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Sunday, August 07, 2005

Jeebus Do These People Actually Get Paid?

Michael Isikoff in Newsweek:
The departure this week of Deputy Attorney General James Comey, who has accepted the post of general counsel at Lockheed Martin, leaves a question mark in the probe into who leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Comey was the only official overseeing special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's leak investigation. With Attorney General Alberto Gonzales recused, department officials say they are still trying to resolve whom Fitzgerald will now report to. Associate Attorney General Robert McCallum is "likely" to be named as acting deputy A.G., a DOJ official who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter tells NEWSWEEK. But McCallum may be seen as having his own conflicts: he is an old friend of President Bush's and a member of his Skull and Bones class at Yale. One question: how much authority Comey's successor will have over Fitzgerald. When Comey appointed Fitzgerald in 2003, the deputy granted him extraordinary powers to act however he saw fit — but noted he still had the right to revoke Fitzgerald's authority.

(my emphasis)
It would lead one to believe that McCallum is going to be Comey's replacement. In fact, the Senate Judiciary Committee has already been holding confirmation hearings on Bush's nominee to replace Comey -- former Tyco attorney Timothy Flanigan. Whom Isikoff mentions - let's see, scan the page -- um, nowhere.

And the Committee Chairman, Arlen Specter, is reportedly not too happy with how cute Flanigan has been getting in his testimony. From Newsday, on July 28:
A peeved Sen. Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has hinted he might not support President George W. Bush's choice to serve as No. 2 man at the Justice Department if the nominee isn't more willing to allow lawmakers to look over his shoulder.

Specter (R-Pa.) said Tuesday that his backing for Timothy Flanigan, a former deputy White House counsel, would depend on his "understanding of oversight" as explained in written questions from the committee.

It's too early to tell if Specter's pique will jeopardize Flanigan's confirmation as deputy attorney general. A committee vote will follow Congress' return from its August recess.

But Specter's veiled threat underscores the frustration among some congressional Republicans at what they perceive as a continual stiff-arm from the Bush administration when it comes to looking closely at how the executive branch goes about its business, particularly regarding the war on terror.
Specter wanted to know about the Administration's opposition to the prohibition of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" of detainees and from hiding prisoners from the Red Cross:
Flanigan, 52, told Specter he believed that the administration and lawmakers could reach an informal understanding about how much congressional scrutiny of the Justice Department is appropriate.

"In the real world these things get worked out," Flanigan said.

But Flanigan demurred when Specter prodded him to agree to a detailed definition of what oversight would entail.

"I can't brush away two centuries' worth of experience in the executive branch," Flanigan said, referring to his belief that the president must zealously guard against too much supervision from Congress.
Like you thought what, he was going to be some surprise humanitarian?

According to Dan Froomkin, Flanigan may have conflicts of his own and not be able to take over Comey's oversight of Fitzgerald, in which case it might ultimately fall to McCallum, the number three man at the Justice Department. But according to comments made by Comey himself when he empowered Fitzgerald, the only power his supervisor has is to fire him.

As a side note, if Democrats pull a Karen Hughes redux and don't set their alarm clocks to question Flanigan about his potential conflicts of interest re: l'affair Plame, I may just shoot myself.

You can go back to your nap now, Mike.