Monday, March 05, 2007

Federal Prosecutors Replaced

House Judiciary Subcommittee Issues Subpoenas

In my opinion, the biggest story in the news these past few weeks, and getting less attention than it deserves is the tale of eight US attorneys who have been recently been fired to make way for more pliant Bu$hCo™ appointees. As Josh Marshall (Talking Points Memo) opines, "I suspect many of the press lords haven't awoken yet to the potential magnitude of this story." And I'll tell you why I think it's so big.
  1. It marks a further erosion of the Constitution, especially the separation of powers doctrine.
  2. Many of the attorneys who were fired have been prominently involved in corruption cases against GOP insiders, notably Carol Lam of California who prosecuted Randy 'Duke Cunningham.
  3. Many of the replacement appointees are themselves prominent GOP insiders, including J. Timothy Griffin, one of KKKarl Rove's aides.
  4. At least one of the fired attorneys appears to claim that he was fired because he refused to launch investigations into an alleged Democratic kickback scheme just before the midterm elections.
  5. It comes on the heels of recent firings and replacement of federal JUDGES, made possible by a clause inserted into the renewal of the USA PATRIOT Act in the middle of the night. It looks like the intent is to make the entire justice department into a wholly owned subsidiary of Bu$hCo™.
As reported in the New York Times,
"Discussions began in October at the Justice Department about removing prosecutors who were considered flawed or deficient in carrying out administration policy by law enforcement officials, lawmakers and others, several officials said. The White House eventually approved the list and helped notify Republican lawmakers before the Dec. 7 dismissals, officials said.. ..The list of prosecutors who were targets was approved by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and the deputy attorney general, Paul J. McNulty, the day-to-day manager of the Justice Department since he was appointed in the fall of 2005."
Perhaps the most profoundly disturbing case to date is the one involving David Iglesias of New Mexico. From the San Diego Union Tribune: New Mexico Senator Peter Domenici acknowledges he asked David Iglesias about an investigation into an alleged Democratic kickback scheme prior to the 2006 mid-term election. Iglesias "said last week that he was shocked to receive two separate phone calls in mid-October from lawmakers who asked about details of the investigation and seemed eager to see an indictment before the 2006 election" and claims he was also contacted by another Republican legislator, identified as Representative Heather Wilson. Domenici says that he did not pressure or threaten Iglesias, but when things didn't go the way Domenici expected Iglesias' position was terminated. You be the judge, but I call that pressure.

Daniel Bogden of Nevada looked into the reasons for his dismissal, and the answer he received puts the lie to any claim that it was performance related, as reported in The Seattle Times:
"Bogden, who was named the top federal prosecutor in Nevada in 2001 after 11 years of working his way up at the Justice Department, asked an official at the agency's headquarters if the firing was related to his performance or to that of his office. 'That didn't enter into the equation,' he said he was told.

After several more calls, Bogden reached a senior official who offered an answer. 'There is a window of opportunity to put candidates into an office like mine,' Bogden said, recalling the conversation. 'They were attempting to open a slot and bring someone else in.' "
I and my colleagues are the same people in December of 2006 that we were in 2001,” said one former prosecutor who would speak only on the condition of anonymity. “The only thing that has changed is the administration of the Department of Justice. We were making the same arguments and the same points before.” (New York Times, cited above) Clearly the reasons cited for the prosecutors' dismissal is utterly bogus.

This story is going to become MUCH more prominent due to Thursday's AP wire story from the San Jose Mercury News,
"A House committee is compelling four of at least eight U.S. attorneys ousted from office in recent months to tell their stories under oath after one prosecutor said he believes he was fired for political reasons.

Democrats on a House Judiciary subcommittee voted 7-0 Thursday to subpoena fired prosecutors Carol Lam of California, David Iglesias of New Mexico, H.E. "Bud" Cummins of Arkansas and John McKay of Seattle. No Republicans member of the subcommittee attended the session, which lasted less than five minutes.

Democrats said they are troubled that the Bush administration may be punishing prosecutors for being too effective at pursuing political corruption cases."
As Mark Kleiman remarks at Huffington Post,
"It looks as if the four are willing to tell their stories, but only if they are compelled to do so. (It might be interesting to ask them who asked them to keep silent.)"
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