Tuli Can't Stop Talking

These are just my thoughts on contemporary issues and an attempt to open up a dialogue.

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A citizen who cares deeply about the United States Constitution and the Rule of Law.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Is this Blatant or What?

What the implications for Bush’s latest move in the Abramoff Scandal are yet to be seen. But this nomination of the lead prosecutor doesn’t bode well for the cases as far as I am concerned.

From the WAPO:

President Bush on Wednesday nominated one of the Justice Department's lead prosecutors in the Jack Abramoff corruption probe to a U.S. District Court seat.

Noel Hillman, chief of the department's public integrity section, was nominated for the federal judgeship in New Jersey, where he served in the U.S. Attorney's office under Michael Chertoff, now secretary of Homeland Security.

The White House was poised to nominate Hillman last summer, after New Jersey's two Democratic senators took the opportunity to weigh in on Hillman and other nominees in exchange for lifting their objections to another candidate Bush had nominated in 2003.

White House spokeswoman Erin Healy said the president makes all his nominations in a timely manner and was ready to move forward with these, adding that Bush was pleased to work with Sen. Frank Lautenberg and former Sen. Jon Corzine, now governor of New Jersey.

Hillman will step down as chief of the public integrity unit next week, but remain in the Justice Department's criminal division until he is confirmed, a department official said. Andrew Lourie, a career prosecutor in Miami, will lead the public corruption-fighting office on a temporary basis, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss personnel matters.

Lourie performed the same role until Hillman took over early in 2003.

During a news conference earlier this month following Abramoff's guilty plea on corruption-related charges, Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher said Hillman played an important role in providing leadership in the investigation.

Hillman came to Washington in 2001. Before that, he was an assistant U.S. attorney in New Jersey from 1992 to 2001, coming in while Chertoff was the U.S. attorney.

Last summer, Corzine and Lautenberg signed off on the nominations of Hillman and two others nominated to judgeships in New Jersey on Wednesday. They gave the OK as part of an agreement to lift their objections to Bush's nomination of Republican activist Peter Sheridan to the federal bench.

Now I don’t normally have an Aluminum Hat on but this smells to me. And as for Alice Fisher, Jane at Firedoglake has some very interesting thoughts on that as well:

I was more than a little tweaked today when I turned on CSPAN and saw that Alice Fisher was giving the press conference in the Abramoff case. Alice Fisher should have recused herself long ago.

As Digby has noted, with the Democrats neutered and the press sufficiently conscripted into the GOP cause at a certain point the only functional check in the system over this corrupt administration became the career prosecutors within the Justice Department. James Comey was a full-on disaster appointee for BushCo. who bucked them from the get over wiretapping, torture and Ashcroft's oversight of the Plame investigation. When the wingy Ashcroft was not servile enough and refused to reign Comey in even he got the boot and was replaced by the much more morally pliant Abu Gonzales.

Last year BushCo. was trying to get Timothy "Tyco" Flanigan through Senate confirmation to replace Comey as the number two in the Justice Department, but Flanigan got cute at his hearings and Specter hated him. There was much speculation that Flanigan would get a recess appointment last summer and as Bush's old Skull-and-Bones crony be in the perfect spot to oversee Patrick Fitzgerald, but that didn't happen. Bush did give a recess appointment to Alice Fisher as Chief of the Criminal Division. On Wednesday, right smack in the middle of the Hurricane Katrina disaster when the country wasn't looking. (Comey eventually shot them all the finger on his way out the door and appointed the ethical David Margolis to oversee Fitzgerald.)

Bush must've really wanted Alice Fisher in there.

Fisher had been having trouble with her confirmation too, and Carl Levin had blocked her nomination due to concerns over her position on torture. There was also worry about her connection to DeLay:

Leahy also expressed concerns about Fisher's "views on checks of controversial provisions of the Patriot Act and her opposition to the Act's sunset provision; her participation in meetings in which the FBI expressed its disagreement with harsh interrogation methods practiced by the military toward detainees held at Guantanamo, and her ideas about appropriate safeguards for the treatment of enemy combatants." Leahy was also concerned about "reports that she has had ties to Congressman Tom DeLay'’s defense team" and "also to know what steps she to take to avoid a conflict of interest in the Department's investigation of lobbyist Jack Abramoff and possibly Mr. DeLay."

Fisher is a career Republican who in her former job was registered as a lobbyist for HCA, the healthcare company founded by Bill Frist's father. Her appointment was also controversial due to the fact that like her boss Abu Gonzales, Fisher has no trial experience and with Comey gone there would be no senior member of the Justice Department who was an experienced criminal prosecutor. But Senatorial oversight was dispensed with and BushCo. continued on its Brownie-esque rampage to replace experience with cronyism.

Dismissing Jane Hamsher’s analysis is at our peril.

So, it is with extreme trepidation that I try to visualize the future of this investigation into Republican High Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Abramoff and Scanlon may be singing to the DOJ, but will they listen, and hear the song?


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