24 July 2005

Mind the Gap

NOTE: Posting will be a bit less regular these
next few weeks, as I am in the process of
moving across the country.

As you may have noticed, the Rove/Plame
investigation has been on the front burner
for a few weeks now. I hope to return to
some lighter subjects in the near future
(and also feature more contributions from
other cheesy writers around the globe). But I
must admit I find the whole affair endlessly
fascinating (and more than a little important).
So if it's not your cup of tea, read no further.

This week, two more characters have been
added to the cast of this political thriller:
White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card
and former White House counsel Alberto
Gonzales (now U.S. Attorney General).

Frank Rich writes in today's New York Times:

As White House counsel, [Gonzales] was the one
first notified that the Justice Department,
at the request of the C.I.A., had opened an
investigation into the outing of Joseph Wilson's
wife. That notification came at 8:30 p.m.
on Sept. 29, 2003, but it took Mr. Gonzales
12 more hours to inform the White House staff
that it must "preserve all materials" relevant to
the investigation.

On this morning's Face The Nation, Bob Schieffer
asked Gonzales why he waited so long to inform
the White House of the investigation:

Mr. GONZALES: When I was the counsel, it
was always my practice to work very, very
closely and carefully with investigators and
to seek permission with respect to every step
that I took with respect to an investigation.
In this particular case, we were notified by
the Department of Justice late one evening.
I guess it was about 8:00. And I specifically
had our lawyers go back to the Department
of Justice lawyers and ask them, 'Do you want
us to notify the staff now, immediately, or
would it be OK to notify the staff early in the
morning?' And we were advised, 'Go ahead
and notify the staff early in the morning.
That would be OK.' And again, most of the
staff had gone home. No one knew about
the investigation. And we made...

SCHIEFFER: Well, let me just ask you the
obvious question, Mr. Attorney General. Did
you tell anybody at the White House, 'Get
ready for this, here it comes'?

Mr. GONZALES: I told one person in the
White House that--of the notification and...


Mr. GONZALES: ...then immediately--I told
the chief of staff. And then immediately the
next morning, I told the president. And
shortly thereafter, there was a notification
sent out to all the members of the White
House staff.

So Andrew Card got the heads-up a full 12 hours
before the White House was formally instructed
to "preserve all materials" related to the case.

Back to Frank Rich:

This 12-hour delay, [Gonzales] has said,
was sanctioned by the Justice Department,
but since the department was then run by
John Ashcroft, a Bush loyalist who refused
to recuse himself from the Plame case,
inquiring Senate Democrats would examine
this 12-hour delay as closely as an 18½-minute
tape gap. "Every good prosecutor knows that
any delay could give a culprit time to destroy
the evidence," said Senator Charles Schumer,
correctly, back when the missing 12 hours was
first revealed almost two years ago.

And now that Gonzales has admitted to informing
Andrew Card in advance, Democrats have some
more questions they'd like to see answered.
Senator Joe Biden was the next guest on Face The
Nation and had this to say:

Senator JOSEPH BIDEN: Well, it raises a lot
of questions. I don't doubt the attorney
general's sincerity. But it does seem to me it
wasn't the soundest in judgments. There's
been a real inertia at the White House to look
into this to begin with, number one. And
number two, the real question now is who
did the chief of staff speak to? Did the chief
of staff pick up the phone and call Karl Rove?
Did the chief of staff pick up the phone and
call anybody else? Ordinarily, you would
think that he would immediately send out
an e-mail to every member of the staff and
say--you know, you don't have to call them.
Every of those staff members carries around
a BlackBerry and--send an e-mail saying
'Boom.' But I'm sure what's going to happen
now isthe investigators will take a look at--
to see who, in fact, the chief of staff spoke to.