If you didn’t see the 60 Minutes report on the Don Siegelman case, go to TPM Muckraker to check it out. In an Internet full of must sees, this is a MUST SEE.
There is simply no room left for doubt that the Bush Administration, in a glaring violation of well established ethical precepts, not to mention common decency, used the Justice Department to take down the Governor of Alabama for political reasons. And in the process, it appears very likely they sent an innocent man to prison.
I don’t practice criminal law, but I’ve been involved in peripheral ways in cases where the feds have been out to get someone, and I have to tell you, it’s a terrifying specter. The raw power, not to mention bottomless resources, the federal government can bring to bear against a citizen who’s subject to a criminal prosecution, or even just an investigation, is almost a force of nature. It’s like having an F-5 tornado bearing down on you, except this tornado is much more dangerous, since it’s being driven by human intelligence.
To misuse such power in a calculated effort to game the democratic process would be one of the worst public crimes imaginable.
All of which leads us directly to the doorstep of Michael B. Mukasey, Attorney General of the United States. Remember that Mukasey, whose nomination was, of course, extremely controversial, was confirmed by the Senate based largely upon his pledge to keep politics out of the Department of Justice.
Well, Mr. Attorney General, it’s fish or cut bait time.
I don’t think that it’s too strong a statement to suggest that Mukasey’s entire professional reputation is on the line here. If he acts dishonorably, the rest of his very successful (if radically conservative) career will disappear into the fog of disrepute.
Mukasey is left with two choices: first, he can order a full, aggressive and independent investigation into the department’s actions in the Siegelman case and, if appropriate, go into court and move to have the conviction set aside; or, second, he can allow the ongoing cover-up and associated rot at Justice to continue, then pay the price in the damage to his own reputation.
What might seem like the obvious third option — a successful cover-up — just isn’t in the cards on this one. The noble stand taken by the 52 former attorneys general, representing 40 states and both political parties, who are demanding action in response to this injustice makes that impossible.
This from Scoot Horton’s blog at Harper’s Monthly discussing the 60 Minutes broadcast (Horton deserves tremendous credit for driving this story):
But the show was dominated by one of 52 former attorneys general from 40 of the 50 states who have called for a Congressional probe of the conduct of the Siegelman case, former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods. He leveled a series of blistering accusations at the Bush Administration’s Justice Department. With the Alabama G.O.P. this evening issuing a near-hysterical statement in which it characterizes the CBS broadcast—before its transmission—as an anti-Republican attack piece, it was notable that Woods, like the piece’s other star witness, is a Republican. Not just any Republican, either. Grant Woods is co-chair of the McCain for President leadership committee, and a lifelong friend and advisor to the presumptive 2008 G.O.P. presidential candidate. Woods is also godfather to one of the McCain children.
This then is a cover-up with a fairly short shelf life: in less than a year a new boss takes over. If it’s Obama or Clinton, say goodbye to the stonewalling. And if it’s McCain, given that his close friend and campaign supporter is one of the prime movers among the complaining former AGs (and McCain, as a new president, wouldn’t want to inherit a cover-up anyway), it will probably be the same story.
So that’s the deal, Mr. Attorney General: you can try looking the other way and then wait for history (and perhaps worse depending on the level of your involvement) to hunt you down — and it won’t be much of a wait. Or you can do the right thing, and earn yourself a page in some future book celebrating profiles in legal courage.
It’s your call, General. Choose well.
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