Patterico's Pontifications

3/14/2007

L.A. Times Tries to Make a Mountain Out of the Molehill of E-Mails on the U.S. Attorney Firings

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 12:33 am



The L.A. Times has a big story about internal White House e-mails regarding the Bush Administration’s decision to oust eight U.S. Attorneys. But as far as the actual firings themselves go, the real story appears to be that the White House had legitimate reasons for firing many of these folks.

The e-mails certainly don’t appear to corroborate the allegation Democrats keep repeating: that U.S. Attorneys were fired for going after Republicans, or for failing to go after Democrats. Instead, judging from the e-mails, it appears that the White House was genuinely concerned with performance issues, such as a failure to go after drug smugglers, and — hold onto your hat — an insufficient focus on illegal immigration cases. Yes: the White House fired a U.S. Attorney for going too easy on those illegal aliens!

I suppose it’s possible the e-mails are part of some whitewash. But the portions quoted by the paper seem very frank, and not written for public consumption. Indeed, they are awash in the cynical political lingo of crisis management, with talking points about how to manage any public relations fallout.

But it looks like the actual underlying decisions themselves were well grounded in sound complaints about performance. At worst, the White House followed traditional practices of handing out U.S. Attorney positions as political plums, and wanted U.S. Attorneys to follow Administration policy. As the kids say: “Duh.” (Do they still say that? Well, my seven-year-old says I’m not supposed to say it, so I guess they do.)

Here are some of the not-so-shocking details revealed by the article as reasons for the firings:

D. Kyle Sampson, chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, came up with a checklist. He rated each of the U.S. attorneys with criteria that appeared to value political allegiance as much as job performance. [This is a conclusion. Get to the facts. — Ed.]

He recommended retaining “strong U.S. Attorneys who have … exhibited loyalty to the President and Attorney General.” He suggested “removing weak U.S. Attorneys who have … chafed against Administration initiatives.”

OK, so the Administration wanted U.S. Attorneys who would carry out Administration policies. I’m sure we’re all shocked by that.

Here’s an example of a U.S. Attorney who did chafe against Administration policy — and the Administration’s response will shock some of you. It will especially shock our friends who claim that Bush is leaning on U.S. Attorneys to soften immigration enforcement. You know: the folks who believe that Bush personally ordered Johnny Sutton, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas, to prosecute a couple of supposedly innocent Border Patrol Agents for crimes they supposedly didn’t commit. I’d love to see the expressions on our cynical friends’ faces when they read this:

It [the released material] also made clear that in San Diego, U.S. Attorney Carol Lam was fired for not being tougher on illegal immigration. Sampson told Kelley that Justice had a “real problem” with Lam. He later asked William Mercer, the acting associate attorney general, whether officials “ever called Carol Lam and woodshedded her re immigration enforcement.”

Yup, you read that right. The Bushies fired Lam for going too lax on immigration enforcement!

Not only that, the Bushies were pushing to have big-time drug smugglers prosecuted:

In July, for instance, a Justice Department official advised the White House that U.S. Atty. Paul Charlton in Arizona was not prosecuting marijuana cases involving less than 500 pounds. His stance had riled then-House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).

About the worst things revealed by the article are actually quite commonplace. For example:

The documents show that in one case, officials were eager to free up the prosecutor’s slot in Little Rock, Ark., so it could be filled by Timothy Griffin, a GOP operative close to White House political guru Karl Rove — at all costs.

“We should gum this to death,” Sampson e-mailed Monica Goodling, the Justice Department’s liaison to the White House. He said officials should talk up Griffin’s appointment and try to “forestall” any criticism from Capitol Hill. Just “run out the clock” on any objections, he said.

The Administration wanted to give out a U.S. Attorney position as a political plum?! I am shocked. SHOCKED! I tells ya. Why, this has never before happened in the history of the country! Stop the presses!

Out of all eight U.S. Attorneys, there is one instance where there may be a political issue. The article reveals that Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) “phoned [U.S. Attorney David C.] Iglesias to inquire about a seemingly stalled corruption investigation against Democrats in New Mexico.” But even here, the article cites no real evidence from the e-mails showing that Domenici had any effect on the Administration’s decision to oust Iglesias. The article mentions e-mails sent after the firing, noting that Domenici was happy and was quickly submitting names as possible replacements. These e-mails show an (amused) awareness that Domenici had been unhappy with Iglesias — but the e-mails are not evidence that Domenici’s unhappiness had any effect.

Unmentioned by The Times is the fact that Iglesias, the fired New Mexico U.S. Attorney, had passed on more than a hundred allegations of voter fraud in New Mexico. After calling a press conference and saying: “It appears that mischief is afoot, and questions are lurking in the shadows,” he let his office drop most of the complaints, claiming that he lacked the resources to investigate them, and that the FBI had declined to investigate.

I think this is inexcusable. If you are the U.S. Attorney, you can play a role in setting priorities for the FBI — especially in the critically important area of voter fraud. Are there any White House e-mails talking about this issue with respect to the dismissal of Iglesias? Who knows? If there are, I don’t trust the L.A. Times to tell us about them.

(L.A. Times editors: would it kill you to publish the e-mails? We know you have them. We know from all the ellipses in your article that they are selectively quoted. You have unlimited space on the Web to show them to your readers. Why not dump them on there, and let us read them? Is there something that you are trying to hide??)

The tenor of the article is clear: the L.A. Times is trying to portray these e-mails as sinister. But honestly, this is pretty thin gruel. The article tries to beef it up by continual references to the White House effort to “oust” or “push out” the U.S. Attorneys — as if it is a highly unusual action for an incoming (or re-elected) president to clean house and replace U.S. Attorneys. To the contrary, every new elected President clears all the U.S. Attorneys out — as Hillary Clinton herself had to admit, since her husband did the same thing. Does the L.A. Times mention that? Not on your life.

Naturally, the apparently legitimate reasons for the firings articulated in the e-mails have gotten lost in all the noise over the mea culpa issued by the ever-clownish Alberto Gonzales. Gonzales screwed up everything by allowing Justice Department officials to mislead Congress regarding the extent of the White House’s involvement in the firings. Gonzales thus handed the Democrats a P.R. bonanza: he has no choice but to admit mistakes, and the Democrats get to define those mistakes in a misleading fashion, to make them sound like admissions that the White House was playing politics with the U.S. Attorneys. Even though the e-mails appear to indicate that the White House had legitimate reasons to fire the U.S. Attorneys, Gonzales’s clumsy handling of the matter gives Democrats the argument there is more than meets the eye.

Is there? I suppose it’s possible. But these e-mails provide scant evidence of any deep conspiracy to play politics with the U.S. Attorney’s Office — despite the best efforts of the L.A. Times to make it appear otherwise.

UPDATE: A decent paper managed to put the e-mails online. Here they are:

Looking at Set 1, we can see what was excised from very first L.A. Times passage quoted in the post above. The L.A. Times, seeking to emphasize the political motivations of the Administration, quotes Sampson as recommending the retention of “strong U.S. attorneys who have … exhibited loyalty to the president and attorney general.” The article further quotes Sampson as recommending “removing weak U.S. Attorneys who have … chafed against Administration initiatives.” Here’s what Sampson’s original memo said (my emphasis):

bold = Recommend retaining; strong U.S. Attorneys who have produced, managed well, and exhibited loyalty to the President and Attorney General.
strikeout = Recommend removing: weak U.S. Attorneys who have been ineffectual managers and prosecutors, chafed against Administration initiatives, etc.

The L.A. Times removed the bolded parts, which showed that the Administration cared about good results and management.

Nice.

UPDATE x2: I have now read all of the e-mails. They contain many interesting revelations not reported by the media — including virtually conclusive proof that Carol Lam was not selected for termination due to the Randy “Duke” Cunningham case. Details here.

100 Responses to “L.A. Times Tries to Make a Mountain Out of the Molehill of E-Mails on the U.S. Attorney Firings”

  1. Blogger Macsmind (MacRanger) opines that the real reason Democrats are getting their blood up has nothing to do with these firings. According to his theory, Dems are really gunning for AG Gonzales. Why? Because the AG’s office is continuing its probe of several high ranking Dems accused of malfeasance (we all know who they are.) And Dems are hoping to sack Gonzales starts issuing indictments.

    An interesting theory. I don’t know if there’s anything to it, but hey…

    DubiousD (c55a7e)

  2. Apparently two of the District Attorneys who were on the “bold” list were fired anyway. And another thing not mentioned in your article was that the DoJ circumvented the Senate signing off on the replacements by activating a little known amendment to The Patriot Act reauthorization that allowed Justice to simply name replacements without getting Senate approval in limited cases.

    This is not to undermine your main thesis – that this being blown way, way out of proportion. But there are troubling aspects to this matter, not the least of which is political interference in the prosecutors office. Regardless of whether it is done all the time (which buttresses your main point) the fact is, it is wrong and shouldn’t happen.

    Rick Moran (686801)

  3. Classic Patterico in his natural element – skewering the L.A. Slimes.

    Justin Levine (20f2b5)

  4. I listened to Gonzales snivelling yesterday. The guy needs to grow some legs and get off his belly.

    davod (09ab4f)

  5. Jeez man, re the update, that is flatly misleading. You can’t believe a freaking word they say. That’s just fundamentally dishonest.

    Dwilkers (4f4ebf)

  6. De facto evidence of journalistic malpractice.

    I would love to see your post, Patterico, printed and distributed where ever the LAT is.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  7. A useful critical analysis technique taught to me by my Admin Law prof years ago, is to “imagine what you’d have, if the alternative course was taken.”

    – 100 investigations / prosecutions of left liberal vote fraud allegations in New Mexico

    – lots more criminal prosecution of illegal immigrant smugglers, and perhaps some effective prosecution of multiple-immigration civil law violators (which NBC said last night has proven an effective deterrent)

    – More drug cases involving those guilty of possessing a little too much pot for personal use – you know, like 499 pounds, 15 ounces.

    – Unelected prosecutors who don’t have to answer to the elected leadership of the Executive Branch – i.e. unaccountable prosecutors.

    Yeah, it’s no wonder why Schumer & co are outraged to find that these political appointees were appointed for political reasons, given political directives and fired for political reasons. I’m sure he was shocked, shocked to find politics involved in the US Attorney program… I’m guessing he was absent for all those hundreds of votes over the years where Senate Judiciary examined US Attorney candidates and then pushed them to the floor for a full vote. It’s an easy oversight to make. Anybody could do it…

    Al Maviva (89d0b6)

  8. “… You have unlimited space on the Web to show them to your readers. Why not dump them on there, and let us read them? Is there something that you are trying to hide??)”

    You have uncovered, perhaps unwittingly, the real story here. Dan Rather was brought down not by his report, but by CBSs decision to make the famous forged memos available on the web. This has not gone without notice over at the LA Times.

    The LA Times will refuse to release the full emails to you if you call them up and ask for copies of them. How difficult would it be for them to give you copies? Not difficult at all.

    But they won’t.

    So why not call them up and ask?

    They’re banking on the fact that nobody will phone them up and just ask for copies of all the emails in their possession on this matter.

    anonymouse (11dd90)

  9. Tuesday Linkage – The things one learns while surrounded by the Liberal Elite…

    I had the pleasure of spending part of the evening with our fair city’s liberal intelligentsia, and was firmly schooled about something, despite its relative non-importance, that really has their panties in a bunch at the moment. Those fired US……

    Overtaken by Events (9f7db8)

  10. Not for nothing, also, but also pay attention to what’s going on in the Boston ICE raid and Senator Ted Kennedy’s attempt to initiate retaliatory investigations against the very law enforcement officials just doing their jobs enforcing immigration laws in the Commonwealth.

    These stories are directly related. Democrats are HOPPING MAD that the “soft on immigration” attorneys are being fired, and that ICE agents are making headlines with busts … headlines that make the Democrats look very bad.

    They want these prosecutions ENDED and they’ll stop at nothing to bring down whoever they need to to make the arrests stop.

    anonymouse (11dd90)

  11. Rick Moran said:

    But there are troubling aspects to this matter, not the least of which is political interference in the prosecutors office. Regardless of whether it is done all the time (which buttresses your main point) the fact is, it is wrong and shouldn’t happen.

    Could you elaborate on this claim? What are the “troubling aspects”? What is the “political influence” that bothers you and why?

    Michael Smith (b8378c)

  12. I was under the impresion that when President Clinton fired all of the US Attorneys, he was the first President to do so. I remember it causing a bit of a stink at the time. Is that not the case? Have all Presidents really done this?

    MattJ (8eed26)

  13. Interesting bit regarding Iglesias in one of the Set 2 messages:

    Harriet/Bill call Sens. Ensign and Domenici (alternatively, the AG could make these calls and, if Senators express any concern,offer briefings re why the decision was made — let me know)

    If the removal of Iglesias was made at Domenici’s behest, Sampson at least appears to have been unaware of the fact.

    Paul Zrimsek (94a870)

  14. Could you elaborate on this claim? What are the “troubling aspects”? What is the “political influence” that bothers you and why?

    Gee Michael. I guess you missed the part about outraged Republican Members Domenici and Wilson calling the NM US Attorney and demanding prosecution of the ACORN activists alleged to be engaging in election fraud.

    Or do you think it’s appropriate for Members of Congress to call prosecutors and demand they take certain actions against political opponents?

    Al Maviva (89d0b6)

  15. Well either they were more incompetent bush appointees or they were fired for not bowing to political pressure…and why should you feel good about either of those situations. And it seems that not following up on cases that have already been repeatedly investigated is what we pay them for…not for political thuggery.

    [Any time you have 93 appointees, some will work out better than others. That doesn’t mean they are “incompetent.” — P]

    madmatt (75517f)

  16. Congratulations. It only took you about eight paragraphs before you brought Bill Clinton into the discussion.

    Pathetic.

    [I’ll try to move him higher up next time, friend. — P]

    Blame Clinton (6e8e87)

  17. Not only that, the Bushies were pushing to have

    big-time drug smugglers prosecuted:

    In July, for instance, a Justice Department official advised the White House that U.S. Atty. Paul Charlton in Arizona was not prosecuting marijuana cases involving less than 500 pounds. His stance had riled then-House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).

    In March 2006, Alberto Gonzalez chose Johnny Sutton to lead the “Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of United States Attorneys“.

    I don’t know how much influence a person in that position would have on firings but the claim that attorneys were being fired for failure to prosecute loads of marijuana less than 500 pounds is a crock because I know of two marijuana loads well over 500 pounds that their favorite attorney didn’t prosecute.

    Even if that advisory position is usually not associated with advising on firings, I suspect the Sutton selection at that significant point in time was made for that purpose.

    J Curtis (d21251)

  18. Can you dig my last post out of your spam file? It was a good one.

    [Done. — P]

    J Curtis (d21251)

  19. #12 Matt:

    According to a memo from Kyle Sampson (on page 20 in Set 1 of the E-mails), mass firings of US Attorneys would be create many problems, which he discusses in the memo. Of course, he is referring to firing US Attorneys that a President appointed and whose four year term have expired — he notes that Presidents Reagan and Clinton simply allowed their appointees to continue serving after the expiration of their 4 year terms — which is a different situation than a new President coming in to office and replacing all the previous administration’s appointees.

    However, all of the problems he mentions in that memo would still occur if a new administration mass-fired all of the existing US Attorneys. I, too, would be interested in knowing how previous Presidents have handled this.

    Michael Smith (b8378c)

  20. Just immigration cases? I don’t think so. Taking a look at those emails, how about Obstruction of Justice or at least an attempt to punish Carol Lam?

    From http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com

    In an e-mail dated May 11, 2006, Sampson urged the White House counsel’s office to call him regarding “the real problem we have right now with Carol Lam,” who then the U.S. attorney for southern California. Earlier that morning, the Los Angeles Times reported that Lam’s corruption investigation of former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Calif., had expanded to include another California Republican, Rep Jerry Lewis.

    The timing is well worth noting. But the Lewis investigation wasn’t the only trouble Lam was making. Look what else was happening in the couple weeks before May 11th …

    April 28th, 2006 — Cunningham-Wilkes-Foggo “Hookergate” scandal breaks open. Probe grows out of San Diego US Attorney’s Office’s Cunningham investigation. CIA Director Goss denies involvement.

    April 29th, 2006 — Washington Post reports that Hookergate’s Shirlington Limo Service had $21 million contract with Department of Homeland Security.

    May 2nd, 2006 — Kyle “Dusty” Foggo confirms attendence at Wilkes/Cunningham Hookergate parties.

    May 4th, 2006 — Watergate Hotel subpoenaed in San Diego/Cunningham/Hookergate probe.

    May 5th, 2006 — WSJ reports that Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, who Goss installed as #3 at CIA, is under criminal investigation as part of the San Diego/Cunningham investigation.

    May 5th, 2006 — Porter Goss resigns as Director of Central Intelligence.

    May 6th, 2006 — WaPo reports on questionable DHS contract awarded to Shirlington Limo, the ‘hookergate’ Limo service under scrutiny as part of the San Diego/Cunningham investigation. Similar report in the Times.

    May 7th, 2006 — House Committee to investigate DHS contract with Hookergate’s Shirlington Limo.

    May 8th, 2006 — Lyle “Dusty” Foggo resigns at CIA.

    May 11th, 2006 — LA Times reports that Cunningham investigation has expanded into the dealings of Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), House Appropriations Committee Chairman.

    May 12th, 2006 — Federal agents working on the San Diego/Cunningham investigation execute search warrants on the home and CIA office of Kyle “Dusty” Foggo.

    Ed (fcb51d)

  21. Gee Michael. I guess you missed the part about outraged Republican Members Domenici and Wilson calling the NM US Attorney and demanding prosecution of the ACORN activists alleged to be engaging in election fraud.

    Or do you think it’s appropriate for Members of Congress to call prosecutors and demand they take certain actions against political opponents?

    I think it is entirely appropriate for members of Congress to contact a US Attorney and demand a prosecution — if there is evidence of a crime. What is the problem with that? They have no actual power over the US Attorney. They can’t force him to pursue a case he doesn’t want to pursue.

    Michael Smith (b8378c)

  22. Hmmm.. according to this, GWB fired more U.S. Attorneys in one day than had been fired in mid-term in the previous 25 years.

    But, yes, nothing to see here.

    Ugh (5df697)

  23. […] Patterico does a very good job of dissecting those e-mails, so don’t waste anymore time with me, go there. […]

    A Second Hand Conjecture » Of Mountains, Molehills and Inside Baseball (f55714)

  24. Judging by the general tenor of many comments, I suspect few are from lawyers and many seem to have little respect for the law or due process. The facts are straightforward. The US attorney’s office is a political patronage plum and it is customary for an incoming president to replace incumbents, who are required to submit their resignations, with his own slate. Once appointed however, these guys function as mini kings and are required to check their politics at the door. It is almost unheard of for them to be dismissed during a presidential term other than for gross malfeasance. Interfering with their operations for real or apparent political reasons is a complete no no and goes to the absolute heart of prosecutorial independance. I’m staggered to see some posters stating it’s just fine for elected reps to contact attorneys over ongoing prosecutions. Maybe they just haven’t taken onboard the implications of what they are saying. The admin are in deep doo doo over this matter as you can tell from the almost total silence on the Republican benches. It’s quite possible some of these justice dept staffers are going to have to take the fifth over this and if that happens Gonzales is done. He may be already.

    John (51da6f)

  25. In an e-mail dated May 11, 2006, Sampson urged the White House counsel’s office to call him regarding “the real problem we have right now with Carol Lam,” who then the U.S. attorney for southern California….

    The timing is well worth noting.

    Indeed it is. Lam was already on the “strike” list as of March 2.

    Paul Zrimsek (94a870)

  26. #21 Ed

    I wish people who reference one of these memo’s would provide the page and set number so we can look it up ourselves.

    I finally found that memo on page 22 of Set 1. However, it is clear that what Sampson is proposing is to remove Carol Lam six months later when her four-yer term expires on 11/18.

    Furthermore, memos from April 11 and May 31, on pages 22-23 of Set 1, make it clear that immigration enforcement is their concern. Sampson wants to know if anyone has called Carol Lam and “woodshedded” her over immigration enforcement, to see if that would solve the problem.

    If they really wanted to stop some investigation, why would they propose to wait 6 months to do it? In addition, Carol Lam is mentioned as a candidate for replacement in the memo on page 21 of Set 1 dated January 9, 2006, which certainly predates your list of “events”.

    Interesting what you can infer from e-mails taken out of context, isn’t it?

    Michael Smith (b8378c)

  27. While taking any shot you could at the LA Times for omitting certain information, you forgot to mention the fact that almost all of these attorney’s receieved great reviews — in other words, the whole ‘they were fired because of performance issues’ thing is bull. Don’t agree? Look no further.

    That article was published February 25th, so it’s long been known that this ‘performance issues’ business was just a cover for other reasons.

    And just to preempt your likely complaints about this being from the NYTimes, consider the fact that the article itself presents the opposing viewpoint: “a senior Justice Department official said the reviews, which focused on management practices within each United States attorneys office, did not provide a broad or complete picture of the prosecutors performance.”

    They don’t leave it at that, though: “However, each case report included a statement that each of the ousted prosecutors had established strategic goals set by the Justice Department in high priority areas like counterterrorism, narcotics and gun violence.”

    Doesn’t mention immigration, but it’s likely that that was cover as well.

    And just as a sidenote, I agree that there would be no story here if no one had lied to Congress. But since they did, there is the story. Lied to Congress numerous times, at that. So, there’s the story. It’s not good to keep attempting to sweep these lies under the rug by saying there is no underlying story, because it stands pretty well to reason that, if there is nothing wrong with the actions, why is it necessary to lie about it?

    [That’s certainly the strongest argument in favor of the conclusion that the firings were corrupt. And that is certainly possible. My point is that this conclusion is not supported by the content of the e-mails reported by the LAT. Gonzales is spectacularly incompetent. — P]

    barrett (5f0c7a)

  28. Congratulations. It only took you about eight paragraphs before you brought Bill Clinton into the discussion.Pathetic.

    NO, What’s pathetic is that all three of todays majors, (NYT’s, LA Times, Wapo),(All front page storys) mentioned Rove as a participant – – AND all three failed to mention the 93 fired by Reno and Clinton. But I guess these fine papers just ASSumed we all knew this little ommision.

    You heard the weatherman—-“there will be no change”

    Rovin (7f64b8)

  29. Even though the e-mails appear to indicate that the White House had legitimate reasons to fire the U.S. Attorneys, Gonzaless clumsy handling of the matter gives Democrats the argument there is more than meets the eye.

    I agree generally that there’s nothing wrong with an in-house political firing per se, and it seems that (and no more) was the operative factor for most of these firings. But look closer at the Lam and Iglesias firings in particular, and that’s not the whole picture.

    Also, you say Gonzales was “clumsy”, but more accurately, he lied about (a) Justice’s intention to never bypass the senate approval process for AAGs, (b) the level at which these decisions were made, (c) and knowing nothing of the decision-making process that took place over months of internal conversations at Justice. Granted, for (c) he does have an explanation – unfortunately that explanation can only be his own cluelessness and rank incompetence as the nation’s top prosecutor. Then, he insulted all of us with the weakness of (a) his attempt to sweep it under the rug and (b) explain away his having done so.

    As of today, Gonzales’ reaction is certainly the bigger scandal, but every day sheds more darkness on the orchestration of these firings. And did you enjoy Kyle Sampson’s emails on pretending to consider candidates other than the former Rove aide? “Good faith”, he wrote with the quotes around it. Dweeb! How would yu like to have been one of those applicants for the job who was actually just window dressing for a patronage appointment?

    On a day when Gonzales is the real story, you’ve elected to attack the slow kid in the class (LAT) – not that they don’t deserve it. And I do object to the LAT omission you mentioned, and note the NYT’s loaded language in their articles on the issue, but that’s hardly relevant to the actual issue of potential executive abuses and demonstrated executive concealment and obstruction.

    [I ain’t defending Gonzales on misleading Congress. Just so we’re clear. — P]

    biwah (2dcf66)

  30. I’m staggered to see some posters stating it’s just fine for elected reps to contact attorneys over ongoing prosecutions.

    I don’t know about “ongoing prosecutions”, but if there is evidence that a federal crime has been commited in my congressional district or in my state, and the US Attorney is not doing anything about it, I expect my congressional Representative of Senator to ask why not. Of course, the US Attorney doesn’t have to answer, but surely you don’t maintain that we do not have the right to even ask the question.

    Michael Smith (b8378c)

  31. Michael Smith re #27:

    Any impropriety in the the Lam firing does seem to be mitigated by the non-urgent pace at which it occurred.

    biwah (2dcf66)

  32. Don’t want to stir up trouble, but Clinton and Bush did basically the same things at the start of their terms, aka they both replaced all 93 as every new president does at the start of his term.
    The troubling aspect about these firings is that while some of them were done for performance related reasons, at least one of them was working on what an FBI agent called an important part of the war on terror, had excellent performance reviews, and was fired to be replaced by a no-name selected by Karl Rove.

    Josh (747531)

  33. While taking any shot you could at the LA Times for omitting certain information, you forgot to mention the fact that almost all of these attorney’s receieved great reviews — in other words, the whole ‘they were fired because of performance issues’ thing is bull. Don’t agree?

    No, I don’t agree. The link you provided gives this description of Carol Lam’s review:

    Another report, dated Feb. 7-11, 2005 evaluating the performance of Carol C. Lam, who was dismissed as the United States attorney in San Diego, concluded that she was “an effective manager and respected leader in the district.”

    She might very well be “an effective manager and respected leader in the district” — but if she is ignoring illegial immigration, against the wishes of her bosses, she deserves to go.

    It is, generally, poor managment to fire someone without giving them a warning and a chance to improve. And if that is what they did, that is simply stupid.

    Michael Smith (b8378c)

  34. I still don’t see how these firings, which the admin. has the right to do even if for purely political reasons, have anything to do with the Patriot Act which was set up to fight terrorism.

    carsick (deb1a3)

  35. I can’t believe this is even a “scandal”. These attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president and can be fired at any time for any reasons – or for no reason. That’s the president’s perogative.

    The only “scandal” here is that the administration’s initial reaction to the left’s faux outrage was to immediately take a defensive posture, thereby making it appear like there was a legitimate scandal as charged.

    thirteen28 (5ad670)

  36. Any impropriety in the the Lam firing does seem to be mitigated by the non-urgent pace at which it occurred.

    I would put it this way: The claim that the timing of that May 11 memo indicates that Carol Lam was fired to terminate a politically embarrassing investigation is significantly undermined by both the non-urgent pace at which it occurred and the fact that she was listed as a candidate for replacement well before the events cited occurred.

    Michael Smith (b8378c)

  37. Michael Smith:

    No quibble with your rendition. But I await new info, or at least a chance to review the emails (it is pretty neat to have that window into communications within DOJ, other issues aside). As you suggest, there is something untoward about the orchestration of the firings, and the emphasis on doing them suddenly and simultaneously, apparently without any warnings beforehand. Especially Sampson, but knowing of Miers and Rove weighing in heavily on the matter makes it even uglier – not illegal but ugh. It may just be that it was all clumsily partisan and by all appearances almost juvenile – or it may be more. I don’t know.

    biwah (2dcf66)

  38. The L.A. SEWER all the lies thats fit to print its nothing more then the west coasts version of the notorious NYTs

    krazy kagu (444070)

  39. I have one more comment. In my thirty+ years of managment experience, I have seen very few managers or supervisors that give good performance reviews — they are almost always too positive, even if the employee is clearly marginal or sub-par.

    Giving someone a negative performance review is difficult. After all, you must continue working with the employee — and who wants to work with someone who feels insulted or put down? So, it is easier for managers to give glowing reviews.

    I’ve fired many people in my career, usually after taking over a new department or company, and in virtually every case, even though the performance problems were obvious, we first had to give the employee a negative review — because his prior reviews had been fine — and give them a chance to improve. Some did improve. Most didn’t. But, generally, no one who gets fired for poor performance should be surprised by it. If these US Attorneys were surprised by their firing, that is incompetent management.

    I’m not saying any of this justifies the positive reviews given these US Attorneys. I’m just saying it doesn’t surprise me and I don’t consider it evidence that their firing was for some sinister reason.

    Michael Smith (b8378c)

  40. The “legitimate” reasons for firing Carole Lam consisted solely of her tenacity in scrupulously defending the law of the United States from corruption and subversion by Republicans looking to shake down various enterprises for bribes. And, when her investigation threatened Porter Goss, she had to go – because her investigation could have shown White House involvement in the defrauding of the American taxpayers.

    Oh, and by the way, using the law for purely political purposes is flatly UnAmerican – very republican, very monarchist, very treasonous, but UnAmerican.

    Not to mention, UnChristian.

    fiskhus jim (9781d5)

  41. By the way, have any retired communication professors studies Lam’s investigations to ensure that she targeted a fair-and-balanced number of Democrats to go with all the Republicans? I’ve been told that politically-motivated prosecutions are Bad.

    Paul Zrimsek (94a870)

  42. State Senator Vincent Fumo (D-Philadelphia) was indicted on a bunch of federal charges, most of which involve misuse of state funds. My question for our liberal friends is: since President Bush and the Evil One (Karl Rove) have attempted to fire some U S Attorneys for not being vigorous enough in checking on Democratic office holders, if Mr Fumo is convicted, will you say that his conviction was unjust because the Republicans were looking too closely, because he is a Democrat?

    That is what Mr Fumo charged when he was indicted.

    Dana (3e4784)

  43. […] Patterico, a prosecutor himself, takes apart the case fairly rationally. […]

    Right Wing Nut House » DEMS NEW INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY: MANUFACTURING SCANDAL (5ada7f)

  44. Here’s how they see using the Patriot Act, legislation intended to fight terrorism, “[I]f we don’t ever exercise it then what’s the point of having it?”
    That’s in regard to firing or forcing the resignation of US Attorneys and replacing them without input from home state senators or confirmation hearings.
    What that has to do with terrorism is anyone’s guess. Looks like cynical manipulation at best.
    It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.

    carsick (deb1a3)

  45. “By mid-December, Sampson was suggesting that Gonzales exercise his newfound appointment authority [in a Patriot Act provision]to put Griffin in place until the end of Bush’s term.

    “[I]f we don’t ever exercise it then what’s the point of having it?” Sampson wrote to a White House aide. “I’m not 100 percent sure Tim was the guy to test drive this authority, but know that getting him appointed was important to Harriet Miers, Karl, etc.”

    carsick (deb1a3)

  46. […] A friend asked for my thoughts on what U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is up to (this LA Times article will get you up to speed, if you are not aware). I said that the whole thing looks bad. For a deeper look, read the major media accounts, and also read Patterico who is defending Gonzales and the Administration with details like this: The e-mails certainly don’t appear to corroborate the allegation Democrats keep repeating: that U.S. Attorneys were fired for going after Republicans, or for failing to go after Democrats. Instead, judging from the e-mails, it appears that the White House was genuinely concerned with performance issues, such as a failure to go after drug smugglers, and — hold onto your hat — an insufficient focus on illegal immigration cases. Yes: the White House fired a U.S. Attorney for going too easy on those illegal aliens! […]

    the Attorney General kerfuffle | Urban Onramps (8e352b)

  47. “…Clinton and Bush did basically the same things at the start of their terms, aka they both replaced all 93 as every new president does at the start of his term.”

    References, please. (Also, with respect, “aka” does not mean “in other words”.)

    Sherlock (78da37)

  48. http://www.realcities.com/mld/krwashington/news/nation/16897325.htm?source=rss&channel=krwashington_nation

    Q: How often are U.S. attorneys fired?

    A: Excluding the current controversy, the Congressional Research Service found just five instances over 25 years in which U.S. attorneys were fired by the president or resigned following reports of questionable conduct. A Reagan-era prosecutor was fired and later convicted in federal court in connection with charges that he leaked confidential information. A Clinton appointee resigned over allegations he bit a topless dancer on the arm during a visit to an adult club following a loss in a big drug case. The CRS study did not include departures that followed a change in presidential administration, when turnover is common.”
    http://www.wtopnews.com/?nid=116&sid=1080071

    carsick (deb1a3)

  49. Carsick

    Well the Congressional Research firm did not include those removed by changes in administration, so the real number is in the hundreds

    EricPWJohnson (695c44)

  50. One minor point about parsing the e-mails. On the the Times front page is the e-mail you used about ‘managed well,’ though apparently they failed to add that to the story.

    Edward (0b6502)

  51. Sherlock was asking for references.
    Otherwise, US Attorneys have 4 year contracts. It is the president’s perogative to re-appoint them or not. Not re-appointing when an administration changes from one party to the other does not necessarily equate to “firing” but even if it does new presidents generally want their own attorneys who understand the goals of their administration. Is it political? Sure.
    Is this president’s firing attorneys illegal? No.
    Is it unprecedented? Looks like it.

    carsick (deb1a3)

  52. Patterico – I’ve tried to provide links for references per 48’s request, but they keep getting swallowed up. Spam filter maybe?

    thirteen28 (5ad670)

  53. Good work, Patterico. I’m w/ the WSJ–Make Hillary! the star witness and have Webb Hubbell act as her counsel.
    BTW does she have amnesia? How else to explain her tin ear in jumping onboard this issue?

    clarice (c49871)

  54. “…to portray these e-mails as sinister. But honestly, this is pretty thin gruel.”

    So do you feel threatened by really thick gruel? What about oatmeal that’s cold and congealed? When a blancmange passes by you on a dark street, do you grip the pepper spray in your pocket?

    Cordially,
    Neil Ferguson
    Yuma, AZ

    Neil Ferguson (117a66)

  55. Any defense of Carol Lam based upon her having been evaluated as “an effective manager and respected leader in the district” is weak in the extreme. Talk about damning with faint praise.

    I have no doubt, given the demand for “cheap” (read: illegal) labor in her district (and her apparent reluctance to take meaningful action against it) that she was well regarded by the San Diego elites. Rounding up illegals and prosecuting the businesses that hire them in large numbers (housing and hospitality) would have put that respect at risk, I suspect.

    belloscm (007751)

  56. 3-2.120 Appointment

    United States Attorneys are appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate for a four-year term. See 28 U.S.C. Sec. 541. Upon expiration of this term, the United States Attorney continues to perform the duties of the office until a successor is confirmed. United States Attorneys are subject to removal at the will of the President. See Parsons v. United States, 167 U.S. 314 (1897).

    This is taken from here.

    Lord Nazh (d282eb)

  57. Whichever way you cut the mustard the WH and DOJ are in deep doo doo over this as they should be. Anyone who works in the law knows how it all works which explains the deafening silence from the mainly lawyers who sit on the Republican benches in Congress. The spinmeisters for the white house are all over the press and talk shows peddling info that turns out to be incorrect. If you want a classic example look at today’s WSJ which burbles on about Clinton being the only president to fire all his attorneys when in fact Reagan did exactly the same thing in 1981 and it’s basically SOP to fire all or most of them when a new president comes in. If I had to take bets I would say Gonzales will be a goner over this while several DOJ staffers are in some legal jeopardy. A total melt down could occur if there is proved to be any link between any of these folks ongoing investigations and intervention by the WH or DOJ. I think Schumer who is a very smart lawyer and politician can smell blood here. The white house will resist supoenas of course but that tends to make them look bad anyway and they are probably not going to be able to sustain them in a matter like this when it gets in front of a judge. This is a potential barn burner.

    John (51da6f)

  58. Patterico, it is difficult to believe the Bush administration would fire a US attorney for being too lax on illegal immigrants. In fact I don’t believe it.

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  59. Gonzalez may be feeling the need to spend more time with his family by the end of the week.
    This Friday afternoon around 4 maybe.

    carsick (deb1a3)

  60. carsick said:

    Here’s how they see using the Patriot Act, legislation intended to fight terrorism, “[I]f we don’t ever exercise it then what’s the point of having it?”

    Well, that is how one staffer, in one situation, proposed to use one provision of the Patriot Act. It is, to say the least, an unjustified generalization to portray this as THE way they see using the Patriot Act.

    Michael Smith (b8378c)

  61. Michael,
    “One staffer”, Kyle Sampson, who just happens to be the Chief of Staff for the Attorney General of the United States.
    And the “one staffer”, Tim Griffin, who inserted the provision in the Patriot Act [allegedly unannounced]just so happens to now be a US Attorney and granted that position under the provision he inserted. He also happens to be Karl Rove’s former aide.

    carsick (deb1a3)

  62. ” United States Attorneys are subject to removal at the will of the President. See Parsons v. United States, 167 U.S. 314 (1897).

    This is taken from here. ”

    Let me just re-up this here since no one seems to have read my other comment. (bold by me)

    Regardless of how you cook this ‘scandal’ it is not illegal to politically remove political appointees.

    Lord Nazh (d282eb)

  63. Either way, it is cynical manipulation of our supposed anti-terrorist legislation and it was utilized by the Attorney General (not his “one staffer” who has no authority to appoint} who had just been given that authority under the Patriot Act only two months prior.
    Do you think the Attorney General acts outside the wishes of the President. The administration sure hopes so because they will soon be asking for his resignation hoping it will end the scandal.

    carsick (deb1a3)

  64. Lord,
    I’ll bold what I’ve written earlier on this thread:
    Is it political? Sure.
    Is this president’s firing attorneys illegal? No.
    Is it unprecedented? Looks like it.
    As I also said earlier, “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.”
    So why try to hide it if it’s not cynical abuse of legislative loopholes.
    They have the right to fire for completely political reasons. And, by the provision inserted into the Patriot Act, they have the right to bypass congressional confirmation in replacing the attorneys. They also have the right to say this is not scandal looking into further. Doesn’t mean it won’t be though.

    carsick (deb1a3)

  65. Apparently, I don’t know how to ‘bold’ in this thread.

    carsick (deb1a3)

  66. The NY Times, Washington Post, LA Times, Chicago Tribune and WSJ all editorialized against the new precendent established by President Clinton through AG Janet Reno.

    Bringing in new prosecutors with a new occupant of the White House was not new. What was new was seeking a mass dismissal of all the US Attorneys after spending less than a month in the AG office. THAT was the new precedent.

    The unwritten rule has always been for US Attorneys to submit their letter’s of resignation once the new President appoints, and the Senate confirms, a new Attorney General. It was unwritten because it was assumed that a new President would have a different view of prosecutions than those represented by the existing flock of USAs appointed by the previous administration. If I’m a USA that is pro-life, and the new AG, through the President’s discretion, is to prosecute pro-life assemblies outside abortion clincs, that’s probably not an intitiative I can fully support. Ergo, I resign so that the President may appoint a replacement that better represents his views.

    The Clinton dilemna was the fact that a handful of the 93 USAs were in the midst of investigations and trials of major public political figures. The most public was Dan Rostenkowski, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. USA Jay Stephens was wrapping up his office’s investigation at the same time the AG Reno was trying to get him to pack up his office and depart in 10 days.

    Was THAT political interference of the Department of Justice?

    I certainly think so. Rostenkowski ate it later anyways, but the appearance of impropriety was strong in the case of AG Reno trying to immediately dismiss USA Stephens.

    Stay tuned to George Stephanopolous this Sunday. He’s quoted extensively in the White House media pushback in 1993. He was directing communications on this matter trying to deflect criticism that the White House was immediately alienating the trust the American people had expected from the Clinton Administration, especially the actions at the DoJ.

    For the record, Web Hubbell was never confirmed by the Senate. He was an interim appointee. I highly doubt President Clinton or Senator Clinton will make any public comment in regards to Hubbell.

    I don’t think there is much to the dismissal of the USAs. The guts of the story is the testimony by AG Gonzales in January where it now appears he either mislead the Congress, misspoke, or was misled by his own chief of staff. The other troublesome aspect is the use of the Patriot Act to install the new USAs. The Bush Administration blows up their own credibility on prosecuting the War on Terror by consistently going to the post 9/11 legislation on matters that clearly do not require its citation.

    Gabriel Sutherland (90b3a1)

  67. Lord,
    By the way, despite having the right to fire someone for purely political reasons, Gonzalez has said, “I would never, ever make a change in a United States attorney for political reasons or if it would in any way jeopardize an ongoing serious investigation. I just would not do it.”

    carsick (deb1a3)

  68. Gabriel,
    I agree on your last point – conditionally. There would not be much to the firings if there hadn’t been a concerted effort to cover it up with claims of attorney incompetence or misconduct, or the use of the Patriot Act to replace them.
    Bush replaced all (or almost all) of Clinton’s attorney’s soon after he came into office just as Clinton did shortly after he came into office. That’s expected.

    carsick (deb1a3)

  69. When will we get in-depth review of the LAT’s emails regarding the firing of its employees?

    Perfect Sense (b6ec8c)

  70. carsick: This is the primary problem with the Bush Administration. Whatever teeth they had after 9/11 were all pulled out, filed down, or were dentures. They aren’t there anymore. One could argue that they were the result of a unification of the people and government, but the intention to get things done was right there.

    What we have now, is a rottweiler that has tamed itself. It built a fence around itself and now it has nowhere to turn but itself. There’s plenty of feed beyond the fence, but this administration continues to eat its own.

    I never liked Gonzales, but I thought the Democrats were too harsh on him. Oppose him on the merits. The dirt digging into his legal advice as counsel to the President was a poor area to cover. However, the Republicans on the hill at that time were accepting of the overrule by the Democrats.

    One regret, that email wasn’t around during the Clinton Administration. This trove is going to reap many a book deal for the next few years for the left of center writers.

    Gabriel Sutherland (90b3a1)

  71. Perfect Sense,
    There’s this analogy about trees and forest you may want to get a better understanding of.
    Until the LATimes becomes my country’s leadership, I’ll use what little time I can spare to keep an eye on our elected officials, their legislation, and their appointments.

    carsick (deb1a3)

  72. Gabriel,
    You said, “the Republicans on the hill at that time were accepting of the overrule by the Democrats.”

    The democrats did not gain control of congress during the current administration until this year. Before that, all the democrats had was a possible filibuster, if they could get the votes. That’s hardly “overrule.”

    carsick (deb1a3)

  73. Carsick: They are RINO’s… if the left screams scandal, they go in defense mode and look for someone to sacrifice.

    It is still a non-story. And yes I missed your previous comment 🙂

    I havn’t seen anywhere that Bush fired all the USA’s after he got into office, I’d suspect he simply let them go after their terms were up (but maybe not?)

    Lord Nazh (d282eb)

  74. Carsick,
    There’s this analogy about mountains and mole hills you may want to get a better understanding of which the point of Patterico’s post.

    Perfect Sense (b6ec8c)

  75. It may be that if you let their contracts lapse passed the 4 years that it is considered “firin”.
    Here’s Rove on the issue:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIhVb02nvtY&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Earktimes%2Ecom%2Fblogs%2Farkansasblog%2F2007%2F03%2Frove%5Fspeaks%5Fin%5Flittle%5Frock%2Easpx
    He basically says “standard operational procedure to replace upon coming in.”

    carsick (deb1a3)

  76. Perfect Sense,
    I doubt a molehill would have led to the resignation of the chief of staff of the US Attorney General and what is looking more and more like the resignation of the Attorney General himself. If that’s a molehill…lordy, I don’t want to even see what you think of as a mountain.

    [Try to follow this. Any resignations will flow from the misleading testimony to Congress. That is not a molehill, and I’m not defending it. But the firings? I’ll read the e-mails themselves tonight if I get time, but based on what the LAT came up with, it’s a molehill — and it’s not what’s causing the resignations. — P]

    carsick (deb1a3)

  77. Gabriel,

    Thank you for your post #67 and the information.
    I believe there also was a fed prosecutor in Little Rock investigating something called Whitewater at the time also, who was canned expediently as you described.

    I’m perfectly happy for any wrong doing to be exposed. If it isn’t all exposed then everything is a mess, as it is now.

    But to hear Sen. Clinton ask for A.G. Gonzalez’s resignation just on the basis of the firing is another example of attacking is better than defending. Sen. Clinton complaining that prosecutors were fired inappropriately for political reasons????

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  78. Patterico, you’ve got a lot of links already. If you’re approaching this honestly, don’t just read the emails to decide if you’re right to decide whether the emails, in isolation, make an airtight case, period, of political interference. They don’t.
    This is the beginning, not the end.

    Also read TPM’s summary on the subject. What gives this legs is a) Domenici’s phone calls to Iglesias
    b) Carol Lam’s pursuing of indictments of Dusty Foggo at CIA – apparatchik of Porter Goss and Jerry Lewis – these indictments were finished two days before she was fired
    c) The guy in Seattle, whose name I forget, had Republican activists angry at him for not interfering in the close governor’s race –

    that’s 3 of 7 already. No proof, but some suspicious coincidences. Add to unprecendented midterm firings. Further add – all the prosecutors were Bush-appointed Republicans – why on earth would they be disinterested in Democratic voter fraud unless the evidence just wasn’t there? Pushing prosecutors to indict people who they believe there’s no case against, on the eve of an election – and then firing them – it may never be provable, but it stinks to high heaven.

    That’s the mountain behind the molehill.

    glasnost (d81828)

  79. OT:
    Great Dennis Miller line: “Bush snuck into the country illegally yesterday in hope that the LA Times would finally say something positive about him.”

    SteveMG (8cd975)

  80. Carsick — the difference between the way the incoming Clinton and Bush administrations dealt with replacing US Attorneys is as follows:

    When Clinton came into office, Web Hubbell was named No.3 at DOJ before Janet Reno was named AG. After Reno was named AG, Webbell and Reno IMMEDIATELY fired all US Attorneys that were political appointees of the prior administration.

    There has been some widely inaccurate reporting of the facts involving this however. For example, many of the US Attorneys nominated by the previous Bush Admin. had already resigned and gone into private practice. Those offices were being run by “acting” US Attorneys. In most instances, the Reno/Hubbell order did not apply to the “acting” US Attorneys, most of whom were senior career prosecutors in the offices where the political appointee had already resigned.

    The “mass” firing of all remaining political appointees by the incoming Clinton Admin. was unprecedented, however. The historic practice had been that all US Attorneys were asked to submit letters of resignation, which would be effective upon the nomination of a replacement by the incoming administration, or upon the earlier voluntary departure of the incumbent to take other employment.

    The incoming Bush 43 Admin. did not engage in a mass firing of all political appointees of the Clinton Admin. Instead, the incoming Bush 43 Admin. returned to the historic practice, and requested letters of resignation from all political appointees which were to become effective upon the confirmation of a newly nominated US Attorney, or upon the voluntary departure of the Clinton Admin. office holder.

    Most Clinton US Attorneys moved on rather than wait for a successor to be named, and “interim” US Attorneys were appointed until a Presidential nominee was sent to the Senate. These interims were, again, generally a senior career prosecutor in the office such as the Criminal Chief or the First Assistant.

    wls (077d0d)

  81. Glasnost —

    Re Carol Lam, you have to understand the circumstances under which she got the job to understand the thin ice she was on the entire time she had it.

    After Jeffords defected from the GOP in 2001 and handed control of the Senate to the Dems, a battle broke out in Calif. over the selection of judicial nominees. This was in the aftermath of the controversy over the Supreme Court deciding the outcome of Bush’s win over Gore, and the Dems in the Senate felt they were entitled to ensure that Bush didn’t pack the judiciary with conservative judges, especially after so many Clinton nominees were stalled out in the last 2 years of his second term.

    In Calif. Feinstein and Boxer demanded that judicial nominees from each of the four federal districts be “passed upon” by a committee of six individuals — with 3 appointed by the WH, one each by Boxer and Feinstein, and one jointly by Boxer and Feinstein. For any open judgeship, the Committee was to reccommend 3 nominees to the WH, and the WH could chose among the 3. But, for someone to get the committee’s reccommendation, that person would need 4 votes on the Committee. So, and conservative had to get the vote of one member of the committee appointed by Boxer and/or Feinstein.

    The US Attorney positions got involved in this arrangement when Boxer and Feinstein decided that the potential nominees for those posts should be “graded” by the same committees — even though it was an Exec. Branch position. But, they threatened to hold up any nominee in the Senate if that nominee didn’t go through the process.

    One thing they did differently, however, was to split the 4 districts among the two of them. Feinstein got to influence/choose/veto the Sacramento and LA US Attorney nominees, and Boxer got to influence/choose/veto the San Diego and San Francisco nominees.

    Lam was a political independent who had previously been an Assistant US Attorney. She had support within the office, and some support from the San Diego judiciary and legal community.

    She was not a GOP supporter, and would have NEVER been selected as US Attorney under ordinary circumstances, but under the unusual arrangement demanded by Boxer and Feinstein, she was the best the WH could hope for. To understand how odd her selection was, its enough to say that Boxer was happy with her.

    Where she got completely sideways with DOJ — and it happened long before the Duke Cunningham case — was on the huge decline in border/immigration prosecutions in the San Diego district.

    The reason this is such a point of controversy is that the San Diego US Attorney’s Office gets a HUGE amount of money and manpower that is supposed to be dedicated to border prosecutions. Lam decided to de-emphasize border prosections, and began diverting the money and resources to other areas.

    THAT is what got her in trouble to start with, and started her slide towards getting pushed out.

    wls (077d0d)

  82. patterico,
    The cover-up and cover yer ass aspects are what brought this above molehill status. I thought I’ve made that clear in my postings. The level of misleading and cynical use of existing legal loopholes makes it more than a molehill as evident from the resignation and potential upcoming resignation.
    If the police pull me over to let me know the bridge is out ahead and I start going off about how I was only speeding because a rabid dog was after me and then switch stories to say that my speedometer is broken, then I fully expect the police to start to think “This is more than the molehill of the bridge being out. We better investigate.”

    carsick (deb1a3)

  83. Oh, and as far as you folks who want to say, “Well, Clinton fired folks too.”
    First of all, it is completely legal for a president to fire the attorneys simply because they are left handed if he so chooses. Covering up the reasons may raise suspicions though. Otherwise, if you are claiming Clinton did something nefarious, it hardly seems justification for the current president to do something nefarious as well.
    Also, “Clinton, when he came in, replaced all 93 U.S. attorneys,” Rove said. “When we came in, we ultimately replace most all 93 U.S. attorneys — there are some still left from the Clinton era in place.”
    (I haven’t been able to verify any of the Clinton 93 that the admin. kept on yet. He may just be misremembering. I’ll keep my ears open though.)

    carsick (deb1a3)

  84. Clinton did the same thing Bush’s father did and Reagan did: replace all the attorneys at the beginning of his administration. What GWB did is unprecedented and has been called so.
    To say otherwise is to be a fool or a liar.

    It is customary for a President to replace U.S. Attorneys at the beginning of a term. Ronald Reagan replaced every sitting U.S. Attorney when he appointed his first Attorney General. President Clinton, acting through me as Acting AG, did the same thing, even with few permanent candidates in mind.

    Bush is replacing his own attorneys with others, lying to them and to the congress about it, and doing so under conditions and at times that are the least suspect. And he is able to do it only because of a clause inserted into the Patriot act -that most people including members of congress weren’t even aware of!- that said he could do so without senate confirmation. Pat, your willingness to bullshit about Clinton [do you really not know the histoy of this?] is an obscene joke.

    This is bad shit. And it’s gonna be causing your idiots pain for a long time.

    AF (400cbc)

  85. It is unlikely that Gonzalez will be fired as his replacement would encounter a buzz-saw in the Senate that he will probably not deserve. And, as he has said, he serves at the pleasure of the President. It is just unfortunate that he was a lousy appointment in the first place: This is what happens when you appoint people that are very close to you (see RFK tenure at Justice and the crap that went on in his time there).
    Something that few of you have mentioned in the legitimate reasons for WH displeasure with these USA’s: Reluctance to investigate and prosecute voter fraud. The USA’s in both NM and WA fell on this sword. It wasn’t for a lack of interference in the gubernatorial election in WA. It was for not investigating the mountains of complaints of fraud after the election was certified (recount after recount, after recount – always finding new, uncounted ballots – see: SoundPolitics.com). The same happened in NM, plus MO, and in other areas. In fact, I believe that an aggressive Dep. AG in DC could have mounted a task-force to get a RICO investigation/conviction of some of the groups involved.
    No democracy can long survive if the very integrity of its’ election process is suspect.
    In ten days we will all be talking about something else as the DBM goes on to the latest “scandal” (hint: Why won’t Rudy’s kids campaign for him?).

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  86. A study of reported federal investigations of elected officials and candidates shows that the Bush administration’s Justice Department pursues Democrats far more than Republicans. 79 percent of elected officials and candidates who’ve faced a federal investigation (a total of 379) between 2001 and 2006 were Democrats, the study found – only 18 percent were Republicans. During that period, Democrats made up 50 percent of elected officeholders and office seekers during the time period, and 41 percent were Republicans during that period, according to the study.

    “The chance of such a heavy Democratic-Republican imbalance occurring at random is 1 in 10,000,” according to the study’s authors.”

    AF (400cbc)

  87. Wow. Lotta Democrat criminals out there.

    Patterico (04465c)

  88. I love it when they prove our points for us.

    OHNOES (d573a4)

  89. Pat, you feed your readers what they want to hear. You’re only interested in policy on those occasions when even you think your audience has gone too far. Other than that It’s all power and politics to you; and you like having fans.
    You’ve been avoiding substance for weeks, and you’ve obviously spent most of your day working on this. You begin with Novak’s lies. And I have to assume that’s what you knew they were. it doesn’t get much better from there on.

    It’s hard to match this hilarity.
    In the evolving story of the US Attorney Purge, you know that a principal part is played by this little known provision of the USA Patriot Act which allows the Attorney General to appoint US attorneys without senate confirmation (TPMmuckraker played the central role uncovering how the provision ended up in the bill). Up until — what? days ago? — the White House was promising to veto any attempts to overturn this critical bit of legislation packed with constitutional import and critical to the prosecution of the war on terror. Now, says the Justice Department, in the words of McClatchy News Service, the provision was “designed by a mid-level department lawyer without the knowledge of his superiors or anyone at the White House.”
    It’s like some pulsing gyre of Anglomania — George Orwell meets Monty Python, with Benny Hill along for the ride.
    The separation of powers issue is just down the memory hole. Now it was just some Justice Department lawyer freelancing.
    So not withstanding the fact that we now have emails of the Attorney General’s Chief of Staff discussing the importance of using the AG’s new power to avoid senate confirmation, apparently this is how the whole thing came about …

    The e-mails released Wednesday show Moschella corresponding in 2004 with a Los Angeles attorney named Daniel Collins, who had previously worked for the Justice Department.
    In telephone interviews, Moschella and Collins both said Collins had floated the idea of taking district judges out of the vacancy-filling process back in 2003, when he was still at Justice. A former assistant U.S. attorney, Collins said the ability of a district court judge to appoint an interim U.S. attorney if the Senate did not confirm a nominee raised constitutional questions about the separation of powers.

    In 2004, Collins said Moschella e-mailed him saying he wanted to pursue such a change. Collins said he did not ask Moschella what triggered his interest and Moschella did not volunteer it.

    Collins warned Moschella that if district judges lost their appointment power, the Justice Department would have to figure out how to fill the vacancies. Among the options were making rolling appointments; putting the deputy U.S. attorney in the job temporarily, or allowing the interim appointee to remain indefinitely, Collins said Wednesday.

    Collins said that the last option “was certainly never my intention.” He added that he did not know why Moschella chose to draft the provision that way.

    Just sort of thinking out loud. Just the sort of option two pals come up with when brainstorming about how to solve a critical separation of powers issue that had never occured to anyone before.

    There has been so much written about this that your readers never see because they rely on you and people like you for information.

    AF (400cbc)

  90. Except that they have you here, to give them THE TRUTH!

    Because, despite the howling of some profane and libelous lefties who say I squelch dissent, I don’t — as your comment proves. I find it insulting for you to suggest that I am deliberately peddling untruths — but I allow you to say such things, because you provide another perspective, and I like different perspectives, a lot.

    I like them better when they are politely expressed, but I tolerate them even when they aren’t — as long as a nebulous line is not crossed. You haven’t crossed it.

    Btw, what the hell do you mean when you say that I “obviously spent most of your day working on this”? I saw this story at about midnight last night, and foolishly stayed up very late to post about it.

    Which means I need to go to sleep now. Good night.

    Patterico (04465c)

  91. carsick said:

    “One staffer”, Kyle Sampson, who just happens to be the Chief of Staff for the Attorney General of the United States.
    And the “one staffer”, Tim Griffin, who inserted the provision in the Patriot Act [allegedly unannounced]just so happens to now be a US Attorney and granted that position under the provision he inserted. He also happens to be Karl Rove’s former aide.

    All of that may be true. Nonetheless, it doesn’t justify claim that this particular incident represents THE manner in which the entire administration views the proper use of the Patriot Act.

    Michael Smith (b8378c)

  92. g;asnost said:

    What gives this legs is a) Domenici’s phone calls to Iglesias
    b) Carol Lam’s pursuing of indictments of Dusty Foggo at CIA – apparatchik of Porter Goss and Jerry Lewis – these indictments were finished two days before she was fired
    c) The guy in Seattle, whose name I forget, had Republican activists angry at him for not interfering in the close governor’s race –

    If you had actually read all the e-mails, you would know that they contradict, not support, these claims.

    Michael Smith (b8378c)

  93. Michael Smith,
    You’re funny. “All that MAY be true…” hahaha. It IS true.
    Can I prove everyone in the administration thinks the Patriot Act should be used in such a way? No.
    But it looks like Monica Goodling, the Justice Department’s liaison to the White House, talked to someone there about Sampson’s project. So perhaps just the people who had the authority to use the Patriot Act in this way believed it and they checked with someone at the White House.
    What was stated by the DoJ to have been strictly a personnel matter now turns out to have gone past Karl Rove’s desk somehow. I didn’t know he had a DoJ Human Resources position as well as his other duties.
    Oh, and don’t forget:
    “We’re a go for the US Atty plan,” White House deputy counsel William Kelley notified the Justice Department on Dec. 4, 2006, three days before seven of the eight U.S. attorneys were dismissed. “WH leg[islative affairs], political, and communications have signed off…”
    I doubt they would have fired some many at one time if they didn’t think they could sidestep the confirmation process while replacing them. The only sidestepping available was through the Patriot Act.

    carsick (deb1a3)

  94. glasnost: Just for the record, do you really think the criticism of John McKay was because Republicans were asking him to INTERFERE in the 2004 governors race?

    That is a lunatic position. That election was ripe with inconsistencies and the nature of all the state held seats that would investigate the matter, the natural progression of seeking an independent was to go the Federal route. Anyone can talk to or communicate with a US Attorney and urge them to investigate or prosecute a case. People file affidavits all the time to urge for investigations.

    Your framing of the Washington Republicans is wrong. Your depiction that they were asking the USA McKay to INTERFERE is a complete fabrication.

    I think you can do better.

    AF: Thanks for the link to the Q&A with Stuart Gerson. He quotes are a trove of information that doesn’t support the positions taken by the Democrats. Allow me to selectively quote Mr. Gerson.

    What is unusual about the current situation is that it happened in the middle of a term. However, all of the incumbents had served more than the four years presumed in their original commission and, I suggest, replacing them is entirely the prerogative of the executive, as each deposed U.S. Attorney has agreed.

    More

    I don’t think we can say that any of this activity was intended to “thwart” an investigation, though that avenue will be pursued in oversight investigations in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    For the scorekeepers at home, the dismissals were lawful and there is no evidence they were intended to thwart investigations. In other words, the Democrats are looking for a needle in a haystack.

    Gabriel Sutherland (90b3a1)

  95. The Los Angeles Times has an agenda like the rest of the fellow travelers and useful idiots in the Washington press corps? No way!!!!

    Tom (134ef9)

  96. AF: It’s easier to just link to the actual study instead of the TPM’s misreading of it.

    The Study

    Our ongoing study of the Bush Justice Department (to be published in 2008)

    Whoops. It’s not published yet? You don’t suppose that places the data in the category of “subject to change pending further analysis”. I’ll take my preliminary findings with a grain of salt.

    Gabriel Sutherland (90b3a1)

  97. Pat, I’ve never said you squelch dissent. You’re responding to someone else’s argument and ignoring mine. That’s par for the course
    “National Journal:

    Shortly before Attorney General Alberto Gonzales advised President Bush last year on whether to shut down a Justice Department inquiry regarding the administration’s warrantless domestic eavesdropping program, Gonzales learned that his own conduct would likely be a focus of the investigation, according to government records and interviews.
    Bush personally intervened to sideline the Justice Department probe in April 2006 by taking the unusual step of denying investigators the security clearances necessary for their work.

    It is unclear whether the president knew at the time of his decision that the Justice inquiry — to be conducted by the department’s internal ethics watchdog, the Office of Professional Responsibility — would almost certainly examine the conduct of his attorney general….

    Current and former Justice Department officials, as well as experts in legal ethics, question the propriety of Gonzales’s continuing to advise Bush about the investigation after learning that it might examine his own actions. The attorney general, they say, was remiss if he did not disclose that information to the president. But if Gonzales did inform Bush about the possibility and the president responded by stymieing the probe, that would raise even more-serious questions as to whether Bush acted to protect Gonzales, they said.

    Th Washington post: Lying to Congress
    McClatchy:

    In an interview Wednesday, [former U.S. Attorney for Little Rock, Arkansas Bud] Cummins questioned whether the Justice Department seriously evaluated any of the other U.S. attorneys who they insisted were removed for performance reasons.
    “If they had serious questions, where are the memos proving there was a real performance review?” he asked. “They released all of these embarrassing memos, don’t you think they would have released the paper trail?”

    Cummins also said that e-mails released by the White House earlier this week demonstrated that performance wasn’t the issue. “It’s clear that, in at least some instances, politics played a significant part,” he said.

    And I’m really sorry you’re upset about Carol Lam’s record on immigration, but I’m more conerned with the fact that the number 3 guy at the CIA is headed to jail. Does the name Dusty Foggo ring a bell? Duke Cunningham? But none of that interests you.
    John McKay said he found nothing on voter fraud in Washington state. Nada! Zilch! But they kept pushing. The replacement for Arkansas was a hack. Are you interested in nothing but politics? LIke that idiot who said in response to my fears about Pakistan that I was only picking that country BECAUSE republicans are talking up Iran?

    “When there’s nothing left but politics then there are no ideas

    That’s the root of the republican problem because it’s the root of republican thought. I’m sorry to tell you, not everyone is as shallow as you are. You’ve fucked yourselves
    and the country as well.

    AF (400cbc)

  98. Can the ridiculous Clinton talking point be separated from this debate. It is simply apple and oranges and is an affront to anyone with a brain.

    The immigration issue is also an empty vessel. As most lawyers will attest, Ms. Lam is somewhat universally praised for her expertise both as a front line lawyer and as a manager. It is laughable to think the replacement, with nary any trial or actual attorney experience, will be even remotely as competent.

    And yes, the “serving at the pleasure of the preseident” is a fine concept. But here you have an AG who first lies to congress and then states that he does not even know what the pleasure of the president is and that he simply delegated without any supervision perhaps one of the most important parts of his job (and the 100,000 employee argument is simply laughable considering the 93 USAs are the particular individuals that the AG should be paying attention to–and not the 100,000 secretaries and support staff).

    Finally, you seem to really miss the most insidious part of this whole scenario (and miss the importance of the timing): because of a provision slipped into the Patriot Act re-authorization bill, these replacement are not subject to the normal, constitutional oversight of the Congress.

    And yet, you think the real issue here is finding technicalities to castigate the LA Times, finding no reason for further investigation, despite the stench that surrounds you.

    That is congitive dissonnance. And it is that dissonance that has created a situation of crisis in this country.

    So let’s start writing those letters of outrage to our elected officials that not enough poor illegal aliens are being investigated by our USAs because they are putting corruptors of the war effort in jail.

    Semper Fi.

    eddie (8a19ac)

  99. […] U.S. Attorney replacements for me, but not for thee. […]

    Shocking Entirely Predictable : Pursuing Holiness (e6211d)


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