Bush DOJ emails: “30% approval makes it a lot harder to push back, unfortunately.”


Internal Bush Administration emails released by the Senate Judiciary Committee lend some insight into the culture of political operatives, administration officials and the space in between during the Department of Justice’s replacement of U.S. Attorneys and subsequent investigation.

The thousands of pages of emails and documents reveal an administration hostile to Congress and racing to find out what reporters know. While there is little definitive evidence in the documents that the attorneys were fired for political reasonsor if they were, who among the authors knewthere is no shortage of colorful rhetoric.

Sunlight attempted to harness the content of the many large files into a simple text file to make the vast amount of content searchable for the public, but the scanned images did not digitize well. But don’t fret: Here are some of the more interesting exchanges observed by the Sunlight Foundation:


In response to Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s insistence on the Senate floor that US Attorneys may have been fired for political reasons, a top Justice staffer and Deputy Counsel to President George W. Bush wrote in an email thread in January 2007:

William Kelley (Deputy Counsel): Gulp

Kyle Sampson (Justice Chief of Staff): basically

William Kelley: And she’s not backing off? What does she say? “I don’t believe you, Mr. Attorney General?”

Kyle Sampson: Already done. And AG did sincerely and credibly deliver. And all I can say is that she is dumb as a post.

William Kelley:  I think the AG should talk to Senator Feinstein privately and clear the air. I can’t believe that she wouldn’t accept his explanation, which not only would be sincerely and credibly delivered, but would also have the virtue of being nothing but the truth. (Emphasis added.)


When a USA Today reporter implied that one of the attorneys, Bud Cummins, was pushed out to make room for a more Bush-friendly appointee, Bush aide Sara Taylor wrote: “I normally don’t like attacking our friends, but since Bud Cummins is talking to everyone why don’t we tell the deal on him?”

When the New York Times editorialized criticizing Griffin, Tim himself appears to have authored an editorial for placement in the Times. “Who do you want to sign?,” Taylor asked. “[John] Cornyn to the nyt would be awesome. Or [Pete] sessions. I think they would be awesome because they are on judiciary.”


Bush press secretary Dana Perino and DOJ spokesman Brian Roehrkasse on coverage of the controversy by the Washington Post’s John Solomon and the New York Times’ Eric Lipton:

Perino: “The wp was much better than this. Plus they really distort harriet’s [Harriet Myers’]  involvement.”

Roehrkasse: “I know which is change consider the post coverage with eggen has been SO bad. But the post bring in john Solomon and becomes far more fair in their coverage  and the times brings in eric lipton and becomes far worse.”

Roehkasse then wrote to NYT reporter Eric Lichtblau: “I am severely disappointed in your story today Frankly, I expected far better reporting from you and am disappointed that you gave into the pressure to sensationalize.”


In December 2006, after US Attorney John McKay was rejected from a judgeship, lawyer Michael McKay writes: “Brother John received a call from the White House Counsel’s office yesterday. During that call he was informed that he will not be nominated for the Federal judge position here Since 1980, I have been a strong member of the Bush team. Please know that, in spite of this deep disappointment, I remain so and am available to help if there is anything I can do for you or your office out here in the Pacific Northwest.”


On January 6, 2007, New Mexico state senator Rod Adair wrote to Karl Rove: “This is a rare moment when a matter is of such importance that I must contact you [New Mexico U.S. Attorney candidate Chuck Peifer] is a wuss, a cowardly wuss, who will disappoint.”

Rove then referred him to the New Mexico congressional delegation, but Sen. Pete Domenici supported Peifer. Asked about Domenici’s reasoning, a staffer, Steve Bell, wrote to Rove of the situation: “it is petty and boring; peifer comes with very high recommendations he was Judge Browning’s law partner for more than a decade and Browning thinks the world of him and Browning is truly one of ours!”


Three days later, as Rove dispensed advice to interim U.S. attorney Tim Griffin, a former employee, on his confirmation hearing:

Griffin: “I think both Lincoln and pryor went better than I expected pryor suggested I withdraw my name if I get stuck in the senate. I told him I couldn’t promise to do that. I hope yall hang in there with me. Thank you tg”

Karl: “We willyou stay strong!”

Griffin: “Will do. Thank you. Btw my wife is pregnant. We are thinking about naming him karl. Lol” (Emphasis added.)


Scott Jennings in reference to a news article: “Have you been following this? Unbelievable.”

Coddy Johnson: “It is crazy ‘cronygate’ reid is a jackass (Emphasis added.)

Jennings: remarkable considering that USATTORNEYS, like all other political appointments in the federal govt, servce at the PLEASURE OF THE PRESIDENT.”

Johnson:  “30% approval makes it a lot harder to push back, unfortunately.”

Jennings: “Man, I gotta figure out a way to exit gracefully.”