Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

  Terrorism or Troopergate?

Some interesting priorities are on display in Alaska these days. Quite a few high-powered Republican lawyers have shown up in order to quash the legislature's investigation of Troopergate and take charge of answering reporters' questions in Alaska about Sarah Palin's political career...in other words, to quash journalistic investigations as well.

Among the praetorians to show up suddenly is one Edward O'Callaghan. Until at least Sept. 3, he was an Assistant US Attorney in New York's southern district, the coordinator for the Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council (ATAC). He has prosecuted a number of terrorist suspects in the last several years. But now he's set aside those modest duties in order to measure his abilities against a greater challenge - burnishing the image of a troubled Alaskan governor. And how quickly he turned about, trying to block rather than promote an investigation into wrongdoing. Interesting priorities held by Republican leaders, for whom the threat of terrorism pales in importance compared to their desire to hold onto the White House.

GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is effectively turning over questions about her record as Alaska's governor to John McCain's political campaign, part of an ambitious Republican strategy to limit any embarrassing disclosures and carefully shape her image for voters in the rest of the country.

Republican efforts include dispatching a former top U.S. terrorism prosecutor from New York, Ed O'Callaghan, to assist Palin's personal lawyer working to derail or delay a pending ethics investigation in Alaska...

O'Callaghan is helping ratchet up the heat on the Troopergate investigation, a probe with which Palin once promised to cooperate. O'Callaghan was the one who threw down the gauntlet during a news conference this week: Palin herself was unlikely to talk to the Alaska Legislature's investigator.


Earlier this summer Palin pledged to cooperate with the Alaskan Legislative Council's Troopergate inquiry. Within a day of her joining the Republican ticket, the McCain campaign blamed the issue on Barack Obama, declaring that Palin was of course cooperating because she'd done nothing wrong.

"As a reformer and a leader on ethics reform, she has been happy to help out in the investigation of this matter, because she was never directly involved."


It caused me to ask whether that implied she wouldn't cooperate if she were involved in wrongdoing. And right on schedule Palin began to obstruct the investigation.

Right after McCain introduced Palin as his running mate, her lawyer, Thomas Van Flein, asked the investigator to hand over to him all the evidence he was collecting and declared that only the Personnel Board had standing to investigate the matter. After Labor Day Palin filed an ethics complaint against herself (yes!) trying to get the investigation transferred to the state Personnel Board (whose members the governor appoints). Van Flein simultaneously asked the legislature to drop its investigation and threatened that otherwise Palin probably would refuse to testify. Her staff immediately started to refuse to testify at scheduled depositions. They and the First Dud had to be subpoenaed by the Council. Palin's camp also complained that the depositions are not being held in public, which somehow makes the inquiry 'McCarthyesque'. Republicans began to claim that the investigation was a partisan witch-hunt (though the GOP-controlled Legislative Council initiated it). They complained that the report was scheduled to be concluded only a short time before the November election. They attacked the integrity of a Democratic lawmaker, Hollis French, who's overseeing the independent investigator, Steven Branchflower. One Alaska Republican tried to have French removed from the investigation. Five others are now filing suit trying to delay the investigation until after Election Day, or block it as unconstitutional, because they claim French is friendly with Walter Monegan, the public safety commissioner Palin fired. Without providing evidence, a Palin aide accused the Obama campaign of "highjacking" the investigation. And Palin is letting it be known through Edward O'Callaghan that she probably won't agree to testify because she believes the investigation is "tainted". She also has started to change her story about whether and why she fired Monegan, accusing him now of "egregious insubordination" and "obstructionist conduct".

And incredibly enough on Tuesday the Alaskan Attorney General, a friend of Palin, announced that state employees will disregard the subpoenas to testify unless the Republican-dominated legislature endorses them. The reason? Because Palin, legal expert that she is, doesn't believe the subpoenas are valid.

In a letter to state Sen. Hollis French, the Democrat overseeing the investigation, Republican Attorney General Talis Colberg asked that the subpoenas be withdrawn. He also said the employees would refuse to appear unless either the full state Senate or the entire Legislature votes to compel their testimony.

Colberg, who was appointed by Palin, said the employees are caught between their respect for the Legislature and their loyalty to the governor, who initially agreed to cooperate with the inquiry but has increasingly opposed it since McCain chose her as his running mate.

"This is an untenable position for our clients because the governor has so strongly stated that the subpoenas issued by your committee are of questionable validity," Colberg wrote.


And so it goes. As the Bush administration has demonstrated over and over again, obeying lawful subpoenas is not a high priority for Republicans.

But making excuses for obstructing investigations into abuse of power – that's where the best Republican legal minds are always needed.

crossposted at unbossed.com

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