Politics

Alberto Gonzales 3 Alberto R Gonzales Attorney General Above the Law blog.jpgAttorney General Alberto Gonzales made a make-or-break appearance yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. We covered his SJC testimony extensively. See here, here, and here.
If the Gonzales testimony were a Broadway show, today would be the morning after opening night, when the all-powerful Ben Brantley theatre critics weigh in. And based on the reviews (see links below), the Al Gonzales Show is the biggest disaster since Dracula the Musical. Will someone please drive a stake through the heart of AGAG’s tenure?
As you know, we love drama, and we love surprises. We were secretly hoping that Gonzales — who has never been a great public speaker (we’ve seen him) — would deliver a bravura performance, one that would resurrect his career, leaving his critics stunned and speechless. We were looking for a home run, a tour de force like Clarence Thomas’s Senate testimony, as described by Camille Paglia:

Make no mistake: it was not a White House conspiracy that saved this nomination. It was Clarence Thomas himself. After eight hours of Hill’s testimony, he was driven as low as any man could be. But step by step, with sober, measured phrases, he regained his position and turned the momentum against his accusers. It was one of the most powerful moments I have ever witnessed on television. Giving birth to himself, Thomas reenacted his own credo of self-made man.

But Alberto Gonzales is no Clarence Thomas — and his days as AG are numbered. Gonzales isn’t Spanish for “Souter”; it’s Spanish for “toast.”
Al, the President’s Man [Slate.com]
On a Very Hot Seat With Little Cover and Less Support [New York Times]
Gonzales Rejects Call for His Ouster [Associated Press]
Senators Chastise Gonzales at Hearing [Washington Post]
Gonzales Says He Didn’t Know Why Two Were Fired [Washington Post]
Roughed Up on the Hill [Washington Post]

Alberto Gonzales 3 Attorney General Alberto R Gonzales Alberto Gonzalez Above the Law blog.jpgWe’re getting underway again, with the testimony of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Some random audience member just shouted out: “Hi Senator Kyl!”
2:39: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who missed much of the morning session due to a funeral, is leading off the afternoon questioning. He reads a brief introductory statement (and barely looks up from his notes). Grassley gloats over how the DOJ tried to prevent a witness from testifying before the Senate Finance Committee, on which he also serves, but got slapped down by the courts.
(Wow, that accent is REALLY Midwestern. Anyone wanna go to the mal?)
2:49: Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) wants to know what safeguards were in place to prevent improper political considerations from entering into the process re: which U.S. Attorneys to fire. He’s very animated, angry — he frequently raises his voice.
AGAG says that he relied upon people he trusted — and repeatedly mentions the Deputy Attorney General, Paul McNulty, and the big role the DAG played in this process. It seems to us that Gonzales wants to make McNulty the fall guy.
(Not a bad idea — McNulty is leaving the DOJ soon, anyway).
3:02: OMG, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) — a Republican, and a conservative one at that — just ripped AGAG a new one. Several new ones, actually. Some quotes:

“You should be judged by the same standards as these U.S. attorneys were judged, and suffer the same consequences.”

“Mistakes were made, and mistakes should have consequences.”

“[T]his was handled incompetently… Communication was atrocious.”

“The best way to put this all behind us is your resignation,” so we can “start with a clean slate.”

“I like you as a man, as an individual, but mistakes have consequences.”

OUCH. OUCH OUCH. Alberto Gonzales = pinata.
If this is what a Republican has to say, wait ’til the Democrats are up to bat next….
4:08: Sorry, our attention wandered… Lots of questioning about matters not related to the U.S. Attorney firings (because this is, after all, technically a general DOJ oversight hearing). E.g., Sen. Kyl asking about offshore gambling outfits; Sen. Specter asking about whether there’s any federal law enforcement angle to the Virginia Tech shootings.
Now, a ten-minute recess.
Earlier: Alberto Gonzales: In the Hot Seat (Part 2)
Alberto Gonzales: In the Hot Seat (Part 1)

Alberto Gonzales 2 Attorney General Alberto R Gonzales Above the Law blog.jpgWe’re picking up with where we left off, in our liveblogging of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
10:50: Sen. Herb. Kohl is REALLY going after AGAG. He cites poll data showing that approximately half of the American public wants Gonzales to resign.
Kohl is in essence asking: Why are you still here? He suggests to Gonzales that these poll results matter, because American people’s perceptions of the DOJ and whether justice is being done are very important.
Gonzales has a good line here: “You’re right, Senator. This is not about Alberto Gonzales.” He then says it’s about the work the DOJ is doing (to “protect our children,” of course).
11:00: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) tosses a bunch of softballs in AGAG’s direction. He’s the most friendly questioner of the morning thus far. He also notes that some time ago, a Democratic senator predicted that Gonzales would be gone as AG within a week. “And yet here you are, still Attorney General, a month later. And I’m glad to see that.”
11:08: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is up now. Her lilac blazer stands out in the sea of dark suits.
Feinstein tries to zero in on the precise extent of Gonzales’s involvement. Great line: “Who was the Decider?”
We love ourselves some DiFi!
Okay, time for a 10-minute recess — the first of the morning.
And now we’re back. More discussion, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Alberto Gonzales: In the Hot Seat (Part 2)”

Alberto Gonzales Attorney General Alberto R Gonzales Above the Law blog.JPGWe’re liveblogging Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s desperate fight for his political life testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is just getting underway. Our commentary will be added continuously to this post (until we eventually migrate to a new post). So just refresh your browser for the latest.
9:35: Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), SJC Chairman, has been reading a lengthy introductory statement. It’s way harsh on AlGo.
(Nice tie, Senator Leahy — alternating mint and forest green stripes. And a crisp white shirt — not a button-down-collar, thankfully. Politicians dress so much better than judges.)
9:41: Leahy gets in a dig about the White House being content to turn U.S. Attorney’s Offices into outposts of the Bush Administration.
The camera cuts to Gonzales, whose lower lip juts out defiantly — and he shakes his head vigorously, to show disagreement with Leahy’s statement. Will the famously mild-mannered Gonzales actually display some cojones?
More discussion after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Alberto Gonzales: In the Hot Seat (Part 1)”

Pregnant Belly 2 Above the Law blog.JPGThis just in from One First Street. The Associated Press reports:

The Supreme Court upheld the nationwide ban on a controversial abortion procedure Wednesday, handing abortion opponents the long- awaited victory they expected from a more conservative bench.

The 5-4 ruling said the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act that Congress passed and President Bush signed into law in 2003 does not violate a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

The opponents of the act “have not demonstrated that the Act would be unconstitutional in a large fraction of relevant cases,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion.

The decision pitted the court’s conservatives against its liberals, with President Bush’s two appointees, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, siding with the majority.

This ruling lends support to those who predict — like Jan Crawford Greenburg, in Supreme Conflict — that Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito will move the Court significantly to the right in the years ahead. Before Justice Alito replaced Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a decision like this one would have required the conservatives to secure TWO swing votes, AMK and SOC, instead of just one. That frequently doomed the conservatives to defeat in the big-ticket cases.
So Justice Alito, appointed to the Court by President Bush, probably made all the difference here. As Senatrix Barbara Boxer recently observed: “Elections have consequences.”
Update: For more detailed commentary, check out Lyle Denniston’s SCOTUSblog post, which quotes extensively from Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent. To read the opinion itself, click here (PDF).
Court Backs Ban on Abortion Procedure [Associated Press]
Court upholds federal abortion ban [SCOTUSblog]
Gonzales v. Carhart (PDF) [SCOTUSblog]
Senator Boxer: Elections Have Consequences [YouTube]

supreme court 1.jpg* The National Bank Act preempts state regulation of mortgage lenders, even those that are operating subsidiaries of banks and not banks themselves. [U.S. Supreme Court (PDF)]
* Payphone operators can sue for compensation from long-distance carriers. [U.S. Supreme Court (PDF)]
* Department of Education can use number of pupils rather than number of school districts in determining which districts to ignore as statistical outliers for the purposes of the Federal Impact Aid Program. [U.S. Supreme Court (PDF)]
* Let’s see whether this any impact on pork whatsoever. [Jurist]
* The loner gunman. [New York Times]

old lady elderly woman drug dealer Above the Law Blog.jpg* This is what will happen if we don’t reform the Social Security system. [Decatur Daily News]
* There’s a reason this, like the mainstream dairy industry, is regulated. Plus, it’s not exactly suitable for dunking oreos. [Inside Bay Area]
* If you need a break from US politics, then check out the other presidential free-for-all, going down in France. [RTE News]
* Fleshbot is not just a website. [Pink Tentacle via The Trademark Blog]
* Is internet radio on its way out? I don’t much care about Sirius, but what about Pandora, or the other stations you stream at work? [Tech News World]

musical chairs 2 Above the Law legal blog above the law legal tabloid above the law legal gossip site.GIFSome notable moves within the legal profession:
Government to Private Sector:
* Former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele, to LeBoeuf Lamb in DC. Last November, Steele lost his bid to represent Maryland in the U.S. Senate.
* Michele Hirshman, who served as Eliot Spitzer’s top deputy at the Attorney General’s office before he became Governor, is joining Paul Weiss, as a litigation partner. Described by the New York Times as “very smart, very tough and rather short,” she sounds perfectly diva-licious.
Lateral Moves:
* Antitrust superstar Charles “Rick” Rule, to Cadwalader, from Fried Frank. This truly IS like musical chairs: Cadwalader, Rule’s new home, recently lost its antitrust group to Skadden.
* Celebrated criminal defense lawyer Abbe Lowell — who did an excellent job defending Hamlet against murder charges — is moving from Chadbourne & Parke to McDermott Will & Emery.
* Mark Holscher and Jeffrey Sinek are joining the Los Angeles office of Kirkland & Ellis. They’re coming from O’Melveny & Myers and Thelen Reid, respectively. From the Law Blog:

Holscher and Sinek are best friends. They were roommates when they served as federal prosecutors in Los Angeles. Holscher, 44, served as an assistant U.S. Attorney from 1989-1995; Sinek, 46, served from 1989 to 1994. Sinek was the best man at Holscher’s wedding; Holscher was a groomsman in Sinek’s. Both graduated from Boalt Hall law school. Holscher told the Law Blog they’ve always wanted to work together.

Alexandra Korry small Alexandra D Korry Above the Law blog.jpgSuch ambiguously gay commentary led an anonymous reader to quip: “Hope that Alexandra Korry doesn’t read about this…”
On The Move: Charles “Rick” Rule [Antitrust Review]
Kirkland Beefs Up West Coast White-Collar Practice [WSJ Law Blog]
Abbe Lowell to Join McDermott from Chadbourne [WSJ Law Blog]
Former Maryland Pol Michael Steele Joins LeBoeuf Lamb [WSJ Law Blog]
Spitzer’s Longtime No. 2 Michele Hirshman to Join Paul Weiss [WSJ Law Blog]

Monica Goodling 5 Monica M Goodling Monica Gooding Alberto Gonzales Above the Law blog.jpgWe are very, very excited. The magnificent Monica Goodling, the former Justice Department lawyer involved in the controverisal U.S. Attorney firings, may be coming to our living room!
Alas, Goodling won’t be visiting us in person (although we hereby issue her a standing invitation). But we’re hopeful that she’ll be appearing on our television, via C-SPAN, in the near future. From Fox News:

The House Judiciary Committee is set to vote on whether to grant Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ former counsel immunity from prosecution and force her to testify about the firings of eight federal prosecutors.

“I am hopeful we can approve immunity so that we can schedule her to testify as soon as possible and begin to clear up the many inconsistencies and gaps surrounding this matter,” Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., said in a statement Tuesday.

A two-thirds vote of the panel is required to approve the resolution, which would direct the House counsel to apply to U.S. District Court for a grant of immunity for Monica Goodling, Conyers’ statement said.

We urge the House Judiciary Committee to approve immunity, so Monica Goodling can be beamed into the homes of millions of Americans.
Meanwhile, in other Goodling-related news, one of you drew our attention to an interesting article about her alma mater, Regent University School of Law. It’s a bit dated, but there’s a hook: it’s by Charlie Savage, who just won a Pulitzer for his coverage of President Bush’s use of signing statements. Congratulations, Charlie!
It’s an excellent read. Here are the last two paragraphs:

One third-year [Regent law] student, Chamie Riley, said she rejected the idea that any government official who invokes her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination could be a good representative of Regent.

As Christians, she said, Regent students know “you should be morally upright. You should not be in a situation where you have to plead the Fifth.”

Bite your tongue, Chamie Riley! You are not fit to hold Monica Goodling’s red Solo cup.
House Panel to Vote on Immunity for Gonzales Aide, Monica Goodling [Fox News]
Scandal puts spotlight on Christian law school [Boston Globe]
Earlier: Prior (adoring) ATL coverage of Monica Goodling (scroll down)

Monica Goodling 5 Monica M Goodling Monica Gooding Alberto Gonzales Above the Law blog.jpgSome of you have taken issue with our worship of Monica Goodling, the Justice Department lawyer who finds herself at the center of the firestorm over the U.S. Attorney firings. We’ve praised her as an up-and-coming DOJ diva; but some of you have argued that a true diva wouldn’t take the Fifth.
Fair enough; and normally we might agree. But Goodling isn’t hiding behind the Fifth Amendment like a shrinking violet. Instead, she is invoking it boldly, defiantly. And she’s going on the offensive against the Democrats who have cast aspersions on her simply for availing herself of constitutional protections.
From the Washington Post:

In a letter to House Democrats, Goodling’s attorneys lambasted Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and his counterpart in the Senate, Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), for questioning whether Goodling was hiding criminal activity by refusing to testify before Congress.

Attorneys John M. Dowd and Jeffrey King wrote that Goodling’s assertion of her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination “can in no way be interpreted to suggest that Ms. Goodling herself participated in any criminal activity.”

“Your and Senator Leahy’s recent suggestions to the contrary are unfortunately reminiscent of Senator Joseph McCarthy, who infamously labeled those who asserted their constitutional right to remain silent before his committee ‘Fifth Amendment Communists,’” the attorneys wrote.

Yeah, that’s kinda awesome. Chairman Conyers, have you no sense of decency?
Attorneys for Gonzales Aide Criticize Congressional Democrats [Washington Post]

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