Special to The BRAD BLOG
by Greg Palast
Wednesday, May 16, 2006
“The wheels have come off, the engine is on fire and no one is driving,” Captain David Iglesias told me yesterday. I’d asked the Naval Reserve officer, heading off to duty in Norfolk, why he didn’t want his old job back, United States Attorney for New Mexico.
The busted, burning, ghost-mobile he described is the Department of Justice, driven by Alberto Gonzales. Or is Karl Rove at the wheel? Or no one? Whomever, he didn’t want to jump back into Bush’s Justice Jalopy.
Today, Iglesias is in Washington to pull the junker off the road, meeting with the Office of Special Counsel where Obstruction of Justice may be swirling around in the old oil pan laying on the garage floor.
The ex-prosecutor and I, long, long ago, had both worked for the Attorney General of New Mexico, a state where the snakes have less venom than the politicians.
First, there’s Senator Pete Domenici, whose hiss is as smooth as his bite is deadly.
Domenici, softball interviewer Chris Matthews notes, is a nice guy. On TV. However, the Republican Senator’s call to Iglesias at his home, just before the 2006 midterm election, asking the prosecutor about filing charges against Democrats in the week before the vote, was downright rude. When the prosecutor replied in the negative, the Senator hung up.
And apparently, the Senator contacted one Monica Goodling who, scribbled on a notepad: “Iglesias – Domenici says he doesn’t move cases.” Oops. Goodling, a political stooge working for Gonzales, was listing the reasons for firing US attorneys. Now, rudeness was no longer the issue. Firing a prosecutor for failing to “move cases” — handcuff citizens at the request of a Senator — is Obstruction of Justice.
No wonder Monica took The Fifth.
Of course, the Rove dogsbodies at Justice couldn’t tell Congress they fired Iglesias because he wouldn’t jump at the Senator’s rattle. They reached for another complaint on Monica’s list: “absentee landlord.” Deputy Assistant Attorney General Paul McNulty used absenteeism as the official reason for dismissal. McNulty’s resigned.
He should have taken The Fifth….
The problem is that the US Attorney from New Mexico was missing for 40 days because he was on active duty. I guess the White House gang doesn’t go to the movies. Iglesias is a celebrity Navy lawyer, the role model for Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men.
“Our ‘Mission Accomplished’ President attacked you for spending time in the US Naval Reserve?” I asked Iglesias…
“Appalling,” he said. And illegal. Firing a reserve officer for missing work for active duty violates the Uniform Services Employment Rights and Reemployment Act (USERRA).
Pressuring a prosecutor to bust Democrats and punishing a soldier for deploying are the little felonies, the warm-up crimes, in this caper.
The real crime is the one they are about to commit: The Theft of 2008.
Iglesias told me he was continually being pushed to bring “voter fraud” cases beginning in 2004. Unfortunately, Iglesias went along with the game, at least at the opening kick-off, holding a press conference just weeks before the Bush-Kerry race, announcing he was setting up a task force with the FBI to hunt down evil voters.
But there were none. “It was the old throwing pasta at the wall trick. Something’s got to stick. And it didn’t,” he said.
So Iglesias got the axe. “I didn’t help them out on their bogus voter fraud prosecutions.”
Notably, Iglesias has been signaling these cases were phony-baloney for two years. I got that word from his office in 2005 while reporting for BBC Television on what passes for elections in the USA. But the New Mexico and US press continued to hawk the Republican line that masses of illegal voters, especially illegal immigrants, were jamming the polling stations.
One thing the American media still has failed to do is to explain why the GOP wanted to bring these cases. In New Mexico, in Arizona, in Georgia and a dozen other states, Republicans were pushing laws requiring voters to have special ID. In 2004, at least a quarter million citizens lost their vote because they didn’t bring in the right ID. And which quarter million? Overwhelming, it was Black, Brown and “Blue” Americans.
Yet, despite this tidal wave of a quarter million “fraudulent” voters, not one was charged with a crime. Hmmm. Maybe they were innocent. If there’s no crime, there’s no need for a law to stop the crime. But Republicans don’t want to stop voter fraud — they want to stop voters.
Iglesias wouldn’t help them do it. He did the PR stunt — but he wouldn’t handcuff the innocent. Was he fired for that? His termination was ordered by Tim Griffin, Karl Rove’s right-hand hitman. Were Griffin and Rove punishing Iglesias for not bringing the fake cases?
Iglesias said, “If his intent was, look what happened with Iglesias, if that was his intent, he’s in big trouble. That is obstruction of justice, one classic example.”
Figuring out Rove’s intent requires crawling inside his head. That’s scary and difficult — unless you have his office’s “missing” emails. I have 500 of them. How I got them is another story. The key thing, as I was discussing with my fellow alum of the AG’s office, is to explain to a jury the perps’ mindset. And these emails show the mad fixation of Griffin and the Rove crew with eliminating voters of the wrong hue.
Most notable were the “caging” lists naming thousands of voters who lost their vote to GOP challenges, a large proportion of them soldiers sent overseas. Voting rights attorney and law professor Robert F., Kennedy Jr. reviewed the evidence we obtained and concluded, “They ought to be in jail for doing this” — Griffin and his boss Rove both — for violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
But who would bust them, Bobby? Alberto Gonzales?
Is Captain Iglesias just another serviceman “caged”?
And where is Griffin today? After Rove had the US Attorney for Arkansas fired, he replaced him with … Griffin. The perpetrator became the prosecutor.
And that’s the real crime: removing those who won’t conspire with the GOP bigs to push the voter ID con — and planting their Griffins, expert in election manipulation — in place for the 2008 race.
This week, I contacted the office of Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy about the Griffin appointment. They seemed oddly indifferent. Leahy’s aide said, “Well, Griffin’s just an interim appointee.”
True, Griffin has promised to leave — right after the 2008 election.
Prosecutor-gate is not about Gonzales’ incompetence. It’s not about appointing “loyal Bushies.” It’s not even about firing A Few Good Men.
It’s about the 2008 election and changing the Department of Justice — the agency charged with protecting voters — into an army of Rove-bots…programmed to attack them.
Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller, ARMED MADHOUSE : From Baghdad to New Orleans — Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild, on which this report is based, just out in a new edition. For more information, go to www.GregPalast.com