Much of the most interesting news today was nowhere near the front page of my paper. One of these was the buried item, Senior Federal Prosecutors and F.B.I. Officials Fault Ashcroft Over Leak Inquiry, which appeared on page A16 of the national edition of the New York Times.
Mostly it's a bunch of near-gossip, albeit firmly based on prosecutorial experience: people in charge of investigations that touch their bosses and friends usually suffer, even when they don't screw it up accidentally or on purpose. Recusals protect more than the investigation — they also protect the person with the conflict from accusations. So the professional prosecutors and mid-level politicals in Justice are worried that either Ashcroft will do something bad, or he won't and still get unfairly blamed for it. Either way, the unamed sources think it would be better to get him out of the picture.
There is, however, one smoking gun here. Inexplicably you have to read to the end of the story to find it.
It's been mentioned before, but it's nice to see that it's not forgotten:
Mr. Ashcroft and Alberto R. Gonzales, the White House counsel, have also been under fire for their initial handling of the case. The Justice Department allowed the White House to wait overnight on Sept. 28 before sending an electronic message ordering White House employees not to destroy records related to the leak.
Ashley Snee, a spokesman for Mr. Gonzales, said he believed the delay was acceptable because no one in the White House had any idea there was an investigation. But The New York Times and The Washington Post had reported the day before that the C.I.A. had forwarded the matter to the Justice Department for possible investigation.
There seems to be a Washington law that the cover-up snares more people than the crime/non-crime. There's a decent chance that rule may control here too.
I think Mr. Gonzales's Supreme Court hopes took a big dive this week. That could be bad, as the other qualified Hispanics the administration likes to talk about are considerably worse.