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Bush turned Justice Department into a Joke


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Gonzales and the blonde bimbo from God University need to be put on trial

Rove and Cheney need to be tried for treason

Congress needs to grow a set

and the last eight years need to just vanish

Top aides to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales ran the U.S. Department of Justice the way that the snotty kids in your school decided who was cool, and who was not.

It would be funny, if it hadn't affected the way justice is administered in America, and if it hadn't started right here in Minnesota.

Monday's report by the department's inspector general confirmed that Gonzales and his aides, including the destructively ideological Monica Goodling, broke civil service laws by subjecting appointees to political litmus tests and playing bizarre games of 20 Questions in which they asked prospective hires witless questions such as: "What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him? (maybe how he looks all Marlboro Man in his Wranglers)" and Googled candidates with red-flag words such as "gay," "gun," "sex" "Clinton" and (I kid you not) "Spotted owl."

If you ever bragged about sex with Bill Clinton on a gun range while a spotted owl flew overhead, forget about working for Uncle Sam's Justice Mill. But things got even wackier than that.

One good Republican was forced from her Washington job after she was "rumored" -- what a great way to run a Department of Justice -- to be a lesbian. Leslie Hagen was an expert in domestic violence prosecutions, had worked with Native American authorities to combat abuse on reservations, helped rewrite domestic abuse statutes to make prosecutions easier, and got stellar job marks.

Hagen was recommended by Minnesota's former U.S. attorney, Tom Heffelfinger, who was stunned when he learned Hagen had been forced out, and outraged when he found out why.

"Sexual orientation isn't even relevant," Heffelfinger said Wednesday. "Removing someone is even more scurrilous when the decision is based on rumors. This is the worst kind of high school rumor-mongering and back-stabbing. I'm not joking. There was a period of time when high school kids were running the U.S. Department of Justice."

Heffelfinger saw The Lord of the Flies Justice Department firsthand.

A Republican, he resigned as U.S. attorney in 2006, one step ahead of a hit squad: His name turned out to have been on a list of U.S. attorneys targeted for removal by Goodling and her cronies in a plan to purge prosecutors who were not deemed partisan enough. The effort would turn into a scandal that unhorsed the government's top lawyers last year. But the whole mess may have started right here, in Minnesota.

For his replacement, Heffelfinger had recommended First Assistant U.S. Attorney Joan Humes. Heffelfinger says he didn't know -- or care -- about Humes' political views. But Goodling did. Testifying before Congress, Goodling said she "had heard" that Humes was a Democrat, and had heard that she was a liberal one, to boot.

During "High School Confidential" in Washington, a liberal Democrat was as popular with the in-crowd as an acne breakout the night before prom. Humes was subjected to a humiliating and strangely pro-forma interview -- by teleconference -- with Goodling, who didn't seem interested.

The assistant to Gonzales had another candidate in mind: Her friend and member of The Cool Group, Rachel Paulose. Paulose was reliably conservative (a member of the favored Federalist Society), reliably partisan (she had filed suits on behalf of Republican issues) and reliably devout (like Goodling, she was a fundamentalist Christian). Appointed by Gonzales without a hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Paulose became interim U.S. attorney in February, 2006. Humes, who shortly departed for the private sector, was busted to the bottom ranks of lawyers.

Bad behavior was breaking out in the corridors.

"Of all the U.S. attorney offices in the country, Minnesota had a reputation as one of the least political," says Doug Kelley, who headed the white-collar crime section in the office when he was an assistant attorney from 1978 to 1985, serving both Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. "That's why what they did to it just about makes you want to cry. We had the reputation as one of the best in the county, and they turned it into chaos."

Kelley, a Republican and Green Beret who served as chief of staff to former GOP Sen. Dave Durenberger, was made an assistant U.S. attorney by a Democrat. When Paulose was hired as an assistant for a brief stint, it had been by a Democrat. But the bipartisan or, rather, nonpartisan tradition in Minnesota, was about to be torched by Goodling, Gonzales, and, ultimately, Paulose.

"People were hired in Minnesota without regard to politics," Kelley said from Spain, where he is on vacation. "Merit mattered more, and you were supposed to check your political credentials at the door. Then comes Rachel Paulose's buddy (Goodling), administering litmus tests. And, surprise, Paulose gets the job. That's when it began. These people have done so much damage. It's pervasive."

Turmoil, recriminations, and investigations followed Paulose's arrival. She stepped down in January after Goodling, Gonzales and her other patrons left, all departing as the scheme to make the Department of Justice serve a narrow ideology, instead of a bipartisan vision, crumbled.

The investigations continue, but the historical verdict is in: We came close to a train wreck.

Once, not long ago, high school kids were running the U.S. Department of Justice.

Nick Coleman • 612-673-4400


***EDIT-arnaldo, I deleted all of the extraneous advertising. Tiger Al***

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