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Tangled Up in Karl

There has been a flutter of congratulatory noise in some quarters about the recent “compromise” brokered by the White House regarding Karl Rove’s criminal refusal to heed Congressional subpoenas requiring his testimony on the Bush Administration’s transformation of the Justice Department into a goon squad targeting — and imprisoning — political opponents.

Whereas mere mortals can go to prison for ignoring a Congressional summons, Rove has been allowed to roam free, appearing on national television, writing for national publications, and carrying on his life’s work of polluting and degrading the nation’s political culture. This unelected, porcine bullshit-slinger is apparently so powerful that the new President of the United States felt compelled to step in and negotiate the very gentle terms under which said porcine polluter would deign to appear before Congress.

This whole spectacle, by the way, is yet another stunning example of what a completely lawless state the United States of American Empire has become — at least for those in the bosom of imperial power. Think of it: a legally binding subpoena from the Congress of the United States is blithely ignored — a clear act of criminal contempt. But the scofflaw suffers not the slightest penalty. Instead, he is serviced by the most powerful institution in the land, which intervenes to make sure his appearance before Congress holds no dangers for him. He is to appear in private, will not have to answer any questions about the most important point at issue — George Bush’s involvement in the Justice Department scandal — and he will not be required to testify under oath. (It is all very much like the remarkable conditions under which his former boss “testified” to the 9/11 Commission.)

This is the deal brokered by the current administration, with Obama’s hand-picked White House counsel, Gregory Craig, and his aides playing a “critical role,” as Newsweek reports. But while the venerable newsmag found time to address the ever-burning question of who “won” in the negotiations — Did Rove’s lawyers make the most concessions? Who’s on top of the Beltway food chain today? — they entirely omitted a very pertinent fact, reported by Glynn Wilson at the Locust Fork News-Journal: Obama’s White House Counsel has worked for Rove. Wilson writes:

“In what appears to be a clear conflict of interest, Craig represented Rove in his recent book deal, while Craig’s law partner, close associate and mentor, Emmet Flood, is representing Bush in executive privilege matters before the Washington D.C. Court of Appeals, where Bush administration officials have been charged with the political firings of U.S. attorneys for failing to act on orders to prosecute Democrats prior to elections.”

But that’s not all. As Wilson notes, Craig also engaged in what seems to be a clear act of subterfuge to get Republican whistleblower Jill Simpson — who courageously stood up against the travesty of justice in the Bush gang’s political imprisonment of former Alabama governor Don Siegelman — to spill all the details of her case against Rove and the other Justice Department conspirators. Wilson writes:

“Furthermore, Craig had been in contact with Ms. Simpson on the pretense of possibly representing her in her testimony before the House Judiciary Committee legal team a year and a half ago, but declined to represent her only after getting her to reveal her entire case against Mr. Rove.

“‘You had a duty to disclose your relationship with Rove to Ms. Simpson before she revealed the details of her involvement, because you knew from initial contacts that you had a conflict,’ Duncan writes in the letter.”

Simpson’s attorney, Priscilla Black Duncan, set out the details in a recent letter she wrote to Obama’s White House Counsel, citing his violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct and asking him “to step down from your position as White House Counsel, at least in all matters dealing with the Bush administration.” In her letter, printed in full by Wilson, Duncan writes:

“2.) According to Ms. Simpson, you called her up to four times on or about March 16-17, 2007, and you faxed her your resume.

3.) She initially asked, “Before we really start this, do you have any contacts with George Bush, Karl Rove, Don Siegelman or Bob Riley?”

4.) You indicated you did not and said, “Tell me who this is about.”

5.) Your initial conversation with Ms. Simpson lasted about 10 to 15 minutes.

6.) In three conversations of nearly two hours, you extracted particular details of her involvement, and you asked her specifically about the length of time and character of her contact with Karl Rove, the extent of her work with the GOP and her knowledge of U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller’s owner-interest in Doss Aviation, a major federal contractor, and matters dealing with lobbyist G. Stewart Hall’s then-Federalist Group and the steering of contracts to Fuller’s company and companies related to Gov. Bob Riley’s son, Rob Riley.

7.) After this extensive questioning, which included another session for the questions you had formulated, you announced that you couldn’t represent her because you had represented Sen. Richard Shelby during the 2004-2005 investigations of his alleged national security leaks….

9.) You failed to mention to Miss Simpson, however, that you were a friend of Karl Rove, had shared drinks with Karl Rove, that your law firm, Williams & Connolly, was representing Vice President Cheney on Scooter Libby’s role in the Valerie Plame case in which Rove was involved; that your firm has advised the White House not to turn over GOP emails regarding the firing of nine U.S. Attorneys. Nor did you disclose your firm’s involvement in defending Iran-Contra figures, which you knew or should have known play a key role in the current military contracts routed to Doss Aviation.”

Once again, we see a vivid display of the “continuity” that has been a hallmark of the new administration in so many areas. Obama’s top legal adviser and his law firm is deeply entangled with Karl Rove and George W. Bush — and specifically on the very issue of the recent “compromise”: the goonization of the Justice Department. (In addition to the firm’s involvement with Dick Cheney and the criminal outing of a CIA operative tracking weapons of mass destruction.) How hard would it have been for Barack Obama to find a reputable, respected White House Counsel who not hip-deep in the Big Muddy with Karl Rove and George Bush?

And how difficult would it have been for the President of the United States — the “most powerful man on earth,” as we are incessantly reminded — to say, simply, that Karl Rove should obey the law and testify under oath before Congress? And note well the reality — and the arrogance — at play here. Rove could still have refused to divulge specific information, citing executive privilege or the Fifth Amendment. The question here is not what he would say, but that he has refused to appear at all. And now his drinking buddy and literary rainmaker in the White House has brokered a cozy arrangement to coddle Rove even further.

To be sure, the White House deal for Rove was not just about the incestuous entanglement of Obama’s counsel with the very maw of the Bush-Cheney-Rove gang. As Newsweek notes, Obama is very anxious to preserve the hard-won powers of the imperial presidency that he has inherited from such illustrious predecessors as the George Bushes and Dick Nixon:

“As a candidate last year, Obama sharply criticized the Bush administration for making sweeping claims of executive privilege to shield testimony about the U.S. attorney firings. “This blanket notion that you can’t subpoena White House aides where there’s evidence of genuine wrongdoing I think is completely misguided,” he said last year.

But if the dispute over executive privilege hadn’t been settled by Wednesday night, Obama’s lawyers would have been put in the uncomfortable position of having to defend Rove and Miers in court. The alternative would have been to accept the possibility of a judicial ruling that might have impinged on the confidentiality of their own discussions about sensitive issues should those discussions later become the subject of congressional investigations.”

In other words, the Obama administration wants to ensure that none of its own top dogs will ever be required to testify about allegations of criminal activity by the government. And the Obama-Rove operative Craig made it clear that Obama was willing to go to court — yet again — to defend Bush’s vision of rampant executive power:

“At one point this week, [Craig] even told House Democratic lawyers he would authorize Obama’s Justice Department to oppose them in court if they didn’t back down from some of their demands to complete access to the material.”

Beyond the notion of “executive privilege,” the Obama-Rove deal upholds a principle far more important to our Beltway courtiers: their elevation above the law. While the proles are subjected to an ever-growing plethora of police powers and genuinely shocking levels of incarceration — often for profit — our intertwined elites cut special deals for each other to keep themselves living large, loose and at liberty.

Yes sir, that’s continuity for you — continuity with a vengeance!

NOTE: Speaking of elevation above the law, how about this little gem just in from AP? Panetta: No one to be punished for interrogations:

“CIA Director Leon Panetta says agency employees who took part in harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects are not in danger of being punished.

“Panetta delivered that message to CIA employees in an e-mail Thursday, reiterating what he told Congress last month. He said then that he would oppose prosecutions of any CIA employee who adhered to their legal guidance on interrogations.

“He sent the message after the Senate Intelligence Committee announced its review of the CIA’s interrogation and detention program under President George W. Bush.”

Thank God the Obama Administration has moved so swiftly to protect Bush’s torturers at the first whiff of pesky snooping from Congress! After all, they — and the architects of the torture program in the White House and Pentagon — only broke the law. And the law is just for the rubes and suckers, not the great and good, and their hired hands.

CHRIS FLOYD is an American writer and frequent contributor to CounterPunch. His blog, Empire Burlesque, can be found at www.chris-floyd.com.

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Chris Floyd is a columnist for CounterPunch Magazine. His blog, Empire Burlesque, can be found at www.chris-floyd.com. His twitter feed is @empireburlesque. His Instagram is www.instagram.com/cfloydtn/.

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