In the department of the Truly Bizarre, a Texas grand jury has indicted Vice President Cheney, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, a few state court judges, a former U.S. attorney and some other folks. According to the Brownsville Herald, the indictment appears to focus on management and oversight of federal detention centers and accuses Cheney and Gonzales of engaging in organized criminal activity.
The Herald also says it accuses Cheney of a conflict of interest (because of his investment in a mutual fund that has interests in private prison companies) and "at least misdemeanor assaults" on detainees by working through the prison companies that are running those centers. Gonzales, the newspaper says, also is accused of using his position in office to stop an investigation into alleged abuses at the federal detention centers.
The breaking news story on the Brownsville Herald is HERE.
And now for the big wet towel.
First, Willacy County grand juries are familiar with DA Juan Angel Guerra -- since he himself was indicted by one just last year on felony charges of theft, attempted theft, perjury, abuse of official capacity and tampering with government records. When Guerra was arrested, the publisher of the local papers in the county, Paul Whitworth, told the Brownsville Herald: "It's a great day for Willacy County, and it'll be better when he's convicted." The Herald said Whitworth had said for years that Guerra failed to prosecute crime in the county.
Two weeks ago, a judge threw out the charges against Guerra -- but his prosecuting days soon will be over. He was defeated in the March primary.
So now Guerra is going for the last stand? If so, I'm guessing his Cheney/Gonzales indictment will go the way most last stands go: complete annihilation. First off, it's hard to see from the local reports exactly what the state crime even is. Federal conflicts of interest, for example, are governed by the Ethics in Government Act.
What's more, there's a reason why local DAs don't go around indicting federal officers for official actions (even controversial official actions): The U.S. Constitution.
The Supremacy Clause is generally understood to prohibit states from prosecuting federal officers for their official acts. Guerra can't prosecute Cheney, Gonzales, federal prosecutors, etc., for actions within the scope of their federal authority -- they all would be immune from such prosecutions.
The more serious question is whether the Obama Administration will follow a similar prosecutorial path against previous administration officials for other actions they took while in office.
But a state DA—no matter what his intentions -- cannot.
Megan Mitchell, a spokeswoman for the vice president, told ABC News' Kirit Radia tonight, "We have not received an indictment so I will decline to comment." DOJ also had no comment. But I reached Cheney's former counsel, Shannen Coffin. He had this to say:
"This is just another example of the rampant criminalization of politics by a local prosecutor who is trying to get his name in the newspaper," said Coffin, who's now at Steptoe & Johnson. "The local citizens…should throw him out on his ear."
In fact, they have -- through the ballot box.