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March 06, 2007

McKay and Fellow U.S. Attorneys Tell the Real Story to Congress

When Mr.Cassidy called me on future action I stopped him and I told him I was sure that he wasn't asking me on behalf of his boss to reveal information on an ongoing investigation, or to lobby me on one, because we both knew that would be improper. He agreed it would be improper and he ended the conversation in a most expeditious manner.

John McKay landed a bombshell today in the Congressional hearings into the U.S. attorney firings when he revealed that he had been contacted by Ed Cassidy, former chief of staff to Washington State Congressman Doc Hastings, on the status of an investigation into voter fraud in the 2004 gubernatorial election. The video is here.

Hastings is scrambling to clear his office of any wrongdoing:

Hastings, in a statement also issued Tuesday, called Cassidy's conversation with McKay "entirely appropriate."

"It was a simple inquiry and nothing more -- and it was the only call to any federal official from my office on this subject either during or after the recount ordeal," Hastings said.

He said Tom McCabe, the executive vice president of the Building Industry Association of Washington, which backed Rossi, did contact his office in July 2005 to ask that Hastings urge the White House to fire McKay.

"I flat out refused to do so, which Ed Cassidy told him in the bluntest of terms," Hastings said."

Hastings is wrong on the first point. It is highly inappropriate for congresspeople (or their staff members) to inquire of a federal prosecutor about the status of an ongoing investigation. It's the reason Senator Pete Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson are facing ethics questions today, because they did the same thing to David Iglesias. But at least Hastings had the good sense to beat back Tom McCabe's demand. Here's an excerpt from McCabe's menacing missive to the congressman, dated July 5, 2005:

I presume Mr. McKay has adamantly refused to investigate because he's a Democrat, and any investigation he conducts may harm his future political aspirations. I thought the process by which Mr. McKay, a Democrat, was appointed was reprehensible (ie. his brother's connections with Jennifer Dunn). But now it's time for the administration to admit its mistake and replace Mr. McKay with someone (a Republican?) who will conduct an investigation of election improprieties.

There's no doubt  the BIAW hasn't been having an easy time of it. First, Rossi loses the governor's race. Then a reliably conservative congressman won't take up their cause. And then they pour millions of dollars into buying judicial races in the last election, which ended up yet another failed project when their candidates lost. And by the way, from all reports, John McKay is a Republican. Small details.

But the other wrinkle is that Hastings was the chair of the House Ethics Committee at the time of that phone call from Cassidy to McKay. That puts his claims about appropriate or inappropriate behavior under a microscope, and if CREW doesn't look into this sitaution I'll be surprised.

There were so many riveting moments today it's hard to focus on them all in one post. The Senate hearings gave me gratification when people like Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) referenced a damning phone call between Michael Elston (chief of staff to Deputy AG Paul McNulty) and ousted prosecutor Bud Cummins, where Cummins sensed such a clear threat from the AG's office and the White House to keep his mouth shut that he felt it necessary to warn his peers. The senator got them to say they thought Elston's action would be seen as obstruction of justice had he approached a grand jury witness in the same manner. And of course, Republicans Jeff Sessions (AL) and Lindsay Graham (S.C.) proved themselves to be loyal White House stooges, filling up the space with their hot gas about how these prosecutors got canned for being too long in the tooth. And flashing us all back to his glory days as an attack dog, Arlen Specter, the pit bull of Pennsylvania (who slipped the provision into the new and improved Patriot Act making these firings, and unapproved patronage replacements, possible in the first place), recalled for us his performance as Anita Hill's worst nightmare, by going after the U.S. attorneys with the vim and vigor of prosecutor in his first big murder trial. He may be hoping for an Oscar. What he and the rest of the Republicans may get, instead, is a very comprehensive and detailed investigation into the Bush regime's obsession with power, secrecy, cronyism and ultimate failure at a time when the nation is energetically clamoring for accountability.

Posted by shoephone on March 6, 2007 at 07:09 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink

Comments

"What he and the rest of the Republicans may get, instead, is a very comprehensive and detailed investigation into the Bush regime's obsession with power, secrecy, cronyism and ultimate failure at a time when the nation is energetically clamoring for accountability."

May it be so, shoephone. Thanks for another great post. It is past time this administration's contempt for the rule of law was thoroughly exposed.

Posted by: Leslie in CA | Mar 6, 2007 8:51:54 PM

Ed Cassidy is now working for Rep. John Boehner, according to this AP article:

http://www.examiner.com/a-602555~Former_U_S__atty_says_he_was_contacted_about_2004_WA_election.html

Failing upwards seems to be a habit with these guys.

Great work, shoephone. Keep at it, please.

Posted by: Cujo359 | Mar 6, 2007 10:25:08 PM

Alberto Gonzales has an op-ed in USA Today, which tries to bring this down to the level of a pesky personnel problem that got blown out of proportion. I find it interesting that Gonzales doesn't have time to respond to Congress, but did take the time to write an op-ed - with these people, it's all about PR, and very little about governing and being accountable.

Specter is reprehensible, and that performance yesterday was sickening. All I could surmise is that he wants to take the attention off the fact that he made all of this possible, by slipping that provision into Patriot II, and also telegraph that he's still a good Republican.

If the fired prosecutors came to Congress with any reluctance, and with any mixed feelings about what they might have to testify to, those feelings must have vanished in seconds when they realized how they were going to be treated.

I think this is only getting started, and the worst is yet to come.

Posted by: Anne | Mar 7, 2007 7:54:33 AM

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