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Mukasey Refuses To Prosecute Officials Who Politicized DOJ: ‘Negative Publicity’ Is Sufficient Punishment

When Attorney General Michael Mukasey testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in June, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) pressed him on how he would hold accountable the people who politicizing the Justice Department’s internship and Honors programs. Mukasey stumbled over his words and attempted to dodge the question, eventually admitting that nothing would happen to them since many of them had already left the department. Watch it:

In a speech today before the American Bar Association (ABA), Mukasey was more explicit in his rejection of any sort of review or prosecution, saying that the “negative publicity” they faced was enough:

That does not mean, as some people have suggested, that those officials who were found by the joint reports to have committed misconduct have suffered no consequences. Far from it. The officials most directly implicated in the misconduct left the Department to the accompaniment of substantial negative publicity. … To put it in concrete terms, I doubt that anyone in this room would want to trade places with any of those people.

Mukasey also reiterated that these former employees were not found to be in violation of any criminal laws. They did, however, violate civil service laws. A joint report by the Inspector General and the Office of Professional Responsibility found that in particular, Michael Elston, formerly the chief of staff to the Deputy Attorney General, “violated federal law and Department policy” by selecting candidates based on their political affiliations.

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Clearly, the Bush administration seems to be betting that it will be able to escape any accountability for its misdeeds once it leaves office. In the meantime, officials are just running out the clock.

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Update:

Matt Yglesias writes: “Michael Mukasey explains that just because his predecessors in the Justice Department were breaking the law with their hiring processes doesn’t mean anyone should be held accountable: ‘not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime.’ It’s an excellent slogan for the Bush administration.”

Update:

,Steven Benen hits Mukasey for saying that “not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime.” He writes, “Wait, not every violation of the law is a crime? Isn’t that the definition of a ‘crime’?”[updat[featuredcomment]misshusseinmolly Says: “Is Mukasey expecting me to believe that ‘negative publicity’ is hampering the job search of any of these former Bushbots?

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When he can name ANYONE connected with this administration whose life or career has been ruined by “negative publicity”, I might give that theory some credence. However, it seems that everybody has gone on to cushy lobbying jobs, consultants in the private sector, and even media jobs.”[/featuredcomment]