As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Iglesiasgate: Stonewalling and Excuse-Making

The Washington Post gets a scoop about the case of the Prosecutor Purges, where they allege that they personally signed off on the Justice Department firings, and that they were performance-based even though the records show that these US Attorneys all had positive performance reviews.

The White House approved the firings of seven U.S. attorneys late last year after senior Justice Department officials identified the prosecutors they believed were not doing enough to carry out President Bush's policies on immigration, firearms and other issues, White House and Justice Department officials said yesterday.

The list of prosecutors was assembled last fall, based largely on complaints from members of Congress, law enforcement officials and career Justice Department lawyers, administration officials said.

One of the complaints came from Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), who specifically raised concerns with the Justice Department last fall about the performance of then-U.S. Attorney David C. Iglesias of New Mexico, according to administration officials and Domenici's office.

Iglesias has alleged that two unnamed New Mexico lawmakers pressured him in October to speed up the indictments of Democrats before the elections. Domenici has declined to comment on that allegation.

This alibi is pretty much incoherent. It ignores the fact that pretty much all the US Attorneys fired were either investigating instances of alleged Republican corruption or not moving fast enough on alleged Democratic corruption (e.g. Iglesias). It ignores the fact that it took the Administration 3 months to come up with this excuse. It simply uses a hot-button issue (immigration) as a red herring to deny the political cast of these firings.

Meanwhile, the Attorney General of the United States, who may have lied to Congress when he said that there was no political context to these purges, has basically shut his mouth:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has indicated he is too busy to answer letters from Democratic congressional leaders about his firing seven U.S. attorneys involved in probes of public corruption, though a lower-level Justice Department official rejected their proposals.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, House Democratic Caucus chairman, had written Gonzales two letters suggesting that he name Carol Lam, fired as U.S. attorney in San Diego, as an outside counsel to continue her pursuit of the Duke Cunningham case. Asked by Melissa Charbonneau of the Christian Broadcasting Network about this column’s report that Gonzales did not respond, Gonzales said: “I think that the American people lose if I spend all my time worrying about congressional requests for information, if I spend all my time responding to subpoenas.”

God forbid that the nation's top law enforcement official pays attention to subpoenas.

On Tuesday, David Iglesias and other attorneys will get to express their side of the story. But this is pretty weak tea from the White House, and I don't think it will satisfy anybody. Plus, they're officially announcing that they personally signed off on firing US Attorneys. That could become problematic later.

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