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

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Domenici On Notice

I think we all thought that the US Attorney scandal would melt away with the end of the Bush regime. But a federal grand jury is looking into Pete Domenici's role in the firing of David Iglesias in New Mexico.

The federal grand jury is investigating whether Domenici and other political figures attempted to improperly press Iglesias to bring a criminal prosecution against New Mexico Democrats just prior to the 2006 congressional midterm elections, according to legal sources close to the investigation and private attorneys representing officials who prosecutors want to question. Investigators appear to be scrutinizing Iglesias' firing in the context of whether he was fired in retaliation because Domenici and others believed that he would not manipulate the timing of prosecutions to help Republicans [...]

The grand jury investigation is currently being led by Nora Dannehy, the acting U.S. attorney in Connecticut. Then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey named Dannehy to "determine whether any prosecutable offense was committed" in the course of the firings following September's report by the Inspector General and OPR on the firings.

The report found that Iglesias was fired largely as a result of complaints made to the White House by Domenici and Bell. But the report also concluded that the probe was severely "hindered" by the refusal by Domenici, Bell, and several senior Bush administration officials to cooperate with the investigation.

If they cannot get cooperation out of the grand jury, I assume this could be an obstruction of justice indictment, but if the grand jury finds that Domenici and others did pressure Iglesias to prosecute Democrats before the midterms, that would also be obstruction of justice in THAT case. So two possible tracks here. No word on whether Heather Wilson, the former Congresswoman who also reportedly called Iglesias during that time, is involved in the case, but Emptywheel wants to know if someone else is involved.

It'll be interesting to see whether Domenici cooperates. That's because--according to an often-ignored story from the Albuquerque Journal--Domenici had to call Bush directly to get Iglesias fired.

"In the spring of 2006, Domenici told Gonzales he wanted Iglesias out.

Gonzales refused. He told Domenici he would fire Iglesias only on orders from the president.

At some point after the election last Nov. 6, Domenici called Bush's senior political adviser, Karl Rove, and told him he wanted Iglesias out and asked Rove to take his request directly to the president.

Domenici and Bush subsequently had a telephone conversation about the issue.

The conversation between Bush and Domenici occurred sometime after the election but before the firings of Iglesias and six other U.S. attorneys were announced on Dec. 7.

Iglesias' name first showed up on a Nov. 15 list of federal prosecutors who would be asked to resign. It was not on a similar list prepared in October.

The Journal confirmed the sequence of events through a variety of sources familiar with the firing of Iglesias, including sources close to Domenici. The senator's office declined comment."

Would the former President be criminally liable in this case? I guess it depends on how far the prosecutor is willing to take the case. From the beginning of the US Attorney scandal, it was clear that the conduct with respect to David Iglesias was egregious. We could really see some arrests in this one.

UPDATE: There's also talk of Karl Rove cooperating with the US Attorney investigation, which I'm finding hard to believe. But maybe by "cooperating" Rove means "lying on the stand and then trying to wiggle out of it," the way he "cooperated" in the CIA leak investigation.

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