Patterico's Pontifications

3/29/2007

What Tomorrow’s Lead Story Should Be

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:36 pm

I have been watching the re-run of Kyle “The Dweeb-Weasel” Sampson’s testimony on C-SPAN. TPM Muckraker — which has owned the lefty side of this story, and has done a fairly principled and incredibly thorough job of covering it — has numerous posts and entertaining You Tube clips of the testimony. Luckily, they have captured in a succinct clip the part that, in my own independent viewing of the testimony, I determined to be the most newsworthy thing that the Dweeb-Weasel said all day.

Rather than summarize it, I will bow to the magic of video and just let you watch it (supplemented by a transcript that I have personally prepared). But first, let me set it up, because the background is critical.

Before the clip starts, Dick Durbin is asking Sampson about Patrick Fitzgerald, and the fact (which I mocked in this post) that Sampson listed him as among the group of U.S. Attorneys that “have not distinguished themselves either positively or negatively.” I found that a rather odd thing to say about the guy who convicted the World Trade Center bomber and the Governor of Illinois.

Our friend WLS, himself an Assistant U.S. Attorney, had argued that “being a great prosecutor in the courtroom is not guarantee that he’s even a passably good US Attorney.” Unfortunately, that dog won’t hunt, given Sampson’s testimony.

Sampson acknowledged that, by all accounts, Fitzgerald was not only an impressive prosecutor in his own right, but a “strong, effective U.S. Attorney.” But he didn’t want to rate him as strong, because he knew that Fitzgerald was handling a “sensitive case” involving the Administration. Given that factor, he “didn’t want to go anywhere near that” — in other words, he didn’t want to rate Fitzgerald at all.

And now, to the clip:

DURBIN: Were you ever party to any conversation about the removal of Patrick Fitzgerald from his position as Northern District U.S. Attorney?

SAMPSON: I remember on one occasion, in 2006, in discussing the removal of U.S. Attorneys, or the process of considering some U.S. Attorneys that might be asked to resign, that I was speaking with Harriet Miers and Bill Kelley, and I raised Pat Fitzgerald. And immediately after I did it, I regretted it. I thought, I knew that it was the wrong thing to do. I knew that it was inappropriate. And I remember at the time that Miss Miers and Bill Kelley said nothing. They just looked at me. And I — I immediately regretted it, and I withdrew it at the time, and I regret it now.

DURBIN: Do you recall what you said at the time, about Patrick Fitzgerald?

SAMPSON: I said: Patrick Fitzgerald could be added to this list.

DURBIN: And there was no response?

SAMPSON: No. They looked at me like I had said something totally inappropriate, and I had.

DURBIN: Why did you say it? Why did you recommend or at least suggest that he be removed as U.S. Attorney?

SAMPSON: I’m not sure, I think, I don’t remember. I think it was maybe to get a reaction from them. I don’t think that I ever — I know that I never seriously considered putting Pat Fitzgerald on a list, and he never did appear on a list.

It certainly does cement the image of Kyle Sampson as clueless boob — an image I already had of him. (Technically, I called him a “dishonest bonehead” in a previous post. Close enough. I stand by both characterizations.)

I will say, though, that if you believe him — I said if — then his testimony does some credit to Miers and Kelley, in that their reaction appears to have been one of incredulity rather than receptiveness.

7 Responses to “What Tomorrow’s Lead Story Should Be”

  1. What does it say about AG Gonzales to have employed the ‘cluless boob’ or ‘dishonest bonehead’, Kyle Sampson? Obviously, AG Gonzales thought that Sampson did a lot of things correctly. No action or faulty action seems to be the pattern of favorable attributes displayed by individuals in this administration: Remember ‘Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job’. This accepted unprofessional conduct was also displayed in the instance with Carol Lam, where no one, including Sampson, notified Lam of her improprieties regarding immigration cases prior to the DOJ quitting her. I posted earlier questions of the DOJ’s dealings/nondealings with Lam, here and here.

    Da Bombz Diggity (e1bfb4)

  2. Of course, an equally plausible interpretation is that Miers and Kelley had the minimal political instincts necessary to realize that the plan to purge USAs unfriendly to the Republicans would be completely undermined by firing Pat Fitzgerald – because that would be so ridiculously brazen that even Time Magazine would have to pay attention.

    Far more worrisome to me is that Kyle Sampson apparently thought the atmosphere of this project was such that he could openly suggest firing Fitzgerald. Even if this was just a joke, the only possible meaning of the joke is, “gee, isn’t it great that the Patriot Act lets us get rid of USAs we don’t like; maybe we can even be so bold as to get that evil Pat Fitzgerald, who we obviously all hate.”

    You got another interpretation?

    And are we going to get your thoughts on Carol Lam after Sampson’s testimony. You’ve been arguing hard (and with admirable respect for the other side’s argument, I would add) that immigration issues were the only reason for her firing.

    How does that view stand up now that Sampson has stated unequivocally that what she said in her testimony was correct: no one ever brought up immigration with her as an area for improvement.

    Good management by the Justice Department?

    A good message to other USAs about where their priorities should be?

    I’ll say it once again: Carol Lam got a congressman who was selling out the “troops” by corrupting the Defense Department. And the Bush administration fired her, allegedly over an issue they admit they never talked to her about.

    If I were a politically ambitious USA in another district, I’d damn well get the message about what might happen to me if I aggressively prosecute Republicans. Reasonable inference?

    KIndadukish (2dc102)

  3. Far more worrisome to me is that Kyle Sampson apparently thought the atmosphere of this project was such that he could openly suggest firing Fitzgerald. Even if this was just a joke, the only possible meaning of the joke is, “gee, isn’t it great that the Patriot Act lets us get rid of USAs we don’t like; maybe we can even be so bold as to get that evil Pat Fitzgerald, who we obviously all hate.”

    You got another interpretation?

    I think it’s the best evidence of naked politics I’ve seen in this whole affair. But to me, it shows that Sampson is an idiot — and not much else.

    How does that view stand up now that Sampson has stated unequivocally that what she said in her testimony was correct: no one ever brought up immigration with her as an area for improvement.

    Good management by the Justice Department?

    A good message to other USAs about where their priorities should be?

    I’ll say it once again: Carol Lam got a congressman who was selling out the “troops” by corrupting the Defense Department. And the Bush administration fired her, allegedly over an issue they admit they never talked to her about.

    Well. It’s obvious she was taking a lot of heat from Issa. Bush might have decided a talking-to would be a waste of time.

    I still would have given her one, myself.

    If I were a politically ambitious USA in another district, I’d damn well get the message about what might happen to me if I aggressively prosecute Republicans. Reasonable inference?

    I don’t think so. Her term was up. She was on the list before Cunningham. Wang, not Lam, was prosecuting Lewis. Foggo and Wilkes were indicted anyway. And she faced real heat over immigration.

    To me, she is your worst case. So many facts go against her.

    Patterico (04465c)

  4. Thanks for the kind words. I have tried hard to confront the arguments made by the other side.

    Patterico (04465c)

  5. Well. It’s obvious she was taking a lot of heat from Issa.

    A presupposition of this argument is that this is an administration that usually shows deference to Congress. I don’t see much evidence of that in the past 6 years.

    Why exactly did they have to pay attention to Issa? Lam’s immigration numbers were up in 2006. Sentences were longer. Perhaps most importantly, there’s some evidence that actual border crossings were down. So she had one of the biggest prosecutions at DoJ in the Bush admin and the immigration problem was getting better. Still, they fired her. At the very least, it’s bad management.

    Wang, not Lam, was prosecuting Lewis.

    You’ve argued this before and I find it unconvincing.

    For one thing, Wang has now left. So you can hardly argue “see, the prosecutor who is after Lewis is still on the job and pursuing this.”

    The fact that Wang’s former office is heading up the Lewis investigation, if true, doesn’t prove much to me, for two reasons:

    1) As you yourself have admitted in other posts, the Lewis investigation grew out of the Cunningham/Wilkes/Foggo investigation, and you don’t dispute that was undertaken by Lam. So another way of looking at this is – if you want to impede a spreading investigation, an excellent time to impede it is to fire the original prosecutor just as others are brought in to investigate other ramifications. It sends a very clear message: put a lot of priority on this, and you might find yourself in trouble for “performance issues” also.

    2) How do we know Debra Wang didn’t see the writing on the wall? How do we know she didn’t think “gee, I’m a Republican, I better grab a couple mil from a big law firm before I get a reputation for aggressively pursuing Republicans, because if I do my job right, that’s exactly where this is headed because these people sure were selling out the country. I heard what’s about to happen to Carol Lam, and I’m getting out while the getting is good.”

    I’m not a lawyer. I’m just a little old citizen. You can tell me all you want about arm’s length, and legal ethics, and firewalls, and so forth. And I can tell you that to the non-lawyer public, it stinks to high heaven for a prosecutor investigating the corruption of national defense to suddenly bolt and take a couple million from the firm that happens to be defending the guy she was investigating. There’s a reason why lawyers have a bad rep with the public and Debra Wang sure isn’t helping.

    It doesn’t have to be an out-and-out conspiracy like in a bad Hollywood movie. It’s just a message: pursue this and it will hurt your career. I’ve worked in enough bureaucracies to know that one can scuttle something without looking like one is baldly evil. The FBI investigator wants 4 men for a stakeout? Sorry, we’ve only got a budget for 1. Want to set aside your other cases to focus on Jerry Lewis? Sorry, DoJ has let it be known that immigration is what really matters. Work on the Lewis thing on the weekend, will you? This stuff can be pretty subtle. And to me the message of the Carol Lam affair is straightforward about where they want priorities to be: not on Republican corruption, even if it’s national defense that’s on the block.

    That said, I’ll say again I appreciate you directly engaging what’s been written on TPM. We all benefit from real debate.

    And I’ll also say that, despite what I said above re lawyers, I appreciate the work you do as a prosecutor. I’ve got a good friend from the social dance world here in LA named Patti H who is an LA prosecutor. I know how hard you work and what you deal with all day.

    Kindadukish (2dc102)

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