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Kennedy Questions Scott Jennings on Attorney General Firings

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC


Today's assertion of executive privilege by Karl Rove and Scott Jennings continues the White House's shameful stonewalling of any investigation by Congress of the Administration's corruption of the rule of law. The Committee has interviewed and taken testimony from dozens of witnesses and reviewed thousands of documents in an effort to learn more about the improper actions in firing U.S. Attorneys.

What we have learned is disturbing. Plainly, partisan motivations heavily influenced these decisions, and equally plainly, the White House was involved. Testimony and documents demonstrate that the White House Counsel's office and the White House Political Office were in frequent communication with officials of the Department of Justice over the firings, both before and after they took place.

The Committee's investigation has already revealed a stunning politicization of the Department of Justice. The former head of the Civil Rights Division acknowledged boasting of hiring Republicans as career lawyers. He even moved minority women out of the Appellate Section to make way for what he called "good Americans."

Monica Goodling admitted she "crossed the line" by using partisan considerations in selecting immigration judges and career Assistant U.S. Attorneys.

Career attorneys complained that the candidates they had picked for job interviews were subjected to internet searches to weed out any who had Democratic or liberal credentials. The result of this despicable partisanship is obvious on the Department's abysmal record on civil rights and its disregard for the rule of law to justify warrantless wiretapping, its abuse of habeas corpus, and even its acceptance of torture.

When Alberto Gonzales was nominated to become Attorney General, many of us in Congress doubted he would let go of his role as White House Counsel. He promised he understood the difference and would serve all of the people as Attorney General. That should have meant he agreed his primary allegiance would be to the rule of law. Instead partisan considerations have routinely tainted the Department of Justice. The investigation of the U.S. Attorney firings led directly to the White House and to Karl Rove and Scott Jennings.

Other agencies have been tainted too. After serving for a year in this White House John Dilulio said this: "There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus. What you've got is everything - and I mean everything - being run by the political arm. It's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis."

In agency after agency, this description has come true.

Attorney General Gonzales opened the door for Mr. Rove and Mr. Jennings to bring partisan politics to the administration of justice. They must not be allowed to hide their corruption of justice behind claims of executive privilege.

A common theme throughout these hearings has been the corruption of professional standards through partisan behavior. It is clear that the Administration has been willing to pursue partisan interests at the expense of professionalism to an unprecedented degree. To prevent against this type of behavior, Congress long ago enacted the Hatch Act, which prohibited federal employees from using their "official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election."

According to press reports, the Office of Special Counsel found "‘a sufficient amount of evidence'" to investigate possible White House violations of the Hatch Act. Part of this investigation involves a presentation you gave at GSA headquarters with the permission of the head of the GSA when she asked the attendees how they could, "help our candidates". On May 16, Doan was notified she had violated the Hatch Act. Six GSA employees have provided information about your GSA presentation.

How many such political briefings have you conducted for Executive Agencies and federal employees during your service in the White House? Do you create the substance of these briefings yourself? If not, who else is involved in these projects? Were you aware of the Hatch Act prohibitions against political activity? Did you ever question whether this type of briefing violated the Act's prohibitions?

As the Deputy Director of the Office of Political Affairs, did you ever seek clearance for these briefings. If so, from whom? Please briefly describe the elements of the briefing. Did you discuss specific candidates? Did you discuss specific congressional districts? Did you advise attendees on how to elect Republican candidates and advance Republican issues?

In hindsight, do you think that the question by the head of the GSA about how federal employees could help candidates was appropriate? Did you answer the question? If so, what did you say? Have you had similar exchanges at other briefings in federal buildings?

What was your understanding of the purpose of these briefings? As a former state campaign manager for President Bush and a number of Republican candidates, did you feel that your briefings would help elect Republican candidates? If not, what did you hope the briefings would achieve? What other purpose beyond overt political activity could these briefings possibly serve?

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