Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Justice Department Shenanigans Part XXXVII

What happens, when a country’s Justice Department is so embroiled in the politics of the party in power? Well, the obvious answer is that corruption of the Justice Department and perversion of the course of justice, are both things that could occur if there was such a marriage, which is why constitutionally, there had to be a separation. As we’ve seen however, this traditional separation, which was carried out to the extreme by the Clinton Administration, which reduced the interface between the White House and the Justice Department to a minimalist four persons – an absolute record to date - has been breached. This Administration has done everything to marry in to the Justice department and the lines of division have become murky and hard to discern.

In the Soviet Union of the 1980s, a company would be basically owned by the government and in that context, many of the perpetrators of crimes ranging from speeding tickets for the CEOs of those companies through to the responsibility of chemical companies for poisoning large tracts of land, water and air were swept under the rug when the Soviet equivalent of the Justice department was basically held back by the politburo in power at the time. That’s one of the reasons the Soviet Union sucked at the time, right?

So what would you say if a US attorney prosecuting a case against an American Drug manufacturer responsible for the wrongful deaths of 146 people was threatened with dismissal if he did not drop the case? One might be tempted into thinking that that was hardly possible. But in this America, it is. The night before a US attorney obtained a guilty plea from the manufacturer of OxyContin, he was called by a senior Justice Department official at the behest of a Purdue Pharma executive. The Justice Department hack told the prosecuting attorney to slow the case down. Here’s how Amy Goldstein and Carrie Johnson of The Washington Post reported the story:

John L. Brownlee, the U.S. attorney in Roanoke, testified that he was at home the evening of Oct. 24 when he received the call on his cellphone from Michael J. Elston, then chief of staff to the deputy attorney general and one of the Justice aides involved in the removal of nine U.S. attorneys last year.

Brownlee settled the case anyway. Eight days later, his name appeared on a list compiled by Elston of prosecutors that officials had suggested be fired.

The Justice Department, of course, denies any wrong doing. However, it turns out that Elston called Browmlee at Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty’s request. McNulty was the sixth senior aide to Gonzales to resign over the firings of US attorneys.

Enough said.

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