Murray Waas has another good article in the National Journal today. Although it is, like much of Waas writing, somewhat dense reading, the upshot is that D. Kyle Sampson is going to get even more pressure put on him, and it helps put together the pieces for a prosecution of him based on his misrepresentations to Congress. That, at least, is the main thrust of the body of the article. There are, however, a couple of other big pieces of news in the article.
First, the article demonstrates the deception being perpetrated by Attorney General Gonzalez and the White House in regards to their lack of disclosure to Congress. We all know that both houses of Congress have been trying to get documents and e-mails from the DOJ and the White House, and we've all suspected that the White House and the DOJ are not turning over everything they've got. Waas confirms it.
The Bush administration has withheld a series of e-mails from Congress showing that senior White House and Justice Department officials worked together to conceal the role of Karl Rove in installing Timothy Griffin, a protégé of Rove's, as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas.
Waas, and the Journal, were actually granted access to some of these e-mails, and were able to quote from them verbatim at points in the article.
Another interesting note:
Several of the e-mails that the Bush administration is withholding from Congress, as well as papers from the White House counsel's office describing other withheld documents, were made available to National Journal by a senior executive branch official, who said that the administration has inappropriately kept many of them from Congress.
Now, I don't speak journo-speak, so I don't know exactly which officials might be covered by the phrase "a senior executive branch official." But, given the fact that this person has copies of these e-mails, that person has to be fairly highly placed.
The following is sheer speculation on my part, but I only know of two people who might have copies of that e-mail (and keep in mind that it is certain that there are others who have these e-mails): Kyle Sampson and possibly Paul McNulty, Gonzalez Chief of Staff. We know, from an article in Bloomberg last week, that Sampson revealed a number of White House e-mails to McNulty after McNulty had already testified to Congress that the White House was not involved in the decision-making process to fire the USA's. See my prior diary regarding that article. To clarify the point: Somebody is now showing e-mails to Murray Waas that directly implicate Sampson as having deceived Congress, i.e., throwing Sampson under the bus. It would seem that McNulty, or his supporters, might have motivation to do this.
Why? Because Sampson allegedly deceieved McNulty into making false statements to Congress, while under oath, in McNulty's February 6th appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee (wherein he testified that the WH had no involvement in the firing of the USA's). This has placed McNulty in the position of potentially facing charges of perjury, obstruction, or lying to Congress by way of his false testimony to Congress on February 6th. In my previous diary, I speculated that this is the way Congress intends to ratchet up the pressure on this investigation -- pitting the insiders against one another, a classic tactic.
But let's move on.
At issue are two letters that Sampson wrote (or ghost-wrote), and which were provided to Congress: 1) a January 31st letter to Senator Mark Pryor, and 2) a February 23 letter sent to "four Senate Democrats," according to Waas.
Let's take each in turn, beginning with the January 31st letter:
Sampson also played a central role in the drafting of a January 31, 2007, letter from acting Assistant Attorney General Richard Hertling to Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., implying that the White House hadnever contemplated using an obscure provision in the USA PATRIOT Act that would allow it to install [Timothy]Griffin as a U.S. attorney without having Griffin undergo Senate confirmation. Gonzales and Sampson have since testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that they did indeed consider using the PATRIOT Act to install Griffin as a federal prosecutor.
The withheld records show that [Chris] Oprison assisted Sampson in drafting the January 31 letter.
Chris Oprison is an associate White House Counsel, whose name comes up again later in the article.
To clarify: Sampson and Oprison drafted a letter to Senator Pryor which "implied" that Gonzo and DOJ "never considered" using an obscure portion of the Patriot Act to install Timothy Griffin in Bud Cummings spot in Arkansas. But in fact, they had done just that.
On January 31, 2007, Hertling [with Sampson as ghostwriter -ed] wrote Pryor to say that "not once" had the Bush "administration sought to avoid the Senate confirmation process" by exploiting the PATRIOT Act. "As the Attorney General has stated to you," Hertling wrote, "the Administration is committed to having a Senate confirmed United States Attorney for all 94 districts. At no time has the Administration sought to avoid the Senate confirmation process by appointing an interim United States Attorney and then refusing to move forward... on the selection, nomination and confirmation of a new United States Attorney. Not once."
In drafting the letter, Sampson consulted with Sara Taylor, the White House political director and an aide to Rove. Taylor had been aware of considerations that the PATRIOT Act might be invoked to permanently install Griffin, according to withheld administration papers. In an e-mail -- among those that the Justice Department has withheld from Congress -- Taylor wrote: "I'm concerned we imply that we'll pull down Griffin's nomination should Pryor object."
The senior executive branch official who read the e-mail said it was significant because Taylor signed off on the letter despite the fact that Taylor, Oprison, and other White House officials knew that the administration had indeed considered using the PATRIOT Act to make Griffin a U.S. attorney.
In point of fact, they did make Griffin a USA, briefly, but when the scandal broke, Griffin decided to step down rather than seek confirmation. Griffin, it should be noted, is a "protege" of Karl Rove, a former Rove aide, and Rove wanted him in as a USA in Arkansas presumably/allegedly because it would be helpful to have a compliant USA to investigate Hillary Clinton in the upcoming election. The article has a couple of absolute screamers on this point, showing how badly they wanted to get Cummings out, so they could get Griffin in.
On December 15, 2006, Pryor spoke to then-White House Counsel Miers and Gonzales about the issue, Russell said. The discussion left Pryor with the impression that if Griffin was named U.S. attorney, his name would be formally sent to the Senate for confirmation.
But White House and Justice Department officials, afraid that Griffin would not be confirmed, asked Cummins to resign more quickly so that they could name Griffin as an interim U.S. attorney, which under the PATRIOT Act would allow him to forego a confirmation vote in the Senate.
On December 19, 2006, four days after Pryor and Gonzales spoke, Sampson e-mailed Oprison with a strategy to have Griffin stay permanently as U.S. attorney . . .
The next day, on December 20, Cummins formally resigned as U.S. attorney and Griffin was named as his interim replacement. Cummins said in an interview that officials at Justice sped up the timetable on his departure, going so far as to call him on a cellphone when he was on a hunting trip with his son to say he must leave on December 20.
All in all, doesn't look to good for Kyle Sampson, though Taylor, Oprison, and thereby Rove, are also looking pretty questionable.
And then there's the February 23rd letter.
The February 23 letter, signed by acting Assistant Attorney General Richard Hertling, stated, "The department is not aware of Karl Rove playing any role in the decision to appoint Mr. Griffin," and added that the department "is not aware of anyone lobbying, either inside or outside of the administration, for Mr. Griffin's appointment."
Sampson testified before Congress that he drafted the February 23 letter even though he had conferred with the White House about appointing Griffin. Sampson testified that he included the language about Rove not being involved because he didn't know for a fact that Rove was pushing for his former aide's appointment.
"I knew that [Rove deputies] Sara Taylor and Scott Jennings had expressed interest in promoting Mr. Griffin for appointment to be U.S. attorney, and I assumed, because they reported to Karl Rove, that he was interested in that," Sampson said in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 29.
(snip -- this is where the White House comes in - ed.)
The withheld e-mails obtained by National Journal show that on February 23, as he was working on a final draft of the letter, Sampson consulted with [Associate White House Counsel Chris] Oprison. "Chris, please review this version," Sampson asked in one e-mail regarding the draft.
So, follow this now: on February 23rd, Sampson, who wrote the e-mail on December 19th to Oprison about the need to get Cummings out, so that Griffin could be appointed, which e-mail was so effective that they called Bud Cummings on his hunting trip that day to tell him he had to resign by the 20th, is now, on February 23rd, asking Oprison to clear a letter going to 4 Senate Democrats that denies that Karl Rove "played any role" in Cummings ouster and/or Griffin's appointment. And Oprison signs off on it.
That, of course, was before that pesky December 19th e-mail became public. Hmmm, now, what did that e-mail say?
On December 19, 2006, four days after Pryor and Gonzales spoke, Sampson e-mailed Oprison with a strategy to have Griffin stay permanently as U.S. attorney: "I think we should gum this to death," Sampson wrote in an e-mail turned over to Congress, "ask the Senators to give Tim a chance. meet with him. give him some time in office to see how he performs, etc. they ultimately say, 'no never' (and the longer they forestall the better). Then we can tell them we'll look for other candidates, and otherwise run out the clock. All of this should be done in 'good faith' of course."
(snip -- some good stuff here, but can't lift too much - ed)
Sampson concluded in the e-mail: "I'm not 100 percent sure that Tim was the guy on which to test drive this authority, but know that getting him appointed was important to Harriet, Karl, etc.," referring to Miers and Rove.
So, it would now appear that we've got at least one Associate White House Counsel, along with Kyle Sampson, who are seriously looking at possible perjury, obstruction of justice, and/or lying to Congress charges. What's Oprison's, and the White House's, position?
Fratto, the White House spokesman, said in an interview that Oprison "had no reason to believe" that the reference to Rove was inaccurate and cleared the [February 23rd] letter. Asked about the December 19 e-mail in which Sampson told Oprison that Griffin's appointment was important to Rove and Miers, Fratto said: "Chris did not recall Karl's interest when he reviewed the letter."
"I don't recall," e.g., the Alberto Gonzalez defense. But there is one other point that's not quite clear: Did the White House approve the letter? Waas implies that the WH did, but the WH seems to be denying it, with another non-denial denial:
Oprison, in turn, consulted with White House Counsel Fred Fielding and Deputy White House Counsel Bill Kelley in approving the draft of the letter, according to White House records.
A congressional investigator questioned whether the White House counsel's office would sign off on the letter without asking Rove himself whether it was accurate. The investigator also noted that publicly released Justice Department records show that Taylor and Jennings, both top aides to Rove, worked closely with Griffin to have him installed as U.S. attorney. In response Fratto said: "We have no record of that letter ever leaving the White House counsel's office."
So, they have no record of the letter "leaving" the W.H. Counsel's office. Maybe it's still there? Maybe it's one of the documents Waas was granted access to? As an attorney, I'll tell, I don't usually keep "records" of when a letter leaves my office, other than a copy in the file. Do you keep "records" of everything you send out the door? Hmmmmm, you'd think they could be a little more definitive in their denial, wouldn't you?
Anyway, I found Waas' article hard to breakdown, and not very logically presented, though very informative and important reading if you are following this story.
Tip jar below, and, as always, hit the rec button if you think others might want to have a gander. This will be a bit of a drive-by, because it's taken so long to put together that now I have to go get the kids. Thanks, Kossacks!