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January 31, 2008

Agency chief alledges political interference in US Attorney probe

The head of the Office of Special Counsel sent a letter to Attorney General Mukasey complaining that his independent probe into the US Attorney firings has been stymied for political reasons.

In a 5-page letter to Mukasey, J. Scott Bloch wrote that his office had been asked to suspend its probe until Main Justice had completed its own US Attorney investigation. (The Washington Post doesn't say which official asked the OSC to step aside, or what the official rationale was.)

Bloch observed in the letter that waiting on Main Justice would put off the OSC's report until the very end Bush presidency, when it would be too late to take any meaningful action.

The OSC has already embarrassed the administration by revealing that Bush officials broke the law when they subjected General Services Agency employees to political briefings:

[One high proile OSC investigation] centered on a PowerPoint presentation that a Rove aide, J. Scott Jennings, made at the General Services Administration this year.

That presentation listed recent polls and the outlook for battleground House and Senate races in 2008. After the presentation, GSA Administrator Lorita Doan encouraged agency managers to "support our candidates," according to half a dozen witnesses. Doan said she could not recall making such comments.

The Los Angeles Times has learned that similar presentations were made by other White House staff members, including Rove, to other Cabinet agencies. During such presentations, employees said they got a not-so-subtle message about helping endangered Republicans. [LAT]

Basically, the GSA buys stuff for the government. Now, why would the people who draft billions of dollars in government contracts need to know which House races were most hotly contested? Hmmm.

Maybe we should ask David H. Safavian, the former GSA official who was convicted of obstructing justice and lying under oath. It's worth noting that Safavian told these lies to conceal his dealings with disgraced Republican super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. It's also worth noting that Safavian's appointment as Director of the Office of Federal Procurement stunned government contracting experts because Safavian was so blatantly unqualified for the job. Before his appointment, he was a lobbyist in business with Grover Norquist.

The GSA wasn't the only agency to get regular briefings on how policy decisions affected Republican electoral prospects. According to the LAT article cited above, Karl Rove, J. Scott Jennings, and Ken Mehlman took their PowerPoint road show to multiple government agencies each year, including the Department of the Interior (another Abramoff stronghold).

The Office of Special Counsel started looking into these presentations because Rove and company disregarded the Hatch Act, which should have protected most federal employees from Rove's attempts to fix policy around elections.

So, it wouldn't be surprising if someone at the DOJ tried to stifle Bloch and his independent investigators.

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Comments

Oh, that's right! The Hatch Act violations! I had completely forgotten about that little gem (and the lawyerly dodge: technically, the presentations weren't "on" gov't property, and therefore were not "within" the Fed. gov't (it depends on what "on" and "within" mean, I think)). Gah!

How many scandals can one administration take? Are they attempting to achieve some sort of critical mass of malfeasance? Is that how the Rapture happens?

This administration apparently believes pretty strongly that it isn't a crime if you aren't found guilty. Between their control of the prosecutorial functions for the last six years and the supine posture of the (narrowly) Dem congress for the last 12 months, they've committed no crimes by that standard. Sweet!

This could stick to the ribs. I'm licking my chops over this one.

This sounds like it might go somewhere, but remember that Bloch isn't especially a person to trust. I'll wait to see if something happens before I get excited.

Re: "Now, why would the people who draft billions of dollars in government contracts need to know which House races were most hotly contested? Hmmm..."-

This is the lead-in to an application of the Caspar Weinberger system of assuring that certain projects favored by the Pentagon are voted into being (& being funded), by having the "project" parts manufactured in 300 or so different congressional districts. When the hundreds of Boeing, Raytheon, Allied Signal, Lockheed, etc etc subcontractors can write to their congressional reps and say "this project includes jobs Here", the outcome is predictable. ^..^

Follow the money.

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