Monday, April 02, 2007

It's like Deja Vu all over again

Balkinazation:Accountability and the Renegade Executive
......Gonzales also gave the go-ahead for surveillance that violated FISA, a federal criminal statute. Indeed, Newsweek gave us a fascinating insider's account of how all this went down at Justice. Then Attorney General John Ashcroft was out in the hospital for a gallbladder operation. James Comey, his deputy, said "no," he couldn't possibly authorize this. Neither, apparently, would Jack Goldsmith, the man responsible for the Attorney General's legal opinions. Gonzales had to find alternative means to get this through. And in short order Ashcroft, Comey and Goldsmith were gone from Justice and Gonzales arrived with a new team of enablers......

Wikipedia: Saturday Night Massacre
[Special Prosecutor Archibald] Cox had been appointed by [Attorney General Elliot] Richardson in May of that year, after having given assurances to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he would appoint an independent counsel to investigate the events surrounding the Watergate break-in of June 17, 1972. Cox subsequently issued a subpoena to President Nixon, asking for copies of taped conversations recorded in the Oval Office and authorized by the Nixon, as evidence. The president initially refused to comply with the subpoena, but on October 19, 1973, he offered what was later known as the Stennis Compromise – asking U.S. Senator John C. Stennis to review and summarize the tapes for the special prosecutor's office.

Cox refused the compromise that same evening, and it was believed that there would be a short rest in the legal maneuvering while government offices were closed for the weekend. However, President Nixon acted to dismiss Cox from his office the next night – a Saturday. He contacted Attorney General Richardson and ordered him to fire the special prosecutor. Richardson refused, and instead resigned in protest. Nixon then ordered Deputy Attorney General Ruckelshaus to fire Cox; he, too, refused and was fired by Nixon.

Nixon then contacted the Solicitor General, Robert Bork, and ordered him as acting head of the Justice Department to fire Cox. Richardson and Ruckelshaus had both personally assured the congressional committee overseeing the special prosecutor investigation that they would not interfere – Bork had made no such assurance to the committee. The thus unencumbered future Supreme Court nominee complied with Nixon's order and fired Cox.

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