Republican staffers on the 9-11 Commission are looking for a way to place commission member Jamie Gorelick before the body she sits on to explain the Clinton Justice Department's seeming lack of interest in counter-terrorism activities.
According to a Republican commission staffer, some are outraged at the continued leaks by Democrats on the commission, which are being coordinated to embarrass upcoming members of the Bush Administration set to testify before the commission.
The latest example was a memo from the spring of 2001 issued by the Department of Justice, with newly confirmed Attorney General John Ashcroft signing off on it. Ashcroft is scheduled to testify on Tuesday, April 13th. The memo, according to Democratic 9-11 staffers who leaked it late last week, shows that the Bush Justice Department did not have terrorism on their list of seven top priorities, which included corporate fraud prosecutions and civil rights protections.
What the Democratic staffers fail to mention is that those priorities were set by outgoing Attorney General Janet Reno, and reflect priorities that were put in place by former Deputy Attorney General Gorelick in her time at the Department.
"[Gorelick] knows better than anyone about what was going on at Justice in the later days of the Clinton Administration. She had close ties there," says the staffer. "In closed-door meetings she has defended the Clinton people. How can they claim that Ashcroft and his people could do much of anything six weeks into moving into the building?"
For months, Republican staffers have been warning the White House and Senate leadership about the Democratic political operatives on the 9-11 Commission, and their plans for election-year games with the fact-finding on the terrorist attacks. Yet the White House has been seemingly surprised by how politically charged the hearings have been.
Now Republican staffers would like to play some politics as well.
"Gorelick should be testifying during these hearings; she should not be up there creating the appearance she played no role in what happened on 9-11, because she definitely did," says the staffer. "The Clinton folks had eight years to do something about Bin Laden. They did nothing. The Bush people had eight months. You'd think judging by the hearings that it was the other way around. We have to hit back."