Friday 10 October 2008
by: Marilou Johanek, The Toledo Blade
At any other time, what happened in the U.S. Justice Department last week would have been big news. At any other time, when internal reports by Justice Department call for more investigation into a case of unethical, if not criminal, conduct on the part of lawmakers and the White House, the administration would have a lot of explaining to do.
But the Bush administration got lucky. As its Treasury and Federal Reserve chiefs warned that the sky was falling and the economic crash and continuing tumult on Wall Street made them seem prophetic, the Justice Department released a nearly 400-page scalding indictment of the administration over the controversial firings of several U.S. attorneys in 2006.
It was an overlooked bombshell in breaking news cycles preoccupied with financial crisis, rescue plans, presidential politics, and a vice-presidential debate.
But what the Justice Department's exhaustive investigation and blistering report concluded about the enormous damage done to the department through improper politicization is far more troubling than even Sarah Palin in disjointed attack mode.
Investigators from both the department's Office of Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility found that political pressure did indeed drive the dismissal action against at least three of the nine federal prosecutors abruptly fired. At the time, then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales insisted the individuals were all dismissed for inadequate performance, or failure to implement the President's law enforcement agenda.
But it appears the longtime pal and adviser to President Bush was lying through his teeth. Turns out the real reason some of the top federal lawyers were removed from the job, according to the Justice Department report, was that either the U.S. attorneys had the audacity to prosecute Republicans or because they failed to aggressively prosecute Democrats.
Either way, their behavior ticked off well-connected GOP politicians who had come to expect a politically loyal Justice Department. A couple of calls from powerful New Mexico Republican officeholders helped push former U.S. attorney David Iglesias out of a job. Evidently, the top New Mexico prosecutor was remiss in his duty to produce criminal charges against Democrats in the run-up to the 2006 election.
Another U.S. attorney in Missouri lost his post over a petty complaint from Republican Sen. Christopher Bond, and still another was bumped to make room for a protÈgÈ of White House political adviser Karl Rove. There was a pervading culture of partisanship/loyalty-above-all-else in the department, recalled one of the fired attorneys.
ìNot only were my colleagues and I not insulated from politics - as we should have been in our jobs as prosecutors - but we were fired for the most partisan reasons,î Mr. Iglesias said.
But it mattered not to the Machiavellian Bush Administration that justice was compromised with appalling political interference. It operates under the premise that the ends always justify the means.
Look at the pattern.