Sunday, July 24, 2005
Courtesy of our distinguished colleagues at PSoTD: It is only fair that the hare give the tortoise a slight head start, because, as the fable tells us, the hare can always catch up later if he really wants to:
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, responding to a strong charge in a column by Frank Rich in The New York Times’ today, said there was nothing improper about waiting 12 hours to “preserve all materials” after being informed by the Justice Department in 2003 that it was launching an investigation into the disclosure of Valerie Plame’s status as a CIA agent.UPDATE (via our esteemed colleagues at Crooks & Liars): The Carpetbagger Report says that Team Bush "didn't have 12 hours to cover their tracks — they had a whole weekend":
Gonzales told Bob Schieffer on the CBS show “Face the Nation” that he had been given permission by the Justice Department to hold off overnight if he saw fit, which he did. But he did tell one man that night: Chief of Staff Andrew Card.
The White House did not immediately respond to questions Sunday about whether Card passed that information to top Bush aide Karl Rove or anyone else, giving them advance notice to prepare for the investigation, the Associated Press reported after Gonzales' revelation.
Appearing on the same CBS show immediately following Gonzales, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Dela.) said: "The real question now is, 'Who did the chief of staff speak to?'"
Schiefer agreed that this "seemed to perhaps open a whole new can of worms."
On Friday, Sept. 26, 2003, the CIA directed the Justice Department to launch a criminal probe into the leak. Three days later, on Monday, Sept. 29, 2003, the WH counsel's office was formally notified about the investigation. And then 12 hours after that, Gonzales told White House staff to preserve materials. In other words, the amount of time Bush aides were given to, perhaps, discard and destroy relevant evidence after the DoJ began its work wasn't just 12 hours; it was several days.
It's not as if the Gonzales notification — on the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2003 — told Rove & Co. something new. MSNBC told the world about the investigation that Friday night. This means Rove & Co. learned on Friday night that they were being investigated, but weren't formally told to start securing relevant materials until Tuesday morning. In case the MSNBC report wasn't clear enough, a front-page article was published in the Washington Post about the Justice Department's criminal investigation a full 48 hours before WH staffers were told to preserve potentially incriminating evidence.