Justice to White House: Let's "muddy the coverage" on firings

New documents reveal that Gonzales' spokeswoman tried to coordinate spin with Bush aides.


Tim Grieve
April 13, 2007 9:30PM (UTC)

New prosecutor purge documents just released by the House Judiciary Committee provide more reason to believe that the White House was involved not just in the decision to fire federal prosecutors last year but in the way it was spun to Congress.

On March 6, 2007, several of the ousted U.S. attorneys testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. One day before that meeting, Justice Department spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos e-mailed Dan Bartlett and Cathie Martin to provide her advice on how the administration should "muddy the coverage up a bit" by switching the discussion from the reasons for why the prosecutors were fired to the way in which they were informed.

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Bartlett holds the title of White House counselor. Martin was a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney before becoming a communications assistant for the president. It's not clear to us yet whether Bartlett or Martin responded to Scolinos' e-mail message, but here's the advice she provided them:

"In preparation for tomorrow's hearing where six of the dismissed U.S. attorneys will be testifying, we have drafted some talking points that we were going to insert into Will Moschella's testimony (the DOJ witness) that get out the message that although we stand by the decision to remove these folks the process by which they were informed was not optimal. Right now the coverage will be dominated by how qualified these folks were and their theories for their dismissals. We are trying to muddy the coverage up a bit by trying to put the focus on the process in which they were told -- I suspect we are going to get to the point where DOJ has to say this anyway. First, it is true. Second, we are having morale problems with our other U.S. attorneys who understand the decision but think that these folks were not treated well in the process. I think from an internal management perspective it needs to be said. We are also discussing internally if we can/should release more information about why these folks were let go if we can address the privacy act aspects. I think it cuts both ways -- it does prolong the story in a sense because I suspect that the U.S. Attorneys will just go away at some point when they feel they have vindicated their reputations. On the other hand, I don't know if the Senate Dems will let this go until it is all out in the open. Let me know your thoughts. Thanks."


Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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