“Mr. Cheney, tell us what happened. If you’re afraid to say what you knew, and when you knew it, then you should resign.”
During today’s press conference, McClellan generally declined to discuss the leak scandal, including his assertion that Scooter Libby and Karl Rove weren’t involved. That was expected. More surprising was his explanation why:
I think I’ve indicated to you all that I would be glad to talk about this once this process is complete. And I look forward to that opportunity. But, again, we have been directed by the White House Counsel’s Office not to discuss this matter and respond to questions about it.
So McClellan can’t comment because Harriet Miers told him not to?
“Of course, he’s against abortion.”
During a press conference this afternoon White House spokesman Scott McClellan repeatedly declined to comment on the leak scandal, citing on an ongoing investigation. Yet, Scooter Libby has been charged by the special prosecutor with obstruction of justice, and McClellan just said this:
The president directed everybody in the White House to cooperate fully with the special counsel…The White House has been cooperating fully with the special counsel, and we will continue to do so.
That is an explicit comment on the investigation. He is saying that everyone is cooperating and that would include Libby. The clear implication is that, despite the mountain of evidence Fitzgerald presented, his indictment is not well-founded.
The White House continues to comment on the investigation. They are just limiting their comments to denials.
The White House announced today that it is elevating two members of Cheney’s staff who are named in the Scooter Libby indictment. The White House announced:
The Vice President today appointed David S. Addington of Virginia to be the chief of staff to the Vice President. The Vice President also appointed John P. Hannah of the District of Columbia as the Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs.
Both Addington and Hannah are named in the indictment. Hannah was intimately involved in the strategy of leaking Plame’s identity. From the indictment:
13. Shortly after publication of the article in The New Republic, LIBBY spoke by telephone with his then Principal Deputy and discussed the article. That official asked LIBBY whether information about Wilson’s trip could be shared with the press to rebut the allegations that the Vice President had sent Wilson. LIBBY responded that there would be complications at the CIA in disclosing that information publicly, and that he could not discuss the matter on a non-secure telephone line.
Addington provided legal counsel to Libby in helping to divulge Plame’s identity.
18. Also on or about July 8, 2003, LIBBY met with the Counsel to the Vice President in an anteroom outside the Vice President’s Office. During their brief conversation, LIBBY asked the Counsel to the Vice President, in sum and substance, what paperwork there would be at the CIA if an employee’s spouse undertook an overseas trip.
So much for a fresh start.
UPDATE: Contrary to reports in the Washington Post and the New York Times, the “Principal Deputy” referred to in the indictment is not John Hannah. According to The New Republic’s Ryan Lizza, who stuck around after the Fitzgerald press conference to sort out the unidentified names in the indictment, the “Principal Deputy” is in fact Eric Edelman.
Today on NPR’s Morning Edition, Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg discussed the impact of the Alito nomination:
How high are the stakes now for this nomination to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court?
Well, if Judge Alito is confirmed, the court will move dramatically, dramatically to the right. There are conservatives who are less conservative than he, and I guess one could’ve said that with Harriet Miers you didn’t know, so liberals could hope that she would be a little more to the left. There’s no question where he is.
(You can listen to the segment here.)
Earlier today on Fox News, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a member of the Judiciary Committee, followed Matt Drudge’s lead and implied that opponents of Samuel Alito’s nomination may be motivated by Alito’s ethnicity. He warned senators “to be very careful here,” because a vote against Alito would be “held against them” by Italian-Americans:
[They] think they own the Italian-American vote all up and down the East Coast. They don’t, but they think they do. If they become offensive against somebody with the qualifications of Sam Alito, Judge Alito, then I think it’s going to be held against them. They’re going to have to be very careful how they handle this, and frankly what bothers me if 22 — in other words, half of the Democrats in the Senate — could vote against John Roberts, can you imagine what this nomination is going to be like? There’s no reason they should have voted against Roberts. And I think Alito’s going to be just fine but we’re all going to have to work really hard to make sure that’s so.
Conservatives could have picked any number of topics to distract Americans from the real issues of Alito’s nomination. This is among the most cynical and crass.
In 2002, Alito dismissed a case in favor of a company where he was heavily invested [Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/15/03]:
Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, has been accused of a conflict of interest by a woman whose suit he and two other appeals judges dismissed…. According to Alito’s 2002 financial-disclosure statement, the judge held investments worth $390,000 to $930,000 in 11 Vanguard funds in July 2002, when he ruled on a lawsuit filed by Shantee Maharaj of Wayne against Vanguard.
Alito argued that he didn’t need to recuse himself because the case was so small that it wouldn’t even affect Vanguard:
They have $600 billion invested with them. The idea that a case like this would affect [their investments] is just ludicrous.
Despite his own arguments, Alito eventually recused himself but continued to insist he had done nothing wrong.
Drudge reports that the right-wing is pushing back on the nickname “Scalito” given to Samuel Alito because they see it as “ethnically insensitive”:
One outraged Republican strategist claimed, “If Alito were a liberal there would be no way Democrats and Washington’s media elite would use such a ethnically insensitive nickname. Italian-Americans should not have to face these types of derogatory racial slurs in 21st century America.”
Actually, if Alito were a moderate, he wouldn’t be given the nickname because his judicial philosophy would not invite comparisons to Antonin Scalia. As the media has been clear in indicating, the nickname given to Alito is meant to draw comparisons to Scalia’s ideology, not his ethnicity:
“So consistently conservative, Alito has been dubbed ‘Scalito’ or ‘Scalia-lite’ by some lawyers because his judicial philosophy invites comparisons to conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.” [AP, 10/31/05]
“Often called ‘Scalito’ because he closely adheres to Justice Antonin Scalia’s legal philosophy, Alito, 55, has sat on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the past 15 years, where he has been a consistently dissenting conservative voice.” [Austin American-Statesman, 10/28/05]
“A strong conservative voice in his 15 years on the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He has been dubbed ‘Scalito’ because his judicial philosophy invites comparisons to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.” [Chicago Tribune, 10/28/05]
“He has been dubbed ‘Scalito’ or ‘Scalia-lite’ by some lawyers because his judicial philosophy invites comparisons to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.” [AP, 9/4/05]
“Judge Samuel Alito Jr., 50, of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Alito, of Newark, N.J., has been called ‘Scalito’ for a judicial philosophy akin to that of Justice Antonin Scalia, whom the Texas governor has praised.” [Houston Chronicle, 5/26/00]
When Harriet Miers’ nomination was first announced, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley called her an “amazingly bad choice.” This morning, he weighed in Samuel Alito:
JONATHAN TURLEY: He’s the top choice for particularly pro-life people. Sam Alito is viewed as someone who is likely to join the hard right in likely narrowing Roe and possibly voting to overturn Roe.
KATIE COURIC: So he is a strict constructionist in every since of the word? I know President Bush is looking for a conservative jurist, so he fits the bill in terms of someone who will interpret the Constitution literally and may disagree with the right to privacy, which is the foundation of Roe v. Wade?
TURLEY: Oh absolutely. There will be no one to the right of Sam Alito on this Court. This is a pretty hardcore fellow on abortion issues.
COURIC: Not even Antonin Scalia?
TURLEY: They’ll have to make a race to the right, but I think it will be by a nose, if at all. …
COURIC: And ideology trumped gender in this case, right?
TURLEY: I think so. I think the president wanted, first of all, to show he could pick someone who was clearly qualified and has the resume, but he also wanted to rally his base. He’s done both with Sam Alito. No one on the conservative base can be unhappy with Sam Alito. The question is whether they can weather this storm that will be coming, I think, and whether there will be a filibuster.
UPDATE: Crooks & Liars has the video.