured the feeling in the room perfectly.”

As Glenn Greenwald notes, Goldsmith is “no hero.” He “is a hard-core right-wing ideologue who continues to support many of the administration’s most radical positions, including his view that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions does not apply to terrorist suspects (the position rejected by Hamdan).” Yet even Goldsmith couldn’t stomach the extraordinary measures to which the administration went to push its spying programs.

UPDATE: Spencer Ackerman has more on Goldsmith’s book.

McCain calls high school student a ‘little jerk.’

Tue, 2007-09-04 09:15

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) snidely responded to a high school student who challenged whether he was too old and too conservative to be president. McCain jokingly referred to the questioner as “a little jerk” who ought to be drafted:

An unflinching John McCain was told Tuesday by New Hampshire high school students he might be too old to be president and too conservative to be respected.

McCain, the Arizona senator whose presidential bid has stumbled through the summer, countered the Concord High School students with humor.

“Thanks for the question, you little jerk,” McCain joked back to one student who asked the 71-year-old about his age. “You’re drafted.”

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UPDATE: Watch it:

Draper: Laura Bush Considers Rove ‘A Necessary Evil,’ ‘Self-Aggrandizing’

Tue, 2007-09-04 08:20

In a new book on the Bush presidency, entitled “Dead Certain,” former Texas Monthly senior editor Robert Draper reveals that First Lady Laura Bush refers to her husband’s longtime political adviser, Karl Rove, as “Pigpen,” the perpetually dirty character from Charles Schulz’ “Peanuts” comic strip.

On the Today Show this morning, host Meredith Veira asked Draper about the First Lady’s feelings towards Rove. “Well, I think she recognizes that Karl Rove was a necessary evil,” said Draper. He also said she felt Rove often took more credit than he deserves:

She also felt that Rove was a bit self-aggrandizing, and she would say at times, “let’s see what boy genius has to say about this.” She didn’t like the fact that, in her view, Rove would sometimes be stealing credit for administration policy that, in fact, emanated from her husband.

Watch it:

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Draper’s book is not the first report of Laura Bush’s displeasure with Rove. In a 2004 interview with the New York Times, Mrs. Bush said “she gets angry” when Rove is given undue credit:

Laura Bush is so devoted [to her husband] that she gets angry when Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s chief political adviser, is called ‘Bush’s brain’ or is credited with being the real power in the West Wing. “His input is valued just about, you know, equally with a whole lot of other people and — or maybe less, I should say, than some of the other people over there,” Mrs. Bush said in an interview in February.

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