Evidence Suggests U.S. Attorney Firings May Have Been Part of White House Scheme to Help Game 2008 Election
Details continue to drip out from the U.S. Attorney Purge scandal which seem to suggest that electoral politics — and perhaps the 2008 election in particular — may well have been at the heart of the White House/Dept. of Justice scheme to strategically place partisan operatives where they might be most useful prior to the next Presidential Election.
One such detail revealed itself on Tuesday March 20th when Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) appeared on MSNBC’s Hardball to discuss the recent purge of several US Attorneys by the Bush Administration. Host Chris Matthews opened the segment by asking Pryor how much he knew about the White House’s decision to replace the US Attorney in his state, Bud Cummins, with one of Karl Rove’s associates, a partisan operative named Tim Griffin.
Pryor criticized the Attorney General for firing Cummins and replacing him with Griffin, who had very little professional experience in Arkansas and had only recently moved there when Cummins was fired in December of 2006. Cummins, on the other hand, whom George W. Bush himself had appointed in 2001, had been well respected, competent, and non-partisan (despite personally being a Republican).
But the real bombshell came near the end of the interview….
Cummins told Matthews before going on the air that he had heard a “conspiracy theory” about why the Administration had chosen to replace Cummins with Griffin, and Matthews asked him about it a short time later when they were live. “Well,” Pryor said, slightly uncomfortable. “Thereâ€™s kind of a conspiracy theory about that.”
“Some people have pointed to that, said isnâ€™t that strange, here [the Administration is] putting in a maybe highly-political US Attorney in Hillary Clintonâ€™s backyard… Isnâ€™t that odd right before the Presidential race?” Pryor explained.
The implication was that if Republicans had a partisan prosecutor in Arkansas where the Clintons lived while Bill had served as governor during the 1980s, he would be able to drudge up old political dirt on the couple in time for the 2008 elections.
Pryor was quick to add that he didn’t personally subscribe to the theory, but that it was just speculation he had been hearing among political insiders.
But Griffin’s nomination wasn’t the only one with political and electoral undertones that might not bode well for Democrats in 2008. In fact, a report from the McClatchy Newspaper syndicate last Friday indicated that the Bush Administration has replaced US Attorneys in several key states, just in time for the 2008 Presidential election.
In April 2006, Karl Rove gave a keynote address to the National Lawyers Association, a partisan legal group. “He ticked off 11 states that he said could be pivotal in 2008,” McClatchy recalled in their report.
“Bush has appointed new U.S. attorneys in nine of them since 2005.”
Incidentally, during the same speech, Rove also acknowledged his friend, Thor Hearne, who had been both General Counsel to the Bush-Cheney 2004 election campaign and also Executive Director of the GOP front group “American Center for Voting Rights” or ACVR, which has engaged in voter suppression efforts via phony propagandistic reports on America’s non-existent “voter fraud” epidemic since 2004. (BRAD BLOG’s extensive coverage of ACVR can be found here. The group’s website has suddenly disappeared since the U.S. Attorney Purge scandal has come to light.)
“I ran into Thor Hearne as I was coming in,” Rove told the audience. “He was leaving; he was smart, and he was leaving to go out and enjoy the day.”
“I want to thank you for your work on clean elections,” he continued. “I know a lot of you spent time in the 2004 election, the 2002 election, the 2000 election in your communities or in strange counties in Florida, helping make it certain that we had the fair and legitimate outcome of the election,” Rove told the Republican attorneys.
He also compared elections in “some parts of the country” to those that take place in third-world dictatorships where the “guys in charge are, you know, colonels in mirrored sunglasses.” Whether he was aware of the irony of his comments is still unknown.
In any event, three of the US Attorneys Bush has nominated since the 2004 election were, remarkably enough, from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, which has been criticized for implementing policies which unfairly disadvantage poor, often minority voters whose political tendencies historically favor Democrats.
And Griffin himself had allegedly been involved with voter suppression. Griffin, as investigative journalist Greg Palast discovered in 2004, was one of the RNC operatives that had thought up a complicated scheme to disenfranchise Americans who did not respond to letters sent to their home addresses. Victims of the scheme whose votes were thrown away, Palast reported, included homeless people, and black soldiers serving overseas who obviously could not respond to mail, marked with “do not forward” instructions, delivered to their home addresses.
The scheme Griffin played a role in also reportedly targeted predominately African American areas in swing states such as Florida.
Griffin recently dismissed Palast’s reporting in a radio interview. “I’m intimately familiar with [Palast's] allegations. That is a web article on the Internet. It’s patently false,” he pointed out, as if a “web article,” and “on the Internet” no less, might marginalize the facts of the report. Yet Griffin may not have been so intimately familiar with the allegations from that “web article on the Internet” after all: They were aired during a report by Palast, as filed on the television program “Newsnight” for the BBC. (A video of the original report can be found on YouTube).
When Justice Department and White House officials first tried to explain the US Attorney firings, they claimed that several of the prosecutors who had been forced to resign had refused to follow up on allegations of “voter fraud.” Some immediately recognized that “voter fraud” allegations have been the weapon of choice, of late, by Republicans attempting to make it more difficult for certain groups of Americans — particularly those in minority areas whose voters do not typically lean GOP — to vote, by pushing new regulations and disenfranchising Photo ID legislation as a “protective measure.”
The DoJ claims that the firings were “voter fraud” related raised some skepticism at BRAD BLOG and elsewhere, and even led to the New York Times editorial page to sharply criticize the supposed rationale for the firings. It is perhaps ironic that the public explanation the Administration has given for firing the prosecutors — specifically related to elections — may ultimately draw more attention to what some suspect is a deeper scheme to set up a system of disenfranchisement just in time for the 2008 elections.
At least one Arkansas newspaper has called for Griffin’s resignation since the US Attorney scandal began, and he has said that he would only stay until the Administration found a suitable replacement. The White House has privately worried that Griffin would not be able to pass muster in Senate confirmation hearings, which he would be required to undergo if he wanted to keep his current job. The loophole in the PATRIOT Act which allowed Griffin and others to bypass the normal confirmation process was recently closed by the Senate in a vote of 94-2. The House is expected to pick up the matter soon.