Yesterday at the Gonzales hearings, after almost everyone had gone home, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island busted out some snazzy charts that effectively displayed the breakdown of the wall between the White House and the Department of Justice, a wall that even Gonzales admits is important to maintain because of (1) the need for DoJ work to be impartial, non-partisan, and free of politics, and (2) the need to avoid conflicts of interests in the occasional situation where the DoJ prosecutes someone from the White House.
In the Clinton White House, four White House officials -- the President, the Vice President, the White House Counsel, and the Assistant White House Counsel -- were allowed to make contact with three Department of Justice officials "regarding pending criminal investigations and criminal cases."
In the Bush White House, the DoJ has almost become a wing of the White House. Four hundred and seventeen White House officials, including national security staffers and all members of the office of the White House Counsel, can make contact with roughly 30 Department of Justice staffers.
We probably shouldn't be surprised, though. After all, before Alberto Gonzales was named Attorney General and took his position at the top of the the DoJ, he was the White House Counsel himself. Any hope that the DoJ would function as an independent body went out the window a long time ago.