LEAKING AND PLOTTING
As another Department of Justice paper dump related to the botched firings of eight U.S. Attorneys takes place on Capitol Hill today, it is becoming increasingly clear that Department of Justice insiders have been using the controversy to perpetrate what some Bush Administration loyalists are calling a "coup." Those activities appear to be occurring in the offices of the Deputy Attorney General and the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys.
According to Senate Judiciary sources, committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy has asked his Democratic attorneys to examine whether Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty's chief of staff, Michael J. Elston -- by calling one of the outgoing U.S. Attorneys and discouraging him from speaking too negatively about the events -- might have attempted to obstruct the House and Senate's investigations of the U.S. Attorney firings. Elston has disputed that the calls were threatening.
The Republican staff on the Senate Judiciary Committee, meanwhile, is looking into improper sharing of Department of Justice personnel records by career DOJ employees with members of the legal community.
"We've seen evidence that some state and federal judges with ties to the Democrat Party were given personnel and performance review materials about certain U.S. Attorneys across the country," says a Judiciary Committee staffer. "Some of the review materials were never seen by the Attorney General and his staff, but were reviewed within the Deputy Attorney General's office, as well as by professional staff at the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys. [The leaks were] clearly part of a campaign to embarrass the U.S. Attorneys."
Meanwhile, The American Spectator has learned that members of McNulty's staff are supporting the possible nomination to one of the vacant U.S. Attorney slots of a former government lawyer who had an affair with a colleague and now resides with not one, but two women in what some in the DAG's office have termed a "tri-sexual" relationship.
"That residential situation would be adjusted if the name was put forward," says someone familiar with the thinking in McNulty's office.
The White House continues to struggle with the ongoing controversy over the Department of Justice's decision to push out eight U.S. Attorneys last December, in part because of leaks that continue over at the Department of Justice.
"Judge [Alberto] Gonzales is not being well served by people in senior positions over there, who perhaps see an opportunity to push him out the door to create opportunities for others," says a White House source.
When asked to be specific, the source declined, but others inside the White House and the DOJ suspect that the staff of Deputy Attorney General McNulty has been the most active, anti-Gonzales leakers in the past week.
"McNulty's crew has been pretty confident that they aren't going to get taken down in this whole mess. They have been acting downright cocky with me," says a reporter who works out of the Justice Department.
The White House has complained to the Justice Department about the release of documents and e-mails it has not seen or been made aware of. "Reporters are asking about things we've never seen," says another White House source. "It's just drip, drip, drip, and it's clearly an organized leaking effort."
Sources familiar with the staff of the Deputy Attorney General say its members believe he is in line to replace Gonzales as Attorney General at least on an interim basis, but that McNulty wants the job permanently.
"What's interesting is that when you look at the e-mail traffic from [former Gonzales chief of staff] Kyle Sampson on the plans to remove some U.S. Attorneys, McNulty is cc'd on a few of them. He clearly knew what was going on," says a Republican Senate Judiciary staffer. "We wonder why the media is giving him a break."
Besides Sampson, some who weren't given a break, and should have been, are senior Gonzales aide Monica Goodling and EOUSA director and former U.S. Attorney Michael Battle.
"There is not a single bit of evidence, not even a whiff, that any of them did anything illegal, improper or even wrong," says a Democrat staffer on the House Judiciary Committee, who knows Sampson and Goodling. "We feel bad for them that they're caught up in a political pile-on. You'd think the White House or Gonzales would give them some support."
Lost in the fog of battle is that Sampson walked the White House away from the notion of asking all 93 U.S. Attorneys to submit their resignations. While Goodling appears to have done nothing more than find -- at the request of the White House and the Attorney General's office -- a transition post for U.S. Attorney designate Tim Griffin, and to meet with New Mexico Republican Party officials on a matter she was not informed of in advance, according to e-mail released by the House Judiciary Committee.
Former Governor Mitt Romney, who insists he is a Reagan Republican, is attempting to further burnish that self-imposed mantle by hiring former Reagan Administration speechwriter Peggy Noonan, according to campaign insiders.
Noonan, according to Romney sources, has spent time in Boston with Romney, and around the time of such a meeting published a column in the Wall Street Journal examining one of Romney's chief rivals for the Republican nomination, Sen. John McCain.
Noonan and Romney haven't discussed a job, according to the sources. Thus far, it has been Romney ruminating about the need to bulk up on talent in every area. "We don't know if Noonan is interested, but we're interested in her," says a fundraiser with ties to the Romney camp. "I heard the meeting went well."
The Noonan hire would be but another shakeup in Romney's ranks in the past few weeks. Already, Romney has adjusted his national field operations, as well as his finance team. There is also talk that the campaign is attempting to tweak its policy positions, holding brainstorming sessions in Washington last week with a diverse group of lobbyists and former Bush and Reagan Administration staffers.
WHO'S AFRAID OF FRED?
Pajamas Media likes to portray itself as a cutting edge online media resource. So why isn't it including Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson in its weekly presidential poll? That's what one blogger keeps asking, with nary and answer from the "Inside the Beltway" PJs crowd.
The blogger, PeteRepublic, has pulled the PJ online vote widget from his site in protest over the PJ Media decision to not include Thompson, an undeclared candidate who is the talk of conservatives and Republicans. Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich, also undeclared, is being touted in the poll. Odd.
Thompson appears to be going about his business -- being the most successful New York City District Attorney in history (we're talking about at least a 98% conviction record here, folks) on Law & Order, as well as the "voice of reason" on ABC Radio.
Meanwhile, the "Draft Fred Thompson for President" campaign seems to be taking on a life of its own. A late-Friday poll on the popular conservative blog site, RedState, shows that 75% of respondents support a Fred Thompson run for the presidency. A separate poll organized by an unauthorized "Draft Fred" website has collected more than a 100,000 respondents, again, with more than 70% supporting a Fred Thompson run. Yet another poll on GOPNation, has Thompson well ahead of all other Republican nominees.
On Friday, Sen. Bill Frist, sent an e-mail to supporters of his political action committee, VOLPAC, saying that he had spoken with Thompson on Thursday night and encouraged him to run. Thompson has not publicly commented on any of these activities, beyond his general comments on Fox News Sunday and the Sean Hannity radio show that he is mulling a run.
"What's interesting about all of this is how organic and spontaneous it appears to be," says a source who works on a Republican presidential campaign. "The media keeps saying there is dissatisfaction with the current crop of candidates, and this Thompson boomlet would appear to confirm that."
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