A few years ago, Tim Griffin was a key figure in of the biggest scandals in the Bush administration. Democrats said — and the Justice Department Inspector General later concluded — that the Bush White House and Justice Department pushed out U.S. Attorney H.E. “Bud” Cummins III to give Griffin, a former aide to presidential adviser Karl Rove, a plum spot as interim U.S. attorney that would pad his resume.
Now Griffin, who was elected to Congress from Arkansas in November, has been named by House Republicans to be a member of the House Judiciary Committee — the very same committee which took a close look at his own role in the scandal that ultimately lead to the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
“Tim Griffin was a linchpin of one of the dirtiest, Washington-insider schemes that brought down the Bush-era Justice Department and now, ironically, House Republicans have appointed him to oversee the very department he helped undermine,” Jesse Ferguson of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said in a statement.
“Griffin loves to talk about his 6-month stint as a US Attorney but forgets to tell voters that he was forced to quit amid the national scandal about his hiring,” Ferguson added. “It came to light that Tim Griffin was illegitimately appointed to the role of US Attorney as part of a massive controversy over unprecedented political influence over the Department of Justice. Arkansas families are right to question the character of Tim ‘Dirty Tricks’ Griffin and question his appointment to oversee our justice system knowing his rap sheet.”
A DOJ Inspector General report released in October 2008 found that the department had improperly fired Cummins as U.S. Attorney for the eastern district of Arkansas to make room for Griffin in part due to pressure from the White House. “Getting [Griffin] appointed was important to Harriet, Karl, etc.,” Kyle Sampson, the DOJ official who took the lead on the firings of the U.S. attorneys, wrote.
As CQ summarized it:
Congressional Democrats got hold of e-mails Griffin exchanged with Bush administration officials after legislation was introduced to prevent such interim appointments in the future. “How does it feel to be the target of legislation in the U.S. Senate?” joked White House aide Scott Jennings in a January 2007 e-mail. Griffin replied, “Not good but I will be fine as long the WH and DOJ stick with me!” In another exchange, Griffin and Rove brainstormed about whom to enlist to defend “Tim and his credentials.”
“Maybe Fred Thompson who is a friend of mine?” Griffin suggested, referring to the former Republican senator from Tennessee.
Cummins said back in September that he didn’t want to take a position on Griffin’s race, but said it wasn’t an “exoneration” of the now-congressman-elect. TPM’s full timeline of the scandal is available here.
Griffin said in a statement last month that he was “honored to be appointed to the Judiciary Committee and being a part of its important work, including strengthening our nation’s security, protecting children from Internet predators, conducting vigorous oversight, preventing frivolous lawsuits and protecting intellectual property.” We’ve requested an interview with the congressman-elect through his office.
The Justice Department wrapped up an investigation into the firing of the U.S. attorneys over the summer without filing any charges. Members of the Bush administration have signed up to help cover some of the legal fees Gonzales incurred, while the former attorney general says a book he’s writing will “set the record straight.”