Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Miers and Renzi

Ah, the old case gets more interesting...

In the House Judiciary investigation into the U.S. Attorney firings, Harriet Miers admitted to her role in helping re-elect Rick Renzi by hiding the corruption investigation of him:

It's just days before the mid-term elections, and you're sitting in the White House watching a close Congressional race when it bubbles up that the the Republican incumbent, long dogged by corruption rumors, is under federal investigation.

That's the situation the Bush White House found itself in when it was reported in late October 2006, first on blogs, that U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton was investigating Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ).

And that's when the damage control machine kicked into gear.

Scott Jennings, deputy to Karl Rove, and White House Counsel Harriet Miers intervened to try to get the Justice Department to throw cold water on the reports of an investigation, despite the DOJ's policy not to confirm or deny the existence of ongoing probes, according to e-mails released by the House Judiciary Committee today. (Read them here.)

In the two days following Miers and Jennings' emails, articles appeared in the press quoting DOJ officials saying the investigation was in "preliminary stage" -- which it was not.

One piece in the Arizona Republic, speculating that the news about the
investigation was politically-motivated, quoted a DOJ official: "I want to caution you not to chop this guy's (Renzi's) head off." That's the type of statement that surely helped Renzi in the heated days before the election.

Renzi went on to win reelection, but was indicted on wide-ranging corruption charges in April 2008. The case is still pending.

The Jennings/Miers e-mails make for rich reading. On October 24, Jennings wrote, under the subject "re: our call":

"The person I called you about [Renzi] said the USATTY in his area, as well as the local FBI office, said they were unaware of any investigation."

Miers replied, describing how she intervened to pressure the DOJ on its public stance:

Scott, I just finished speaking with [Deputy AG] Paul McNulty. He said what we suspected he would. He has been contacted by a number of frustrated members of the Congress asking why people can't be vindicated in the event nothing is going on. He acknowledged that the situation is frustrating, but reiterated their position that they cannot confirm or deny the existence of an investigation. He said the AG did an interview last week to put things in as good as a perspective as possible by explaining that no one should be talking and that a refusal to deny should be given no meaning beyond that Justice does not admit or deny the existence of an investigation. I observed that at some point, immediately preceding an election, unattributed statements about the existence of an investigation was rankly unfair. He is continuing to think about the situation, but I did not get a lot of encouragement that they will deviate from normal course.

In other words: despite being told it was DOJ policy not to confirm or deny the existence of an investigation, Miers asked Paul McNulty, the deputy attorney general, to knock down the reports of a probe. But she "did not get a lot of encouragement that they will deviate from normal course."

In the next two days, the articles citing anonymous DOJ officials appeared, falsely reporting the probe was in early stages. It's still not known who made those leaks and whether anyone directed them to do it.

Renzi's corruption investigation was kept hidden until after the election for political reasons, a classic example of how the shrub administration operated (read the whole article for a lot more juicy details). Paul Charlton was fired in the Attorney purge, in hopes of killing the investigation of Renzi, and it almost worked. But Mr. Corruption's trial is scheduled for next month. I wonder if Harriet will be called to testify? That certainly could be worth watching.

And, (in keeping with the Pygalgia tradition with all things Renzi), Mr. Renzi, here's your pig:

(And read all about sleazy Karl Rove's roll in it all here:,0,6512321.story, here: Raw Story, here: NYTimes, and The full interview transcripts and documents can be found here.)

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