Over the weekend, NPR’s Daniel Schorr observed that Attorney General Michael Mukasey’s initiation of a criminal investigation into the destruction of CIA interrogation tapes may have a silver lining for President Bush by allowing him to dodge questions about the tapes using the excuse of a pending investigation. Schorr stressed, however, that Congressional investigations into these activities may put political pressure on the White House. In an observation that raises questions about Mukasey’s willingness to cooperate with Congressional oversight efforts, Schorr said that the Attorney General’s handling of the CIA tape investigation conjures up memories of Watergate. It may be too soon to say definitely that Mukasey’s lack of cooperation with Congress since his confirmation more than two months signals that his tenure at the Justice Department will be “more of the same” from the Bush administration, but it is fair to continue efforts that monitor the Justice Department and hold the Attorney General accountable for the promises he made during his confirmation hearing.
For example, at the beginning of his tenure, Mukasey delivered on his promise to strictly limit the number of DOJ officers who could engage in conversations with politicians regarding DOJ business. Unfortunately, that is the only promise he has fulfilled since his confirmation. In the coming weeks and months, we must work to ensure the Attorney General delivers on a number of other promises he made, including:
Will he provide Congress, or the public, with the results of his review of opinions issued by DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel that endorsed torture?
Will he respond to a long-standing request from the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee for information regarding DOJ investigation of the jamming of New Hampshire Democratic Phone lines on election day in 2002 by Republican party operatives?
Will he respond to Congressman Henry Waxman's December 3, 2007 request – renewed on December 18 -- that he provide the House Committee on Oversight and Reform with transcripts of interviews of President Bush, Vice President Cheney and other White House officials conducted by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald in his investigation of the public disclosure of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity, even though President Bush’s pardon of Scooter Libby means that Fitzgerald’s investigation is over?
The jury is still out on how these and other issues will ultimately be resolved under Mukasey’s leadership, but one thing is for certain – the American people deserve an Attorney General who puts the law above party loyalties. Schorr reminded us in his report that it was Congress – not the Department of Justice – that played a vigorous role in bringing to light President Nixon’s crimes. The question now is whether history will repeat itself.
Read more on AFJ's website.