Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), and Joe Biden (D-DE) write President Bush: “Congress needs to have greater confidence that the Administration is not mismanaging Iran policy as it has mismanaged its Iraq policy.”
How did Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL) know to ask Monica Goodling about her “uncomfortable” — and potentially illegal — conversation with Alberto Gonzales? “Her lawyer told him to ask, that’s how.” After today’s hearing, Davis told reporters that there were “informal conversations” with staff and Goodling attorney John Dowd about the line of questioning.
This is a critical point because, in many respects, the questions about the mid-March conversation between Gonzales and Goodling are the most damning revelations today, certainly the freshest new allegations to emerge. And, in the final minutes of the hearing, Davis read verbatim from the transcript of Gonzales when he appeared before the same panel May 10.
During that hearing, the attorney general cited ongoing investigations internally at Justice and on Capitol Hill as the reason why he uttered so many “I don’t recall/I don’t know” answers, because he was unable to speak with his top aides about their recollections.
“I have not gone back and spoken directly with Mr. Sampson and others who are involved in this process in order to protect the integrity of this investigation and the investigation of the Office of Professional Responsibility and the Office of Inspector General,” Gonzales testified under oath May 10. “I am a fact witness. They are fact witnesses.”
Gay men are still banned for life from giving blood, “leaving in place — for now — a 1983 prohibition meant to prevent the spread of HIV through transfusions.” The Food and Drug Administration’s ban prevents an estimated 62,300 gay and bisexual men per year from donating blood, despite the Red Cross calling the policy “medically and scientifically unwarranted.”
On its website, the FDA attempts to justify the 24-year-old rule by arguing that current HIV testing cannot always pick up right away when someone is HIV positive:
The ‘window period’ exists very early after infection, where even current HIV testing methods cannot detect all infections. During this time, a person is infected with HIV, but may not have made enough virus or developed enough antibodies to be detected by available tests. For this reason, a person could test negative, even when they are actually HIV positive and infectious.
Therefore FDA would change this policy only if supported by scientific data showing that a change in policy would not present a significant and preventable risk to blood recipients.
Yet last year, the Red Cross, the international blood association AABB, and America’s Blood Centers all called on the FDA to reverse the ban. They explained that such “window period” risks have been negated by modern blood tests, which “can detect HIV-positive donors within just 10 to 21 days of infection.” To ensure such risks were minimized further, their proposal included a “one-year deferral following male-to-male sexual contact.”
Mitt Romney and Tom Tancredo criticized ABC News for reporting on the administration’s covert plan to destabilize the Iranian regime, saying it puts lives at risk. ABC responded with the following statement: “In the six days since we first contacted the CIA and the White House, at no time did they indicate that broadcasting this report would jeopardize lives or operations on the ground. ABC News management gave them the repeated opportunity to make whatever objection they wanted to regarding our report. They chose not to.”
Okay, one last thing on Edwards’ speech. I got to talk to one of Edwards’ advisors after the speech and he clarified to me that some of what I felt the speech was missing wasn’t actually “missing” per se. Rather, it’s going to be in a different speech. Michael Signer’s blog post here lays out the concept, which I hadn’t understood going in:
This speech is the second in a five-part cycle of speeches in which Senator Edwards explains his vision of renewing America’s moral authority and our leadership of the world. The cycle began two months ago, when he presented a major speech about how to solve global poverty. Today, he’s presenting a military and national security policy that will explain how we can rebuild the military from the Bush years, so our strength will support our moral leadership of the world in a new century of new challenges. This Friday, he’ll talk about restoring our sacred contract with our veterans, servicemen and women, and military families. And in the coming months, he’ll complete the cycle with two more major speeches. The fourth speech will be on civil liberties, and how America can stay stronger by respecting the rule of law and human rights. The fifth and final speech will provide his overarching foreign policy vision for the challenges of the coming years, including a rising China and India, an increasingly undemocratic Russia, spreading nuclearization, and the Middle East. Together, the five speeches will comprise an overarching vision for an America that is at once strong, secure, and just–that once again is a moral leader for the world.
In short, the speech was strongest on military reform issues because that’s what the speech was supposed to be about and we’ll have to wait for the fifth and final speech to hear about the “overarching foreign policy vision.”
I have a review forthcoming of Bob Shrum’s memoir, so I don’t want to say much about that at the moment. My review didn’t, however, really deal with the subject of Mike Crowley’s piece on the book which focuses on the idea that Shrum deliberately slams John Edwards in the book. I had a very different reaction to the book than did Crowley. I agree that Shrum paints Edwards in a bad light in several places, but what I thought to myself while reading them was “the crazy thing is that Shrum seems to think this makes Edwards look good!”
At any rate, Crowley makes a convincing case, but what motivated my alternative reading was that unrelated portions of the book dealing with other people indicated to me that Shrum likes to deploy a very heavy hand when grinding his axes. The Edwards passages didn’t feel like that to me. One source of contention, for example, is that Shrum says in the book that Edwards’ vote for the war was basically a political position move that Shrum (among others) advocated that went against Edwards’ instincts. The Edwards campaign has made it clear that they really don’t like this story, and instead prefer to focus on the issue of flawed intelligence and misplaced faith in George W. Bush. It seems perfectly plausible to me that Shrum would have believed that Shrum’s account paints Edwards in a more favorable light — Edwards is a man of sound judgment who in a moment of weakness bowed to expediency and has ever since learned to stick to his guns. Obviously, Team Edwards doesn’t see it that way, but it continues to be a bit unclear to me what mistake, exactly, Edwards is trying to say he made with that vote.
In a damaging revelation made late in her testimony today, Monica Goodling disclosed that right before she took a leave of absence from the Department of Justice, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales personally attempted to shape her future testimony to Congress about the U.S. attorney purge.
Describing it as an “uncomfortable” conversation, Goodling claimed that in a personal meeting with Gonzales, he “laid out for me his general recollection…of some of the process…regarding the replacement of the U.S. attorneys.” After he had “laid out a little bit of it,” Gonzales asked Goodling if she “had any reaction to his iteration.” She then added:
I remember thinking at that point that this was something that we were all going to have to talk about, and I didn’t know that it was — I just — I didn’t know that it was maybe appropriate for us to talk about that at that point.
Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL) asked her if she felt the Attorney General was trying to “shape your recollection,” to which she replied “no.” But Goodling acknowledged she was “uncomfortable” with the conversation. Watch it:
Gonzales’ conversation with Goodling took place on either March 14th or 15th, a week after “the House Judiciary Committee requested that Goodling testify before the committee.” Goodling’s testimony indicates that the Attorney General may have crossed “into a borderline area of coaching a likely witness before the eventual testimony.” More importantly, Gonzales’ attempts to coach a witness could potentially be viewed as an obstruction of justice. Here’s 18 USC section 1505:
Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede…the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress–
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
Yet another example of why there is “no confidence” in Alberto Gonzales.
Transcript: Read more
But according to Karen Tumulty of Time, private testimony by Sampson reveals that the idea was “instigated” by the White House:
In private testimony that is being released this afternoon by the commitee, Alberto Gonzales’s former Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson told investigators that Gonzales himself initially resisted the idea of bypassing the Senators from Arkansas to install Karl Rove protege Tim Griffin as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Pressure to do it, he suggested, was coming from officials at the White House–specifically, White House political director Sara Taylor, her deputy Scott Jennings and Chris Oprison, the associate White House counsel. Sampson described himself and Goodling as “open to the idea,” which is not the same as instigating it.
Taylor reports directly to Rove. In a Dec. 19, 2006 e-mail, Sampson said that getting Griffin “appointed was important to Harriet, Karl, etc.”
Additionally, according to written testimony by Bud Cummins — the prosecutor Griffin replaced — Michael Elston, the chief of staff to former Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty, the plan to install Griffin and circumvent Senate approval was completely dictated by the White House:
Elston denied knowing anything about anyone’s intention to circumvent Senate confirmation in Griffin’s case. He said that might have been the White House’s plan, but they “never read DOJ into that plan” and DOJ would never go along with it. This indicated to me that my removal had been dictated entirely by the White House.
Fortunately, in a 306-114 vote, the House yesterday passed legislation “that would curb President Bush’s power to appoint prosecutors indefinitely,” limiting interim U.S. attorneys’ terms to 120 days. The Senate has already approved the bill, and it now heads to Bush for his signature.
We noted yesterday that the Office of Special Counsel had found that GSA chief Lurita Doan violated federal law when she had her underlings view a partisan PowerPoint presentation and then discuss ways the agency could help Republican candidates. Government Executive has new details from this “sharply worded” Special Counsel report. For example, at one point, “Doan told investigators that she did not pay attention to the PowerPoint slide presentation on the 2006 elections” because:
she dislikes PowerPoint presentations; she was uninterested in the topic; she does not care about polls; and, she felt the presentation had nothing to do with her or what she does on a daily basis at GSA. Lastly, Administrator Doan testified that she was on her Blackberry … reviewing emails … and only periodically looked up and down.
But investigators report that Doan contributed $226,000 to Republican candidates and Republican organizations and asked Doan why she contributed to candidates and organizations when “she does not care about polls or election results. Doan responded by testifying that the contributions had been ‘taken out of context.’”
UPDATE: More here.