On Jan. 18, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee, under oath, that “with respect to every United States attorney position in this country, we will have a presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed United States attorney.”
But e-mails reveal that the Justice Department was already planning to install Karl Rove-protege Tim Griffin as U.S. attorney in Arkansas by taking advantage of a Patriot Act provision that allows the President to appoint “interim” U.S. attorneys for indefinite periods of time, bypassing the Senate confirmation process altogether.
The administration understood that its plan to skirt Congress would be met with severe criticism. In a Dec. 19 email, Sampson wrote to a White House aide, explaining the administration’s strategy for countering the criticism:
We should gum this to death. [A]sk the senators to give Tim a chance…then we can tell them we’ll look for other candidates, ask them for recommendations, evaluate the recommendations, interview their candidates, and otherwise run out the clock. All of this should be done in “good faith,” of course.
With little attention, this scenario is exactly what is playing out now, as the White House is running out the clock to keep Griffin in office.
On Feb. 15, Griffin — in an effort to stem the growing tide of criticism over his appointment — announced that he had “made the decision not to let my name go forward to the Senate.” Rep. John Boozman (R-AR), a stalwart White House ally, said last week he “is interviewing candidates to recommend as replacements for Griffin.” “It is my goal to produce a list of three strong candidates to forward to the White House for consideration,” he said.
Boozman added it would “take between six and nine months” to identify Griffin’s replacement. Meanwhile, as the White House waits to name a new nominee, Griffin has said that he is ready and willing to serve until the end of Bush’s term.
The conservatives’ efforts to find a replacement for Griffin are presumably in “good faith” of course.
UPDATE: The Arkansas Times blog is suspicious of Boozman’s “good faith” efforts and calls on Griffin to resign. “If Boozman drags his feet long enough on nominations, he could easily extend the appointment of a permanent U.S. attorney into the final months of Bush’s term.”