If the Attorney General's reputation and status were shaky before this latest revelation, surely this morning they are downright dissolved.
Why? Because now he is established in the court of public opinion if not yet in a court of law either to be a liar or a fool. Either he misled us all, via live television a la former President Clinton, when he told us two weeks ago that he wasn't involved in these sorts of conversations, Or he wasn't sharp enough to remember his presence and role at this meeting and comprehend the notion that,eventually, this information would tumble into the public realm. Either way, this latest embarrassing episode alone (never mind all the other reasons) disqualifies Gonzales to serve as the nation's top lawyer and its chief law enforcement official. Either way, it undercuts a core premise of the defense the Justice Department and the White House had tried so hard this past week to sell us: the Attorney General is a good guy who was shocked-- shocked!-- to find his subordinates playing fast and loose with well-established (if unwritten) rules about the political dismissal of U.S. Attorneys. It's no wonder that there are now two separate investigations underway at the Justice Department to determine the scope of the wrongdoing.
UPDATE: More from Crooks and Liars.
Here's the problem, though. As Marty Lederman points out, the relevant statute–28 U.S.C. 541(c)–vests the power to remove U.S. Attorneys with the president ("Each United States attorney is subject to removal by the President.") As we've repeatedly been told, U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President–not the pleasure of the Attorney General (and certainly not the pleasure of the Attorney General's chief of staff). The decision to fire a U.S. Attorney–much less eight of them–is unquestionably one for the president to make, so if President Bush was truly out of the loop on this, that's a problem in and of itself.
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