Thursday, July 26, 2007

Spitzer's Plamegate


A man I like a lot -- Democratic New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer -- is in the middle of his own version of Plamegate, complete with accusations that he sought to discredit a political rival by misusing government resources, and Spitzer's vow to claim a state version of executive privilege in the burgeoning confrontation with Republican state senators.

A scathing report issued on Monday by Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo concluded that the governor’s staff had broken no laws but had misused the State Police to gather information about Joseph L. Bruno, the Senate majority leader, in an effort to plant a negative story about him.

Basically the governor's staff had Bruno's state police escorts document Bruno's whereabouts when they accompanied him on "official" trips, apparently hoping to show that he was engaging in personal travel or junkets on the taxpayer's dime. The report specifically cleared Bruno (right) of that charge, saying each of his trips had at least some legitimate legislative business attached to it.

Cuomo, by the way, is another Democrat -- the son of former New York Gov. Mario "Hamlet" Cuomo. And the report was endorsed by Spitzer's Inspector General, Kristine Hamann.

Spitzer says he was unaware of the activity, and his response to it was a lesson in the proper way to handle such things:

The governor said he accepted the findings, saying his administration had “grossly mishandled” the situation.

“As governor, I am accountable for what goes on in the executive branch and I accept responsibility for the actions of my office,” he said at a press conference this morning, with many of his staff members looking on somber and staggered.

“I apologized to Senator Bruno and I did so personally this morning,” he added. “In addition, I apologized to the men and women of the State Police, and to acting Superintendent Preston Felton personally for allowing this esteemed institution to be drawn into this matter.”

“They should never have been put into this situation. Finally, I apologize to the people of the State of New York for having allowed this matter to have become a distraction from the vital work at hand.”

Darren Dopp, Mr. Spitzer’s communications director and one of his closest aides, was put on indefinite unpaid leave of at least 30 days. William Howard, the Assistant Secretary for Homeland Security, will be reassigned to a post outside the governor’s office.

All well and good, but two of Spitzer's aides refused to cooperate with the Cuomo investigation, and Republicans in the state Senate -- led by an incensed Bruno -- are pushing an investigation to find out if Spitzer was, indeed, unaware of what his staff was up to. They're talking about subpoenaing everyone, including Spitzer.

Spitzer, for his part, has vowed to resist any effort to compel his aides to testify.

Much as I like Spitzer, he's in the wrong here. Legally he's got the same legitimate point as Bush does on executive privilege, with similar strengths and weaknesses (although New York law has generally been hostile to executive privilege claims). But as in the Plame and prosecutor inquiries a legitimate question has been raised, and it deserves to be answered.

Spitzer can point to one difference: unlike with Plame and the prosecutors, Cuomo made a concrete determination that no laws were broken. That's not enough to get off the hook, however. As in the prosecutor case this is less an investigation of illegality than an investigation of impropriety, which falls into the legislative branch's oversight capacity. Spitzer should order his aides to talk. If doing so violates their Fifth Amendment rights, they should invoke the Fifth and let the Senate grant them immunity in exchange for their testimony.

Republicans, for their part, are overreaching, moving to subpoenas as a first resort and casting an overly broad net. Subpoenas should be narrowly tailored and a last resort, or else they risk giving Spitzer a legitimate executive privilege defense.

I'm disappointed in Spitzer, and hope he truly was uninvolved. I also hope this doesn't derail his policy initiatives. But regardless of the political cost, Spitzer needs to come clean. Doing the right thing aside, if he doesn't put this to rest quickly it will turn into a drawn-out battle with the legislature, which surely will derail his initiatives just as the Gonzales scandals have harmed Bush and the Justice Department.

, , , , ,

Labels: , ,

18 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is funny. Truly funny.

There's no comparison to the Plame accusations. There was no underlying crime in that case....and no confessions that anything has been done wrong. Mainly because NOTHING was done wrong. It was perfectly necessary and warranted for the Bush administration to be discussing the person who sent Wilson on his Niger junket and who was LYING about them. The last judge even said so. Yes, they got Libby on an immaterial inconsistency under oath---much like every other reporter who testified in that case. But ultimately, I believe Libby will win out. There was nothing intentional....as there was nothing to hide.

This actually happened in Spitzer's case; it appears no one is arguing that. And if it can be shown that the Gov. himself ordered it......it will be very much like Watergate; without the break-in. That case was also about trying to get dirt on one's opponent.

JP5

7/26/2007 2:51 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

There's no comparison to the Plame accusations. There was no underlying crime in that case....

You always have to push the envelope on stuff like this.

In the Plame case, you simply cannot claim authoritatively that "there was no underlying crime." The best you can say is "no crime was proven." But at the end of the day, a covert agent was outed. The only question is whether the outing was intentional or accidental.

In Spitzer's case, we had an investigation that ended with a positive affirmation that no laws were broken.

And if it can be shown that the Gov. himself ordered it......it will be very much like Watergate; without the break-in.

Of course, the break-in (and subsequent coverup) is what made Watergate a presidency-ending scandal. That's not really a great comparision, though it's fun.

7/26/2007 3:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

..."you simply cannot claim authoritatively that "there was no underlying crime." The best you can say is "no crime was proven."

Yeah, right. Generally you NEED a crime BEFORE putting someone on trial. And you are correct: one was never proven in the Valerie Plame case.

"But at the end of the day, a covert agent was outed. The only question is whether the outing was intentional or accidental."

I think it was INTENTIONAL....by Wilson and Plame themselves. But, of course, no one EVER investigated back that far. Weren't interested.

"In Spitzer's case, we had an investigation that ended with a positive affirmation that no laws were broken."

So, was that an investigation by the same police dept involved in the actual misdeeds???? How extensive was that investigation???
If someone can come to such a conclusion so fast....and you buy it....then why do you continue to refuse to believe the Bush administration regarding Plame? AT least, Bush's AG turned it over to an special prosecutor. Think Spitzer is willing to do that?

JP5

7/26/2007 3:50 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

So, was that an investigation by the same police dept involved in the actual misdeeds???? How extensive was that investigation???

Maybe you should read the links.

If someone can come to such a conclusion so fast....

The report came out Monday. It was in the works for quite a while before that.

And you buy it....then why do you continue to refuse to believe the Bush administration regarding Plame?

#1, Did you miss the part where I said Spitzer needs to come clean?

#2, There has never been a conclusion, positive or negative, in the Plame case. As a result, I have never asserted that a crime occurred. I've only noted that you cannot confidently assert that a crime didn't occur.

7/26/2007 3:58 PM  
Anonymous Hudson said...

Here are some comments I just posted on the matter to the T-U's site, whose editors are *not* posting everything they get on this matter -- particularly comments questioning their own involvement. Note that I am a Democrat who donated to Spitzer in a big way (big way for me, at least).

- - - -

Spitzer tells the T-U: "I haven't thought about either,'' the Senate committee or the State Commission of Investigation, which, also look at the affair.

But if you read the papers, there is ample evidence that he has thought about it. For example, in the New York Times today we have his spokesperson already asserting executive privilege to exempt these matters from further review. Spitzer himself has already stated that he considers the A.G.'s report to be the final word. Did the T-U board not challenge him on this statement?

Similarly, Spitzer states that "he hadn't learned of the problems, which were summed up in AG Andrew Cuomo's report until last Thursday" [i.e. July 19th]. But if you go back to press reports as early as July 2nd, there is plenty of evidence that the issue had to have been on Spitzer's radar earlier. For example, Fred Dicker the Post was on this long before July 19th:

July 2nd: GOV PLAYS DIRTY POOL VS. BRUNO

July 5th: GOV'S TROOPER SNOOP JOB ON BRUNO

July 9th: GOV AIDES FISHED FOR BRUNO BUSTERS

Are we to believe the Governor's communications people don't brief him regularly on such matters, and that even in the absence of press reports, there would have been an internal discussion? Everyone in Albany listens to Dicker (including those who, like me, often disagree with him). And he wasn't the only one buzzing about this well before "last Thursday."

Moreover, Spitzer's spokespeople were contacted by Dicker and issued non-statements in response to his queries, so they can't credibly claim they hadn't heard about any of this.

No one would believe that of the Pataki administration, and much as I like him, Spitzer is as much of a top-down administrator as Pataki.

- - - - -

To the person who posted that "Bruno was using state funds to go to NYC fundraisers during the business day."

The A.G.'s report states that what Bruno did was not illegal, but that the State needs to change its policies so this stops.

Similarly, it is not illegal to create records that did not exist in response to a FOIL request, but it is highly irregular.

So I don't like what Bruno did. And I don't like what Spitzer('s people) did.

As far as money goes: I don't hear anyone complaining about all the State funds that were used to pay the salaries of prominent State employees (on the 2nd Floor, and also in the State Police) to manufacture records. If we're going to criticize Bruno on this basis, we have to be evenhanded and wonder, how much staff time was spent on this, and what did it cost taxpayers?

Meanwhile, Spitzer and his spokespeople are responding to calls for a Senate investigation in almost identical terms as the Bush administration is responding to the House and Senate regarding Executive Privilege.

Rather than responding to the substance of the matter, or putting it behind them by fessing up, both leaders are hiding behind tired rhetoric about "partisan politics" and "privileged information." (Note that attorney and legislator Richard Brodsky has stated that Spitzer's claims of privilege probably won't hold up legally.)

The stakes are higher with Bush, and the pattern more egregious. But again, if we truly dislike partisanship and want true reform, then we can't absolve our allies of the sins we decry in our opponents.

I say all this as a highly disappointed Democrat who donated heavily to Spitzer on the premise that he had higher standards and this kind of nonsense would stop.

- - - -

Final comment: Spitzer should blaze the path away from Bush-style denials and stonewalling, fire a raft of people, and open up all the records. If he knew, he should admit it now and get it behind him, and learn from the experience -- the his reform agenda has some chance of progressing. If he doesn't, he'll may never be able to talk credibly about reform again.

7/26/2007 5:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There has never been a conclusion, positive or negative, in the Plame case. As a result, I have never asserted that a crime occurred. I've only noted that you cannot confidently assert that a crime didn't occur."

Oh yes there has. The most recent ruling in the Wilson's civil case was a 41-page opinion that basically said the same thing I said above: that after the Wilson's started the lies about the administration, it was part of the administration's job to explain it to the press. Dems acted as if the administration had no right to even be discussing the fact that Wilson had a wife at the CIA who had a part in sending him. But they had EVERY right. Plus, as we now know, every reporter in Washington D.C. was trying to find out: Bob Novak did. He only had to look up her name in the Who's Who list where Wilson listed his wife under Valerie Plame. Her name was no secret....and the fact that she worked at the CIA was no secret either. Had they outed a CIA covert operative, Fitzgerald would have charged them with that. He didn't even charge Armitage.....whom we KNOW gave her name to reporters; more than one.

JP5

7/26/2007 6:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

.."if we truly dislike partisanship and want true reform, then we can't absolve our allies of the sins we decry in our opponents."

Finally----Dems will learn how easily words can be twisted and incomplete memories WILL MOST SURELY be painted as LIES. Bet they won't think it's so interesting and fun when it's happening to one of theirs whom they admire.

JP5

7/26/2007 6:31 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Hudson: Thanks for the excellent comment. The last paragraph, especially, sums up things pretty well.

JP5: Please quote the part of the Plame civil suit opinion that says there was no underlying crime. I'll wait.

7/26/2007 8:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"JP5: Please quote the part of the Plame civil suit opinion that says there was no underlying crime. I'll wait."

Why? I never claimed that he did.

But the judge DOES say this on the subject:

"But there can be no serious dispute that the act of rebutting public criticism, such as
that levied by Mr. Wilson against the Bush Administration's handling of prewar foreign
intelligence, by speaking with members of the press is within the scope of defendants' duties as
high-level Executive Branch officials.8 Thus, the alleged tortious conduct, namely the disclosure
of Mrs. Wilson's status as a covert operative, was incidental to the kind of conduct that
defendants were employed to perform."


The last part is very important: ...the alleged tortious conduct, namely the disclosure of Mrs. Wilson's status as a covert operative, was INCIDENTAL to the kind of conduct that defendants were EMPLOYED TO PERFORM.

The judge is saying, it's only "alleged".....meaning it was never proven. Therefore no underlying crime, IMHO. He's also saying that even if they did disclose it, it was within their duties to do so. He's saying that they had every right to rebut the criticism Wilson had made against them. In other words, they were NOT trying to harm her, but defend themselves against false accusations. It was NEVER proven that anybody broke a law.

JP5

7/26/2007 9:32 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

the alleged tortious conduct, namely the disclosure of Mrs. Wilson's status as a covert operative, was INCIDENTAL to the kind of conduct that defendants were EMPLOYED TO PERFORM.

Why is that important? All the judge is saying is that the administration has a right to rebut its critics. Well, duh. That doesn't make it okay to break laws while doing so.

The judge is saying, it's only "alleged".....meaning it was never proven. Therefore no underlying crime, IMHO.

Follow the logic one more time. "No crime proven" means "no crime was proven." That does not mean no crime was committed; it simply means no one has been able to prove that outing Plame was intentional.

Might it have been done unknowingly? Sure. Might it have been done knowingly? Sure.

But it is simply false to assert, as fact, that there was no underlying crime. Just as it would be false to assert, as fact, that there was an underlying crime. We simply don't know.

He's also saying that even if they did disclose it, it was within their duties to do so.

That is not what he's saying. He's simply noting that their primary purpose wasn't to out Plame. It's ridiculous to claim that someone can break the law as long as they do so in pursuit of their job duties.

7/27/2007 9:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Why is that important? All the judge is saying is that the administration has a right to rebut its critics. Well, duh. That doesn't make it okay to break laws while doing so."

That's right. And they didn't break any laws. Otherwise, Armitage would have been indicted.

""No crime proven" means "no crime was proven." That does not mean no crime was committed; it simply means no one has been able to prove that outing Plame was intentional"

I agree 100%. Therefore no underlying crime.

"He's simply noting that their primary purpose wasn't to out Plame. It's ridiculous to claim that someone can break the law as long as they do so in pursuit of their job duties."

Right: their primary purpose was NOT to out Plame. Their primary purpose to defend themselves against the false information. And the judge didn't say the administration broke a law. The Wilsons, remember, were claiming tht she was INTENTIONALLY outed in an effort to ruin her career. No such evidence ot it.

And so, what about the Wilson's INTENTIONAL lies in an effort to harm this administration? And with using her position in the CIA to do it. Now, there was an investigation that should have taken place!!

JP5

7/27/2007 12:15 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

I repeat the point you conveniently ignore:

But it is simply false to assert, as fact, that there was no underlying crime. Just as it would be false to assert, as fact, that there was an underlying crime. We simply don't know.

7/27/2007 1:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not ignore your point. I disagree with it. There was NO underlying crime. Had there been a crime, then Richard Armitage would have been indicted. He is, after all, a part of the administration.

JP5

7/28/2007 5:11 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

That's nonsense and you know it. It's a crime to knowingly out an agent; it's not a chargeable offense to do it unintentionally.

That's why, even though we know who discussed Plame with reporters, nobody has been charged: proving intent and knowledge is very difficult.

You KNOW this. I do not understand why you continue making an argument based on a false premise.

7/28/2007 5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I do not understand why you continue making an argument based on a false premise."

Because in our judicial system one must PROVE a crime existed BEFORE it can even attempt to prove someone guilty of it.

Novak---the reporter who printed her name---did NOT know she had been covert. Armitage---the State Dept official who mentioned her to Novak and Woodward (at a minimum) did not know she had been covert. And there is absolutely no indication anyone else knew either.

Just think about that. Why in the world would the Bush administration INTENTIONALLY do something they KNEW would be illegal? They wouldn't.

Wilson and his wife made all this the subject of public discussion. But oddly, Fitzgerald never put them on the stand and questioned them to see if THEY had told reporters she worked at the CIA. And he did not put Kristof on the stand to question him under oath as to whether or not the Wilson's told him she worked at the CIA. I strongly suspect that he DID know. AND please don't tell me that I cannot assume such without proof.....because look what you assume about the administration with absolutely no proof.

JP5

7/29/2007 8:12 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Because in our judicial system one must PROVE a crime existed BEFORE it can even attempt to prove someone guilty of it.

Not true. Especially in a case like this, where the determinant of whether it was a crime or not revolves around whether the leaker knew the agent was covert.

First, you determine if a covert agent was outed, because that raises the *possibility* that a crime has been committed. Done.

Then you determine who outed them. Done, as far as we could given Libby's lies.

Then, if you think you can prove they did it knowingly, you attempt to prove the latter. Not done, not necessarily because Fitzgerald didn't think it was done knowingly, but because he couldn't *prove* it was done knowingly.

Nowhere in there is a crime proven until a "guilty" verdict is delivered at trial.

There is absolutely no indication anyone else knew either.

I might quibble with the "absolutely no indication" phrasing, but generally, agreed: there is no proof she was outed knowingly.

That is a different claim than the blithe assertion that "there was no underlying crime." Maybe there was, maybe there wasn't; we don't know. All we know is that one cannot be proven.

7/30/2007 9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Not true. Especially in a case like this, where the determinant of whether it was a crime or not revolves around whether the leaker knew the agent was covert."

Sorry---but you need something more than "I think they broke a law because, after all, it's Cheney."

"Then you determine who outed them."

Done---Richard Armitage admitted to it. And the person who wrote the article had no idea she had been covert. Novak said had he known it, he would not have published her name. His CIA source did NOT tell him that she was covert. YOU and other partisan Dems are only assuming that someone else inside the Bush administration broke some law....because you WANT that to be the case.

"...not necessarily because Fitzgerald didn't think it was done knowingly, but because he couldn't *prove* it was done knowingly."

Well, duh: that's our judicial system. And isn't it strange that he was ONLY interested in the White House....and not going all the way back to the initial article in the NYTtimes written by Kristof in which the Wilson's themselves were the source? I find that quite telling about the partisanship of Patrick Fitzgerald.

"Nowhere in there is a crime proven until a "guilty" verdict is delivered at trial."

Not entirely. But you DO need some FACTS and EVIDENCE that indicates such. Otherwise, I could just say, "Sean, (or anyone) I don't like you and I think you're probably a pedophile because I've seen how you look at children; therefore we need an investigation. EVEN if there are no FACTS that indicate you are a pedophile. Same in the Wilson/Plame charges. Just because Wilson hated Cheney over the war and CLAIMS his office outed Plame to "get back" at Wilson....doesn't make it so. What is so, however, is that Wilson and his wife LIED about the administration and started this entire thing with their lies....believing that the White House would NOT fight back.

"That is a different claim than the blithe assertion that "there was no underlying crime." Maybe there was, maybe there wasn't; we don't know. All we know is that one cannot be proven."

Just as YOU (used in a general sense here) cannot prove that you aren't a pedophile either. Can't prove a negative.

JP5

7/30/2007 2:39 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Just as YOU (used in a general sense here) cannot prove that you aren't a pedophile either. Can't prove a negative.

Nope, sure can't. That's why our legal system assumes innocent until proven guilty.

But my point still stands: You cannot assert that no crime was committed, because you have no way of knowing that. Just like you can't assert that a crime *was* committed.

You *can* assert that no crime was proven.

7/30/2007 2:43 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home