Stealing ’08: Why Tim Griffin’s Appointment Was So Important


I have been hinting (here and here) that the Gonzo tumult is a distraction from the main event: Karl Rove’s use of the Justice Dept to provide cover for his planned theft of the 2008 election. While the Congress – and the country – wastes its time and energy trying to get Gonzo Al to resign (we know Bush won’t fire him under any circumstances), Rove’s USA replacements are gearing up for an election full of dirty tricks and illegal rights-embezzling.

Why, for example, was it so damned important to get a legal non-entity like Tim Griffin into a USA spot in a potential swing state that Harriet Miers was willing to pressure top Rove political aide Sara Taylor (who resigned today, perhaps feeling the investigators breathing down her neck and seeing the writing on the wall) to lean on Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling to fire Bud Cummins so Timmy could have his job?

Let’s see, shall we?

HOW DID THEY REPLACE HIM?

For the Bush Administration’s political office (read: Karl Rove), this was no ordinary appointment. First, Cummins had to be fired. That decision was apparently being discussed between White House political types and the DoJ for weeks or months before the December 15 firing. Gonzo didn’t even know about it.

Alberto Gonzales’s former Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson told investigators that Gonzales himself initially resisted the idea of bypassing the Senators from Arkansas to install Karl Rove protege Tim Griffin as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Pressure to do it, he suggested, was coming from officials at the White House–specifically, White House political director Sara Taylor, her deputy Scott Jennings and Chris Oprison, the associate White House counsel. Sampson described himself and Goodling as “open to the idea,” which is not the same as instigating it.

At The Next Hurrah, emptywheel examines the document dump from May 22 and notes that Goodling wrote in an email to Chris Oprison in Taylor’s office, that Dep AG Paul McNulty had spilled the beans on the political nature of Griffin’s appointment but that fortunately it “was not known at the time Mr. McNulty testified that Ms. Miers had intervened on Mr. Griffin’s behalf.” An admission that Miers was in on the fix from the beginning and may have been the one pushing it from the WH side along with Rove. emptywheel then constructs an email timeline for the 15th and concludes:

Now as I pointed out yesterday, Alberto Gonzales did not actually sign the Tim Griffin appointment before it was announced. He signed it on Monday, but backdated it to Friday the 15. And in today’s document dump, we get a lot more details as to the chronology surrounding the annoucement of the appointment.

***

[T]his is what I think happened. Gonzales and Pryor had their conversation and Gonzales repeated it to Sampson. Sampson then had an email exchange with Oprison, where they decided to make the change immediately. Perhaps Gonzales was [sic] already gone home, an early departure during the holiday season. Or perhaps they deliberately held on to this until he had left for the day. After Sampson informed Oprison everything was a “go,” he left for the weekend too (he emails Sampson for the press release at 7:20 AM Monday morning).

And then, Monday sometime, after this had already been put through, they had Mike Battle go to Gonzales to approve the action that had been put into place the previous Friday. He couldn’t very well turn back now. It had already been released to the press!

The WH, probably Miers and certainly Taylor, was so determined to get Griffin into position that they were willing to go around the president’s bud and personal ass-wiper, Gonzo Al, not because he refused to make the appointment – he didn’t – but because he expressed some doubts about it. Gonzo, the Good Soldier faced with a fait accompli, then signed off on a decision he had nothing to do with making.

Do you understand now why I think Gonzo’s irrelevant? And why whether he stays or goes makes little difference to the process of stealing the election?

How Bad Did They Want Griffin in Place?

The Arkansas News Bureau reported that documents released in March “indicated Griffin was the only replacement candidate as early as January of last year.” (emphasis added)

When it became clear to the Bush Admin that Griffin would never get through a Senate confirmation, the decision was instantly made to use a recess appointment. But that strategy would have taken time and Sampson offered the idea of using the PATRIOT Act.

Using a little-noticed provision in the Patriot Act allowing interim appointments, Gonzales gave the post to Timothy Griffin — who had been both an operative for the Republican National Committee and a deputy to senior White House advisor Karl Rove — in what many believe was a maneuver to sidestep the traditional Senate confirmation process for U.S. attorneys.

So:

They wanted Griffin bad enough for Miers to pressure Taylor and for Taylor to pressure Samson and Goodling, a clear crossing of political and possibly legal lines; bad enough to go around the Atty General himself merely because he wasn’t thrilled with the appointment; and bad enough to risk invoking a controversial and highly questionable provision of the PATRIOT Act that had been meant for emergencies only.

WHO IS TIM GRIFFIN AND WHAT MAKES HIM SO IMPORTANT?

When Griffin’s name first came up on his appointment to replace Cummins on Dec 20, Josh Marshall went looking for his bona fides.

[F]or the last ten years — with the exception of two one year stint — he has always worked as a Republican party opposition researcher digging up dirt on Democrats. Deputy Research Director for the RNC from 1999-2000. Research Director for the RNC from 2002-2005. Oppo Research Director for Karl Rove 2005-2006. Prior to 1999? Well, he was associate independent counsel investigating Henry Cisneros from 1995-96. After that he went to work for Dan Burton on the Hill to investigate Asian money contributions to the DNC.

Back in 2000, when he was in charge of digging up dirt on Al Gore, he apparently had a poster hanging on the wall behind his desk which read: “On my command – unleash hell on Al.”

He’s also the dude famous for saying in a documentary – on film – that oppo research were the combat troops of political campaigns and attack ads were “the bullets”.

Experience as a prosecutor? He dug up some dirt on Cisneros for a highly-charged and highly partisan Republican witch-hunt. Experience in Federal law? None. Experience managing a law practice? None. Experience supervising other lawyers? None.

His one and only value to the Bushies was as a political hitman. His legal experience was negligible. Yet he campaigned for the job as if he had every right to be considered. More than a right – as if he already had it and the process was a mere formality. The WaPo reported that:

Two months before Bud Cummins was fired as U.S. attorney in Little Rock, a protege of presidential adviser Karl Rove was maneuvering with the Justice Department to take his place.

***

Last April, Tim Griffin, a Rove aide and longtime GOP operative, sent the attorney general’s chief of staff a flattering letter about himself written by Cummins, the prosecutor he was trying to replace, internal e-mails released this week show. Rove and Harriet Miers, then the White House counsel, were keenly interested in putting him in the position, e-mails reveal. New documents also show that Justice and White House officials were preparing for President Bush’s approval of the appointment as early as last summer, five months before Griffin took the job.

Radar went through the emails as well and came up with this little gem:

In an e-mail to Monica Goodling, the Justice Department’s liaison to the White House, Griffin passes along a few references that don’t pop up on his resumé. “I am good friends with both chiefs of staff to [Arkansas Senators] Pryor and Lincoln. Pryor’s chief of staff is a good friend and Lincoln’s was my high school girlfriend,” Griffin writes. “Should I say anything to them? I would hate for my senators to be told without my peeps knowing? [sic]” The former girlfriend reference—always a solid way into a job as U.S. attorney!

The picture that emerges is that of a young, arrogant pol-op with connections up the wazoo who can’t even be bothered to pretend he needs a real resume for a job like this. Just cocky? Or did he know something the people he was lobbying didn’t know? Like, that he was going to get this position no matter what they decided?

What Did They Want Him to Do?

As usual, Greg Palast had the skinny back in 2004.

Griffin was the hidden hand behind a scheme to wipe out the voting rights of 70,000 citizens prior to the 2004 election.

How does he know? Tim Griffin told him.

In October 2004, our investigations team at BBC Newsnight received a series of astonishing emails from Mr. Griffin, then Research Director for the Republican National Committee. He didn’t mean to send them to us. They were highly confidential memos meant only for RNC honchos.

However, Griffin made a wee mistake. Instead of sending the emails — potential evidence of a crime — to email addresses ending with the domain name “@GeorgeWBush.com” he sent them to “@GeorgeWBush.ORG.” A website run by prankster John Wooden who owns “GeorgeWBush.org.” When Wooden got the treasure trove of Rove-ian ravings, he sent them to us.

And we dug in, decoding, and mapping the voters on what Griffin called, “Caging” lists, spreadsheets with 70,000 names of voters marked for challenge. Overwhelmingly, these were Black and Hispanic voters from Democratic precincts.

What’s “caging”? Illegal is what. Palast explains.

The Griffin scheme was sickly brilliant. We learned that the RNC sent first-class letters to new voters in minority precincts marked, “Do not forward.” Several sheets contained nothing but soldiers, other sheets, homeless shelters. Targets included the Jacksonville Naval Air Station in Florida and that city’s State Street Rescue Mission. Another target, Edward Waters College, a school for African-Americans.

If these voters were not currently at their home voting address, they were tagged as “suspect” and their registration wiped out or their ballot challenged and not counted. Of course, these “cages” captured thousands of students, the homeless and those in the military though they are legitimate voters.

We telephoned those on the hit list, including one Randall Prausa. His wife admitted he wasn’t living at his voting address: Randall was a soldier shipped overseas.

Randall and other soldiers like him who sent in absentee ballots, when challenged, would lose their vote. And they wouldn’t even know it.

And by the way, it’s not illegal for soldiers to vote from overseas — even if they’re Black.

No, but voter suppression tactics are, including caging. It’s a violation of the Voting Rights Act and, oh yes, it’s unConstitutional (Fifteenth Admendment – H/T Think Progress).

So Tim Griffin’s specialties are three in nature:

  1. He’s a conscienceless Republican hack.
  2. He’s a lawyer who is perfectly willing to break the law.
  3. And he specializes in voter suppression tactics and political assassination.

Starting to make sense, isn’t it?

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One response to “Stealing ’08: Why Tim Griffin’s Appointment Was So Important

  1. Pingback: Griffin Quits «

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