Monday, October 24, 2005

Will Junior pull out the pardons and when will he do it?

How Did Patrick Fitzgerald Become the U.S. Attorney in Charge of the TreasonGate Investigation?

October 24, 2005


How did Patrick Fitzgerald become the U.S. Attorney in charge of prosecuting TreasonGate?

It's perhaps a good time to ask that question, as we will learn this week if there will be indictments and, if so, how many of them there will be.

How did an administration so good at establishing investigations and commissions that whitewashed its lies and incompetence end up with a prosecutor it doesn't seem able to squash like a bug? Heck, after turning FEMA over to hacks and acting dazed and confused as New Orleans citizens were literally dying for federal assistance, Bush appointed himself head of an investigation as to what went wrong!

BuzzFlash is in a good position to evaluate how Patrick Fitzgerald got to this point in perhaps holding the Busheviks accountable to the rule of law. Firstly, after David Corn of "The Nation" became the first columnist to write about the potential significance of the infamous Bob Novak outing of Valerie Plame, BuzzFlash became the first Internet website to start a drumbeat demanding accountability for endangering the national security of the United States. Secondly, BuzzFlash is located in Chicago, where Patrick Fitzgerald is still the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. (Yes, contrary to public perception, Fitzgerald is holding down two positions. He is still actively functioning as the U.S. Attorney in Chicago, in addition to his TreasonGate investigation.)

It may appear odd, but actually a maverick - although largely forgettable and ineffective - former Illinois Republican Senator, Patrick Fitzgerald (unrelated to Peter), is responsible for Fitzgerald's appointment in Illinois. The former senator (who we will call Patrick F. to avoid confusion) was at odds not only with Democrats but with the Republican Party in Illinois. He particularly squared off against then Republican Governor George Ryan (who is, ironically, now being tried for various felonies by Peter Fitzgerald).

When it came time for the Bush White House to sign off on a new U.S. Attorney for Chicago, they, as is the custom, deferred to the senior Republican senator from Illinois. Since Dick Durbin (the current Democratic Assistant Minority Leader) was the other senator, it fell to Patrick F. to make a recommendation.

Being a bit of a rebel, Patrick F. decided he wanted someone who would be professional, non-partisan and in no way connected to politics in Illinois. In order to achieve that, he looked out of state and found Patrick Fitzgerald, who had established a reputation as a tenacious, brilliant prosecutor in New York, with a lot of experience in convicting mobsters. (To this day Peter Fitzgerald won't disclose where he lives in the Windy City, because he is concerned that there are some gangland figures who might want to seek vengeance.)

The Republicans in Illinois - and some Democrats - weren't happy that Patrick F. was going out of state to bring in a new U.S. Attorney. Usually, the position went to someone local - and it was thought that the U.S. Attorney in Chicago, in general, stayed out of investigations of politicians in either party, unless the crimes were so flagrant and public that they had no choice but to pursue prosecution.

So, Patrick F. met with a bit of resistance, but ultimately prevailed. The White House apparently didn't see any red flags and probably thought that they had a good mob prosecutor on their hands - little did they know that they were going to be one of the mobs that he was going to end up investigating. So, ultimately, Peter Fitzgerald was appointed to his current Department of Justice post in Illinois by Bush. It is worth noting that whatever autonomy he has been granted, he still does ultimately report to the U.S. Attorney General: Bushevik crony Alberto Gonzales.

Now, here is where it gets a little murky. When Corn and then BuzzFlash first started calling for an investigation of Novak's outing of Valerie Plame, the White House did nothing. It was only after the CIA requested the Department of Justice to pursue an investigation under a formal process that exists when the CIA believes that one of its operatives has been compromised that John Ashcroft, then Attorney General, formally announced an investigation would be launched and that he would be responsible for it.

For many weeks, it appeared that the TreasonGate investigation would be just another Bushevik whitewash - and most certainly that is what Ashcroft had planned. But, for reasons that are still not publicly clear, it appears that some brave career attorneys in the DOJ confronted Ashcroft and told him that he had a conflict of interest in the investigation, in part because Karl Rove had helped him in his political campaigns in Missouri. But there is probably much more to the story that will come out at some time in the future. The Bush appointees have so many conflicts of interest in just about everything, it is hard to believe the Rove connection was enough to unleash Ashcroft from his assigned mission of one Friday quietly releasing a finding that no leaker was found and no one would be prosecuted.

Suffice it to say that Ashcroft was confronted with a situation that he couldn't blow off. It is possible that Ashcroft himself was found to have violated DOJ guidelines in pursuing the initial inquiry - and he had no choice but to recuse himself or become a subject of the investigation.

It was at that point that Fitzgerald was assigned by the DOJ to "independently" pursue the TreasonGate investigation. Other columnists have speculated that much of the damage Libby and Rove might have done to themselves occurred when they thought that Ashcroft was just going through the motions of another Bushevik whitewash - and they could lie with impunity.

But once the case got into the hands of Peter Fitzgerald, the son of a New York doorman, all bets were off. If the White House fired him, they knew that they would have another "Archibald Cox" Watergate scandal to deal with.

And Bush always has those pardons in his pocket, if the plea bargaining confessions start to rat George out. After all, his father saved his butt by pardoning the Iran-Contra felons and Caspar Weinberger, who could have sung quite a song about Poppy Bush's involvement with Iran-Contra.

So, it's been a long route from the initial lies about the Iraq War to the investigation of a Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney into treason, perjury, conspiracy and the obstruction of justice.

As for the availability of Peter Fitzgerald, you have an obscure former Republican Senator from Illinois, Patrick Fitzgerald, to thank for that.

Peter F., who had low polling ratings in Illinois and was reviled by his own party, chose not to run for re-election. Who won his vacant seat?

Barack Obama.


BuzzFlash Afternote: Of course, as BuzzFlash has noted before, Bush always has the option of pardoning any Bushevik, as his father did to prevent himself from being legally enmeshed in the scandal.

Here's the first part of an article from the archives about the Bush I pardons:


By Dian McDonald, USIA White House Correspondent Washington -- President Bush December 24 granted pardons to former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and five other individuals for their conduct related to the Iran-Contra affair.

Bush said Weinberger -- who had been scheduled to go on trial in Washington January 5 on charges related to Iran-Contra -- was a "true American patriot," who had served with "distinction" in a series of public positions since the late 1960s.

"I am pardoning him not just out of compassion or to spare a 75-year-old patriot the torment of lengthy and costly legal proceedings, but to make it possible for him to receive the honor he deserves for his extraordinary service to our country," Bush said in a proclamation granting executive clemency.

The president also pardoned five other persons who already had pleaded guilty or had been indicted or convicted in connection with the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages investigation. They were Elliott Abrams, a former assistant secretary of state for Inter-American affairs; former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane; and Duane Clarridge, Alan Fiers, and Clair George, all former employees of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Explaining those pardons, Bush said the "common denominator of their motivation -- whether their actions were right or wrong -- was patriotism." They did not profit or seek to profit from their conduct, Bush said, adding that all five "have already paid a price -- in depleted savings, lost careers, anguished families -- grossly disproportionate to any misdeeds or errors of judgment they may have committed."

Asked about the pardons at a news conference in Little Rock, Arkansas, later in the day, President-elect Clinton said he did not have all the details on the matter and would withhold comment until he had had a chance to study the president's statement and related information.

However, Clinton said he was concerned "by any action which sends a signal that, if you work for the government, you're above the law, or that not telling the truth to Congress under oath is somehow less serious than not telling the truth to some other body under oath."

It is important to emphasize George H.W. Bush pardoned Weinberger before he went to trial to make sure that he wasn't tempted to spill the beans on Daddy Bush.

Will we see a "two-peat"?


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