Noose Tightens on the Bush Bunker Crew
By Bernard Weiner,
The Crisis Papers
April 17, 2007
As the Bush Administration stumbles from one disaster, scandal and
corruption investigation into another, the looming political/legal noose
continues moving closer to the necks of Bush, Cheney, Rove, Gonzales and
the rest of the White House bunker crew.
Let's start off with the Constant Disaster:
"SURGING" TO CATASTROPHE
Despite the illusionary bloviating from McCain and Cheney about how well
the expanding war-escalation is going in Iraq, the true depths of Bush's
military fiasco abroad can be understood not only by journalists'
detailed reports in-country, but also from news gleaned elsewhere. Such
At least three four-star generals have
refused Bush's offer of serving as the "war czar" over the
conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. See
Question: Don't we have a Commander-in-Chief, Secretary of Defense,
and General Petraeus for those jobs? Why another level of
decision-making? The only reasonable explanations: Under CheneyBush,
there is no workable policy and nobody who can make a square peg fit
into a round hole; Cheney, Bush and Rove don't fully trust Bob
Gates; a "war czar" would provide somebody else for CheneyBush to
blame for the disasters they have initiated.
West Point graduates are seeking employment outside
the military/war zones. No sane up-and-coming young officer wants
anything to do with the Administration's reckless imperialism. See
There is increasing
open-opposition to the CheneyBush war policies inside the military
by serving troops and officers, as there has been for years
within the Pentagon and even among the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The extension of soldiers' tour of Iraq duty by
three months, and the dispatching of 13,000 National Guard troops
stirring up even more anger and resentment by those brave
warriors and their put-upon families at home.
The poll ratings of Bush and the Republicans with
regard to Iraq are not rising; indeed, in some polls, they are
sinking even lower as the situation deteriorates. As the 2008
election draws nearer, Republicans will be running at full speed
away from association with CheneyBush and their disastrous war
policies. Those GOPers want to keep their jobs, and they see where
the American people are on this war and how the Democrats are
benefiting from that sense of anger and revulsion at the Bush
THE "LOST" WHITE HOUSE E-MAILS
The "missing" e-mails scandal, which overlaps with the more-developed
one involving the fired U.S. Attorneys, is growing and threatens to take
down a whole lot of high-level Administration officials, not the least
of whom is Karl Rove.
We don't yet know what might be learned from the so-called "lost"
e-mails, but even the little we do know helps fill in the informational
The CheneyBush Administration, from the get-go, has been the most
secretive of any regime in the nation's history. (For a good primer,
read John W. Dean's
Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush." There's
the public facade of this Administration, which the Washington press
corps covers, and then there's the real government, hidden from public
view and conducted in utmost secrecy. By and large, Rove runs the
domestic secret government, and Cheney the secret foreign
HIDING ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS
When CheneyBush were moved into the White House in 2001, they had about
two dozen of their key officials and aides use laptops and Blackberries
and e-mail servers provided by the Republican National Committee. This
was partly to help preserve their deepest secrets but also because they
saw the trouble Clinton and his associates got into by using only
government-issued communications equipment and servers.
This way, if the Bush Administration ever had to supply information to
the relevant oversight committees of Congress, they could truthfully say
they would turn over all official White House e-mails, computer
hard-drives and documents and so on. Since nobody would have asked them
for RNC data (since nobody would know about that hidden channel of
communication), they figured they'd never get caught.
But the law, as codified in the Presidential Records Act, is more
precise about what information must be preserved and turned over, if
Here's the wording of the law about e-mail retention:
"Federal law requires the preservation of
electronic communications sent or received by White House staff...
The official EOP [Executive Office of the President] e-mail system
is designed to automatically comply with records management
requirements. ... Personnel working on behalf of the EOP are
expected to use only government-provided e-mail services for all
To repeat, the law covers not only White House-generated
e-mails and such but all e-mails and text-messages received by
White House staff.
One can imagine that Rove and his minions felt trapped. If they turned
over a complete record of electronic communications received, they would
be revealing all sorts of possibly illegal activities about a wide
variety of scandals, including the explosive U.S. Attorneys one.
"THE DOG ATE MY HOMEWORK"
Suddenly, potentially vital documents are reported "missing" and may not
be retrievable. And Rove appears to be one of the major deleters of
these electronic communications. (His lawyer says whatever deletions of
e-mails he may have made were inadvertent, since he believed that the
RNC maintained a full archive. However, Rove's e-mails were treated as a
quite separate entity by the RNC, and he'd been warned by Special
Prosecutor Fitzgerald two years ago to make sure to save all his
Now, why Rove would assume it was someone else's job to save those
communications is belied by his
also having been warned in 2001 that all White House employees "were
cautioned in employee manuals, memos and briefings to carefully save any
e-mails that might discuss official matters even if those messages came
from private e-mail accounts." Rove would have been required to sign a
document acknowledging he had received and read the warning-form.
Tom Hamburger's Los Angeles Times story goes on to say that the
"documents included a memorandum from then-White House General Counsel
Alberto R. Gonzales, who is now attorney general, cautioning employees
that 'any e-mail relating to official business' qualifies as a
presidential record. The instructions dwell on the importance of
separating political from official acts. But they also explain that all
e-mail sent 'to your official account is automatically archived as if it
were a presidential record'."
But there are no Rove e-mails for at least the past four years.
Quelle coincidence! No wonder Patrick Leahy, chair of the Senate
Judiciary Committee, exploded that this "the dog ate my homework" excuse
won't fly. He said that e-mails are indeed retrievable on some server or
another. What he didn't add was: unless they've been deliberately wiped
clean. (Leahy and various pundits said the missing Rove tapes reminded
them of the mysterious 18-minute gap on one of Nixon's key tapes dealing
with the Watergate coverup.)
It's a bit early to make definitive judgments here, since nobody knows
for certain if and when those missing e-mails might be located. My guess
is that a good many will be found on some server, but (surprise!) not
the ones with evidence on it that could incriminate Rove. But I'd be
happy to be proved wrong.
UNFOLDING U.S. ATTORNEYS SCANDAL
Gonzales is scheduled to testify to Congress this week. I would not want
to be in his shoes, especially if the Democrats stop their
ego-grandstanding and refuse to let him provide evasive answers, which
is his usual M.O.
The lies about the U.S. Attorneys scandal that he told under oath
provide plenty of ammunition for possible perjury and
You'll recall that when Gonzo was first questioned about the attorneys
situation, he told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he would "never,
ever" use political criteria when assessing U.S. Attorneys' right to
remain in their posts. When questioned later by the press about his role
in the unfolding scandal of U.S. Attorneys fired for partisan reasons,
Gonzales claimed that he was almost entirely out of the loop when it
came to the firings and replacements. Moi?
Since that time, documents have been located that contradict Gonzo's
statements and make it plain that he was up to his eyeballs in partisan
maneuvering to replace certain U.S. Attorneys with more malleable types.
Those U.S. Attorneys who wouldn't necessarily do their political bidding
(mainly dealing with indicting Democrats for alleged "voter fraud" and
looking the other way when Republicans faced possible legal action),
were to be let go and replaced with "loyal Bushies," to use the term
from Kyle Sampson's e-mail to him.
Sampson, Gonzales' chief of staff, claimed in his Senate testimony that
no replacements were considered prior to the firings. But documents have
surfaced revealing that he began compiling a list of U.S. Attorneys ripe
for firing and their possible replacements
a full year before the U.S. attorneys were eased out.
Even more damning, there was an e-mail from Gonzales' assistant Monica
Goodling to two key DOJ officials:
is the chart that the AG requested," with a grid listing the U.S.
Attorneys' political and ideological persuasions, including whether they
were members of the rightwing Federalist Society, much in favor in the
White House for judicial appointments and other employment.
Now, John Conyers, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, wants to see
the RNC e-mails relating to the U.S. Attorneys firings. However, even
though these e-mails supposedly are "private" rather than official White
House communications, the Administration (surprise!) is claiming
"executive privilege" to keep them secret. No wonder,
is now directly implicated in the scandal.
THE "WHITE HOUSE HORRORS"
The reason why the Bush Administration is trying so hard to avoid
testimony under oath before Congress is that once one thread is pulled
out in an investigation, another one gets noticed and needs to be
probed, and pretty soon all sorts of ugly, hidden crimes are out there
for all to see. That way lies impeachment and conviction, and with them
the loss of the protections that go with power. And thus the
Administration must engage in elaborate cover-ups to keep the truth away
from the light of day.
In President Richard Nixon's Watergate travails in the early-1970s, the
fear of the Administration was that the Senate investigation of the
bugging and break-in of Democratic Headquarters would unravel the
various threads leading to what Attorney General John Mitchell termed
"the White House horrors" -- i.e., all the other felonies committed,
including slush funds to bribe witnesses for their silence, break-ins at
doctors' offices, plots and conspiracies to kidnap and maybe even murder
When that assault on the Constitution and democratic government became
known and impeachment hearings were held in the House, Nixon resigned
before he could be tried in the Senate.
Certainly, Rove and Cheney and Gonzales and Bush understand the possible
consequences of the truth coming out in the various Administration
scandals. Just a few months ago, with a compliant Republican-controlled
Congress and a docile media, they didn't have to worry about legal
ramifications. Now, with bulldog Democrats like Leahy, Waxman, Conyers
and others in charge of the investigations, there is every likelihood
that the Bush Administration's own "White House Horrors" will be
uncovered, and impeachment hearings might likely follow.
O happy day!
Copyright 2007, by Bernard Weiner
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught
government & international relations at universities in California and
Washington, worked as a writer/editor at the San Francisco Chronicle for two
decades, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org).
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