The dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy of 2007 has been largely forgotten, but it was a very big deal at the time. It resulted in the resignations of the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, the Acting Associate Attorney General, the chief of staff for the Attorney General, the chief of staff for the Deputy Attorney General, the Director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, the former acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, and the Department of Justice’s White House Liaison. It was a total disaster for the Bush administration that was the natural result of a conspiracy to deliberately politicize the Justice Department. The U.S. Attorneys who were fired were fired for insufficient partisan zeal. In some cases, they refused to open meritless voter fraud cases. In other cases, they wouldn’t open meritless investigations on Democratic politicians. In still other cases, they were actually investigating lawbreaking by Republicans.
So, one of the takeaways from the scandal was that the U.S. Attorneys who weren’t dismissed were incredibly suspect. The attorneys who were found acceptable to the Bush administration were the ones who would launch phony investigations against innocent people and who would cover up criminal activity if is was carried out by Bush’s allies. Chris Christie was a U.S. Attorney who passed that test. He was considered sufficiently corrupt (or corruptible) to remain a U.S. Attorney in Alberto Gonzales’s (and Karl Rove’s) Justice Department.
How did he pass that test? Let’s go into the Wayback Machine:
The enmity between Mr. Christie and Mr. [Bob] Menendez dates at least to 2006, when Mr. Menendez was running for Senate and Mr. Christie was the top federal prosecutor in New Jersey. Mr. Christie’s office started an investigation that touched on Mr. Menendez’s dealings with a community group. Mr. Menendez charged that the inquiry was politically motivated — nothing came of it — and people close to the senator say he still resents it.
Why wasn’t Christie dismissed in the great purge of 2006? Because he did what he was told, and harassed Bob Menendez during election season.
After Christie became the governor of New Jersey he had the power to make dozens of appointments to the Port Authority, and it is now clear that he continued his practice of using his office to politicize non-political organizations.
This should surprise exactly no one.
Feed the Political AnimalDonate
Washington Monthly depends on donations from readers like you.