What the Press Won’t Tell You About the Fired U.S. Attorneys: Interesting Information on Carol Lam from the Recently Released E-Mails
This morning, I called for conservatives to examine the newly released e-mails on the fired U.S. Attorneys. My goal is not to defend the Administration — which can’t defend itself, and continually sabotages itself — but rather to keep a watchful eye on the press and the Democrats (but I repeat myself), and to learn the facts that the press won’t tell us about.
Today, I received an e-mail from someone who wishes to remain anonymous — but whom I trust. The person is a Harvard Law classmate of several of the people whose names appear on various documents. He passes along some interesting information from the e-mails regarding Carol Lam. My correspondent says:
In a quick review of some of the Judiciary Committee documents that were just released, here are several items that make it overwhelmingly clear that people at the highest levels — from the Dept. of Justice to Senator Feinstein to all of the California congressmen — were concerned about Carol Lam’s performance on immigration cases and, to a lesser extent, firearms cases.
What follows is my correspondent’s analysis.
From Documents 11-5:
Email from Kyle Sampton to William Mercer, Dec. 5, 2006:
Administration has determined to ask some underperforming USAs to move on (you’ll remember I beat back a much broader — like across the board — plan that WHCO was pushing after 2004).
Email from Kyle Sampson to Bill Mercer, May 31, 2006:
Has ODAG ever called Carol Lam and woodshedded her re immigration enforcement? Has anyone?
If the AG ordered 20 more prosecutors to S.D. Cal. to do immigration enforcement only, where would we get them from (remember the premise: AG has ordered it)?
Response email from Bill Mercer to Kyle Sampson, May 31, 2006:
I don’t believe so.
Not that I am aware of.
There are good reasons not to provide extensive resources to SD Ca. Other border districts have done substantially more. It will send the message that if your people are killing themselves, the additional resources will go to folks who haven’t prioritized the same enforcement priority.
Email from Kyle Sampton to Bill Mercer, June 1, 2006:
Bill, this relates (certainly in the AG’s mind) to the e-mail I just sent to Elston (cc to you) re our pressing need to, in the very short term, generate some deliverables on immigration enforcement, and in the long-term, insulate the Department from criticism by improving our numbers. AG has given additional thought to the SD situation and now believes that we should adopt a plan — something like the following:
Have a heart-to-heart with Lam about the urgent need to improve immigration enforcement in SD.
Work with her to develop a plan for addressing the problem — to include alteration of prosecution thresholds; additional DOJ prosecutors; additional DHS SAUSA resources; etc.
Put her on a very short leash;
If she balks on any of the foregoing or otherwise does not perform in a measurable way by July 15 [my date], remove her.
AG then appoints new USA from outside the office.
Email from Bill Mercer to Paul McNulty, June 5, 2006:
. . .
What, if anything, should be done in SDCa [sic] to address concerns about inadequate immigration enforcement numbers. The range of options includes: replace Carol, replace Carol only if she fails to make demonstrable improvements within 90 days (maybe shorter like 45 days) . . . .
Pages 20-21 of Documents 11-5 reproduce a letter that Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California sent to the Attorney General on June 15, 2006, claiming that
despite high apprehensions [sic] rates by Border Patrol agents along California’s border with Mexico, prosecutions by the U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of California appear to lag behind. A concern voiced by Border Patrol agents is that low prosecution rates have a demoralizing effect on the men and women patrolling our Nation’s borders. It is my understanding that the U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of California may have some of the most restrictive prosecutorial guidelines nationwide for immigration cases, such that many Border Patrol agents end up not referring their cases.
As shown in pages 9-12 of Documents 11-5, someone was concerned enough to write a report comparing Lam’s total prosecutions of immigration, firearms, and fraud cases to the total number of such prosecutions in other border districts (such as Arizona and Texas). The report also notes (in bold text) that federal firearms cases “hit a 10 year low in SD CA in FY 2005 even after the conversation between Jim and Carol [Lam.]. . . . This is a long-standing issue.”
From Documents 11-4:
Email from Lee Otis to Bill Mercer, May 2, 2006.
In case you haven’t seen this, here is the Q&A at the AG’s House Judicial Committee hearing re: San Diego immigration prosecutions:
Rep. Ric Keller (R-Fl):
. . . I recently spent a full week on the Mexican-California border, riding around with Border Patrol agents. I was with them 2:00, 3:00 in the morning as they arrested various illegal aliens and smugglers . . . . These coyotes get approximately $1,500 per person that they illegally smuggle into the U.S. The Border Patrol agents told me that they have arrested some of these alien smugglers between 20 and 30 times. They tell me that the U.S. attorney in San Diego for the Southern District of California, Carol Lamb [sic], has repeatedly refused to prosecute them; that the prosecutions have been slashed dramatically; that under the guidelines and practice of this U.S. attorney, the only way you’re really going to see a prosecution is if someone dies in the transport of the illegal aliens or if one of these alien smugglers attempts to run over someone . . . .
The morale is so bad among these Border Patrol agents that I show you a photograph that they call the wall of shame. It has pictures of over 200 coyotes that have been arrested by the Border Patrol agents in the Southern District of California who this U.S. attorney has repeatedly failed to prosecute.
Pages 47-48 of Documents 11-4: This is a letter sent to Carol Lam by Rep. Issa of California lambasting her performance on immigration enforcement.
The last two pages of Documents 11-4 and the first few pages of Documents 11-5 are an official memo dated May 26, 2006, from Daniel Fridman (Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General) to the Deputy Attorney General. The title of the memo: “Analysis of Immigration Prosecutions in the Southern District of California.”
The conclusion: “It appears that SDCA is employing prosecution guidelines that are more restrictive than other districts in immigration prosecutions. The most immediate fix would be to change the prosecution guidelines so they are more in line with the guidelines employed by other border districts. In particular, SDCA should place a greater emphasis on pursuing illegal reentry cases and alien smuggling cases.”
Pages 9-13 of Documents 11-3 constitute an official memo to William Mercer in response to “your recent request regarding the immigration policies of the five (5) Southwest Border districts.” This is not dated.
From Documents 11-2, page 49 is an Oct. 20, 2005 letter to Alberto Gonzales from Rep. Issa of California and about 18 other Congressmen, complaining of the fact that the “U.S. Attorney in San Diego has stated that the office will not prosecute a criminal alien unless they have previously been convicted of two felonies in the district.”
Also, liberal bloggers have made much of the fact that on Aug. 23, 2006, DOJ wrote a letter to Dianne Feinstein defending Lam’s record on immigration cases. That letter can be found here.
Read between the lines. The letter cherry-picks just about the only statistics that appear to show an improvement. But when you look at the overall statistics, the number of cases in S.D. Ca. dropped from over 2,500 per year in 2003 and 2004, to a mere 1,514 in 2005. This is a huge drop, and one that can’t be masked by claiming that the number of prosecutions in one narrow category went from 21 to 77, or that the number of tried cases rose from 37 to 80 (which are claims that the letter makes).
In other words, DOJ was merely putting its best face forward when publicly responding to a Senator’s letter. But behind the scenes, as numerous documents and emails show, many people at DOJ were concerned with Lam and the immigration issue.