Patterico's Pontifications


This portends trouble ahead. DOJ v. FBI

Filed under: General — WLS @ 1:35 pm

[Posted by WLS] 

Nothing good can come from this:

It appears that the breach is intentional if the “aides” are to be believed.

I think this goes back to a point I’ve made here before — Gonzales is an outsider at DOJ, and he did not bring any loyalists with him for his staff — smart people he could turn to for advice in difficult times.  The familiar faces he did find when he arrived came from outside DOJ themselves — people like Kyle Sampson who was a former Senate staffer and WH Counsel’s Office member. 

Gonzales also allowed several US Attorneys to fill slots at the top of DOJ by doing double duty or filling AAG and DAG Office positions.  Most of them had been non-DOJ types prior to being appointed US Attorneys. 

 FBI Dir. Mueller, on the other hand, is a long-time DOJ insider, going back to his days in the Reagan Administration DOJ.  When he took over the FBI he started by filling slots in his inner circle with DOJ officials he had worked with in the past, many of whom were working in big US Attorney Offices in New York, Boston, San Fran, and LA.  This was very controversial within the Bureau because those Seventh Floor Director’s Staff positions had always been held by FBI Agents who had been promoted up through the ranks.  Mueller filled out much of his senior staff with non-FBI’ers out of neccessity because Louis Freeh had left behind a layer of loyalists at the top who were not going to play ball with Mueller’s view of what needed to be changed in the FBI culture.   Since they couldn’t be fired, Mueller needed a layer of insulation. 

Over the past 3-4 years, many of Mueller’s staffers that came from DOJ have rotated through Mueller’s staff and are now back at DOJ in senior positions.  I think Mueller’s performance in hearings last week is first public salvo in a war that is about to break out between Mueller’s loyalists at DOJ, and the few senior staff people still with Gonzales at DOJ, and the goal is to force Gonzales to resign.  

Many upper-level management posistions at DOJ are unfilled because the Senate isn’t going to confirm anyone while Gonzales remains, and its hard to get qualified people to take “interim” or “acting” jobs given the circus atmosphere that exists and the limited amount of time remaining on the calendar for this administration.  This is bad for DOJ and its bad for the FBI.  Mueller is taking proactive steps to bring the issue to a head.

A very public fued between Mueller and Gonzales is something that the President probably cannot ignore.  Mueller is a no-nonsense retired Marine, and is a tremendous bureaucratic in-fighter.    He’s got a lot of allies among the GOP on the Hill, and I suspect he is reflecting their view of what needs to happen with Gonzales.

Gonzales doesn’t have much to fight back with — no one credits what he says anymore. 

It was easy for the President to ignore the braying from the Asses like Schumer, Leahy and Durbin.  But, if Mueller throws down with Gonzales, the President has only one option, and that is to pave the way for Gonzales to exit gracefully.        

21 Responses to “This portends trouble ahead. DOJ v. FBI”

  1. How does it help Mueller to go to war with the Bush Administration? Furthermore, I don’t see how Mueller can reasonably believe that Bush’s support for Gonzales could be derailed in such a public manner.

    DRJ (bea74b)

  2. WLS:

    Dude, let’s think this through:

    1. Comey refused to say which particular program was the subject of the contretemps.

    2. Gonzales said only that it was not the “Terrorist Surveillance Program,” TSP, which means the al-Qaeda international telephone-call intercept program; he offered to tell senators in camera what program it was, but not openly.

    3. Mueller said that his “understanding” was that it was “an NSA program” that had been “much discussed.”

    4. The New York Times says that it was not the TSP… it was a different NSA program, the “data mining” program (sucking up data about phone-call origin and reception points, duration, time, traffic, and so forth)… an NSA surveillance program that has been much discussed (in the press), but which the president has never publicly acknowledged, as he did the TSP.

    5. Were Gonzales, Mueller, or Comey to publicly acknowledge the still highly classified data-mining surveillance program, he could be arrested and indicted. It’s still classified.

    Counselor, none of these accounts is in conflict. If we make the assumption that the Times is correct — that the argument was over the data-mining program, not the TSP — then Comey, Gonzales, and Mueller are all correct and accurate.

    The contentious source cited above simply wants to stir up a scandal because scandals sell papers. There is no evidence that Mueller is trying to torpedo Gonzales. Mueller was testifying at a different committee, the Judiciary Committee in the House (while Gonzales has been testifying before the J-Com in the Senate), where he responded to a direct question from Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee… and he answered accurately and circumspectly.

    He did not contradict Gonzales; rather, throughout, Democratic senators (and RINO Arlen Specter) have assumed that there is one and only one NSA surveillance program… so any reference to “an NSA program” must necessarily mean the TSP.

    Honestly, it’s perhaps just barely possible that the National Security Agency has more than one terrorist surveillance program. Maybe two… even, perhaps, more than two!



    Dafydd ab Hugh (445647)

  3. DRJ — I think its simply Mueller sharing the view of many GOP members of the Senate that the current situation is unacceptable, and cannot be maintained for another 15 months. There are many senior DOJ positions unfilled because of the nonsense over the US Attorney firings and Gonzales’ testimony. While its all a bunch of crapola, the fact is that with the Dems in control of the Senate, and with them willing to sacrafice the effectiveness of DOJ in pursuit of their own political gains, someone has to address the real work to be done amid all the score-settling.

    The logjam is over Gonzales — if he was to go, things would improve significantly. If the WH could get a committment from the Dem. Senate leadership that they would agree to not play partisan games with the next AG nominee, I suspect Gonzales would be gone. Tere is no upside for the WH to get rid of Gonzales if the Dems are only laying in wait for his replacement for the purpose of conducting a partisan show trial.

    Mueller probably agrees with many GOP Senators that DOJ cannot function effectively with the Dems shooting arrows in Gonzales, no matter how much the WH appreciates his loyalty. Creating a fissure between FBI and DOJ will force the President to come to grips with the situation — something he can avoid if it is perceived as simply partisan games. It creates an opening for GOP Senators to go to the WH with the offer of a deal from the Dems on Gonzales’ successor. Larry Thompson’s name has already been public suggested by Schumer as someone who would have no problem getting through the Senate.

    It is not partisan when its Mueller v. Gonzales, so the WH deflection that this is all partisan non-sense isn’t going to solve this problem.

    WLS (077d0d)

  4. Dafydd — I agree with you on the merits. I think the reason for the confusion is exactly as you explain, and I think it was orchestrated by some very thoughtful staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee with the full-on urging of Schumer. Any time a question begins with “Based on recent news reports ….” and then askes about a classified intelligence program, there is no way for a witness to effectively respond. Yet that is exactly the lead-in to the questions that Schmer asked, and he then rushed right out to the cameras for a pre-arranged press conference to accuse Gonzales of lying.
    But, as reported in the Daily News, whether Mueller intended to contradict Gonzales or not, its viewed inside DOJ that he did, and Mueller’s senior aides at the FBI have not gone rushing out to clarify his remarks in an effort to defend Gonzales from the attacks he’s suffered over the last 4-5 days.
    Gonzales’ travails are hurting DOJ, and that hurts the FBI. Gonzales is an outsider, and since he took over DOJ there has been a long list of departures of senior DOJ officials that were there long before him — officials that were close to Mueller and Comey.
    Mueller and Comey have been close friends for a couple decades. They represent the top echelon of “career” professionals at DOJ. Gonzales isn’t part of the network, and he’s made a mess of things at DOJ since his arrival.

    WLS (077d0d)

  5. WLS writes “Mueller probably agrees with many GOP Senators that DOJ cannot function effectively with the Dems shooting arrows in Gonzales…” and then tells us “It is not partisan when its Mueller v. Gonzales, so the WH deflection that this is all partisan non-sense isn’t going to solve this problem.”.

    This is not consistent.

    Robin Roberts (6c18fd)

  6. I personally think Gonzales has handled himself terribly in this situation. However, I don’t think he’s going to go anywhere because of the disastrous possibility of a confirmation hearing for his replacement. I do not think the Democrats will give the president any leeway in any possible confirmation hearing. Unless something else major occurs, I don’t think he’s going anywhere.

    NMS (60f1bb)

  7. Patterico for AG.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  8. WLS #3,

    The logjam is Bush, not Gonzales. Democrats want to see Bush discredited or gone and Gonzales is a means to that end. So I think Bush will keep any loyal person that stands between him and the Democrats, no matter what the cost to him, the loyal person, or the government. I honestly can’t understand why Mueller doesn’t see this about Bush unless you are correct that it’s part of a plan to ease Gonzales out (presumably without angering the base) and to replace him with someone the Democrats find palatable.

    DRJ (bea74b)

  9. As long as Gonzales has the one vote in DC that matters, he stays.
    The Dems might want to run GW out of town on a rail, but they don’t have the balls, or the case, for an impeachment fight; so, they’re stuck with him until 1/20/09.
    Has anyone considered what will happen in a straight-up fight between Mueller and Gonzales if GW stays with the AG? What in the Hell does Mueller do then?
    I guess he could always be a security consultant for the Saudi’s? Or, be the ‘Commish in NYC?

    Another Drew (a28ef4)

  10. I’m enjoying this.

    AF (4a3fa6)

  11. replace him with someone the Democrats find palatable

    There is nobody that they would find palatable, unless they got to nominate the person, and control all hiring, firing, and policy decisions made by that person.

    JD (26820f)

  12. This is all about Bush and the Democrats finally getting a chance to settle scores. They don’t care about the NSA program or national security. If the Congressional GOP would clean up their act, the performance of the Dems the past few months, and the months to come which look no different, would return them to the minority, at least in the Senate. Unfortunately, the Ted Stevens wing of the GOP seems, like the Bourbons, to never learn anything or forget anything. They may face the Bourbons’ fate if they don’r wise up.

    Mike K (86bddb)

  13. JD’s essentially right. And anybody that the Democrats would confirm, would be unacceptable to the base.

    As it stands now, no one can be confirmed to any position in the Administration. Only Recess Appointments are possible.

    LarryD (feb78b)

  14. “It was easy for the President to ignore the braying from the Asses like Schumer, Leahy and Durbin. But, if Mueller throws down with Gonzales, the President has only one option, and that is to pave the way for Gonzales to exit gracefully.”


    “The night before the government secured a guilty plea from the manufacturer of the addictive painkiller OxyContin, a senior Justice Department official called the U.S. attorney handling the case and, at the behest of an executive for the drugmaker, urged him to slow down, the prosecutor told the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday.
    John L. Brownlee, the U.S. attorney in Roanoke, testified that he was at home the evening of Oct. 24 when he received the call on his cellphone from Michael J. Elston, then chief of staff to the deputy attorney general and one of the Justice aides involved in the removal of nine U.S. attorneys last year.
    Brownlee settled the case anyway. Eight days later, his name appeared on a list compiled by Elston of prosecutors that officials had suggested be fired.”

    AF (4a3fa6)

  15. AF #10,

    I’m glad you enjoy reading a mature, thoughtful adult discussion on an important topic. Try it sometime.

    DRJ (bea74b)

  16. Nah…no need for Gonzo to go.

    As long as the Dems are content with kicking him around, they won’t be passing any laws. And, if they aren’t passing any laws, then they aren’t hurting anyone.

    Gridlock – the true conservative’s best friend.

    headhunt23 (9e1243)

  17. What happens if they get rid of Gonzales and don’t replace him? Is there a problem with having an Acting Attorney General for the rest of Bush’s term?

    No one, with the possible exceptions of Bush and Cheney, actually think Gonzales should be where he is. Even if Bush and the Democrats can’t find a new AG both sides can live with, is that really such a problem or at least any worse than the dysfunctional situation at the DoJ we have now?

    Crust (399898)

  18. Crust, it is sort of the opposite of President Clinton’s problem – the Clinton administration had concluded that Janet Reno was a disaster to them as AG, but they could not get a replacement they wanted confirmed so she stayed in place long after the Clinton’s wanted her to go.

    Robin Roberts (6c18fd)

  19. It is clear that the Dems smell blood in the water and are doing what any opposition would do. However, it is demeaning of blindly spout forth the talking points as laid out by the MSM and the Dems.

    You may think Gonzales is a buffoon. That’s fine. Hang him for what he did not what he did not.

    Jumping on board with the Dems. NSA interrogations is also strange. The Dems are trying to force the administration to reveal classified programs. Then they will impeach Gonzales for doing so.

    You acceptance of the fact that the dems will not pass any nominees for DOJ positions until Gonzales goes is also interesting. This may be a political reality but whatever happened to fighting congressional blackmail?

    davod (5bdbd3)

  20. PS:
    I should also say that who the heck thinks Bush wll get who wants to head DOJ if Gonzales goes. He certainly could not afford to take a Democratic offered compromise. DOJ is already infected with Dem. holdovers.

    davod (5bdbd3)

  21. Too Many Friends!!!!

    This one has loyalty to that one.

    This one’s job was with this Administration and this guy thinks this guy should quit because of what he “THINKS” he may have done of course with no REAL documents or proof just SPECULATION (so what there’s a war going on and more important things like terrorists – and I mean those who terrorize our CONSTITUTION)

    And we talk about WOMEN with Drama and Hormones!!!

    Who the heck is LOYAL to AMERICA and its people???

    Can we have someone fight for US without all the who is whos friends?

    We all KNOW whereEVER you go friends get in first, so WHO is going to be the FRIEND of the AMERICAN people if all these Politico’s are busy Making friends, backstabbing, finding loyalties?

    What IS THE JOB of the DOJ??

    What IS the JOB of the FBI??

    Maybe we ought to Start with a BASIC EDUCATION of what these TWO entities ACTUALLY are SUPPOSED to do, match up to their CURRENT activties, make a REALITY show out of it and see what AMERICA REALLY THINKS!!

    Not enough Americans are informed on the REAL issues but we all KNOW the REALITY TV Version of who does not like who for what reason and who his loyalties belong to as well as if its partisan or political or selfserving….

    NOW Hillay is in the game (I’m SICK to think of it..)

    We know who they are, what they can do, what many will do so NOW WHAT??

    Is Political, Legal, Constitutioanl and Historical education (also defining roles of DOJ and FBI) the key or more for REALITY TV??

    Carla J (be2d57)

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