Post-Gonzales

Posted September 5, 2007 at 6:45pm

With Attorney General Alberto Gonzales heading for the door, Democrats are setting about scrubbing his legacy from the department that they claim he mismanaged and demoralized. [IMGCAP(1)]

Case in point: On Thursday the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on a bill to limit the number of people in the White House who can be briefed by Justice on pending criminal matters. A 2002 memo from then-AG John Ashcroft set out guidelines for who could be briefed — mostly the president, vice president, national security adviser, secretary of Homeland Security and their top staffers — but a 2006 revision under Gonzales’ signature significantly expanded the field to include the Office of Management and Budget and “the head of any office” within the Executive Office of the President.

At a July 24 hearing, Judiciary member Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) warned that the new policy exacerbated the “potential for the infiltration of political influence into the department.” Gonzales seemed baffled by the memo bearing his signature and acknowledged that under those guidelines, “I would be concerned about inappropriate access to ongoing investigations. … I think it’s something that we ought to rethink.”

Democrats have rethought it for him and plan to move S. 1845, a bill that would limit those briefings to the president, a few top advisers and the vice president. Any expansion of this universe would be permissible, but the White House would be required to notify the House and Senate Judiciary committees of who was being added to the list and why.

Another Subpoena. One day after Rep. John Doolittle’s (R-Calif.) top two aides revealed that they had been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury, Alisha Perkins, Doolittle’s office manager, told the chamber Wednesday that she too had been called by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to give testimony.

The subpoenas are part of the Justice Department’s ongoing probe into Doolittle’s ties to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Federal investigators have also spoken to several former Doolittle aides, and the lawmaker has said he welcomes the subpoenas and hopes the probe will be wrapped up soon.

Union Probe. The induction of a new executive board for the Capitol Police Labor Committee has been postponed because of the possibility of unethical behavior in last week’s elections, outgoing Chairman Andy Maybo said Wednesday.

Maybo declined to discuss the matter further, except to say that the union will certify the election as soon as possible. However, in an e-mail to members, he announced that the union launched an investigation after “numerous” protests from some candidates. Former union Chairman J. Creekmur will serve lead the investigating committee, according to the e-mail. Until the probe is complete, the current executive board will stay in place.

— Paul Singer, Ben Pershing and Emily Yehle