Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search

 

Bush Appointee Could Thwart Congress

Bush Appointee Could Thwart Congress

By Matt Renner
t r u t h o u t | Report
See original athttp://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/071207J.shtml

While Congress has threatened to hold senior Bush administration officials in contempt for refusing to comply with subpoenas pertaining to their investigation into the controversial firing of nine US attorneys, enforcing such criminal contempt charges would fall to Jeffrey Taylor, interim US attorney for the District of Columbia. According to Justice Department documents, Taylor took part in behind-the-scenes discussions involving the US attorneys who were fired.

That raises questions about whether Taylor, who would be in a position to decide whether to turn the matter over to a grand jury, has a conflict of interest and would be forced to recuse himself from the case.

According to DoJ documents, Taylor worked closely with Justice Department officials who were planning the US attorney purge. Before being appointed to his current position, Taylor served as counsel for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, one of the main targets of the ongoing Congressional investigation. Email communications between Taylor and Kyle Sampson, then chief of staff for the attorney general, and William Mercer, former acting associate attorney general, show that Taylor worked closely with Sampson and Mercer while the two men were planning the firings. Specifically, the emails show that Taylor was asked to assist Sampson and Mercer when the DoJ came under fire for alleged lack of enforcement of illegal-immigration laws. A lack of illegal-immigration enforcement was later used as a rationale for the removal of Carol Lam, former US attorney for the Southern District of California.

The DoJ has released only two emails sent by Taylor and only one that was directly addressed to him, leaving Taylor's exact role in planning the attorney purge unclear. In an email, Mercer asks for Taylor's "thoughts" about an email exchange between DoJ officials regarding an inquiry by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-California) regarding illegal-immigration prosecutions. If Taylor responded by email, that document was not made public. DoJ did not return multiple calls for comment on this issue, and has not specified how many relevant documents it is withholding

If Congress votes to hold officials involved in the US attorney firings in contempt, Taylor, as the interim US attorney for Washington, DC, would be responsible for deciding whether to convene a grand jury to rule on Congress's charge. If Taylor decided not to enforce contempt charges issued by Congress, the investigation could grind to a halt, leaving questions about the motives behind the US attorney firings unresolved.

Taylor's close professional relationship with the Bush administration and the attorney general, and Taylor's potential role in the firing plan, raise a potential conflict of interest issue in this situation. That issue could prompt Taylor to recuse himself from involvement. According to Ohio State University law professor Peter Shane, Taylor "is obligated under Department of Justice regulations at least to consider recusal and, if he was involved in the purge, recusal would be mandatory."

Shane pointed to the US Attorney Manual, which covers recusals: "If a conflict of interest exists because a United States Attorney has a personal interest in the outcome of the matter or because he has or had a professional relationship with parties or counsel, or for other good cause, he should recuse himself. The requirement of recusal does not arise in every instance in which he has had a professional relationship with parties or counsel, but only where a conflict of interest exists ... [w]here there is the appearance of a conflict of interest, the United States Attorney should consider a recusal."

Taylor's spokesperson has said previously that because Congress has not yet held anyone in contempt, "it is premature to comment on the issue of recusal." Taylor's office failed to respond to detailed questions about Taylor's involvement in the attorney purge in time for this report.

Taylor's Days as Interim US Attorney Winding Down

Taylor has never been confirmed by the Senate and is currently serving an extended term as interim US attorney because of a controversial change made to the Patriot Act in connection with the US attorney purge.

During markup on the USA Patriot Improvement and Reauthorization Act in 2006, a broad expansion of the power of the attorney general to appoint interim US attorneys was secretly added at the urging of Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General William Moschella. The law change gave the attorney general the power to appoint US attorneys on an interim basis, but without a deadline for appointing a permanent replacement who would then be subject to Senate confirmation.

Documents released by the DoJ during the ongoing Congressional investigation into the firings show this change in the law was an essential part of the attorney purge. Both houses of Congress subsequently voted overwhelmingly for a bill to restore the time limit for interim appointees and to reassert Congressional oversight.

According to the Government Accountability Office's Associate General Council Michael Volpe, the Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act of 2007 passed by Congress restores a 120-day limit for interim appointees such as Taylor. Taylor has currently served more than 280 days as interim US attorney, but his time limit was reset on June 14 when President Bush signed the bill into law. Because of this extension, Taylor can continue to serve as interim US attorney, without the approval of Congress, until October 12, 2007, for a total term of 378 days.

Taylor has come under fire previously for hiring Jay Apperson, a former House of Representatives counsel who resigned in 2005 for sending a letter to a federal judge under his boss's name, without his permission. Taylor hired Apperson at the urging of DoJ officials, including Mercer and Moschella, and allowed Apperson to skip the normal vetting process for career federal prosecutors.

**************

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 



Nuclear White Elephants: Australia’s New Submarine Deal

It does not get any messier or more chaotic than this. Since 2009, when Australia’s Future Submarine Program (FSP) known as Project SEA 1000, began to take shape, strategists and policy makers have been keen to pursue the next big White Elephant of defence spending. And few areas of an already wasteful area of public expenditure are more costly – often mindlessly so – than submarines... More>>


Digitl: Facebook Vileness Of The Week
Another week, another example of Facebook not taking responsibility. At the Wall Street Journal Jeff Horwitz writes Facebook Says Its Rules Apply to All. Company Documents Reveal a Secret Elite That’s Exempt. His second deck reads: A program known as XCheck has given millions of celebrities, politicians and other high-profile users special treatment, a privilege many abuse... More>>



John Stanton: Elon Musk’s Spacefaring Civilization is a Pipe Dream

Elon Musk surely must recognize that for the human species to become a spacefaring civilization it is going to take the world’s nations to work as one on the task. The amount of cash required is astronomical, only a little less skyward than the materials, engineering and technological resources required to get humans to live on the moon and set foot on Mars... More>>


Dunne Speaks: Proud to call Aotearoa home

Te Paati Māori continues to provide a breath of fresh air in the political space, otherwise thoroughly choked by Covid19. Its call this week this week for a referendum on changing the country’s name to Aotearoa by 2026 is timely and a welcome diversion to the necessarily short-term focus engendered by Covid19... More>>


Binoy Kampmark: Blinken Says No To Greenland Real Estate

In May, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a visit to Greenland. In a rather unedifying way, he was called ‘Tony’ by his hosts, a disarming point that was bound to open the floodgates of insincerity... More>>

The Conversation: New Zealand's wet regions wetter, and dry ones drier

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has delivered a sobering update on how much the Earth has warmed and how the climate system is responding. The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) is the most comprehensive yet. It shows Earth is now 1.09 warmer than it was in the 1850s... More>>