That Report on the U.S. Attorneys — and the Horrible Reporting that the L.A. Times Did on the Scandal
Throughout the U.S. Attorney scandal, I defended the Bush Administration against unfair attacks, even as I consistently acknowledged some serious issues with the dismissals. In December 2007, I summarized some of the major anti-Bush points I had made in the spring:
I found the timing of the addition of David Iglesias to the list to be highly suspicious. It certainly raised concerns that Kyle Sampson had proposed to lie to Congress about Bud Cummins. And the buffoonish Kyle Sampson had proposed Patrick Fitzgerald for the firing list — something that certainly suggested that he was looking to politics in making his judgments.
I also argued in March 2007 that Alberto Gonzales needed to resign for incompetence in handling the firings and explaining it afterwards.
This past Monday, a report came out, and Attorney General Michael Mukasey appointed a special prosecutor to investigate whether there has been any criminal wrongdoing. I haven’t been able to read the whole report, but it looks like, to some extent, it’s gloating time.
Press reports indicate that the Justice Department report slams Gonzales for his ridiculously hands-off approach to this important matter. (He would have made a heck of a Supreme Court Justice, huh? I was right about that, too.) The AP has a summary of the reasons that the U.S. Attorneys were fired here.
Note that, consistent with my observations, among the few apparently nakedly political removals included those of Iglesias and Cummins. For example, the AP summary says about Iglesias:
Iglesias was asked to resign because of complaints about voter fraud and public corruption cases by Republican members of Congress and party activists, including Sen. Pete Domenici. The report says Justice officials failed “to ensure that prosecutorial decisions would be based on the law, the evidence and department policy, not political pressure.”
It also suggests that the Iglesias case should be further investigated by a special counsel to decide if criminal laws were violated.
The report concludes Cummins was removed to make way for another political appointee that Rove & Co. wanted to install. This much was clear at the time; I don’t think Bush ever denied it. (That didn’t keep the L.A. Times from utterly mangling comments by Cummins to make it sound like he thought his firing was over a political investigation.)
Meanwhile, I consistently ridiculed the notion that Carol Lam was fired for any reasons having to do with an investigation into Randy “Duke” Cunningham or Jerry Lewis — a theory that the L.A. Times pursued with the help of some egregious distortions. The AP summary seems to support me on this, since it says not one word about Cunningham or Lewis.
And the AP summary makes clear that some of the U.S. Attorneys were fired for arguably legimitate reasons, like Lam or Paul Charlton, and some for clearly legitimate reasons, including Margaret Chiara and Kevin Ryan, both of whom were fired for poor management skills.
Feel free to tell me if the AP summary misses or misstates anything.
Based on what we know, I think the scandal revealed as much about the wildly biased reporting of the Los Angeles Times as it revealed about the sometimes duplicitous and/or incompetent Bush Administration. Yet cartoonish partisans on either side typically ignored the faults of one side or the other. The truth was somewhere in the middle, and I’m happy to have anyone go back and review my coverage to see how it stands up today.