Earlier this week, we wrote:
Despite the catchy and provocative title we’ve bestowed upon this story, we must confess: We don’t completely “get” the quasi-scandal surrounding the dismissal of eight U.S. Attorneys around the country.
Well, after reading your informative comments, and in light of subsequent revelations, we’re beginning to get it. The Democrats are having a field day with this — and one can hardly blame them.
More discussion after the jump.
Here are some general thoughts from an anonymous AUSA, posted over at Talking Points Memo:
[T]his purge has to be viewed as part a much larger story on the devastating impact of this administration’s policies on the institution of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
From a fiscal perspective, the administration has essentially abandoned the U.S. Attorney’s Offices. That has led to a precipitous drop in the numbers of federal prosecutions, particularly in larger districts like Los Angeles. The effects of the budget crisis at U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the nation are well documented….
(We’ve previously discussed the budget problems of U.S. Attorney’s Offices over here.)
And now the purges. So they’ve slashed U.S. Attorney’s budgets, trashed rights we have sworn to uphold, and now, tried to toady-up the ranks of our leadership by firing some of our best and brightest, apparently to make room for wingnut-annointed political hacks. Folks who do stuff like this deserve to get caught.
The TPM post is a bit intemperate. But looking to specifics, the David Iglesias allegations are troubling. From the NYT:
David C. Iglesias, who was removed as the United States attorney in Albuquerque, provided new details about phone calls he received from Senator Pete V. Domenici and Representative Heather A. Wilson, two Republicans from New Mexico.
Mr. Iglesias said he felt “sick” after a phone call from Mr. Domenici and his chief of staff several days before the 2006 elections. He said it was the first time he had received a call at home from Mr. Domenici, whom Mr. Iglesias described as a one-time political mentor.
He said that Mr. Domenici had inquired about a corruption case involving a courthouse construction contract and Democrats in the state. Mr. Domenici asked whether charges were “going to be filed before the election,” Mr. Iglesias said.
Mr. Iglesias said he had replied, “I don’t think so.” In response, he said, Mr. Domenici hung up. “I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that something bad had just happened,” Mr. Iglesias said. “I felt leaned on, I felt pressured to get these matters moving.”
Hmm, not so reassuring. The allegations by Thomas M. DiBiagio, former U.S. Attorney for Maryland, have also garnered attention:
The former federal prosecutor in Maryland said Monday that he was forced out in early 2005 because of political pressure stemming from public corruption investigations involving associates of the state’s governor, a Republican.
“There was direct pressure not to pursue these investigations,” said the former prosecutor, Thomas M. DiBiagio. “The practical impact was to intimidate my office and shut down the investigations.”
Our former debate partner, Brian Galle, expresses some skepticism about the DiBiagio allegations over at PrawfsBlawg:
One possibility is that some prosecutors were moved along in an effort to squelch corruption prosecutions, which of course would be a serious matter if true (in the case of Maryland, I’m somewhat dubious, since I know the replacement USA personally, and have little doubt that he would have pursued any meritorious corruption prosecution zealously, whoever its object).
But Professor Galle is troubled by the purges generally, for institutional, big-picture reasons:
The executive branch, and to a lesser extent Congress, both employ lots of high-ranking officials technically removable at will by their superiors, but whom we expect to act above politics….
These officials are like quasi-independent agencies: they offer internal checks and balances within the executive, making delegations to the executive (to my mind inevitable in a government this size) more palatable….
[F]or me this episode is an effort to halt what might well be a difficult-to-reverse slide away from norms of professionalism in federal prosecutors. Some would say we’ve seen it already in the Civil Rights Division at DOJ. To me it would be very unfortunate to see the same thing happen to the institution of the U.S. Attorney.
This is an interesting take on events — and a refreshing change from more naked attempts to score political points.
Anyway, suffice it to say that we’ll be following this story with interest.
The Sacked U.S. Attorneys: What’s at Stake? [PrawfsBlawg]
A View From An Anonymous AUSA [Talking Points Memo]
Prosecutors Describe Contacts From Higher Up [New York Times]
Former Prosecutor Says Departure Was Pressured [New York Times]
Fired U.S. Attorney Accuses Republicans of Exerting Political Pressure [Legal Times]
Prosecutors Describe Contacts From Higher Up [How Appealing (monster linkwrap)]
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