I have said that I believe there is scant evidence that the Bush Administration fired any U.S. Attorney because of their failure to prosecute Democrats, or their successful prosecution of Republicans.
I’m not so sure I still think that.
I have said before — in a post studiously ignored by those determined to unfairly portray me as one-sidedly defending the Administration — that the timing of the David Iglesias firing is among the most troubling aspects of the firings of the eight U.S. Attorneys:
It looks horrible for Pete Domenici to have called up David Iglesias about a pending case. . . . Add to the list of suspicious items the timing of Iglesias’s inclusion on the firing list.
Former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias was fired after Sen. Pete Domenici, who had been unhappy with Iglesias for some time, made a personal appeal to the White House, the [Albuquerque] Journal has learned.
Domenici had complained about Iglesias before, at one point going to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales before taking his request to the president as a last resort.
The senior senator from New Mexico had listened to criticism of Iglesias going back to 2003 from sources ranging from law enforcement officials to Republican Party activists.
Domenici, who submitted Iglesias’ name for the job and guided him through the confirmation process in 2001, had tried at various times to get more white-collar crime help for the U.S. Attorney’s Office— even if Iglesias didn’t want it.
At one point, the six-term Republican senator tried to get Iglesias moved to a Justice Department post in Washington, D.C., but Iglesias told Justice officials he wasn’t interested.
In the spring of 2006, Domenici told Gonzales he wanted Iglesias out.
Gonzales refused. He told Domenici he would fire Iglesias only on orders from the president.
At some point after the election last Nov. 6, Domenici called Bush’s senior political adviser, Karl Rove, and told him he wanted Iglesias out and asked Rove to take his request directly to the president.
Domenici and Bush subsequently had a telephone conversation about the issue.
Ouch. Not good. Here’s the timeline, which I extrapolated from the reporting in the linked article:
- October 2006: A list is prepared. Iglesias’s name is not on it.
- October 27, 2006: Domenici makes an improper phone call to Iglesias about prosecutions of Democrats. Iglesias says no indictments will happen before the election.
- November 6, 2006: the election.
- Between November 6 and December 7, 2006: Domenici complains to Bush about Iglesias.
- November 15, 2006: Iglesias’s name appears on a list of people to be fired.
- December 7, 2006: Iglesias is fired.
I don’t see any evidence of anything else that would suddenly result in Iglesias’s name being put on the list.
Combine this with a couple of other pieces of circumstantial evidence. First, recall Kyle Sampson’s admission that he proposed putting Patrick Fitzgerald on the list. That was a virtual admission that Sampson considered naked politics in putting together the list. I considered that the news of the day when it came out. Second, we have Alberto Gonzales’s recent re-confirmations that he delegated the bulk of the decisionmaking on this critical task to the weaselly Sampson — who not only considered firing Fitzgerald, but whom I also excoriated for scheming to lie to Congress about the temporary nature of Tim Griffin’s appointment.
Plus: another day, another complaint that Alberto Gonzales politicized the Justice Department. (H/t semanticleo.)
I said last month that Gonzales should quit. Unfortunately, President Bush didn’t accept my sage advice, and I predict Gonzales is going to embarrass himself badly in Tuesday’s hearings. He is a weak man: not terribly bright, and a terrible manager. (I’m glad I strongly opposed the idea of his becoming a Supreme Court Justice!) Watching these hearings is going to be excruciatingly painful for Gonzales defenders and die-hard Republicans.
This is not to say that every punch Democrats have tried to land is a valid one. Based on what I’ve seen, the flap over Carol Lam is demonstrably silly and doesn’t fit the Democrats’ timeline. The same goes for the Biskupic affair, based upon available evidence.
But you know what? I have absolutely no faith that Gonzales is going to make the case — even on slam-dunk issues such as Lam and Biskupic. Because he just ain’t that bright — and because he has no fire in his belly. I can even see him sitting still for Senator Chuckie S. lecturing him about how improper it was for Pete Domenici to contact a prosecutor about an ongoing investigation — and not bothering to throw it in Senator Schumer’s face that Schumer did the exact same thing to Deputy Attorney General James Comey with respect to the Plame investigation.
(One wrong doesn’t excuse another — but it’s unconscionable for Schumer to be the guy pontificating about this . . . and it will be inexcusable for Gonzales to let him. But mark my words: he will. And no other Big Media outlet will talk about it. I wrote the L.A. Times about this on April 2, and nobody has had even the courtesy to send me an e-mail in response.)
Basically, it’s going to be pathetic to watch Gonzales try to defend these decisions — and in the case of Iglesias, it’s looking more and more like the decision was indefensible.