A scoop — or is it? The claim from Palin is that she fired Walt Monegan, her police chief, not because he refused to fire her trooper ex-brother-in-law but because of general insubordination, the “last straw” of which was his supposedly unauthorized planned trip to D.C. in July to seek funds for an anti-rape program. Enter ABC with a copy of Monegan’s travel report proving that Palin’s chief of staff, Mike Nizich, authorized the trip in late June. A smokin’ hole in her credibility?
Maybe not. People are e-mailing to say that the document looks weird, partly because Nizich signed on a line reserved for approval of trips abroad but mainly because the date next to his signature is June 18 whereas the document itself is dated June 19. Could he have signed a blank form at Monegan’s request, with the details of the trip added in later? Anything’s possible, but (a) that doesn’t reflect real well on Nizich or Palin if they’re in the business of signing blank forms, especially for a guy with an alleged pattern of insubordination, and (b) Occam’s Razor suggests that Nizich probably just spaced on the date and wasn’t paying attention to which line he was supposed to sign on.
Even so, what does the document really prove? Go back to the AP’s story from earlier this week:
The last straw, the McCain campaign said, was in July, when Monegan planned to travel to Washington to seek federal money for a plan to assign troopers, judges and prosecutors who could exclusively handle sexual assault cases — one of the state’s most intractable crime problems.
In a July 7 e-mail, John Katz, the governor’s special counsel, noted two problems with the trip: The governor hadn’t agreed the money should be sought, and the request was “out of sequence with our other appropriations requests and could put a strain on the evolving relationship between the Governor and Sen. (Ted) Stevens.”
Four days later, Monegan was fired. He said he had kept others in the administration fully apprised of his plans to go to Washington.
And now here’s how ABC describes Palin’s spin:
The McCain-Palin campaign echoed the [insubordination] charge in a press release it distributed Monday, concurrent with Palin’s legal filing. “Mr. Monegan persisted in planning to make the unauthorized lobbying trip to D.C.,” the release stated.
Where’s the contradiction? Follow the timeline: Nizich approves the trip on June 18; Palin and/or Katz get wind of it shortly thereafter and object, leading to Katz’s e-mail of July 7; Monegan “persists” in his plans to go, and he’s finally canned four days later. Feels like … a last straw. Even Monegan, quoted at the very end of the ABC piece, admits it sounds more like a breakdown in communication within Palin’s staff, with Nizich not on the same page as everyone else, than some sort of cover-up. Good work, ABC.
Update: More from the ABC piece:
In response to inquiries about the document Friday, the McCain-Palin campaign provided a statement from Randy Ruaro, another aide to Palin.
According to Ruaro, Monegan asked for — and received — approval for the travel without telling Palin’s staff his reason for going. “As a matter of routine, the travel was approved by Mike Nizich … weeks before the actual purpose was made clear by former Commissioner Monegan,” Ruaro wrote.
“When you receive permission to travel, it does not mean that you receive blanket authorization to discuss or do whatever you would like on that trip,” he added.
I.e. Monegan’s stated purpose on the travel report, “To attend meeting with Sen. Murkowski,” didn’t clue Nizich or anyone else in to what it was, precisely, he wanted to meet with Murkowski about. Again, it doesn’t speak well of Nizich and/or Palin if they’re signing off on travel vouchers before demanding specific reasons for the trip, especially for an employee who’s supposedly gone renegade, but this does jibe with Katz’s e-mail on July 7. They found out what he was going to D.C. for, told him to cancel the trip, he refused, and voila.