First, there was the guilty verdict today for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby on charges of lying to federal prosecutors and obstruction of justice. To some extent, I feel bad for the guy. Other than being a conservative in the awful Bushie Neocon mold, his biggest flaw, legally speaking, is that he worked for the Vice President -- that can't help but compromise a guy morally. Sure, he could have said "No" when Cheney asked him to be his Chief of Staff, but who could have known what Cheney would become once in power? He seemed so level-headed as SecDef back in Bush the Elder's days. Then again, you run with a bad crowd long enough, their bad behavior's bound to rub off eventually. Now he's going to jail.
Anyway, what the trial made clear was that orders came down from Cheney to squash Joe Wilson (the diplomat who investigated the since-debunked claims that Saddam was looking for "yellowcake" plutonium in Niger), and Scooter dutifully fell in line and started a'squashin'. It's since come out that Richard Armitage, the relatively dovish right-hand man to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, was actually the guy who gave Valerie Wilson's name to Richard Novak (as well as Bob Woodward). This inconvenient revelation dashed the neat storyline that the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame was a concerted effort by the White House hawks to stamp out any dissenting voices in the run up to the war. The trial seemed to bear out something a little more convoluted than that, but no less nefarious. Cheney's office DID run a campaign to discredit Joe Wilson by making his trip to Niger look like nepotism (his wife worked for the CIA and got him the gig, therefore Joe Wilson isn't credible -- still not sure how that works, but anyway), and even though Cheney had to out a covert CIA agent to discredit Wilson, he was prepared to do it. If nothing else, this administration is filled with end-justifies-the-means sort of people.
As Cheney didn't testify during the trial, today's guilty verdict puts pressure on Cheney to explain what he was doing, and what he knew during this period. Some pundits are making the prediction that this deep-vein thrombosis Cheney came down with after his recent trip around the world will give King Cheney a convenient reason to resign and avoid all those pesky inquiries from his subjects. But then again, this is Dick Cheney. One gets the sense he'll do whatever it takes to keep his white-knuckled stranglehold on the Presidency.
The other emerging story involves a group of eight US attorneys who were recently fired by Alberto Gonzales. Hearings on the subject started today on Capitol Hill. The evidence seems to suggest some political motivation behind the pink slips. In one case, two New Mexico elected representatives, one a Senator and one a Congresswoman, appear to have put pressure on at least one of the US attorneys to hurry up and indict some Democrats before the recent elections. When the US attorney(s) in question resisted, he (or they) got the axe a few short months later. Another fired lawyer was knee-deep in the middle of a massive corruption investigation (the largest in US history) that would have swept up a number of key Republicans when she got the boot. Another US attorney out of Arkansas was fired without cause and replaced with a deputy of Karl Rove who just happened to specialize in so-called "oppo research", or digging up dirt on political opponents. That the firing happened to be in Arkansas makes the political overtones politically obvious: Rove may well have sent his man to dig up dirt on Hillary to use in '08. The US attorneys were all given BS reasons for their dismissal, everything from "not aggressive enough prosecution of border-related crimes" (that from NM-R Senator DeMenici), to overly aggressive prosecution of alleged child- molesters.
The whole thing stinks like crazy, but luckily, we've got Dems in power who can investigate the hell out of these people. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who's shaping up to be even worse than former AG John Ashcroft (I know, hard to believe), looks to be right in the middle of this. Taken together, the major crime perpetrated here is this, as Josh Marshall of TalkingPointsMemo writes:
"There is a clear and growing body of evidence that at least three of these firees were canned for not allowing politics to dictate their prosecution of political corruption cases. Or, to put it more bluntly, for not indicting enough Democrats or indicting too many Republicans. Which is to say they were fired for not perverting justice."If this gets any bigger, Gonzales may not weather this storm. How great would that be? Cheney AND Gonzales resigning? And Bush fast on their heels when his term's up. What a beautiful dream.
Anyway, for some fantastic in-depth reporting on these issues, you ought to visit TalkingPointsMemo.com and its sister site TPMMuckraker. And Andrew Sullivan's usually got a good take on the overreaching of this administration.