Facing a torrent of criticism that the Department of Justice has been tainted by politics, Alberto Gonzales is poised for the defense argument of his life. The attorney general must explain to Congress an accumulation of embarrassing partisan e-mails and inaccurate statements by top Bush officials, which have helped transform the quiet firing of eight U.S. attorneys last year into an explosive Washington scandal.
Gonzales will be grilled about alleged Republican meddling on issues from corruption to cronyism, widely documented in the four months since the purge. But a Salon investigation has uncovered another partisan issue dirtying the U.S. attorneys scandal: adult pornography.
Questions remain about the real reasons behind the firings and to what degree the nation’s chief prosecutors were pressured to carry out the political agenda of the White House and its Republican allies. There is evidence that the politicization of the Justice Department has included recasting the Civil Rights Division and pushing election-fraud investigations in ways favorable to Republicans. Some U.S. attorneys were told they were being forced out of their posts so that up-and-coming Bush loyalists could have a chance to burnish their résumés for yet higher political appointments. Troubling allegations persist that some U.S. attorneys were fired to thwart corruption probes against Republican officials.