Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will face new legal jeopardy when the Justice Department’s Inspector General issues his next report on how the Bush administration let politics influence prosecutorial judgments, says ex-U.S. Attorney David Iglesias.
That installment is expected to address the firings of nine U.S. Attorneys in 2006 and could set the stage for criminal charges against Gonzales and his former deputy, Paul McNulty, according to Iglesias, the former U.S. Attorney for New Mexico who was one of those fired in the purge.
In an interview, Iglesias said he believes Inspector General Glenn Fine will recommend that Attorney General Michael Mukasey appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Gonzales, McNulty and others for perjury, obstruction of justice and possibly other crimes related to the firings.
However, given Mukasey’s unwillingness to pursue past crimes that implicate the Bush administration, Iglesias said accountability for Gonzales and others may have to wait until a new President takes office.
For nearly a year, Fine’s IG office has been investigating whether the prosecutor firings were improper, what role Gonzales played in the firings, and if he tried to influence the congressional testimony of one of his aides.
Fine testified before Congress on Wednesday that his investigation into the hiring practices at the Justice Department discovered that senior officials used illegal political litmus tests in the hiring of professional prosecutors and judges, but Fine’s report did not implicate Gonzales.
Iglesias said, however, that doesn’t mean Gonzales is home free on his alleged role in a separate issue, the firing of the nine federal prosecutors when some resisted pressure to bring politically timed prosecutions that would undermine Democrats and help Republican in elections.
“Here’s how I think that will go down,” Iglesias said in an interview with The Public Record. “The IG will find enough evidence to refer the matter to a special prosecutor. There will be more than enough evidence to make that recommendation. Mukasey will then decide whether or not to accept that recommendation. He will have to do so in consultation with the White House. That's where the road block will be. ”
Iglesias added that he also suspects that an upcoming IG report about the Justice Department’s Civil Rights division will be highly critical.
“I believe that when the rest of the report drops it will show the Civil Rights section was compromised in terms of their core historic mission, which is representing minorities,” Iglesias said. “I am hearing preliminarily those class of cases were not prosecuted, which if true is a remarkable turn of events.”
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John McKay, the former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington who was another one of the fired prosecutors, argued in a law review article earlier this year that if Fine determines federal laws were broken a special prosecutor should be appointed.
McKay wrote that Gonzales may have obstructed justice and that McNulty may have lied to Congress. McKay said the situation around Iglesias’s firing could lead to "criminal charges" against Gonzales and McNulty "for impeding justice" because of alleged political pressure placed on Iglesias to bring criminal charges.
In congressional testimony, Iglesias said he received telephone calls from New Mexico's Republican Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson before the 2006 elections inquiring about the timing of a possible corruption indictment against a Democratic official in the state.
Iglesias told Domenici and Wilson that he could not discuss the issue of indictments with them. A couple of weeks later, Iglesias's name was added to a list of U.S. Attorneys selected for termination.