A Quiet Department of Justice
by Jonathan Singer, Thu Oct 30, 2008 at 11:35:52 AM EDT
Josh Marshall writes under the headline "Ain't Like the Old Days":
A few days back President Bush 'requested' that the Justice Department intervene in the vote challenge dispute in Ohio. This is after Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner won the dispute in the courts. Now comes word that the DOJ will likely to pass on the president's suggestion.
Chalk this up as a major win for the Obama legal team. Earlier this month campaign counsel Bob Bauer fired off two separate letters to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who, although at least as conservative as Alberto Gonzales, seems to have the sense of history not to want to be remembered as another in a line of stooges for George W. Bush who abused the criminal justice system to suit the needs of the Republican Party. Here's a portion of one of the letters from Bauer (who, for the purposes of disclosure, I worked for this summer):
In the light of an emerging pattern of apparent unlawful coordination between the McCain campaign and the Department of Justice and state law enforcement agencies controlled by Republican officials, the most recent and outrageous example of which is noted below, other steps beyond those urged in the October 17 letter are urgently needed. While an investigation by Special Prosecutor Dannehy is necessary, it is not sufficient. Her jurisdiction extends only to violations of federal criminal law. She has no power either to investigate and remedy past violations of Department policies, or to proect against misuse of the Department for partisan political "attack" purposes between now and Election Day.
Accordingly, I am writing now to ask (a) that the Inspector General and the Office of Professional Responsibility investigate what appear to be substantial violations of Department of Justice policy in connection with the so-called "election fraud" investigations and (b) that you personally take steps to ensure that all relevant Department of Justice policies are followed and that the Department is not misused for partisan purposes.
These actions, and nothing less, are required to restore public confidence that the Department of Justice will honor its traditions and avoid further embroilment in this unethical and illegal misuse of law enforcement authority to serve partisan political ends.
Citing hard law and appealing to this apparent historical understanding, the Obama camp was able to shine a light on the process. In doing so, they boxed Mukasey in such a way that it would have been extremely difficult for him to use the levers of power in the Justice Department to harangue potentially Democratic voters and otherwise make more arduous Obama's path to the White House. It was no coincidence, then, that we haven't heard of the DOJ playing the types of tricks for which it has become so famous during the Bush era -- raising the specter of voter fraud, playing politics with the U.S. Attorneys. So kudos to the Obama campaign and legal team for being on top of the ball and having a clear strategy to push back on any attempts to unfairly game the system.