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Justice Dept. "incensed" at White House for waging assault on their independence to prosecute

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FourScore Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-24-09 09:26 PM
Original message
Justice Dept. "incensed" at White House for waging assault on their independence to prosecute
Obama v. the Justice Department
by Scott Horton

The Daily Beast has learned that department lawyers are "incensed" at the White House for waging a frontal assault on their independence to prosecute over torture.

On Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, appearing on ABCs This Week, underscored that President Obama had promised that CIA agents who acted in reliance on Bush-era Justice Department memoranda approving since-repudiated torture techniques would not face criminal investigation or prosecution. Then he went one step further, stating those who devised the policy, he believes that they wereshould not be prosecuted either. A few hours later, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs reiterated Emanuels remarks as official policy. But during the course of the day on Tuesday the White House appeared suddenly to shift gears. President Obama, responding to a reporters question, declared that he was not prejudging a possible criminal investigation or prosecution of "those who formulated those legal decisions" behind the interrogation methods. What happened?

" described it in a way that clearly suggested that political judgment was driving the entire process," one senior Justice official told me. "It was depressing and amateurish."

Members of the White House press corps struggled to explain the shift, many of them suggesting that Obama was pandering to his political base. But the winds of change blew in from an address just down Pennsylvania Avenue. The Daily Beast has learned that senior Justice Department lawyers were incensed at the Emanuel and Gibbs statements, as one put itnot because they disagreed with Obamas apparent opposition to an investigation and prosecution, but because the statements violated well-established rules separating political figures in the White House from decisions about active criminal cases. The statements were viewed as a frontal assault on the autonomy and independence of the criminal-justice system. Emanuel got far ahead of the process and described it in a way that clearly suggested that political judgment was driving the entire process, one senior Justice official told me. It was depressing and amateurish.

Now the White House misstep may in fact be propelling the process in the opposite direction. Another Justice Department official observed, The department is now in the process of making some very tough decisions about what to do with this extremely complex and difficult matter. Emanuels statement was unfortunate, because now if the attorney general decides against appointing a special prosecutor, people are going to believe that this was a politically dictated decision. The only clear way out of this bind may now be to do what the critics suggest and appoint a special prosecutor. Demands for the appointment of a special prosecutor have been proliferating in recent days following the release of the torture memoranda on April 16...

SNIP

...One of Holders priorities since arriving at Justice has been bolstering the departments tarnished reputation as an independent law-enforcement agency free of political influence. During the Bush years, the department was shaken by allegations that prosecutions were brought or dropped as a result of pressure from the White House. A special prosecutor is now completing an investigation of allegations of political manipulation connected with the Bush administrations decision to dismiss nine U.S. attorneys who were judged to be insufficiently zealous in pursuit of politically directed targets. Holder recently appointed the departments senior ethics expert, Marshall Jarrett, to head the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys, as a response to these concerns.

International developments also complicate the Justice Departments handling of the matter. In an interview with the Austrian newspaper Der Standard on Sunday, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak sharply condemned reports that Obama had decided against an investigation of allegations of torture involving the CIA. Obama has violated international law, Nowak stated, because the Convention Against Torture mandates a criminal inquiry be undertaken whenever there is credible evidence that torture occurred...

SNIP

...Finally, the pending criminal case in Spain targeting the Bush Sixformer administration officials implicated in setting the torture policyadds another complexity. Spanish prosecutors, who opposed the prosecution of the case after the Spanish attorney general intervened in opposition, told State Department officials that the Spanish case would likely be suspended if the Justice Department were to take up an investigation. A decision by Holder to open a probe would therefore likely protect the Bush Six from prosecution overseas...

http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-04-...
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ErinBerin84 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-24-09 09:28 PM
Response to Original message
1. that's very understandable
This is from the beginning of the week though, so hopefully the anger has died down a bit and the separation of powers won't fail us.
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dflprincess Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-24-09 09:29 PM
Response to Original message
2. The article may say that senior lawyers don't disagree with the opposition to investigate
and that's probably true in some cases but I would bet that there are career attorneys at the DOJ who have been living for the day they could go after Bushco.
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malaise Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-24-09 09:30 PM
Response to Original message
3. BS
The meme is to divide and rule.
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DS1 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-24-09 09:34 PM
Response to Original message
4. Sounds like the Cheney operative hangers-on are doing their job
Of course they're incensed, it's their boss suddenly on the line.


WHAT? WE HAVE TO DO OUR JOBS?
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Xipe Totec Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-24-09 09:36 PM
Response to Original message
5. If it forces the appointment of a special prosecutor, great!
I could not hope for a better outcome.

Except, perhaps, prosecution in an international court, followed by a hanging.

Or two, or three...

Saddam, scooch over, you got company.


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stillcool Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-24-09 09:41 PM
Response to Reply #5
8. Here is a great article that explains..
Edited on Fri Apr-24-09 09:44 PM by stillcool
why a Special Prosecutor should not be appointed at this time..

http://www.truthout.org/042009R

I'll add an excerpt..

Of Black Holes and Radio Silence

Monday 20 April 2009
by: Elizabeth de la Vega, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

A former prosecutor examines the special prosecutor debate

We must have a prosecution eventually, but we are not legally required to publicly initiate it now and we should not, as justifiable as it is. I'm not concerned about political fallout. What's good or bad for either party has no legitimate place in this calculus. My sole consideration is litigation strategy: I want us to succeed. And our best hope of doing that is to unflinchingly assess - just as any lawyer would do when contemplating choices of action in a case - what we would have tomorrow if we got what we think we want today. We should obviously think twice about pursuing an intermediate goal, however satisfying it may appear, if it would be counterproductive in the long term. There are times when it's smarter to wait before taking a prosecutive step and this is one of them.

I know that what I have to say may not be popular, but the stakes here are too high to ignore "bad facts" - i.e., those that might run counter to our position or the course we've decided to take. So, it's better, I think, for me to tell you what I know to be true about grand jury investigations and the requisites of preparing a criminal case for indictment and trial - even though you might not like to hear it. Then you can make this assessment yourselves.

First, the bottom line: From the perspective of anyone who wants Bush and Cheney and their top aides to be held accountable for their crimes, the designation of some sort of independent prosecutor right now would be the worst possible eventuality. It's a move that has so many downsides - and holds so few real benefits - that I would be more inclined to question President Obama's motives if he appointed a special prosecutor than if he did not. There is a reason why former prosecutor Arlen Specter - a Republican senator from Pennsylvania - has voiced support for a special prosecutor, while former prosecutors Patrick Leahy and Sheldon Whitehouse - Democratic senators from Vermont and Rhode Island, respectively - would prefer a public inquiry.

What is it? Well, for starters, there is - under currently available US law - no such thing as a truly independent prosecutor. There has not been since 1999, when the independent counsel statute expired. Accordingly, regardless of the title given this individual - and whether she were tapped from inside or outside the Justice Department - this appointee would, at a minimum, be required to follow internal DOJ policies and her delegated authority could be revoked at any time. (The regulations that authorize appointing a non-DOJ attorney as "special counsel" - found at 28 C.F.R. Part 600 et. seq - actually make possible substantially more attorney general oversight into prosecutorial decisions.)

Under existing federal law, in other words, the notion of a special prosecutor who would be entirely free from political and institutional influence is illusory. Given that fact - and that it is ordinarily an extremely dumb, not to mention unethical, idea to announce investigations - when an administration does announce that it is naming a "special counsel" of any sort, it is largely a public-relations maneuver. The president thereby appears to be committed to the rule of law, but is, in fact, parking an extremely inconvenient problem in a remote and inaccessible lot.


Once this happens, all who wish to avoid the issue have a ready excuse. The president can refuse to comment because there is an ongoing criminal investigation. (Remember Bush's press person, Scott McClennan?) And members of Congress from either party can look the other way, because - again - there is an ongoing criminal investigation. It's a perfect dodge.

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Xipe Totec Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-25-09 06:28 AM
Response to Reply #8
11. Thanks, I read that before
He stated his conclusion but did not provide any rationale.

Just because he says the designation of some sort of independent prosecutor right now would be the worst possible eventuality, does not make it so.

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stillcool Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-25-09 09:26 AM
Response to Reply #11
13. He is a she...
and hers is one opinion, but I think one that is worth taking into account. Perhaps I'm just not as knowledgeable about the legal/political process.
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Cronus Protagonist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-24-09 10:31 PM
Response to Reply #5
10. Obama plays the press like an Irish fiddler fiddles
Now he's being "forced" into something he "doesn't want"! hahaha... perfect framing!
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UTUSN Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-24-09 09:37 PM
Response to Original message
6. Oh. Where were the vested staff on this issue BEFORE?1 n/t
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madrchsod Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-24-09 09:38 PM
Response to Original message
7. rahm needs to remember he`s not in chicago
chicago politics is child's play compared to washington dc..
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Hekate Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-24-09 09:51 PM
Response to Original message
9. Dear me, where were they when Bush was running the show? Or are these the moles he left behind?
It's really difficult to know what to believe, but knowing for sure that Bush DID appoint moles makes it hard to take a criticism like this at face value. The DOJ has a ways to go before it's clean again.

Hekate


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northernlights Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-25-09 06:48 AM
Response to Original message
12. amateurish?
"....Emanuels statement was unfortunate, because now if the attorney general decides against appointing a special prosecutor, people are going to believe that this was a politically dictated decision. The only clear way out of this bind may now be to do what the critics suggest and appoint a special prosecutor. Demands for the appointment of a special prosecutor have been proliferating in recent days following the release of the torture memoranda on April 16...

:rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

And I suppose it was amateurish that the torutre memos were released right in time for the demands to begin :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:
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rucky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-25-09 09:32 AM
Response to Original message
14. If I'm reading this right...
It's brilliant strategery.
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