Wash. D.C. - Top U.S. law enforcement official Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez engineered a Pearl Harbor Day for eight Republican appointed federal prosecutors. From one end of the country to the other, previously well regarded prosecutors were summarily fired (allowed to resign) on December 7, 2006. Chief of the Office of U.S. Attorneys, Michael Battle
spread the news. In a rare case of the messenger shooting himself, Battle abruptly decided that he too would resign after the firings turned into a major scandal this month.
Even hard core Bush supporters were appalled. High profile Republican partisan and former federal prosecutor Joseph diGenova made his opinion clear: “This is really a pathetic way of running government." Mark Corallo, a former close aid to Attorney General Ashcroft said: "These are people who worked hard in the pursuit of justice. To go out and trash their reputations -- it's galling." John Smietanka, deputy to George H. W. Bush’s Attorney General William Barr, offered this: “If they were going to ask for the resignations of people, they should have given reasons, just for pure tact and humanity." (Source of quotations: Law.Com, 12 Mar 2007)
Working at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue seems to be the essential requirement to stick one’s head in the sand and support this process.
Why were these eight selected? The notion that they were somehow ineffective is a non starter. All eight prosecutors had positive personnel reviews by the Department of Justice (DOJ) according to the Wall Street Journal whose reporters had access to the files. The conventional wisdom is that they were somehow disloyal to the Bush White House, either through acts of omission or commission. That’s obvious. But what were those acts?
Is there a common element to the firings? In the case of four of the eight, there might be.
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David Iglesias., New Mexico. “Leaned on” by a Senator and his heir for failing to indict Democrats before 2006 elections.
Senator Pete Domenici, (R-NM), recommended David Iglesias as New Mexico’s federal prosecutor. Imagine the volatile senator’s outrage when he reportedly called and asked Iglesias for a favor. Domenici was concerned about the slow pace of expected indictments of Democrats in election related cases according to Iglesias. Should the indictments come just before the 2006 election, they would help Republicans in tight races. The alleged interference took its toll. Iglesias said “I felt sick afterward. I felt leaned on. I felt pressured to get these cases moving.”
A big part of the pressure was from Congresswoman Heather Wilson, (R-NM). She called Iglesias and reportedly pressured him to indict the same Democrats requested by Domenici. Iglesias would have none of it. Wilson later said that she’d called to help Iglesias with his investigation, an assertion that became the object of mockery among commentators. Regarded as Domenici’s political heir for the New Mexico Senate seat, she was one of those Republicans who would benefit form early indictments of high profile Democrats. Wilson needed every bit of leverage available to win re-election. She won by less than 1,000 votes in one of those controversial elections.
There were no pre-election indictments by prosecutor Iglesias.
The likely motivation for the firing was clarified by New Mexico Republican Party Chairman Allen Weh. In a just published account by McClatchy Newspapers, he described a 2005 phone call with Karl Rove, Weh asked, “Is anything ever going to happen to that guy?” referring to Iglesias’ failure to bring the requested pre election charges against Democrats. Rove’s response was direct, “He’s gone.” And he was, just a few months after the phone call.
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John McKay, Washington State. Investigate “voter” fraud in 2004 Governor’s race or tell me why you didn’t!
John McKay of Washington State was apparently the object of a longer held grudge by the White House. He refused to investigate allegations of voter fraud in the 2004 election for Governor of Washington State. McKay told Senate investigators of receiving a call from the chief of staff for Republican Congressman “Doc” Hastings. The call concerned a prosecution to challenge the Democrats in their 200 vote victory in the 2004 race for governor.