The Threat of Cheney

Cheneychipsomodevillagetty

His dedication to using the executive branch (which, natch, he isn't in) to create a roving extra-legal wing of government, able to detain individuals indefinitely, and torture them, is well-documented. But I didn't know he essentially spied on and intercepted White House staff to prevent the president getting alternative views:

At the White House, [White House national security lawyer John] Bellinger sent Rice a blunt and, he thought, private legal warning. The Cheney-Rumsfeld position would place the president indisputably in breach of international law and would undermine cooperation from allied governments...

One lawyer in his office said that Bellinger was chagrined to learn, indirectly, that Cheney had read the confidential memo and "was concerned" about his advice. Thus Bellinger discovered an unannounced standing order: Documents prepared for the national security adviser, another White House official said, were "routed outside the formal process" to Cheney, too. The reverse did not apply.

Powell asked for a meeting with Bush. The same day, Jan. 25, 2002, Cheney’s office struck a preemptive blow. It appeared to come from Gonzales, a longtime Bush confidant whom the president nicknamed "Fredo." Hours after Powell made his request, Gonzales signed his name to a memo that anticipated and undermined the State Department's talking points. The true author has long been a subject of speculation, for reasons including its unorthodox format and a subtly mocking tone that is not a Gonzales hallmark.

A White House lawyer with direct knowledge said Cheney’s lawyer, Addington, wrote the memo. Flanigan passed it to Gonzales, and Gonzales sent it as "my judgment" to Bush. If Bush consulted Cheney after that, the vice president became a sounding board for advice he originated himself.

What a total tool Gonzales is. How mortifying to be revealed as someone who, under the guise of Office of Legal Counsel, is just a device for David Addington's ventriloquism.

(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty.)

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