by Max Brantley
Thakns to Briefing Notebook for a guide to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial yesterday praising Sen. Mark Pryor for proposing legislation to end the Bush administration's unconstitutional bypass of the Senate confirmation process to install U.S. attorneys under an exemption in the Patriot Act. It was used to put Karl Rove henchman Tim Griffin in the U.S. attorney's slot in Little Rock. They rudely ousted Bud Cummins, who'd done a fine job.
Maybe too fine, the Post-Dispatch suggests. Cummins was investigating a Republican political corruption case in Missouri, the editorial notes, when he was removed.
Last October, when Harry E. "Bud" Cummins III, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, closed his investigation into the way Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt's administration handled Missouri's license fee offices, he emphasized, "This office does not intend to elaborate further about this closed matter."
We hope that now will change. Mr. Cummins was identified last week as one of at least nine U.S. attorneys around the country who had been asked by the Bush administration to resign so they could replaced by new political appointees. Among the nine are prosecutors who had been pursuing corruption cases against Republican office-holders and contributors.
The message, spoken or unspoken, in the requests for resignations, was "back off of our pals."
Defense lawyer John Wesley Hall has now filed a formal legal challenge to Griffin's appointment. As Pryor and others have noted, this naked power grab hasn't served Cummins or Griffin very well. If Griffin is qualified, nominate him and hold the hearings. It appears the White House, however, is trying to wring a no-contest promise out of Arkansas's senators before sending Griffin's name to the Senate. Never mind that the Republicans never extended such courtesies when they were in power. It's not about tit-for-tat. Griffin has boasted to the press of his hardball tactics in opposition political research. His name has turned up in reports on Republican vote suppression. Justice is supposed to be above politics. Those questions should be put to rest as the Constitution intended, with a confirmation hearing. Until then, it appears as if Griffin has something to hide.