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Bush League Justice

Dan Abrams gives a glimpse into his new series Bush League Justice
Imae: U.S. President George W. Bush
U.S. President George W. Bush stands in front of Air Force One as he makes remarks about Iran during a visit to Omaha, Nebraska December 5, 2007. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES)Kevin Lamarque / X00157

“Bush League Justice” is a series (airing Monday-Thursday at 9 pm on MSNBC) that stems from my increasing frustration and outrage over how the Bush Administration has politicized the usually apolitical Justice Department. In the process, it has significantly abused its authority to try to enhance power at the expense of any sense of objective justice. Many of the administration’s most controversial maneuvers have been widely reported,  from the torture memos to the NSA’s warrantless searches to the U.S. Attorney scandal to the appointment of only the most conservative of judges and justices.

But that is really just the tip of this Administration’s ongoing effort to  uproot the Justice Department. As we will show the week of December 10, they have regularly circumvented Congress, and decimated some of the most fundamental and cherished principles that define justice in this country.

Maybe most egregious is the now nearly unrecognizable Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. Since 1957, it has led the effort to enforce civil rights laws and the fight for minorities. Even Richard Nixon’s effort to delay implementation of school desegregation, was less radical then how this President has flipped the goals and mission of the Division and allowed it to become a tool of the radical right.

Instead of pursuing cases of discrimination against African Americans, the Division under President Bush has focused on supposed reverse discrimination against whites and religious discrimination cases against Christians. A Boston Globe report even showed that almost half of the new hires in that department who had “civil rights experience” had “experience” only in defending employers or –fighting- affirmative action. 

Those in the Voting Rights Section of the Justice Department must really feel like they are in an upside down world. From 2001 to 2006, not one voting discrimination case was brought on behalf of African-American voters. Instead they have focused on alleged voter fraud cases that effectively target minority communities rather than protecting them.   

We will also expose the President’s unprecedented use and misuse of so-called signing statements; addendums he tacks on to laws when signing them. The President has effectively declared the right to disobey more than 750 laws. From the interrogation of prisoners to torture to investigations by U.S. officials in Iraq, President Bush has added a caveat that says, “I will only enforce this “if.” So he is effectively telling Congress thanks for your advice on this law, but I reserve the right to ignore this law. Rather than working with Congress to pass a law that he will enforce, the President chooses to simply ignore them.   

Maybe the most obvious betrayal of the public trust has been politically motivated prosecutions. A University of Minnesota study conducted this year shows that for every elected Republican investigated during this President’s tenure, there were seven elected Democrats investigated. The most flagrant example may be in Alabama where the democratic former Governor was convicted in 2006 on corruption charges.

A case that led 44 former state Attorneys General, democrats and republicans, to complain of irregularities in the investigation and prosecution. They even said it called into “question the basic fairness that is the linchpin of our system of justice.” That is hardly surprising considering that there were allegations and even witnesses who said that then-Presidential advisor Karl Rove convinced the U.S. Attorney to prosecute and that the key witness made similar allegations against prominent Republicans that were never even investigated.      

This series is long overdue. The scandal with the firings of the U.S. Attorneys under Attorney General Alberto Gonzales exposed the underbelly of this administration’s penchant for putting politics over objectivity and qualifications. We now hope to dissect the subject more fully and help spur change as the new Attorney General Michael Mukasey tries to rebuild confidence and trust in our Justice Department.