July 25, 2005

The 12-hour gap

Mr. Gonzales, Watergate is calling.

This is one we will be hearing about, and should have been hearing a lot more about during Mr. Gonzales' confirmation hearing, were certain people doing their jobs. It appears that back in 2003, when the CIA first referred the matter of Valerie Plame to the DOJ for criminal investigation, the prosecutor's office called the White House Counsel to inform him that in fact there would be a criminal investigation regarding the source of the leak. That counsel, at the time, was our now-Attorney General Gonzales.

Gonzales tells us that he instructed his staff to ask the DOJ if the notification to the rest of the White House of the investigation could wait until the following morning, as it was around 8pm at the time of the call and most of the staff had left. The DOJ is said to have replied that that would be fine. Gonzales duly informed the President and others of the investigation first thing in the morning the next day - as part of that notification, all were legally informed that they must preserve any relevant records so as to ensure evidence was protected from destruction.

However, Gonzales has just testified that at 8pm, just after receiving the notification, he called the White House chief of staff (Andy Card?) and told him of the investigation.

What we don't know is who Andy Card informed, and when. We don't know if Gonzales included the 'preserve evidence' admonishment in that warning, as it was an 'informal chat.' We do know that all members of the White House staff carry Blackberry pagers or other means of off-hour communications.

So:

If Nixon's 18.5 minute gap in a tape was relevant as hell to Watergate, what, precisely, does this 12-hour gap in notification mean?

Note carefully: We do not yet know if anyone other than Andy Card was told. We don't know that anything was done to destroy evidence. However, we do know that the one purpose of the notification of investigation is to legally require those notified to preserve evidence. It seems odd that Ashcroft's DOJ waited until 8pm to call the White House, and then agreed with Gonzales that it was okay to wait until the next morning to notify everyone else in the White House, trusting that the staff they had already informed would not leak the information to any of the other staff in the White House - defeating the purpose of the warning.

None of this came up at Gonzales' confirmation.

We need to make sure it comes up now.

Posted by jbz at July 25, 2005 12:49 PM | TrackBack

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