Excuse me Mr. Attorney General Gonzales, but you are not the White House Counsel anymore you are the people’s attorney. Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico said in a recent interview that “Attorney General Gonzales needed to decide if he was the nation’s lawyer, the peoples’ lawyer, or whether he was just the President’s political flack.” Richardson did not feel that matters that were essentially “political” should be shielded by executive privilege. Unless it was a matter of national security, Governor Richardson saw the effort to shield Congressional oversight from the Gonzales attorney firings as inappropriate.
But let’s talk more about the role of the Attorney General. According to the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) own web site, the Attorney General has a very specific job description. “The Judiciary Act of 1789 created the Office of the Attorney General which evolved over the years into the head of the Department of Justice and chief law enforcement officer of the Federal Government. The Attorney General represents the United States in legal matters generally and gives advice and opinions to the President and to the heads of the executive departments of the Government when so requested.”
The White House’s web site has a simple job description of the White House Counsel’s job. “The Counsel’s office advises the President on all legal issues concerning the President and the White House.”
These are very different roles. And while Mr. Gonzales had the role of White House Counsel, that job now is filled by Fred F. Fielding. Mr. Gonzales should not be acting like the White House counsel. Ever since the serious allegations of political motivations for the firings of seven US attorneys, Mr. Gonzales has been acting like the White House Counsel, as he often does.
While US Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President, they are not there to over reach their prosecutorial duties to destroy political opponents to the President’s party and to ignore illegal behavior of political allies. This is the heart of the current problem.
Mr. Gonzales is acting at the political behest of the White House, not at the legal behest of the country and he isn’t being truthful about it.
At a March 13 news conference, trying to stem the furor over the firings, Gonzales said, “I never saw documents. We never had a discussion about where things stood.” But his Nov. 27 schedule, included in a batch of memos sent to Capitol Hill late Friday, showed he attended an hour-long meeting at which, aides said, he approved a detailed plan for executing the purge.
Three of the fired U.S. attorneys appeared on “Meet the Press” and “Face the Nation” contending their dismissals were politically motivated. Asked by NBC’s Tim Russert whether he was removed for political reasons in New Mexico, David Iglesias said: “Absolutely, yes.” Bud Cummins of Arkansas told CBS’s Bob Schieffer that the reasons for the firings were “petty, maybe personal, and probably had some politics in it.”
“We do serve at the pleasure of the president,” Cummins said. “In this case, that authority was delegated all the way down to Harriet Miers, Karl Rove, Judge Gonzales – and all the way down to a bunch of 35-year-old kids who got in a room together and decided who was most loyal to the president.”
John McKay of Washington state said on “Meet the Press”: “What happened here has to be investigated. The attorney general is not above the law. He should be held accountable.”
A slavish devotion to protecting the White House’s political operation to the point of corrupting the integrity of the Department of Justice is not part of the Attorney General’s job description. Mr. Gonzales should go because he sullied that integrity not because he is too embattled. Let’s be clear why he must go, He has lied to the American people – whom he serves and he has abused his office for political purposes. Does anyone remember John Mitchell?