I’m just catching up on all of the new information emerging around the DOJ scandal (one of the first reasons I began this blog). Monica Goodling, who we knew to be amazingly loyal, partisan, and evil in her zeal to politicize the US Attorneys’ office, performed the following search on potential candidates:
[First name of a candidate]! and pre/2 [last name of a candidate] w/7 bush or gore or republican! or democrat! or charg! or accus! or criticiz! or blam! or defend! or iran contra or clinton or spotted owl or florida recount or sex! or controvers! or racis! or fraud! or investigat! or bankrupt! or layoff! or downsiz! or PNTR or NAFTA or outsourc! or indict! or enron or kerry or iraq or wmd! or arrest! or intox! or fired or sex! or racis! or intox! or slur! or arrest! or fired or controvers! or abortion! or gay! or homosexual! or gun! or firearm!
Margaret Chiara was commended for carrying out Bush policy on firearms prosecutions in one batch of documents used to build the case to fire Carol Lam, yet in the end, it didn’t matter — she was also fired for political expediency. They can’t even come up with a reason for her dismissal that makes sense.
From Moschella’s testimony before US House Judiciary Committee:
In carrying out these responsibilities they serve at the pleasure of the President and report to the Attorney General. If
a judgment is made that they are not executing their responsibilities in a manner that furthers the
management and policy of departmental leadership, then it is appropriate that they be
asked to resign so that they can be replaced by other individuals who will.
– page 20, document 1-8
To be clear, it was for reasons related to policy, priorities and management – what has
been referred to broadly as ‘performance-related” reasons – that these U.S. Attorneys were asked
- page 20, document 1-8
Margaret Chiara to Paul McNulty, March 4, 2007
I respectfully request that you reconsider the rationale of poor performance as the basis for my dismissal. It is in our mutual interest to retract this erroneous explanation while there is still time. Please simply state that a presidentially appointed position is not an entitlement. No other explanation is needed.
Margaret Chiara to Paul McNulty, cc: Michael Elston, March 6, 2007
Today’s Congressional events make dear that I am, indeed, among the “USA – 8″. Shortly after his opening statement, but before citing the perceived deficiencies of my former colleagues, Will Moschella stated that the two United States Attorneys not present were dismissed because of management problems. Apparently Kevin Ryan (whom I do not know) and I share the same reason for termination.
Michael Elston told me on more than one occasion, that the rationale for dismissal was on a continuum of sorts and that I am on the de minimus end after Dan Bogden. It Is abundantly clear that this regrettable situation could have been better managed if the reasons for the dismissals were initially communicated to the affected United States Attorneys.
So, l now need to know what is the management problem to which Mr. Moschella referred?
In the NY Times today, David Iglesias gives his side of the story. Iglesias was the US Attorney in New Mexico, and had an exemplary record (he had even participated in the peer oversight committee for all US Attorneys) until someone decided he should be fired. His editorial is reproduced here because of the NY Times insistence on placing content behind the paid content curtain after 7 days.
Why I Was Fired
By DAVID C. IGLESIAS
WITH this week’s release of more than 3,000 Justice Department e-mail messages about the dismissal of eight federal prosecutors, it seems clear that politics played a role in the ousters.
Of course, as one of the eight, I’ve felt this way for some time. But now that the record is out there in black and white for the rest of the country to see, the argument that we were fired for “performance related” reasons (in the words of Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty) is starting to look more than a little wobbly.
United States attorneys have a long history of being insulated from politics. Although we receive our appointments through the political process (I am a Republican who was recommended by Senator Pete Domenici), we are expected to be apolitical once we are in office. I will never forget John Ashcroft, then the attorney general, telling me during the summer of 2001 that politics should play no role during my tenure. I took that message to heart. Little did I know that I could be fired for not being political.
Politics entered my life with two phone calls that I received last fall, just before the November election. One came from Representative Heather Wilson and the other from Senator Domenici, both Republicans from my state, New Mexico.
Ms. Wilson asked me about sealed indictments pertaining to a politically charged corruption case widely reported in the news media involving local Democrats. Her question instantly put me on guard. Prosecutors may not legally talk about indictments, so I was evasive. Shortly after speaking to Ms. Wilson, I received a call from Senator Domenici at my home. The senator wanted to know whether I was going to file corruption charges — the cases Ms. Wilson had been asking about — before November. When I told him that I didn’t think so, he said, “I am very sorry to hear that,” and the line went dead.
A few weeks after those phone calls, my name was added to a list of United States attorneys who would be asked to resign — even though I had excellent office evaluations, the biggest political corruption prosecutions in New Mexico history, a record number of overall prosecutions and a 95 percent conviction rate. (In one of the documents released this week, I was deemed a “diverse up and comer” in 2004. Two years later I was asked to resign with no reasons given.)
When some of my fired colleagues — Daniel Bogden of Las Vegas; Paul Charlton of Phoenix; H. E. Cummins III of Little Rock, Ark.; Carol Lam of San Diego; and John McKay of Seattle — and I testified before Congress on March 6, a disturbing pattern began to emerge. Not only had we not been insulated from politics, we had apparently been singled out for political reasons. (Among the Justice Department’s released documents is one describing the office of Senator Domenici as being “happy as a clam” that I was fired.)
As this story has unfolded these last few weeks, much has been made of my decision to not prosecute alleged voter fraud in New Mexico. Without the benefit of reviewing evidence gleaned from F.B.I. investigative reports, party officials in my state have said that I should have begun a prosecution. What the critics, who don’t have any experience as prosecutors, have asserted is reprehensible — namely that I should have proceeded without having proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The public has a right to believe that prosecution decisions are made on legal, not political, grounds.
What’s more, their narrative has largely ignored that I was one of just two United States attorneys in the country to create a voter-fraud task force in 2004. Mine was bipartisan, and it included state and local law enforcement and election officials.
After reviewing more than 100 complaints of voter fraud, I felt there was one possible case that should be prosecuted federally. I worked with the F.B.I. and the Justice Department’s public integrity section. As much as I wanted to prosecute the case, I could not overcome evidentiary problems. The Justice Department and the F.B.I. did not disagree with my decision in the end not to prosecute.
Good has already come from this scandal. Yesterday, the Senate voted to overturn a 2006 provision in the Patriot Act that allows the attorney general to appoint indefinite interim United States attorneys. The attorney general’s chief of staff has resigned and been replaced by a respected career federal prosecutor, Chuck Rosenberg. The president and attorney general have admitted that “mistakes were made,” and Mr. Domenici and Ms. Wilson have publicly acknowledged calling me.
President Bush addressed this scandal yesterday. I appreciate his gratitude for my service — this marks the first time I have been thanked. But only a written retraction by the Justice Department setting the record straight regarding my performance would settle the issue for me.
Tell me again that there was no orchestrated plan to push out US Attorneys? C’mon, Bush.
From yesterday’s batch of DOJ-released documents, part 7-8, page 17, comes the smoking gun which proves that the US Attorney firing of Bud Cummins in Arkansas and replacement was politically mandated. Cronyism only? You make the call.
The documents leading up to this are a series of emails between Monica Goodling and Tim Griffin, discussing the procedures for his appointment to Cummins’ post ahead of any notice given to Cummins that he was being forced out.
From: Goodling, Monica
Sent: Friday, August 18,2006 12:09 PM
To: Sampson. Kyle
Subject: Re: Conf Call, re: Tim Griffin
Fyi – to catch you up on the latest here (unless something else has happened this week), scott and I spoke last thurs or fri and this is what’s going on… We have a senator prob, so while wh is intent on nominating, scott thinks we may have a confirmation issue. Also, WH has a personnel issue as tim returns to the states this week and is still on WH payroll. The possible solution I suggested to scott was that we (DOJ) pick him up as a political, examine the BI completed in May pursuant to his WH post, and then install him as an interim. That resolves both the WH personnel issue and gets him into the office he and the W want him in. I asked Elston to feel out the DAG on bringing Tim into one of the vacant ADAG spots there, just for a short time until we install him in Arkansas. The DAG wanted to look at his resume, and I sent it him before I left. Was going to run this plan by you once I knew the DAG was onboard. If not, I suppose we can look at CRIM, but knowing Tim, my guess is he’d prefer something else given that he was in CRIM in 2001. (Tim knows nothing about my idea for a solution at this point – wanted your signoff, and a home for him, before I called him.)
(note: I added bold emphasis)
First reply (Please note the email addresses)
From: Sampson, Kyle
To: ‘SJennings@gwb43.com’ rSJennings@gwb43.com,; Goodling, Monica
Sent: Fri Aug 18 11:52:05 2006
Subject: RE: Conf Call, re: Tim Griffin
Tell us when, Scott, and we’ll be on it.
NOTE: In case you’re curious about who Scott Jennings is, here’s his title: Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Political Director
From Document 1-8, page 11, letter to Sen. Harry Reid from Richard A. Hertling (Acting Assistant Attorney General):
The decision to appoint Tim Griffin to be interim U.S. Attorney in the Eastern
District of Arkansas was made on or about December 15,2006, after the second
of the Attorney General’s telephone conversations with Senator Pryor.