Jamie Gorelick wants to be Attorney General – badly. That is why she agreed to be on the 9/11 Commission, and it seems she will do anything to get the job. And with the potential for a new Democratic administration in less than a year, she can almost taste it.
Make no mistake – this is an opportunity Gorelick has been savoring since December of 1996, when Bill Clinton decided to keep Janet Reno on as Attorney General in his second term. Soon after that decision, she departed from her number two slot at Justice, biding her time in FNMA and private practice. Clinton needed Reno’s apparent veneer of impartiality to wade through his myriad scandals.
As an interesting side note, Gorelick also had designs on being the CIA Director; Clinton passed upon her candidacy for that position as well, though it had been reported that she was being considered, along with Sandy Berger. Aside from a brief stint as the general counsel of the U.S. Department of Defense, her qualifications for the head spot at the CIA remain a mystery. Her judgment on matters of intelligence – e.g. the now-famous information "wall" between the CIA and FBI – has been, at best questionable; at worst, it should properly be the subject of the very investigation she is involved in as a 9/11 Commissioner.
This sort of glaring conflict of interest is nothing new for Gorelick.
Consider the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) scandal – which, it should be noted, was "handled" by Senator John Kerry and his Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Gorelick had represented Clark Clifford and Robert Altman when they tried to get their former employer, First American Bank (a BCCI property), to pay their legal fees, though the Justice Department was involved in the prosecution of BCCI. During the Whitewater and Vince Foster scandals, former Deputy Attorney General Philip Heymann had been abruptly fired by the Clinton White House when he objected to the manner in which the White House was handling the Foster investigation – and he was almost immediately replaced by close Clinton ally Gorelick.
During the Travelgate investigation, yet another Clinton scandal, Gorelick’s Associate Deputy Attorney General, David Margolis, apparently attempted to interfere with the prosecution of Billy Dale and Gary Wright by improperly divulging information disclosed at a grand jury proceeding to Democrat John Conyers – at the time, Conyers was Chairman of the House Government Operations Committee. Despite this glaring, egregious breach of the rules of criminal procedure by Margolis – which would benefit the Clinton White House – Gorelick took no action against Margolis and kept him on. Gorelick is an unabashed political operative to the end.
Jamie Gorelick has been described as an iron-fisted and politically dexterous deputy attorney general. It was well-known that she handled the day-to-day operations at Justice, whereas Reno functioned as more of a figurehead who lost her compass when she lost Gorelick in early 1997. However, Gorelick’s added value was her political acumen. For example, when the Republicans began to attack Clinton’s judicial appointments as soft on crime – prior to the 1996 election – Gorelick set up a "war room" similar to the Clinton "war room" of the 1992 election. Her entire purpose was to control the news cycle and bolster the images of the liberal judges and lawyers in Clinton’s roster. In many ways, Gorelick is every bit as slick as her boss.
Gorelick’s seemingly inappropriate functions outraged some commentators, such as Mark Levin of the Landmark Legal Foundation. Levin pondered "[p]recisely what . . . the lawyers assigned to the Justice ‘war room’ [were] doing, and with whom [were] they at ‘war’?" At the same time, Levin also noted that "Mrs. Gorelick's former law firm -Miller, Cassidy, Larroca and Lewin – [was] representing Craig Livingstone, the man at the center of the [Clinton] Filegate scandal [being investigated by the Justice Department]." Not surprisingly, Gorelick, who was effectively running Justice at the time, did not recuse herself.
Jamie Gorelick wants to finally emerge from the shadow of Janet Reno, not merely as the de facto Attorney General, but as the actual attorney general of the United States. Her outrageous conflict of interest as a Commissioner of the 9/11 panel is just par for the course, and her keen political skills will enable her to deflect criticism and keep her position – despite the strong evidence that she should, in fact, step down as a Commissioner and be sworn-in as a witness. A former Democrat staffer recently stated that Gorelick is on the commission for one reason – and it isn’t for her legal mind. Gorelick is on the Commission "to make sure Bush and his team look as bad as possible and to protect the Clintons and Reno."
Her reward for doing her job well. . . the powerful position she has coveted for seven years.