Attorney General Alberto Gonzales signed a highly confidential order in March 2006 delegating to two of his top aides ... extraordinary authority over the hiring and firing of most non-civil-service employees of the Justice Department. [Snip]This explains Gonzales' total lack of understanding of the process by which the U.S. Attorneys were fired on Pearl Harbor Day of 2006. Gonzales was establishing plausible deniability for himself. Then when he appeared before the Senate, he allowed himself to look like a total doofus rather than point to this letter delagating the authority to Sampson and Goodling. Looking like an idiot or an incompetent must have been easier than explaining why he signed this document.
In the order, Gonzales delegated to his then-chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, and his White House liaison "the authority, with the approval of the Attorney General, to take final action in matters pertaining to the appointment, employment, pay, separation, and general administration" of virtually all non-civil-service employees of the Justice Department, including all of the department's political appointees who do not require Senate confirmation. Monica Goodling became White House liaison in April 2006, the month after Gonzales signed the order.
The existence of the order suggests that a broad effort was under way by the White House to place politically and ideologically loyal appointees throughout the Justice Department, not just at the U.S.-attorney level. Department records show that the personnel authority was delegated to the two aides at about the same time they were working with the White House in planning the firings of a dozen U.S. attorneys, eight of whom were, in fact, later dismissed. [Snip]
An original draft of Gonzales's delegation of authority to Sampson and Goodling was so broad that it did not even require the two aides to obtain the final approval of the attorney general before moving to dismiss other department officials [From Murray Waas, published April 30, 2007 in the National Journal.]
The choices for Gonzales at the Senate testimony have been to
- Look like an idiot and incompetent, (he's not)
- appear to be a total failure as a manager, (possible) or
- protect the White House involvement in the firings and the politicization of the Department of Justice. (My bet.)
Harriet Miers, Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling have all resigned from the government, Sampson and Goodling over the U.S. Attorney firings and Miers for "personal reasons."
More to come on this I am sure.