Thursday, April 19, 2007

Great questions for the A.G. on the hot seat today

The NYTimes has some draft questions formulated by legal experts on the occasion of Alberto Gonzales' testimony today in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee: "A Dozen Questions for Alberto Gonzales." Each expert drafted 3 questions. Here are a few that I thought were quite impressive and appropriate.

From Jeffrey Rosen:
Because of your decision to screen all Justice Department appointees for their loyalty to President Bush, young lawyers who applied for even nonpolitical jobs have been routinely administered political litmus tests. How can Americans have faith in the ability of the Justice Department to defend the rule of law impartially and professionally when all of its employees are hired or fired for their politics?
Ron Klain:
In your previous post as White House counsel, you played a major role in the selection of United States attorneys. Indeed, the fired prosecutors represented nearly one-tenth of all the serving United States attorneys whom you helped select — a record level of performance-related terminations. If such a high percentage of attorneys had to be removed for performance reasons, what does this say about the selection process that you oversaw?
Steven Calabresi:
Have you, President Bush or anyone else in the administration ever, to your knowledge, sought to stop or start a criminal investigation by a United States attorney for political reasons?
Ouch...et tu, Federalist Society? And finally, from David Iglesias, one of the fired attorneys:
1. Since 1981 there have been several hundred United States attorneys appointed by the president. According to the Congressional Research Service, before the recent firings, only a handful were dismissed or resigned under questionable circumstances. In light of this history, was it prudent to ask seven United States attorneys in December to resign where there have never been allegations of misconduct?

2. Do you agree with the following statement: “The prosecutor has more control over life, liberty and reputation than any other person in America. His discretion is tremendous. ... The citizen’s safety lies in the prosecutor who tempers zeal with human kindness, who seeks truth and not victims, who serves the law and not factional purposes.” Would it make a difference to your answer to know that Robert H. Jackson, the former United States attorney general and Supreme Court justice, said this in a speech in 1940? What does prosecutorial discretion mean to you?

3. Is it ever appropriate for a member of Congress to contact a United States attorney and, without identifying the constituent concerned, inquire about “sealed indictments”? Or to ask about the timing of yet-to-be-filed indictments involving allegations of political corruption by members of the opposite political party?
I'd like to say this will be an interesting day of hearings but I'm not that optimistic. I would expect, instead, a case study in stonewalling and unprecedented explanations as to why he cannot remember or recall events, conversations, meetings, etc. Hopefully the experienced prosecutors such as Leahy, Specter, Whitehouse et al. sitting on the other side of the table will be prepared for such a show.