The Bush administration’s deal with the tobacco industry in 2005 has always been curious. As you may recall, the government, for reasons that no one could explain, asked the industry to pay $10 billion, instead of the $130 billion previously recommended by a government expert witness, at the conclusion of a massive racketeering trial.
Today, we’re starting to learn why events unfolded as they did.
Sharon Y. Eubanks said Bush loyalists in Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales’s office began micromanaging the team’s strategy in the final weeks of the 2005 trial, to the detriment of the government’s claim that the industry had conspired to lie to U.S. smokers.
She said a supervisor demanded that she and her trial team drop recommendations that tobacco executives be removed from their corporate positions as a possible penalty. He and two others instructed her to tell key witnesses to change their testimony….
“The political people were pushing the buttons and ordering us to say what we said,” Eubanks said. “And because of that, we failed to zealously represent the interests of the American public.”
Eubanks said the problems in the tobacco case are symptomatic of a systemic problem at Bush’s Justice Department. “When decisions are made now in the Bush attorney general’s office, politics is the primary consideration.... The rule of law goes out the window.”
If I only had a nickel for every time I’ve seen that phrase in relation to the Bush gang.