Remember the U.S. Attorney purge scandal? The travesty in which the White House and the Justice Department politicized federal law enforcement? It was, for my money, among the biggest Bush-related domestic scandals of the last eight years (top three, at least).
It is not, however, quite over yet.
Justice Department lawyers have filed a grand-jury referral stemming from the 2006 U.S. attorneys scandal, according to people familiar with the probe, a move indicating that the yearlong investigation may be entering a new phase.
The grand-jury referral, the first time the probe has moved beyond the investigative phase, relates to allegations of political meddling in the Justice Department’s civil-rights division, these people say. Specifically, it focuses on possible perjury by Bradley Schlozman, who served a year as interim U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Mo.
Mr. Schlozman left the Justice Department last year after he was challenged over his hiring of conservative lawyers at the civil-rights division and his decision later as U.S. attorney to bring voter-fraud charges against members of a left-leaning voter-registration group days before the 2006 election.
Schlozman, an inept character who’s almost amusing in his clumsiness, has a very serious problem on his hands, which will not only lead to the likely criminal prosecution of a former top official in Bush’s Justice Department, but once again bring into focus how the Bush administration operated.
It’s easy to get confused over which comically corrupt Bushie is which, so let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane. It’s a funny story, actually....
When it comes to the politicization of the Justice Department, Schlozman was actually at the heart of two scandals. The first was Schlozman’s decision as the former U.S. Attorney for Kansas City, to bring highly dubious indictments against a left-leaning voter-registration group shortly before the ‘06 midterm elections.
The other deals with Schlozman’s responsibilities as the deputy head of the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department. He assured the Senate Judiciary Committee, under oath, that his employment decisions were entirely above-board, and not at all based on political considerations.
If senators were able to peak below his witness table, they might have noticed that his pants were on fire.
Karen Stevens, Tovah Calderon and Teresa Kwong had a lot in common. They had good performance ratings as career lawyers in the Justice Department’s civil rights division. And they were minority women transferred out of their jobs [three] years ago — over the objections of their immediate supervisors — by Bradley Schlozman, then the acting assistant attorney general for civil rights.
Schlozman ordered supervisors to tell the women that they had performance problems or that the office was overstaffed. But one lawyer, Conor Dugan, told colleagues that the recent Bush appointee had confided that his real motive was to “make room for some good Americans” in that high-impact office, according to four lawyers who said they heard the account from Dugan.
In another politically tinged conversation recounted by former colleagues, Schlozman asked a supervisor if a career lawyer who had voted for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a onetime political rival of President Bush, could still be trusted.
That last one is a particular favorite. In the fall of 2004, Schlozman asked DoJ supervisors about the “loyalty” of division lawyer Angela Miller. She was a Republican who clerked for a conservative federal appeals judge, but Schlozman learned (it’s not clear how) that Miller backed McCain in a 2000 primary. Schlozman asked Miller’s bosses, “Can we still trust her?”
When the Bush gang insisted on “good Americans,” they applied a fairly narrow set of standards.
Indeed, not all of the standards were ideological. Schlozman targeted minority women, whose on-the-job performance was unquestioned, apparently because Schlozman wasn’t convinced that they would be “team players.” In other words, to qualify as a “good American,” you not only had to be conservative, but you also had to be a white guy.
And these were the standards used by the man Bush asked to help lead the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.
Now, keep in mind, Schlozman acknowledged that he bragged about hiring Republicans and conservatives for the Civil Rights Division, but insisted it was all talk. To apply partisan/ideological standards to career employees at a government agency would be illegal, so Schlozman insisted that nothing improper took place.
But literally everyone around him believes he was lying. Blatantly.
“When he said he didn’t engage in political hiring, most of us thought that was just laughable,” said one lawyer in the section, referring to Schlozman’s June 5 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Everything Schlozman did was political. And he said so.” […]
Schlozman and several deputies also took an unusual interest in the assignment of office responsibility for appellate cases and, according to the lawyers and one of the supervisors, repeatedly ordered Flynn to take cases away from career lawyers with expertise and hand them to recent hires whose resumes listed membership in conservative groups, including the Federalist Society.
Schlozman was put in an untenable position — he could acknowledge what he’d done at the DoJ (and necessarily admit that he broke the law) or he could deny everything (and risk perjury charges). He chose the latter.
And now a grand jury is going to hear all about it.