This post contains spoilers through the October 30 episode of Boardwalk Empire.
Boardwalk Empire may still have a lot of elaborately bloody maneuvering over control of the liquor trade, but it’s become about larger themes of guilt, innocence, and responsibility. And tonight, those pressures culminated in two confessions, one voluntary and complete if unclear, one coerced and honest, but incomplete. The state of Margaret and Nelson’s souls, and the pressures put on the United States Attorney General, make Nucky’s problems out as the minor distractions that they are.
Nelson’s confession to Rose is prompted by two events. First, there’s the unnerving sense that he’s settled into something like domestic tranquility with Lucy. When she whines that she can’t get comfortable, saying “I’m sorry, Daddy. It’s just…I want to be done with this,” Nelson may chide her first, reminding her of his colleague who remains horribly burned in hospital, but he says he’ll get her the lemons that are feeding her craving anyway. Then, when he visits said colleague (telling another agent that he’s alive because “He loves the lord, sir,” only to have that man remark that “It seems a pretty one-sided relationship.”) Van Alden said he thinks the man is accusing him from his hospital bed and calls Rose in a panic, saying he’s not worthy of her or his badge. Read more
There are plausible reasons why an attorney who does not believe that the Constitution gives the middle finger to seniors and working Americans could come to work for someone like Lee — it is even possible that Barlow sought the U.S. attorney nomination because he wanted a face-saving way to leave a job that forces him to push a dangerous and radical interpretation of the Constitution. Nevertheless, Barlow appears to be a very early supporter of Lee’s senate candidacy. He made the maximum legal contribution to Lee’s campaign as early as January of 2010 — long before many political observers realized that Lee could exploit Utah’s arcane GOP nominations process to take out a three term incumbent Republican senator:
Lee used to work at Barlow’s former law firm, so it is possible that the men developed a personal relationship that inspired Barlow to contribute so generously to the radical tenther’s campaign. Moreover, a White House spokesperson assures ThinkProgress that “the President is confident that Mr. Barlow will exercise his discretion to further the priorities and needs of citizens of Utah in a manner consistent with this Administration’s priorities.” It would be unfair to assume that Barlow must believe everything that his boss believes about the Constitution.
Nevertheless, Barlow’s close association with Lee — both as a close adviser and as a top donor — does need to be explained. If Barlow disagrees with Lee that child labor laws, Social Security, and Medicare are unconstitutional, then he should publicly say as much before he receives a confirmation vote in the Senate.
President Obama nominated a very odd candidate to be the next U.S. Attorney in Utah, the chief legal advisor to the Senate’s most radical tenther, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT):
President Barack Obama tapped Sen. Mike Lee’s legal counsel to be the next U.S. attorney for Utah, a move that infuriated Democrats from the state and ended a lengthy political drama over who would claim the high-profile position.
The White House on Tuesday announced the nomination of David Barlow. He will need to win Senate confirmation before he can claim the spot as Utah’s top federal prosecutor, a job that has remained vacant since the end of 2009.
As ThinkProgress explained after news broke that Barlow was being vetted for this job, Barlow’s close association with Lee raises very serious questions about whether he can be trusted to enforce laws intended to protect ordinary Americans ability to earn a living, be safe from natural disasters and enjoy a secure retirement. Before the Senate even considers confirming Barlow to be the top federal attorney in Utah, Barlow should be required to answer a number of difficult questions about whether he shares any of Lee’s most indefensible positions on the Constitution:
Will Barlow Vigorously Protect Seniors’ Right To Social Security? As a Senate candidate, Lee claimed that it is unconstitutional for the federal government to provide “a decent retirement plan.” Barlow should disavow this radical belief before he can be confirmed.
Will Barlow Vigorously Protect Seniors’ Right To Medicare? In the same speech, Lee also claimed that it is unconstitutional for the federal government to provide “health care” — a view that would invalidate Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP and the Affordable Care Act. Barlow should also disavow this radical belief before he can be confirmed.
Will Barlow Enforce Child Labor Laws? Lee believes that child labor laws are unconstitutional because the Constitution “was designed to be a little bit harsh.” Before Barlow can be a U.S. Attorney, he must swear under oath that he will enforce federal child labor laws without reservation.
Barlow’s decision to leave a successful and lucrative law practice in order to work for someone with Lee’s contempt for the Constitution raises serious concerns about Barlow’s fitness to serve as Utah’s top federal attorney. It is, of course, possible that Barlow does not share his boss’ views — indeed it is even possible that Barlow sought the U.S. Attorney job because he wanted a face-saving way to leave a job that forces him to push a dangerous and radical interpretation of the Constitution. Before Barlow can be confirmed, however, the Senate owes the people a Utah a duty to ensure that Barlow will not use his position in the Justice Department to push Mike Lee’s radical constitutional agenda.
For years, GOP leaders have been eyeing former U.S. attorney Chris Christie for national political office. In recent congressional testimony, Karl Rove revealed that “he had conversations with Christie about a possible run for governor while Christie was serving in the non-political position of U.S. attorney.” Christie’s campaign has said it was just an “informal conversation.” However, Christie’s challenger in the New Jersey gubernatorial race, Gov. Jon Corzine (D), contends that it was a violation of the Hatch Act, which says that federal employees can’t even engage in “any act in furtherance of candidacy” for an elected office. Yesterday at Netroots Nation, Corzine met with a group of progressive bloggers and sharply criticized Christie’s discussion with Rove:
It is hard to understand how a lawbreaker gets the reputation of being the king of law enforcement, and uses that as a platform. It’s the Hatch Act.
Today, President Obama nominated four individuals to serve as U.S. attorneys — most notably Daniel Bogden in Nevada. “These fine men and women have demonstrated the extensive knowledge of the law and deep commitment to public service Americans deserve from their United States Attorneys,” said Obama in a statement. Bogden has actually already served as a U.S. attorney, but he was ousted in the Bush administration’s political purge. Even Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) said that the case had been “completely mishandled” by then-attorney general Alberto Gonzales. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has beenpushing the White House to bring back Bogden.
While serving as a U.S. attorney during the Bush administration, Christopher Christie, now a Republican candidate for Governor in New Jersey, tracked the whereabouts of citizens through their cell phones without warrants. The ACLU obtained the documents detailing the spying program from the Justice Department in an ongoing lawsuit over cell phone tracking.
While the documents reveal 79 such cases on or after Sept. 12, 2001, they do not specify how many of the applications were made during Christie’s tenure. Christie served as U.S. attorney from Jan. 17, 2002 through November 2008. ACLU staff attorney Catherine Crump noted:
Tracking the location of people’s cell phones reveals intimate details of their daily routines and is highly invasive of their privacy. The government is violating the Constitution when it fails to get a search warrant before tracking people this way.
The new revelations about the cell phone tracking program under Christie is yet another example of the warrantless spying programs authorized under the Bush administration. Previous programs approved without a court order or warrant have included the secret program to monitor radiation levels at over 100 Muslim sites and the NSA spying program on the phone and e-mail communications of thousands of people inside the U.S. These programs run contrary to the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which forbids “unreasonable searches” and sets out specific requirements for warrants, including “probable cause.”
During his tenure as U.S. attorney, Christie also awarded his former boss, John Ashcroft, a $28-52 million dollar no-bid contract to “monitor a large corporation willing to settle criminal charges out of court.” Former Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach blasted the decision, saying that awarding a no-bid contract “suggests other political things, and that seems to me to be as wrong as it can be.” Christie also doled out “a multi-million-dollar, no bid contract to an ex-federal prosecutor who declined to criminally prosecute Christie’s brother on stock fraud charges two years earlier.”
Christie’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, declined to comment on the cell phone spying program “due to pending litigation.”
A Justice Department official told me that the idea of hiring Bogden back is in fact a real possibility, and said that the White House counsel’s office has been quietly vetting his background in anticipation of his possible reappointment — not a difficult task, considering that he has been employed by the government for the majority of his adult life.
Bogden still “has no official explanation as to why he was fired, or even who made the decision.” “Most of us have gotten some sense, if not a good sense, as to why we were fired,” former New Mexico U.S. attorney David Iglesias told Waas. “But unlike the rest of us, Dan has never had that.” Bogden has previously said that when he was asked to resign, then-Associate Attorney General William Mercer told him that the firings were being carried out “so the Republican Party would have more future candidates for the federal bench and future political positions.”
On CNN last night, host Campbell Brown asked former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales how he let nine U.S. attorneys get fired “for political reasons” while he was running the Justice Depatment. “I disagree with that,” replied Gonzales, claiming that a report by the Justice Department’s inspector general on the 2006 firings had concluded that the attorneys were not “fired for partisan political reasons.”
Gonzales claimed that the report found that “most of these U.S. attorneys” were fired for “perfomance related reasons” and that it didn’t “draw definite conclusions” about the other firings:
BROWN: Your office fired nine U.S. attorneys for political reasons. There has been no disagreement about that. I mean, how could you let that happen?
GONZALES: Campbell, Campbell, Campbell. I disagree with that. You said that nine U.S. attorneys were fired for partisan political reasons. That’s not what the report said. Quite the opposite. The report clearly found that there were performance related reasons for the removal of most of these U.S. attorneys and with respect to the remainder, they didn’t have enough information to draw definite conclusions.
Gonzales’ assertion that the report vindicated his office of any political motives for the dismissals, however, is false. The report did draw “definite conclusions” about the firing of New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias
The evidence we uncovered in our investigation demonstrated that the real reason for Iglesias’s removal were the complaints from New Mexico Republican politicians and party activists about how Iglesias handled voter fraud and public corruption cases in the state.
As detailed above, many Republicans in New Mexico believed that fraudulent registrations by Democratic Party voters was a widespread problem in New Mexico, an evenly divided state politically that has had very close national elections. Beginning in the summer of 2004, New Mexico Republican Party activists talked to Iglesias about the “party’s . . . efforts” on the voter fraud issue, and sought to involve him in those efforts.
Iglesias refused to prosecute voter fraud cases sought by GOP activists and the report concluded that then-Sen. Pete Domenici’s (R-NM) complaints to the White House were a “primary factor” in Iglesias’ being placed on the firing list.
TPMmuckraker’s Murray Waas reports tonight that a federal grand jury probe is looking into the role that Domenici and former senior Bush White House aides played in Iglesias’ firing. The probe “is investigating whether Domenici and other political figures attempted to improperly press Iglesias to bring a criminal prosecution against New Mexico Democrats just prior to the 2006 congressional midterm elections.”
In an interview with a local New Mexico station today, fired U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, a JAG corps member, said that he has been tapped to be part of a special team of prosecutors for Guantanamo detainees. “One hundred percent of what I’m doing is prosecuting terrorist cases out of Guantanamo,” he explained. “We want to make sure that those terrorists that did commit acts will be brought to justice — and those that did not will be released.” Watch it:
Today, DOJ Inspector General Glenn Fine testified about his recent report on the U.S. Attorney scandal. Harriet Miers, who defied a subpoena regarding her role in the scandal, refused to talk to Fine’s investigators. Fine said she ignored the IG despite the White House in fact encouraging her to speak to them:
JOHNSON: Was Harriet Miers one of those who the White House encouraged to speak to you?
FINE: She was one who we requested to be interviewed…my understanding is all the individuals were encouraged by the White House counsel’s office to speak to us.
Miers, however, refused to talk to Fine’s investigators. “The reason her attorney gave is that an interview might undermine her ability to rely on instructions she received from the White House directing her not to appear for congressional testimony,” he said.
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) said that Miers is “playing games” with investigators. “To us, Ms. Miers says she’s willing to testify but the White House won’t let her. And to you, she says she won’t testify even though the White House says it’s okay,” he said.