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Tilting at Windmills

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February 28, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

THE PURGE....Why did the Justice Department fire a bunch of U.S. Attorneys recently? Because they were too zealous in prosecuting Republican politicians? Maybe. Because the Bush administration wanted to reward one of Karl Rove's ex-aides? Definitely. Because they were insufficiently gung-ho about indicting Democrats before last year's midterm elections? That's what one of them said today:

David Iglesias said two members of Congress separately called in mid October to inquire about the timing of an ongoing probe of a kickback scheme and appeared eager for an indictment to be issued on the eve of the elections in order to benefit the Republicans. He refused to name the members of Congress because he said he feared retaliation.

....Iglesias, who received a positive performance review before he was fired, said he suspected he was forced out because of his refusal to be pressured to hand down an indictment in the ongoing probe.

"I believe that because I didn't play ball, so to speak, I was asked to resign," said Iglesias, who officially stepped down Wednesday.

This scandal started out slowly, but it's really been picking up steam as time goes by. Expect hearings soon.

Kevin Drum 3:14 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (42)

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Just a little pre-emptive strike, Kevin. After all, these were the types of people who could turn into activist judges.

Posted by: Alek Hidell on February 28, 2007 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

Question for any attorneys in the audience: would the fired attorneys have grounds for libel if Bush administration cronies claimed that they were fired for performance-related reasons, when the paper trail shows only excellent performance reviews, and it could be shown that said cronies knew that this was not the reason? We would then have knowingly false statements that cause career damage; I mean, you've publicly said that these guys got fired for incompetence.

Of course, proving they knew better is going to be the toughest task.

Posted by: Joe Buck on February 28, 2007 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

A couple more like this and Abu Gonzales could be looking at being impeached. If he resigns, impeach him anyway and forever block him from the public trough.

Posted by: Wapiti on February 28, 2007 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

"He refused to name the members of Congress because he said he feared retaliation."

What sort of retaliation might a fired US Attorney fear?

Posted by: Carl on February 28, 2007 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

They do not even have enough guts to cut funding to the Iraq war.

Heh indeed! How nice. So if the "Democrat congress" had cut funding, it'd be "TREASON!!!1!! String 'em up!!" But since they haven't, it's because they don't have the balls.

With arguments like this you must garner a snootful of megadittoes from your friends, Orwell.

Posted by: Alek Hidell on February 28, 2007 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

Why in the hell would we cut funding for the Iraq debacle.Everyone knows why the Righties are saying go ahead cut funding come on grow some balls cut funding.Ha HA George Bush is not going to get a Get Out Of Iraq Card for free.You trolls and righties will just have to live with the Iraq war on your card we will never cut spending untill after the 08 election.

Posted by: john john on February 28, 2007 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

Orwell: The Democrat congress will be at its best . . .

Approval of Congress under GOP: 13%

Approval of Congress under Dems: 36%

Public opinion of Congress has improved by 277% under the Democrats in less than two months.

Looks like more and more people each day believe Democratic action in Congress is better than twelve years of a whining, ranting, do-nothing GOP Congress without the balls to exercise their constitutional responsibilities.

Posted by: Google_This on February 28, 2007 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

Orwell on February 28, 2007 at 3:51 PM:

They do not even have enough guts to cut funding to the Iraq war.

Wow. Orwell comes out in support of cutting funding for Dubya's Folly...Either that, or it's some glorified form of "I double-dog-dare ya!"...Which is it, Orwell?

Just talk, talk, talk.

Six bills passed by the House within the 100 hours, and ethics reform passed by the Senate...

..Despite Republican obstruction:

The measure appeared dead Wednesday night after Republicans refused to allow passage without a vote on an unrelated amendment that would hand the president virtual line-item veto authority.

Anyone still in doubt of Orwell's intellectual dishonesty?

Posted by: grape_crush on February 28, 2007 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

What sort of retaliation might a fired US Attorney fear?

Ask Paul Wellstone.

Posted by: Disputo on February 28, 2007 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

what a F****ing disgrace the medical care for the US citizens's are!! I am one of the working poor of this wonderful "free" country of ours. I make 7(dollars an hr. I am a college educated 52 yr old women. yet i cannot afford to go to a private "doctor" ( NO HEALTH INSURANCE AT MY JOB) WHY NOT OFFER FREE MEDICAL CARE IN AMERICA!!! Why are YA'LL GIVING "FREE" MED CARE AND GOVERNMENT(YES I CAN SPELL) TO WET BACKS AND ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS.breed like rats) TURN COATS!~!Z!!! LOSE THE PHARM ADS ON TV. PRESCRIPTION DRUGS SHOULD NOT(NOT) BE ADVERTISED!!!!!!! FYI I WENt TO THE ER AT MY LOCAL HOSPITAL LAST YR WITH KIDNEY STONES. I WAITED ^ HRS. TO SEE A DOCTOR. WHY THE HELL I WAS IN SEVERE PAIN TOTAL BILL: 2900. DOLLARS. MAKES ME WANT TO SHOOT MYSELF IN MY HEAD!!!

Posted by: lucinda on February 28, 2007 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Orwell: stop me before I kill again!

Posted by: Disputo on February 28, 2007 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

"I would never, ever make a change in the United States attorney position for political reasons," Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said in Senate testimony in early January. As the AG is learning if the other party wins the election, you might as well be truthful when under oath. Strange thing about the truth, it seems to dribble out.

According to an article in Salon that is exactly what they did.

In a Feb. 6 hearing, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty told lawmakers, "When I hear you talk about the politicizing of the Department of Justice, it's like a knife in my heart."

Heart meet knife.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 28, 2007 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

The "Bush" administration are the anti Christ!!

Posted by: lu s on February 28, 2007 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

You can read more on Blue Girls, Watching Those We Chose website.

The other day the News Hour did a piece on the firings. The Republican talking head dominated the time. A smooth and polished lawyer he was able to spin his yarn without really addressing the truth. The Democrat did the best she could, but didn't get much of a shot. I hate it when the News Hour resorts to telling a story through two talking heads. They do a much better job with old fashioned journalism followed by a critique from a couple of realtively honest guests.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 28, 2007 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK


the reason the Seattle US atty was fired.

Posted by: moe99 on February 28, 2007 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

The story is really gathering steam. Paul Keil over at TPMMuckraker.com is reporting that Senator Schumer has been told that at least some of the ousted prosecutors would be willing to testify and tell what they know if subpoenaed.

Remember so far the evidence is overwhelming that Alberto Gonzolas really did fire a bunch of prosecutors for political reasons, so some (like everybody but AH and Al) might argue that his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee was perjury. As the Clinton case proved perjury is an impeachable offense.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 28, 2007 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

you are all, every single one of you, missing the real point here.

Fact is that these people had 'good' evaluations. that means they STANK UP THE JOINT. Look at the comparisons in this administration. to only get a 'good' or 'positive' review, think of how absurdly awful you must be at your job!

Posted by: northzax on February 28, 2007 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

For more on this topic, see this post.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on February 28, 2007 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

It's like a slow motion Saturday Night Massacre.

Posted by: cld on February 28, 2007 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK


Every President clears the slate when he comes into office. After that US Attorneys serve until they quit, prove themselves unfit, or the next President is elected.

In these cases there is a clear indication that the administration made specific moves for specific political purposes intended not to insure justice but to advance the interests of the Republican party.

At least one of the fired Prosecutors was involved with the prosecution of political friends of the Administration. She had already obtained a conviction of Duke Cunningham and was well on her way to indicting the former number three political appointee at the CIA.

Another was replaced by a henchman of Karl Rove. That political operative was appointed to the Eastern District of Arkansas. Any guesses as to why the Republicans would want one of Karl's boys in that job?

A third now claims to have been fired because he didn't prematurely rush indictments of Democratic office holders he had been investigating. In essence he said to the Republican Congressmen who wanted to push the indictments, the interests of the United States are more important than the interests of the Republican party. Who knew.

As each week passes more and more is being learned about these firings.

No, McA these are very unusual firings.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 28, 2007 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

If I remember rightly, Clinton cleared the slate of state attorneys too. Seems like a normal thing.

Ask your post-coma recovery doctor what year it is.

Posted by: Disputo on February 28, 2007 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

Mcaristotle on February 28, 2007 at 5:41 PM:

If I remember rightly, Clinton cleared the slate of state attorneys too.

Every one except Michael Chertoff...Except, it was at the beginning of Clinton's presidency, not toward the end like Dubya's. Then he appointed mostly Democrats, some Independents, and some Republicans.

But to pretend that these recent dismissals were just a matter of politics as usual is, well, wrong. These firings are all right if they are justifiable due to legitimately poor performance...Otherwise, they stink to high heaven; they would be seen as an action on the part of this administration to punish those that did not prosecute in a manner that it dictated. If this snowballs, the administration will have to show that they didn't act in a punitive manner. Given this administration's reputation, it's gonna be difficult.

Happy to spell out the distinction for you, McA.

Posted by: grape_crush on February 28, 2007 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

The real issue here isn't the firing of the US Attorneys - as others have pointed out, this isn't terribly uncommon and Clinton did something similar upon taking office - the real issue is that under new legislation passed sub rosa, the replacements can be appointed without Senate approval. That's the real scandal.

Posted by: rod on February 28, 2007 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

If I remember rightly, Clinton cleared the slate of state attorneys too. Seems like a normal thing.

No, that's false. Every President, at the beginning of his term, asks for and receives the resignations of the currently serving USAs in order to allow the President to appoint his own team. That was done by Clinton, Bush 1, Reagan, Carter, Ford, etc. The new appointees are then subject to Congressional confirmation and approval.

In this case, Bush is replacing USAs at the end, not the beginning, of his term, and is doing so in a manner that insulates them from Congressional scrutiny and confirmation.

Posted by: Stefan on February 28, 2007 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

What sort of retaliation might a fired US Attorney fear?

Let's ask Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame: what sort of retaliation might a United States Ambassador and a CIA agent fear?

Posted by: Stefan on February 28, 2007 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

Of course this is all about politics. What else do you expect from this administration? And because Members of Congress did not read all of the Patriot Act, these "temporary replacements" are permanent.

These guys are lawyers. Do you suppose there is a Constitutional issue coming out of this? Even if it isn't, watch the neocons scream when the next President fires all of the Bush appointees. What is good for the goose, etc.

With these screwball actions, sometimes it seems he wants to see the Democrats win in 2008.

Posted by: bob in fl on February 28, 2007 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, you never know when a US Attorney will go rogue-elephant, indicting all sorts of important people for, e.g., petty little things like lying under oath and obstructing justice. (As if these guys knew anything about justice.)

Real men are doing what's necessary to fight the Global War On The War Against Freedom, and if we have to sacrifice a few Boy Scouts, well, you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.

Now stop giving aid and comfort to our enemies.

Posted by: bleh on February 28, 2007 at 7:05 PM | PERMALINK

Want to scare the beheevee's out of a Righty just yell BILL CLINTON !!! Be like a crack whore looking for the next hit.

Posted by: john john on February 28, 2007 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: john john on February 28, 2007 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

I'll reserve judgment on what happened to the other seven, even thoughh their ousters smack of good old-fashioned Bush cronyism.

However, I'd like to bid a less than fond "Aloha" to San Francisco's U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan, who turned into a shameless publicity hound during his tenure in "Baghdad by the Bay" -- and as an aside, perhaps the city's residents could possibly reconsider that old nickname, in light of current events ...

Anyway, the San Francisco Weekly -- hardly a right-wing rag -- noted in October '06 the low morale in Ryan's office and a resulting exodus of over 50% of the staff attorneys, who between them had over 500 years cumulative experience in the Northern District, as Ryan obsessed over nailing Barry Bonds for perjury in the Balco steroid scandal, and other high profile cases.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on February 28, 2007 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

Hi Kevin.........we've been covering Gonzales footsteps since January........guess blogs don't have any standing.....just the MSM huh?

We knocked around many theories on the purge.......Karl Rove's name comes up once in a while.......but we've taken a look at the cases and the courts involving the lawyers........

Now, at this point, it may pay to look at the attorneys that have not been purged and the states they represent!

The whole enchilada can be found here:


Posted by: avahome on February 28, 2007 at 8:21 PM | PERMALINK

Back to David Iglesias...

The local Republicans were trying to make a big stink about the current and previous Democratic state treasurers being under investigation for corruption. They wrote their little editorials, and had a couple of people out demonstrating whenever Democrats got together. It didn't get much traction, probably because the Democratic administration was prosecuting the two ex-treasurers, not covering up for them, and working to introduce a broad range of controls and ethics requirements to prevent this from happening again.

So, David Iglesias wouldn't move faster than the evidence and case allowed, to help the Repugs on election day? I'd believe this could put him on the short list for getting replaced.

But also, don't forget, Governor Bill Richardson is running for President. Although he finally declared in the last month or so, it's been obvious for years now that that was his goal. So replacing Iglesias with a hack Republican opposition researcher, based in Richardson's home state, to dig up dirt and issue indictments as the election approached, would be a good, Rove-like move. Just as they did in Arkansas.

Posted by: Zandru on February 28, 2007 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

I poted the following as a comment at the article Ron Byers above referred to at Watching Those We Chose.

The US Atty for the District of Arizona, Paul Charlton was one of the ones that were booted. He had the pedigree to have been appointed by Bush, which you might think would make him somewhat suspect. Not the case, even according to dyed in the wool Democrats. Universally praised by most everybody around the Federal criminal courts here in Arizonaa, bot Dem and Republican. A really good US Atty, honorable and honest. His fault? Upheld the ethical principals he was sworn to and refused to demand the death penalty when it was not called for in cases, which upset the Bushies and Gonzales.

Posted by: bmaz on February 28, 2007 at 10:33 PM | PERMALINK

If I remember rightly, Clinton cleared the slate of state attorneys too.

Seems like a normal thing.

yeah, at the beginning of your first term, not six years into it, dumbass.

Posted by: haha on February 28, 2007 at 10:49 PM | PERMALINK

If I remember rightly, Clinton cleared the slate of state attorneys too.

Since you're clearly just bullshitting allow me to clue you in:

Bush cleared the old slate of attorneys in his first two years of office as well.

And these attorneys are the very ones he brought in to fill that slate, you dip.

Firing them en masse this late into his term without explanation is unprecedented and suspect.

Posted by: trex on February 28, 2007 at 10:57 PM | PERMALINK

"I would never, ever make a change in the United States attorney position for political reasons," Attorney General Alberto Gonzales

I'm just trying to remember why I just don't trust anything this man says. Maybe it'll come back to me. I see water . . . electrodes . . . death . . .

Like I said, it'll come back to me.

Posted by: notthere on February 28, 2007 at 11:14 PM | PERMALINK

About the congressional people who leaned on Iglesias: Is that illegal? Obstruction of justice?

Posted by: CapitalistImperialistPig on February 28, 2007 at 11:50 PM | PERMALINK

With all that there is to investigate about this administration, to waste time and the public's goodwill holding hearings on the firing of U.S. attorneys makes Democrats no better than Republicans. It's political, and to Americans who are expecting Democrats to be serious protectors of the Constitution and the nation it's insulting.

U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president. They can be fired at any time and for any reason. Republicans shouldn't be bad-mouthing the performances of these attorneys - they don't need to. The fact that they are reaffirms for me that until Joe Lieberman crosses the aisle and joins the Republican Caucus, Bush's playbook for his last two years in office is more delay, stonewall and obfiscate.

I know this because the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. This is what Bush does when he's playing defense.

Bush has hired Fred Fielding to replace Harriet Miers and word has it that Fielding is there to frustrate all attempts to access paper from the Executive branch. And elsewhere, loyalists (like Gonzales) will ignite logs and roll them into Democrats (see Spartacus). The firing of U.S. attorneys is one such burning, rolling log - something perfectly legal. Political, sure, so what?

For Schumer (or any Democrat) to take a swing at it tells me that Schumer is just another hack politician, worse than the Republicans because he's useless at taking them out and working on behalf of the American people.

Two years from the next election and all we got was 100 hours (less than two weeks of work in January) of the House passing bills that are unlikely to ever get signed into law. The House is back on a 3-day work week, the Senate has held all their hearings on Iraq and nobody is bringing the troops out. and We're in full Presidential election mode two years out. How insane is that?

I blame both Hillary and Obama. They had no right hijacking the process this early, not letting the Democratic House and Senate victories remain above the fold with their new majority business for a couple of months. Obama started this before the midterm elections. He wasn't even running for re-election, but there he was, everywhere in the media, sucking all of the oxygen out of the midterms. Neither one of these two are the answer, and I don't see anyone who is on the horizon.

A leader will emerge, naturally, one who is able to effect a plan for the Al Qaeda problem (not just the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the whole of the region), solving our energy and economic problems that doesn't require war and which all Democrats (at least, and then perhaps enough Republicans) can rally around. If Hillary and Obama (and any others in the race) got out of the coffee klatches in Iowa and New Hampshire, and went back to work in Washington, started doing their jobs and working towards this, I'd be interested. Neither one of them has what it takes to get this done.

Americans need to reclaim the democracy, and it's going to have to come at the local level, grassroots. Citizens need to pull together and draft new candidates for all seats in both houses of Congress. It starts with us.

Posted by: Maeven on March 1, 2007 at 1:42 AM | PERMALINK

Except, Maeven, that investigating these unusual mid-term un-confirmed forced resignations is a very good place to start.
Why? Because they are illustrative of a modus operandi of preventing (one could even say "obstructing") substantive oversight of government spending and policies, and investigation into possible corruption and other crimes.
It's an M.O. that needs to be dragged out into the sunlight, so that the public has a chance to learn about it.
No such investigations, no media attention to that issue.
Media, by the way, that is quite busy trumpeting the antics of various Presidential contenders more than 1.5 years prior to the election.
If you want to piss and moan about Senators Clinton and Obama, feel free but remember who it is that is putting their faces on the front pages and making it the subject of news broadcasts and talking-head gab-fests.
I'm sure it was Hillary's idea, too, to make sure that Anna Nicole coverage superseded everything else.

Posted by: kenga on March 1, 2007 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

There will be a hearing today at 4:00 pm eastern in the House Judiciary Committee to consider issuing subpeonas to Carol Lam, David Iglesias, H.E. Cummins, III, and John McKay to appear before a Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee hearing next week. The Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee is headed by Congresswoman LInda Sanchez. She is one of the most vocal members on this issue. Oversite. Something new for the Bush administration.

You can pick up a live webcast on the judiciary committee website.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 1, 2007 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

Did I really type "oversite." "Oversight." Now that's the ticket.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 1, 2007 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

Bush's Commissariat
(cognitorex blogspot ).
Re: "Purge" Salon
"Experts see a continuing pattern that began long ago: A Bush White House seizing greater executive power to the detriment of democratic principle."
Today's executive branch more closely resembles a Communist form of government than a form espousing democratic ideals.
The Bush style, motivation and form of government continues to appear modeled on establishing a Commissariat.
Place a commissar, (an official in any communist government whose duties include political indoctrination, detection of political deviation, etc.), at the head of as many agencies and functions as is possible.
The product of America's science agencies is vetted and amended by commissars. Now, after a massive firing of well qualified but politically suspect U.S. Attorney Generals, justice will be need be blessed by Bush's commissariat.
Under communism, reality is what the commissariat says is reality. In terms of business management, the marketing division takes control of the corporation. Sales may be plummeting, the engineering division in total disarray, financial resources hemorrhaging and investor confidence at an all time low but, but by controlling all public relations' releases, the CEO is free to promulgate a false reality.
I was once invited to participate in a boar hunt in Eastern Europe. I asked my prospective host; "if under communism all citizens are equal how does one rationalize that a peasant class would be beating the woods while we sat with shiny loaded weapons waiting for the boars to appear?"
He smiled and said, "ah, under communism some citizens are simply more equal than others."
The 'have' class allied to Bush feel entitled to lead America. If controlling the message that emanates from America's government branches and agencies includes elevating political imagery to primary goal status, uncircumscribed by truth, then establishing a network of inexperienced, hack commissar-like appointees is the way to go.
My gut screams that a massive exercise of the citizens right to assemble will be required, braving dogs and hoses if need be, before this commissariat executive power grab will be broken and a pluralistic democracy reinstated.

Posted by: Craig Johnson on March 1, 2007 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK



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