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As the investigation turns

Now that all of the security tapes have arrived intact from DPS, a new star is born: Assistant Attorney General Jay Kimbrough, the governor’s “point man” for the Department of Homeland Security, who was there in the command post on the day that Homeland Security was contacted with the cock-and-bull story about Pete Laney’s plane.

[House General Investigating Committee Chairman Kevin Bailey, D-Houston] said Kimbrough, one of Perry’s former deputy chiefs of staff, was in the DPS command center that was set up May 12 in the speaker’s reception room.

“We don’t know how much of a role he played, but it does appear he was very heavily involved in the process,” Bailey said.

Angela Hale, spokeswoman for Attorney General Greg Abbott, said Kimbrough was in the room in his capacity as an assistant attorney general, not as homeland defense coordinator.

Hale said Kimbrough had gone to the command center with Abbott’s first assistant, Barry McBee, to offer legal assistance to Craddick and the DPS. McBee is Perry’s former chief of staff.

Hale said McBee called U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton in San Antonio to see if the FBI could be used to bring the lawmakers back from Oklahoma or whether the DPS could arrest them across the state line. She said Sutton’s office said “no” to both questions.

As Josh Marshall notes, the clearest thing to come out of all this so far is the probable identity of the fall guy.

Another person who made an appearance in the command center that day is none other than the Governor himself, though only the Chronicle made any real mention of it.

Perry spokeswoman Kathy Walt refused to discuss what Perry did while in the command center but denied he had any role in the use of federal Homeland Security resources.

“I’ve never had any inkling that anybody on our staff, including the governor, called Homeland Security,” Walt said.

Whatever. If Perry had taken any questionable actions here, I fully expect that he’d have done it through vague phrases and several layers of underlings, so that like a mafia don he’d be hard to nail down.

The tapes did show that Tom DeLay’s aide Jim Ellis did nothing noticeable, meaning that the missing six hours was just the result of honest incompetence and not anything sinister. We can all breathe easier now.

Rep. Bailey’s investigation appears to be winding down, but that doesn’t mean it’s all over, as the Austin American Statesman reports:

Bailey said his committee probably will play no major role in any further investigations.

The committee’s preliminary inquiry has satisfied him that DPS probably did nothing criminal when it rushed to destroy all of its records of the search, Bailey said, even though “they probably shouldn’t have done it.”

Because Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle is already investigating the records destruction, Bailey said, the committee plans no further inquiry into that.

Marshall Caskey, chief of criminal law enforcement for DPS, has already testified before a county grand jury, and more witnesses are expected to testify Thursday.

Bailey said his committee will probably leave it to federal authorities to sort out whether the Homeland Security Agency did anything improper during the search because his committee does not have the power to demand federal records.

So we’ve got Kimbrough’s as-yet-undetermined role, we’ve got Ronnie Earle deposing DPS, and we’ve got Joe Lieberman pestering the White House. I’m beginning to get the feeling that unless there’s another revelation coming, this thing is about to peter out. We can mutter all we want about the DPS’ lightning reflexes when it comes to records disposal, but without those records it’ll be nigh impossible to tie the smoke to any fires. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m a bit pessimistic right now.

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4 Comments

  1. Morat says:

    Depends. First off, how likely is Crais to play fall guy? He’s a state trooper, not a political operative.

    What’s the penalty for misuse of Homeland Security resources? Who is ultimately responsible?

    Secondly, I don’t think Kimbrough can wiggle out. As I said in my blog, he admitted (through an aide) that he gave the number to Crais.

    There’s no plausible deniability there. He absolutely knew, without a doubt, why Crais wanted the number. As head of Texas’ Homeland Security department, Kimbrough certainly should have known what was, and wasn’t, a misuse of Homeland Security resources. So he’s certainly culpable, and if Ridge is really trying to show HS has integrity and credibility, Kimbrough’s not going to last.

    As for DPS, they broke the law in destroying those records. At the very least, someone’s head will roll for that one.

    And don’t forget Ridge’s and Mineta’ investigations.

    Still, I agree that it’s probably going to take a bit more, but consider this: Why would anyone take a fall for Tom DeLay? Why would Crais take a fall for anyone at all?

    This boils down to a lot of not-so-important people acting on behalf of others. I’m not sure any of them have any reason not to, ultimately, roll and finger the higher-up’s responsible for it all.

  2. It’s not so much that I think Crais or even Kimbrough would want to take a fall for DeLay/Craddick/Perry/whoever. It’s that I think once a scapegoat has been identified, any investigation will lose momentum. The GOP can plausibly say that those responsible have been sacked, and unless said pigeons start singing, what evidence will there be of malfeasance higher up the food chain?

    Yes, Crais or Kimbrough or someone else could decide to rat out whoever is ultimately responsible. Yes, Ronnie Earle could get some juicy indictments. Yes, some smoking gun could appear to trip up Tom DeLay. I’m just getting the sense that none of that will happen. Call me Gloomy Gus, but that’s what I’m seeing right now.

  3. Ginger says:

    The fact that abuse of power is generally considered par for the course by that notorious bully, Tom DeLay (witness the “I am the federal government” story going around blogdom) also suggests that the story is pretty much over for those of us not from Texas.

    Remember, dog bites man is not a story. Neither is Tom DeLay biting a dog.

  4. Morat says:

    On the optimistic side: Let’s face it. There would be very few tears if Tom DeLay suffered Lott’s fate. No one, not even other GOP Reps, likes him.