L.A. Times: Performance Issues Were Detailed AFTER THE FACT!!!! (whispered: and before the fact as well)
The L.A. Times runs an article titled Making a list of reasons for firing U.S. attorneys. The article is designed to fuel the fires of the U.S. Attorney firing scandal, by suggesting that the legitimate performance-based reasons offered as a justification for firing the U.S. Attorneys were concocted after the fact. The article is teased on the front page with a blurb reading: “Memos show performance issues were detailed after the fact.”
The smaller “deck” headline reads: “Justice Department memos show performance issues were being detailed after the fact in order to justify the terminations.” And the article opens:
Senior Justice Department officials began drafting memos this month listing specific reasons why they had fired eight U.S. attorneys, intending to cite performance problems such as insubordination, leadership failures and other missteps if needed to convince angry congressional Democrats that the terminations were justified.
Wow. Performance issues were “detailed after the fact.” Memos citing performance problems were drafted “this month” in case they were “needed to convince angry congressional Democrats” that the firings were justified.
The conclusion the editors want you to reach is clear: any performance issues were transparently false rationales that were manufactured after the fact.
Of course, as I have noted on this blog, any such conclusion would be utterly false. There are reams of material preceding the firings, which thoroughly demonstrated the Administration’s dissatisfaction with certain U.S. Attorneys. Some of the most pointed criticism related to Carol Lam, the U.S. Attorney who Democrats say was targeted over the Randy “Duke” Cunningham investigation. Some of the details are set forth in this post, this post, and this post.
For example, on June 1, 2006 (months before the December 2006 firings), Kyle Sampson e-mailed a Justice Departmnt official suggesting a plan to deal with Lam that would include:
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.
A May 2, 2006 e-mail relates Border Patrol complaints about Lam:
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 . . . .
An October 19, 2005 e-mail says:
Congressman Lamar Smith is concerned that the Administration’s policy is to only prosecute aliens once they have been caught entering the country multiple times. Specifically, Smith cites Laredo, where he claims illegal aliens are apprehended and removed eight times before finally being prosecuted.
When I was in Phoenix with Jon, we met with USA Paul Charlton. Charlton told us that his office didn’t prosecute illegal aliens until they were apprehended 13 times (after the initial removal order). His exceptions to that “policy” were: aliens with aggravated felonies; alien smugglers with 12 or more people; and aliens who cross the border illegally with children not their own.
The examples go on and on.
Today’s article makes reference to some of this material — at the very end of the story, beginning at paragraph 27. For example:
Lam was written up for several performance failures, including that “she had focused too much attention and time on personally trying cases than managing” her office in San Diego. On border crime, the department said, “she failed to tackle this responsibility as aggressively and as vigorously as we expected and needed her to do. At the end of the day, we expected more.”
In July 2006, William Mercer in McNulty’s office poked fun at Lam, telling Elston in an e-mail that she “can’t meet a deadline” but would not admit her shortcomings. “She won’t just say, ‘OK. You got me. You’re right. I’ve ignored national priorities and obvious local needs. Shoot, my production is more hideous than I realized.’
So: performance issues were detailed before the fact and after the fact.
But the front page, and the headline, mention only the “after the fact” part. And the “before the fact” part is buried all the way at the end.
Do you think this is an accident, my friends?
The internet is a wonderful thing.
(March 21, 2007 — 03:05 AM EST // link)
Shades of Rose Mary Woods? An 18 day gap?
I think a commenter in our document dump research thread may have been the first to notice that the emails released by the Justice Department seem to have a gap between November 15th and December 4th of last year.
(Our commenter saw it late on the evening of the dump itself — see the comment date-stamped March 20, 2007 02:19 AM in the research thread)
The firing calls went out on December 7th. But the original plan was to start placing the calls on November 15th. So those eighteen days are pretty key ones.
Mike Allen spotted it this evening in the Politico.
— Josh Marshall
Do YOU think this was an accident, my friend?semanticleo (75845c) — 3/21/2007 @ 6:26 am
Is the Executive Branch subject to Sarbanes/Oxley?
Just wonderin’.semanticleo (75845c) — 3/21/2007 @ 6:28 am
You need to take this critical Numerological Sign up with Minister Farrakhan statim, because there are three 6’s in 18. [pbuh] Do YOU think that was a mere accident, my good dhimmi?J. Peden (52d563) — 3/21/2007 @ 6:56 am
I linked to the documents twice alreadyAF (f0c94f) — 3/21/2007 @ 6:57 am
You’re kind of cherry-picking the strongest case here. I mean, if I get to pick the best case for the other side, I haven’t seen anything detailing Bogden’s problems “before the fact” (and there’s not a heck of a lot after the fact, either).
[I haven’t read all 3000 pages. But it’s nice to see you acknowledge that the case for firing Lam was among the strongest the Administration had. That’s the one that started the ball rolling, and one of two they have complained about the loudest (the other being Iglesias). — P]Steve (43f553) — 3/21/2007 @ 6:58 am
It seems obvious to me that some actual reviews should have occurred before they considered removing anyone. And yet, in early 2005, Kyle Sampson was already sending Harriet Miers charts detailing who they’d recommend removing, and who they’d recommend retaining (on 3/02/05 he sent her a revised chart, dated 2/24/05). Bud Cummins, Carol Lam, and Margaret Chiara were already on that list, so in their cases, anything after early 2005 would be “after the fact”.
[Say that with a straight face. Can you do it? — P]
Also, David Iglesias got added later, but originally, he was “recommended retaining”–what changed?Biff (c3722c) — 3/21/2007 @ 7:06 am
My wish list:
1. A healthy amount of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” among the media and politicians of the country.
2. -Successful litigation by the US attorneys against the DNC and media outlets for causing injury in forcing the dissemination of information that a reasonable person could expect to remain confidential.MD in Philly (3d3f72) — 3/21/2007 @ 7:07 am
-Ability to bring criminal prosecution to media outlets that persist in interfering with the governance of our country by propagating* lies to the public. *(Patterico or wls, please help me with spelling on that one).
– Ability to litigate against media outlets for journalistic malpractice.
– A major newspaper or news channel that could actually be respected for giving objective and fair news coverage.
Interesting stuff in the Carol Lam-related emails.
She was being subjected to pressure from Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) for failure to prosecute *immigrant smugglers*.
These folks are called “coyotes” and they are well known for defrauding illegal immigrants, taking large sums of money (typically $500 to $5000) to smuggle them into a safe place in the U.S. Often, they get them across the border to a remote desert location, and simply dump them there. It is not uncommon for immigrants to die in the desert of dehydration and heatstroke, or to have other fatal secondary illnesses (heat induced heart attack, for instance). The issue is significant enough that the Latino rights groups (MalDef, La Raza) the ACLU, and the Catholic Church have been heavily lobbying in D.C. for more humane measures to deal with the illegal immigrants. This has resulted in things like the Border Patrol putting water coolers out along the border in remote locations, so that illegal immigrants don’t die as a result of getting defrauded by coyotes. The DOJ responded to the issue by initiating a nation-wide policy of maxing out immigrant smugglers, in part due to incidents like the bastards who deserted a semi-truck in Texas, leaving 19 to die of heatstroke and putting many more in the hospital. While it was the right thing to do, this initiative was also due, no doubt, to purely political considerations, given Republican ambitions to please Hispanic voters in the Southwest. I believe it was rolled out fairly early in Alex Acosta’s stint at DOJ Civil Rights, as part of a DOJ Main / US Attorneys initiative.
Carol Lam was slammed by Issa and by Feinstein for refusing to prosecute immigrant smuggling cases; a leaked Border Patrol internal report (about which there was some controversy) indicated that she directed the prosecution of only six such smugglers out of 200+ apprehended by one isolated Border Patrol outpost in a previous one year period. This was two years before her term was allowed to expire, and over a year before the Duke Cunningham investigation was opened.
I don’t want to defend anything untoward the DOJ may have done, but it seems to me that the left is really getting ready to do damage to the DOJ’s ability to use the US Attorneys’ offices to address national legal problems. Liberals getting their panties in a wad over DOJ concerns about Lam’s performance need to understand that they are effectively sticking up for some of the most vicious bastards ever to exploit illegal immigrants. I’m sure Sinclair Lewis could write a great book about immigrant smuggling; it is heartrending. I’m all in favor of tougher immigration enforcement, but to my mind, that is a civil enforcement matter, not a matter of treating people who often murder or commit homicide against illegals better. Pat Leahy is effectively sticking up for Lam’s right to be derelict in her assigned duties, something I just can’t support, even if DOJ’s refusal to reappoint her and subsequent replacement was politically motivated.Al Maviva (89d0b6) — 3/21/2007 @ 7:09 am
I think I mentioned previously here that Carol Lam was going after corrupt border patrol agents–I suspect that may also have had something to do with that leaked (and altered?) Border Patrol document.Biff (c3722c) — 3/21/2007 @ 7:38 am
Re: [Say that with a straight face. Can you do it? — P]
Indeed, I can, and I did–what’s so hard to understand that you should be doing the reviews before you recommend people to be fired, rather than afterwards?Biff (c3722c) — 3/21/2007 @ 7:40 am
Liberals getting their panties in a wad over DOJ concerns about Lam’s performance need to understand that they are effectively sticking up for some of the most vicious bastards ever to exploit illegal immigrants.
Very few liberals are taking the position that the President isn’t entitled to set enforcement priorities for the Justice Department. The issue is not whether immigration could have been a legitimate reason to fire Lam, but whether it was the actual reason.
If I fire my secretary because she’s black, but I try to claim that it was because she was late to work a lot, I’ve broken the law. If the EEOC came after me for breaking the law, would you argue that they’re effectively sticking up for people who don’t come to work on time?Steve (43f553) — 3/21/2007 @ 8:10 am
Kind of along the lines of the Clinton Adm.’s model, Biff?
The only case you have is one of arbitrary, strong paranoia.J. Peden (52d563) — 3/21/2007 @ 8:16 am
But it’s nice to see you acknowledge that the case for firing Lam was among the strongest the Administration had.
I’m a lawyer too; you have to take the facts as you find them. But if this were an employment discrimination case, the employer wouldn’t win simply by laying out the evidence you’ve compiled; Lam would still be entitled to prove that the immigration issue, while it could serve as a valid basis for firing, was a mere pretext.
The May 11 Sampson email, which you’ve candidly acknowledged is a problem, still needs to be dealt with. When he refers to “the real problem we have right now with Carol Lam,” it’s unlikely he’s referring to the immigration issue, particularly since he seems to want to discuss it orally rather than spell it out in the email. And since he’s saying that “the real problem” is what leads him to believe a replacement should be lined up for Lam when her term expires, that’s pretty solid evidence that even though the immigration issue was known to all at that point, no decision had yet been made to fire her for it.
One other question I haven’t seen asked is, if she was being fired over immigration, why the need to wait until her term expired? They clearly weren’t shy about firing other US Attorneys in the middle of their terms, and this issue had been out there for a while. It seems to me that the most obvious reason why you’d want to let the term expire is because it’s important, for some reason, for the act of replacement to look as innocuous as possible.Steve (43f553) — 3/21/2007 @ 8:17 am
Frankly, any US Attorney who complains publicly about being let go (from a job “at the pleasure”) should have been fired long ago.
The real problem here, though, is the Administration’s feckless defense of itself. Although, it’s probably something it can’t win with a partisan press and a subject matter that self-obfuscates.
But you’d think they’d at least try with some simple, blanket statements. Like, say, “SO WHAT!? BFD! US Attorneys get fired all the time, and these guys were specially deserving.”
Does anyone doubt that if this happened under Clinton that Lam and Iglesias’ video rental records would have somehow gotten out on the internet, and their youthful pot smoking would be public knowledge?Kevin Murphy (0b2493) — 3/21/2007 @ 8:28 am
If so, Steve, then why don’t you respond to Al Mavia:
Instead of restating the obvious, then throwing in an irrelevant, unanalogous hypothetical – even mixing racism into it, of all things.J. Peden (52d563) — 3/21/2007 @ 8:28 am
Yes, Clinton’s DOJ should have looked into it for the two of his US attorneys they fired for malfeasance–then again, they probably didn’t have to look very far. Now tell me what was so comparatively horrible that these eight US attorneys did, I’m listening.Biff (c3722c) — 3/21/2007 @ 8:29 am
I tried to answer my own question. Today’s NYT offers a possible alternative theory for the “real problem”:
In theory, if a Border Patrol document complaining about Lam showed up in the press, that could certain be a “real problem” that would warrant immediate attention. However, I did a Nexis search and couldn’t find a single article on the topic that predates Sampson’s May 11 email. However, I did find this from May 25:
This, again, shows that immigration was a real issue, but it doesn’t help explain the May 11 email, or the fact that Sampson was apparently reluctant to spell out what the “real issue” was.Steve (43f553) — 3/21/2007 @ 8:31 am
If so, Steve, then why don’t you respond to Al Mavia:
She [Lam] was being subjected to pressure from Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) for failure to prosecute *immigrant smugglers*.
I don’t know why my position is hard for you to understand. The fact that the California Senators had genuine concerns about immigration doesn’t prove that this was the actual reason the DOJ let her go.Steve (43f553) — 3/21/2007 @ 8:34 am
n.b.: my “the obvious” above was intended to mean “what you take to be obvious”, Steve.J. Peden (52d563) — 3/21/2007 @ 8:36 am
Oh, so there’s the right reason, Steve, then there’s the actual one – based, of course, upon the needs of your your dominant BDS paranoia. Right.J. Peden (52d563) — 3/21/2007 @ 8:41 am
Well, if the immigration issue did anything at all to explain the May 11 email, I guess I’d feel your position had some justification. But since it doesn’t, I think it’s worth inquiring further.
I understand that being a partisan for either side involves giving one’s own team the benefit of the doubt. But still, it’s not “BDS” if you don’t immediately accept the first innocent explanation that gets offered, particularly where there’s already evidence in the public record that the explanation doesn’t address.
But if the issue is closed for you, then fine, have a nice day. I’ll continue discussing it with Patterico, who seems interested in weighing the actual evidence as it comes in, rather than jumping to conclusions and labelling everything else BDS.Steve (43f553) — 3/21/2007 @ 8:56 am
The fact that the California Senators had genuine concerns about immigration doesn’t prove that this was the actual reason the DOJ let her go.
Oh, I see.
But the fact that Domenici and Heather Wilson got Iglesias fired is very relevant? Exsqueeze me? As for the “altered” Border Patrol report, sure, leave it at that and insinuate the facts were changed. A date was altered – but Lam and the BP don’t dispute that the report was accurate as to the number of immigrant smugglers apprehended, and the number prosecuted for immigrant smuggling.
BTW, Issa is a Republican rep, Feinstein is a Democratic Senator. She has some sway with the administration because she is often reasonably strong on defense, intel and crime control issues [he grudgingly admitted] in addition to the usual liberal causes.
Finally, FWIW, political appointees are super-duper at will. They can be fired for bad reasons – that includes a president’s inchoate prejudices. “They are pissing off people in my own party, and powerful members of the opposition whom I rely on for votes” sounds bad if you’re of the mindset politics is suddenly supposed to be a white glove occupation, but most presidents historically would have found that to be damned good cause.Al Maviva (89d0b6) — 3/21/2007 @ 9:19 am
You are listening only to your own derangement, Biff.
Steve restates his own above, also.
Have fun.J. Peden (52d563) — 3/21/2007 @ 9:20 am
As for the “altered” Border Patrol report, sure, leave it at that and insinuate the facts were changed.
It’s amazing how I keep getting accused of insinuating things that never crossed my mind. Above, I was accused of playing the race card simply for offering a standard example from employment law. Now, I’m trying to insinuate Lam was right and Issa was wrong on the merits. Seriously, I don’t have the first clue, the thought never entered my head, and even if Issa and the DOJ and everyone else were completely wrong about Lam’s dedication to immigration cases it wouldn’t matter one bit, so long as that was the honest reason she was terminated.
I’ve already conceded that Lam presents the strongest case for a performance-based termination, and my only question is the following: what was the “real problem we have right now” in the May 11 email? I think that remains an open question, particularly because if it had something to do with immigration, there wouldn’t have been a reason to be so vague about it in the email.Steve (43f553) — 3/21/2007 @ 9:27 am
You are listening only to your own derangement, Biff.
Well, as long as you can’t or won’t answer the question, I guess I won’t get to hear your “derangement”. My loss, I suppose–ta ta!Biff (c3722c) — 3/21/2007 @ 9:28 am
I guess you missed the question mark, I haven’t looked into it in any great detail. However, Lam’s statement on the matter was this:Biff (c3722c) — 3/21/2007 @ 9:36 am
Yeah Biff. it was substantially altered. It was one year older than the date indicated. You know why Lam didn’t contest the statistics? Because she couldn’t. They were accurate.
Ah, why bother. Keep throwing out the jackalopes, Biff.Al Maviva (89d0b6) — 3/21/2007 @ 9:56 am
Your premise is that:
1) Sampson’s desire to discuss something over the phone is proof that what he wanted to discuss must be something other than what he had previously mentioned in the e-mails, i.e. something other than immigration issues, and:
2)That the desire to discuss it on the phone is proof of a desire not to have this “something else” documented, as it would be if communicated by e-mail.
Both 1 and 2 are non sequiturs.
There can be perfectly innocent reasons why one prefers to discuss something verbally as opposed to an exchange of e-mail, even if one has mentioned the same subject in previous e-mails. One reason one might prefer a conversation to an e-mail is that talking is faster than typing. The information that can be conveyed in a brief conversation might run to several pages if put into an e-mail. Another reason one might prefer a conversation is the immediate feedback one can get on what one says, as opposed to waiting for a response.
Therefore, at this point, your claim that the May 11 e-mail is inherently suspicious and must be explained is arbitrary, i.e. it is a claim without any supporting evidence. The e-mail may be completely innocent.Michael Smith (b8378c) — 3/21/2007 @ 10:21 am
If you just want to talk about the statistics, that’s fine with me; I was talking about the border patrol angle, wrt. that document getting into Issa’s hands, and Lam’s past investigations and prosecutions of corrupt border patrol agents.Biff (c3722c) — 3/21/2007 @ 10:23 am
I support the president’s decision to resist subpoenas while offering a compromise. In my mind that shows respect for the Senate in a political way, similar to how many USA’s are appointed with the approval of the Senator of that state or district. This is in contrast to an alternate approach suggested in an earlier thread by aplomb, that Rove/Meirs etc. show up at the hearing, take the oath, and then refuse to talk. That would be disrespecting the Senate in its own house. If these appointments are made after informal consultation with a senator — which could include all sorts of political considerations, favoritism, etc on either party’s part — an informal reassurance that the Senator’s concerns have been addressed continues that same method of cooperating between the co-equal branches.
Regarding the LA Times, I see their spin started in the first three words of the article: “Inviting a showdown…” I thought Bush offered a compromise and said he hopes they don’t choose confrontation, but the Times blames it all on Bush while invoking the cowboy image. In three words!Geo W (790db4) — 3/21/2007 @ 10:31 am
None of this, the reasons for/against the firings, makes any bit of difference to me. The President can fire these attorneys any time he chooses and for any reason, even if it’s something as offbeat as “she chews with her mouth open.” What we’re witnessing here is just a Democratic attempt to play gotcha. The white elephant that the press is ignoring is the 93 attorneys fired by Clinton with no pretext at all.otcconan (8fc351) — 3/21/2007 @ 10:35 am
To say nothing of the thousands fired by Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, etc., etc., going all the way back to 1789! These atrocities are fully documented in the Bicentennial Celebration of the United States Attorneys, 1789-1989.Biff (c3722c) — 3/21/2007 @ 10:51 am
In yesterday’s L.A. Times (March 20)appearing on the oped page was an article by Feinstein in which she states that the authorization to fire and replace U.S. attorneys was “slipped into the 2006 reauthorization of the Patriot Act with no notice.” Aside from the fact that she and her staff neglected to thoroughly review the reauthorization bill before she voted yes on it, if it required putting that language into the Patriot Act in order for Bush to hire and fire U.S. attorneys, what authorization did Bill Clinton use when he summarily replaced all 93 attorneys when he took office? And now that the Senate yesterday passed a law requiring Congressional approval of all interim appointments of U.S. attorneys, isn’t this the beginning of the end of separation of powers?Jackie Warner (41f17a) — 3/21/2007 @ 10:52 am
What was slipped in had to do with the hiring side–basically it circumvented the traditional advise and consent process, which the Senate has recently voted to restore (94-2). As for Clinton, see my above post–he used the same authority that all the Presidents before him have used, and after as well–it is traditional for a President to replace past US Attorney appointees with his own as a part of his new administration.Biff (c3722c) — 3/21/2007 @ 10:56 am
Steve 12 — you need to read through all the records before you reach the conclusion that Carol Lam and the others were not told about the shortcomings of their offices.
There are numerous reviews and memos prepared in Main Justice for each of the US Attorney districts going over number of prosecutions in various areas. In the 11-1 et seq sequence I saw several stretching back to 2004 talking about the under-performance of the SDCA in immigration and gun crime cases.
The other thing you need to understand is that most of the DOJ officials leveling criticisms at Lam and the others were formerly US Attorneys appointed by Bush themselves.
Paul McNulty was the US Attorney for the EDVA before taking the job of Dep.AG.
Bill Mercer was, and still is, the US Attorney for Montana, while doing double-duty at DOJ in various positions — he flies back and forth to Montana each week, and relies heavily on his First Assistant there. Fortunately for him, the District of Montana is a small office, so its not a big strain on his time to keep track of what is going on there.
But, the point is that these guys who are critical of Lam and the others from within DOJ were/are collegues of the targeted USAttorneys, and know a great deal about their strengths and weaknesses.
Carol Lam knew for years that she was bucking the priorities as set down by DOJ. What happened to her was not a surprise — and I know that because I’m friends with someone who is particularly close to her, and they have known all along that it was only a matter of time before the axe finally fell on her.wls (077d0d) — 3/21/2007 @ 11:02 am
Therefore, at this point, your claim that the May 11 e-mail is inherently suspicious and must be explained is arbitrary, i.e. it is a claim without any supporting evidence. The e-mail may be completely innocent.
I don’t understand you at all. Literally everything that’s “suspicious” may, in fact, have a completely innocent explanation. That’s the very definition of the word. If there weren’t the possibility of an innocent explanation, it would be something much worse than “suspicious.”
Like I said above, we’re all inclined to give our own team the benefit of the doubt, but you can’t seriously argue that you need ironclad proof of wrongdoing before you can even investigate. Coming one day after Lam notified the DOJ of the Foggo/Wilkes search warrants, the reference to a problem that we have “right now” is something that needs to be explained.
If you’re already convinced that the explanation has to be innocent, that’s fine. My opinion is that there are still reasonable grounds to ask the question. And again, when we talk about Lam, we’re choosing to focus only on the strongest case for a performance-based firing and ignoring all the others.Steve (43f553) — 3/21/2007 @ 11:04 am
What happened to her was not a surprise — and I know that because I’m friends with someone who is particularly close to her, and they have known all along that it was only a matter of time before the axe finally fell on her.
What I don’t get, then, is why there’s an email from June suggesting the idea of woodshedding her, in the context that such a conservation clearly had not occurred yet.
Again, since you may not have read all the comments, I completely accept the proposition that there were sincere concerns all along with respect to Lam and immigration cases. I still think there’s an open question with respect to the May 11 email, however. Deal with that point, and I’ll write off Lam altogether.Steve (43f553) — 3/21/2007 @ 11:08 am
I don’t see how it could be any clearer. You argued that since Sampson wanted to talk about the “real problems with Carol Lam”, as opposed to detailing them in the e-mail, that those problems must be different than the immigration issues discussed in earler e-mails. But there is no basis for that inference — it is a non sequitur. The fact that he wanted to talk about it does not necessarily mean that it is anything different.
Nor does his desire to talk about it prove that he was “reluctant to spell out the real issue”. That, too, is an unjustified inference.Michael Smith (b8378c) — 3/21/2007 @ 11:59 am
I was talking about the border patrol angle
Whether the USBP had a vendetta for Lam has no bearing on the facts of her lack of prosecution of immigrant smugglers.
On the larger issue, this thread is starting to make me a believer in the “woe unto us, stop the criminalization of politics” school of punditry.
It’s clear that there were really valid grounds for firing Lam, even before congressional politics entered into it, and well before Duke Cunningham’s overboard corruption was revealed or the subject of investigation. Mmmkay, that whole conjecture about her being ‘fired’ to stop the Duke Cunningham investigation or maybe the Jerry Lewis investigation is just a figment of the leftosphere’s conjectural mind. Maybe if we cite enough case captions, of cases filed in SDCA, we can come up with something that gives us a colorable argument that DOJ’s nagging of Lam to do her job, and her subsequent release, actually derailed a case somewhere. Somehow, I doubt it.
Yet here we are nitpicking about who said what to whom, and whether it was politically motivated. It really truly doesn’t matter. Even if Lam was not a completely at-will political appointee in a discretion-exercising position, there were grounds for firing her. Her job status wasn’t as sound as a career DOJ employee (like most of the thousands of AUSAs). But we’re talking about things like, “if they considered ‘woodshedding’ her, why didn’t they do that instead of firing her?” Are the Dems really going to hang an obstruction of justice case on the managerial choice to not chew out a political appointee (yet again) but instead simply let her term of employment lapse a few months later? We’re going to spend the next six months arguing about this, and there is going to be another round of Nixon litigation on this? This is worse than Oakland… there is less than no there, there. Will the release of more emails reveal something? Maybe, but I suspect it will just be a bit more of what we’ve seen.
Holy cripes. I can’t even believe we’re wasting time talking about this. Talk about not being able to see the forest for the trees…Al Maviva (89d0b6) — 3/21/2007 @ 12:19 pm
Well the two are actually linked somewhat. You see, Lam was going after the “bigger fish”–that is to say, spending more resources going after corrupt border patrol agents rather than dedicating those resources to going after, say, immigrant smugglers. I believe her position was that this would be a better use of her resources and have a better end result wrt. cracking down on border crossings in general. Now you can debate that, but the prosecution numbers alone won’t make your case–indeed, that could make her case as well.
I know the feeling–after all, some people here are still talking about Clinton wrt. these recent US attorney firings (and everything else).Biff (c3722c) — 3/21/2007 @ 12:29 pm
Contrary to Justice Department and administration officials’ attempts to paint U.S. Attorney Carol Lam as recalcitrant on prosecuting immigration cases, an internal email shows that she was “willing to change course if people think that would be beneficial” regarding her handling of criticism on the cases. Lam volunteered to stay silent despite all the personal criticism because she did not want to put the DoJ in a bad light by complaining publicly about the lack of department resources.
The email, written by Associate Deputy Attorney General Ronald Tenpas in May of 2006 and sent to numerous high level Justice Department officials, relays a conversation that Tenpas had with Lam about her office’s handling of immigration cases. The conversation followed complaints made by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and other Republicans about the number of border prosecutions in Lam’s district.
The email reads:
Karl Rove has claimed publicly that Lam was ordered by the attorney general to make immigration prosecutions a priority, and refused, and the Justice Department has publicly cited Lam’s immigration policy as the reason for her removal.
*But Lam was apparently more than willing to change her department’s policy on immigration cases* — a policy that favored fewer, high-profile prosecutions over many more, lower-profile cases. But, despite the continued internal grumbling at the Justice Department, that request to change her policies never came, as Lam has testified under oath. Instead, she was abruptly fired.
Update/Correction: As a reader pointed out below shortly after this post went up, this might involve a misreading of the email. The line ” She is willing to change course if folks think that would be beneficial” apparently refers to Lam’s stance on staying silent in response to criticism, rather than her office’s immigration policy.
Considering the overall context of the email, however, it’s apparent the conversation that took place between two people on the same side of a debate trying to develop a PR strategy. In other words, if the Justice Department didn’t agree with Lam’s policy on immigration prosecutions, they would have been on Issa’s side, not Lam’s. But there was apparently no discussion about revising the policy, because that wasn’t what was at issue.AF (f0c94f) — 3/21/2007 @ 1:01 pm
Let The Showdown Begin – Bush and Dems To Faceoff…
The mainstream media has gone out of its way to undermine the Presidency of the United States. It matters little that the attacks are based against the current President because the current administration is the keeper at the gate. His people are respo…Webloggin (a2d188) — 3/21/2007 @ 1:05 pm
AF — I think a more accurate reading of what Lam was willing to “change course” on was her public posture on Issa’s criticisms, not the approach of her office. What she is saying is that she is remaining quiet to the criticism, but she thinks her silence makes the Dept. look back, and she is wondering whether they want the to defend her policies — she is willing to speak out in response to the criticism if DOJ thought that would be helpful for her to do so.
In fact, by the time of her e-mail, she had already begun to bring more cases in FY 06, more in line with DOJ and Admin. policy, as is reflected in Moschella’s letter to Feinstein in Aug. 06. But, she was already on the list to not be extended beyond her 4 year term in office before the remedial measures were taken.
Then her FY2005 PSN stats were simply unforgiveable.
“Here’s your certificate. Thank you for your service. Don’t let the door hit you on the @ss on your way out.”
They had not obligation to keep her one minute beyond her 4 year term. And they chose not to.wls (077d0d) — 3/21/2007 @ 2:05 pm
Are the Dems really going to hang an obstruction of justice case on the managerial choice to not chew out a political appointee (yet again) but instead simply let her term of employment lapse a few months later?
Oh, Al. Woe is you, huh?
I’m talking about Lam because I don’t want to do what I gently accused Patterico of, which is to say, cherry-picking the most favorable case for his own side and talking about nothing else. But just because I’ve agreed to engage on the argument where I’m at a factual disadvantage, and point out the outstanding questions which I feel still exist, that hardly means the whole (non-) scandal is about Carol Lam. If she was the only prosecutor who was let go, we’d be long since done talking about this.
Let’s talk about Iglesias, instead, if you like. If his side of the story is true, it’s rather damning, and even if the other side of the story is true, it’s still pretty awful. A Republican Senator calls him at home to ask him if any Democrats are going to be indicted before November, on the heels of a Republican Congresswoman calling to ask about the status of the same investigation. When Iglesias says no, the Senator hangs up the phone. Shortly thereafter, Iglesias gets added to the list of US Attorneys to be fired.
Let’s be real here. You can’t tell me the above is an absolute nothing of a story. You can’t deny that, if this is what happened, it’s the sort of thing you wouldn’t want to see either party get away with.
The issues with McKay getting in trouble with big Republican donors because he didn’t prosecute Democrats in regards to the disputed 2004 gubernatorial election are less clearly defined, but it certainly fits within the same category.
Can we at least acknowledge that this sort of allegation is what’s ultimately driving the bus, as opposed to the nuances of Carol Lam’s tour of duty?Steve (43f553) — 3/21/2007 @ 2:06 pm
Bush reminds me more and more of Nixon.. a guilty man trying to make himself into the object of pity because of the nasty folks trying to persecute him while he is trying to defend Presidential rights..Bull..
I am not a lawyer but even I can see that a deal to allow his henchmen to testify but without recordings or under oath is the sign of a guilty man trying to give the appearance of co operation while seeking to hide the truth.
Steve save your energy. these people have an agenda and that is to defend this liar in chief at any cost come hell or high water and truth be damned. If Bush declared himself President for Life you can bet they would go along with it..after all look at all the destruction of this country they go along with so far in order to protect Bush..Whats one more rip in the side of the ship of state to them?n Facts mean nothing to this group.. If they did they would have impeached this bastard a long time agoCharlie (55cd2b) — 3/21/2007 @ 3:15 pm
wls, thanks for repeating what was in my post, though you added to it a bit.
You’re arguing details and ignoring the big picture, which is incompetence and cronyism as SOP for this administration.
You can’t cover every angle, there are too many, and too many inconsistencies, visions and revisions; not to mention lies to congress. I’d love to see a fight between the White House and John McKay on the “vote fraud” issue. Here’s David Iglesias in the NY Times. And what about Debra Yang?
And what about that 18 Day Gap?
And then there’s:
The NH phone jamming,
I forget on what thread I mentioned “The Price of loyalty” and “Imperial Life in the Emerald City.” There are so many stories, so many people who’ve worked for this administration [WHO HAVE WRITTEN BOOKS] who are willing to admit that the only policy of this administration is politics; there has been so much corruption, petty and not that your defense is silly. The only question is whether the democrats have the balls to do what’s necessary.
Here’s another new one:
and the hits just keep on comin’
[The 18-day gap? There’s no gap longer than a week in that time frame. Sorry. — PAF (f0c94f) — 3/21/2007 @ 3:40 pm
Steve — three times prior to Nov. 2006, Domenici had called AG to complain about Iglesias, suggesting that he was not up to the job — Sept. 2005, Jan. 2006, Apr. 2006.
Domenici is the guy who got Iglesias the job. Iglesias was thought to be a rising start in NM GOP politics, having run for Congress (or State AG?) in 1998, and losing.
When a home state Senator from the President’s party puts you on his sh!t list, you’re done. Domenici is the top dog in GOP politics in NM – if he wants Iglesias out — and he wanted him out in Sept. 2005 — he’s going to be gone.
So, notwithstanding earlier praise of Iglesias from inside DOJ, he was going to get canned. The WH/DOJ isn’t going to fight a Senator over the tenure of a US Attorney in the Senator’s state that the Senator selected to have the position in the first place.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/04/AR2007030400507_pf.htmlwls (077d0d) — 3/21/2007 @ 4:05 pm
Steve — regarding McKay, the documents released show lots of unhappiness with McKay’s habit of becoming an unguided missle on policy matters not connected to his district. A pet project of McKay’s while he served on the AG Advisory Comm. seems to have been the issue of information sharing between federal law enforcement on the one hand, and state and local law enforcement on the other hand. McKay was a vocal advocate of more sharing — which wasn’t necessarily a position shared by all his fellow US Attorneys or DOJ.
But, more significantly, McKay apparently traveled around the country to speak with state and local law enforcement groups to advocate a particular technology for sharing such info called LinX, even though DOJ as a policy matter had not agreed that LinX was the product they favored for increased info sharing, if they ever aggreed to increased info sharing.
The crux of the dispute is the degree to which state and local law enforcement agencies would be allowed to establish “connectivity” with federal law enforcement databases — especially intelligence databases operated by federal agencies like the CIA and NSA. McKay was an advocate of a much broader sharing relationship for this data, on the theory that state and local agencies are so much more numerous, they are first reponders, and the chances are much greater that it will be a state and/or local law enforcement agent that will first come into contact with a terrorism suspect. His reasoning is that those agencies need access to the same database of information as the feds have in order to maximize their effectiveness as the “first line of defense” and he was promoting LinX as the technology that would accomplish this.
The only problem was that the Admin. — DOJ, CIA, Defense, State, et al. — had not reached a consensus on whether security concerns could be met, and whether LinX was the proper technology to accomplish was McKay was advocating.
If you look through the records you will see lots of grousing by officials about McKay being off the reservation again on the subject of info sharing and LinX.
These are the kinds of nuts & bolts, everyday management problems that US Attorneys cause the higher-ups as DOJ, and get them on a termination list.
Being a free agent on matters of policy that exist in DOJ is a ticket to new employment.
For another example of this, look at the reaction to the Press Release put out by Kevin Ryan in the NDCA after the Sentencing Commission issued an emergency amendment increasing the guideline penalties for trafficking in steroids. Ryan’s office was leading the Balco/Major League Baseball/Barry Bonds investigation, and put out a press release trumpeting the Sentencing Commission’s action.
Too bad that Emergency Amendments are only temporary, and require further action to become permanent. There was industry opposition to the Emergency Amendment, and Ryan’s press release turned out to be counterproductive to DOJ’s efforts to get the permanent amendment enacted.
Ryan received a very stern e-mail from DOJ saying “Don’t ever do anything like this again without consulting with DOJ first.”
Those kinds of things just add up over time, whether the Pres. appointed you or not.wls (077d0d) — 3/21/2007 @ 4:19 pm
Ryan received a very stern e-mail from DOJ saying “Don’t ever do anything like this again without consulting with DOJ first.”
Those kinds of things just add up over time, whether the Pres. appointed you or not.
Steve, what’s your basis of knowledge for that assertion? I’ve practiced in D.C. for quite a while, and can state with a reasonable degree of certainty that any political appointee caught complaining publicly about budget cuts, unless such complaints are a talking point, will be canned. If the President wants to moan about Congressional budget cuts, the politicals and very senior civil servants (SES grades) have license to complain. If the President submitted the budget and decided to cut or stagnate parts of it, the politicals do not have license to complain, no matter how bad it hurts. If you need confirmation of this basic truth, go hang out in the House during Appropriation subcommittee testimony, when the AAGs and Assistant Secretaries and mid/upper managers testify. A Member will ask if the political appointee’s unit has sufficient funds and staff, and if it would like more than OMB has requested. The answer is always the same with minor variations – “everybody can do more things with more money and people, but in light of our current mission and proposed budget we are sufficiently funded and staffed.” Anybody who strays from the party line, unless it is authorized, gets
invited to leavefired for base political reasons. It has been that way as long as I’ve lived in D.C.
Advocating for greater independence on the part of political appointees is to advocate, in effect, for removing presidential control of the massive unelected federal bureaucracy. I would submit to you that noble sounding arguments to remove politics from the top layer of the bureaucracy would have the unintended effect of completely removing it from Presidential (and voter) control.Al Maviva (042d19) — 3/21/2007 @ 4:39 pm
Steve — three times prior to Nov. 2006, Domenici had called AG to complain about Iglesias, suggesting that he was not up to the job — Sept. 2005, Jan. 2006, Apr. 2006.
And yet, in Oct. 2006, Iglesias wasn’t on the list of US Attorneys to be let go. But in November 2006, after Domenici had called him at home to ask if any Democrats would be indicted prior to the election and was given the wrong answer, he was. That set of facts seems to make the history less significant.
As for Al’s comment @49, it’s addressed to me, but it quotes something from wls. I’m not sure what to make of it.Steve (43f553) — 3/21/2007 @ 4:59 pm
I think that wls has hit a home-run here with his observation about the relationship of USAtty’s and their home-state Senator – particularly if that is the Senior Senator, and of the same party as the President. When you get on that sh.t list, you better be circulating your resume. Also, Carol Lam owed her job to Dianne Feinstein, and it looks like Ms. Lam worked real hard to get on the that Senator’s list. Mr. McKay, a real loose cannon. Plus, his non-performance on the election scandal up their in King’s Co. (Seattle) didn’t win him any fans at the WH, RNC, or DoJ.Another Drew (8018ee) — 3/21/2007 @ 5:08 pm
“So, notwithstanding earlier praise of Iglesias from inside DOJ, he was going to get canned. The WH/DOJ isn’t going to fight a Senator over the tenure of a US Attorney in the Senator’s state that the Senator selected to have the position in the first place.”
Yet they fired Bogden in Nevada for no good reason despite Ensign’s support.James B. Shearer (fc887e) — 3/21/2007 @ 5:34 pm
James B. Shearer — re Bogdon.
DOJ is not going to save you from the complaints of your home state Senator.
But, the reverse is not necessarily true. The home state Senator cannot always save the Pres. appointee who gets in trouble with DOJ. All the Pres. has to say is “We’re canning this guy, pick someone new.” The Senator may not like it, but there’s not much he can do about it.
On the other hand, if the Senator wants someone gone, he can make all kinds of mischief for the WH until that person is gone.
Re Bodgon specifically, his case is the most troublesome to me given what I know. But, what I gleened from some of the documents is simply that Bogdon wasn’t deemed to be “dynamic” enough — and that’s my word. One comment I saw that jumped out at me was the suggestion that he didn’t pay enough attention to the possibility that Las Vegas could be a prime terrorism target because of its glitz and debauchery — symbolizing Western cultural excesses.
What I know about Bogdon I know second hand, but I know it from people that do know him and have worked with him. He’s very low key, very non-controversial, very quiet.
I think he’s a native Nevadan from the north end of the state. He ran the US Attorney’s Reno Branch office before becoming US Attorney. He was a career drug prosecutor, having joined the office in 1990.
If you’ve ever spent much time in Nevada you know that living in northern Nevada communities like Carson City or Reno is a completely different world from living in the lights and glamour of Vegas. All the money and power in politics in Nevada is in Vegas, even though Carson City is the capitol. Bogdon is not a Vegas kind of guy.
I think he just didn’t make much of an impression on the power brokers in Vegas, and got steamrolled to some degree by the environment.
A US Attorney is the public face of the federal law enforcement community. The US Attorney has to meet and work with all the police chiefs and Sheriffs in the surrounding communities — in Nevada that means the whole state. He’s got to work with the Mayor and City Council people in all the larger cities. He’s got to work with the Governor and the State Attorney General. They go to a lot of dinners with local dignataries, and speak before Rotary breakfasts or other community organizations.
They do just about everything except write warrants, review grand jury records, and go to trial in criminal cases.
Some Assistant US Attorneys who become US Attorney make the transition just fine. Others find they were much more comfortable doing the lawyer work than the public official work. Some just shy away from the public official work altogether and people wonder “Gee, who IS the US Attorney in Nevada?”
From what I can see, Bogdon didn’t do anything to make anybody mad, he just didn’t project the kind of leadership that DOJ wanted from a US Attorney. Remember, he hadn’t sought the job, Ensign’s Chief of Staff came looking for him.
Again, I don’t know him, but from what I’ve heard about him in the past, I suspect I am correct.wls (077d0d) — 3/21/2007 @ 6:05 pm
Drew — Carol Lam owed her job to Barbara Boxer, not Feinstein.
Lam would have NEVER been picked to be US Attorney but for Jeffords defection to the Dems in April 2001, giving the Dems control of the Senate.
Lam is a registered political independant, and at the time she was selected to be US Attorney, she was sitting as a Superior Court Judge in California, having been named to the bench by DEMOCRAT Gov. Gray Davis.
Prior to becoming a judge she had been in the US Attorney’s Office in San Diego for 14 years, and at the time of her departure she was the Chief of the Major Frauds Section.
If my recollection is correct about what I was told when she left, she left after she was on the losing end of a power struggle with Greg Vega, who Boxer picked to be US Attorney in San Diego during the last couple years of the Clinton Admin.
You’ll have to Google up the info if you want more details, but what happened was that Boxer and Reno had promised Charles LaBella that he would be the US Attorney for San Diego after he finished his work as the Justice Department head of the campaign finance task force that looked into the allegations that foreign campaign contributions were laundered into DNC and Clinton campaign accounts.
But, after completing his investigation, LaBella joined Louis Freeh in calling for AG Reno to appoint an Independent Counsel to conduct a criminal investigation under the triggering mechanisms of the old Independent Counsel Statute. Reno disagreed with their recommendation, and refused to appoint another Independent Counsel.
When LaBella took the position to head up the campaign finance task force, he was the First Assistant US Attorney to US Attorney Alan Bersin in San Diego. While LaBella was heading up the task force, Bersin announced he was leaving to become Superintendent of the San Diego Union School District. LaBella made it known that he wanted to be US Attorney, and he was promised that he would be once he finish the campaign finance probe.
That was before he announced that he thought there was evidence of criminal conduct by senior government officials, and an Independent Counsel should be appointed.
When he was done on the task force, he went back to San Diego and was named Interim US Attorney for the SDCA, expecting that he would be nominated by Clinton to the job permanently.
Well, Boxer announced that there was the terrific Hispanic prosecutor in San Diego that was the perfect candidate, and given the racial diversity of San Diego it was about time that a Hispanic was named to be the US Attorney.
When Greg Vega was named, he removed all the old supervisors — including Carol Lam who was the supervisor of the Major Fraud Section. It was at that point that Lam left the US Attorney’s Office and was named by Gray Davis to be a Superior Court Judge.
A couple years later, when no candidate could be agreed upon for Bush to nominate as US Attorney in San Diego, Boxer made it up to Lam by agreeing that she would be a compromise candidate for the position given her “political independence.”wls (077d0d) — 3/21/2007 @ 6:24 pm
wls – Thanks for the info update. I knew she owed her job to one of our two Senators, just got which one confused.Another Drew (8018ee) — 3/21/2007 @ 6:58 pm
Being pushed forward by Boxer, I’m sure that the WH had even less reason to keep her in the job. What was Boxer going to do? Oppose the WH in a Senate vote?
I do remember the LaBella flap though. Now, who was complaining that Bush politicized Justice?
I like how Norman Mineta kept his job for so long. Go figure. He must have been a loyal Booshie: shaking down 80 year grandmothers at airports while millions traipse across the border without any such violations of their “civil rights.”
The policy just isn’t there when you are referring to coyote prosecutions. You’re making them from thin air. The USAs are too busy going after Gilmer Hernandez, Nacho Ramos and Sr. Compean. The administration, with a stroke of a pen, could expedite removal proceedings at any time against smugglers or anyone else entering illegally, (a.k.a. “invasion”), but it chooses not to do so.
The powers that be (Rove, et al.) have ruined the party and its reputation and should be beat upside the head. They’ve made the beauracracy cannibalize its own law enforcement, because those sorts of media events encourage the onslaught down in mexico–where the real constituency lies.
And why has the beauracracy swelled to epic proportions besides becoming politicized under such leadership?
The Dept of Justice [sic] is a fucking joke run by an idiot. When he gets shitcanned, can we have Ashcroft back? At least he can sing.petit bourgeois (375601) — 3/21/2007 @ 8:21 pm
It all comes down to “serve at the pleasure of the President” He doesn’t need a reason to fire them, he just can. He should tell the Dems to piss off.ScottInRMH (afd52c) — 3/21/2007 @ 10:34 pm
Just for shits and giggles, who was the U.S. attorney for San Diego when the border fence company was convicted for hiring illegal aliens?
It’s really too bad that all they can do is fire her. They should hire a coyote to take her on a truck ride into the Mojave and let her walk home.papertiger (7b38bb) — 3/21/2007 @ 11:49 pm
Sorry, conflated cut & pastes. My point is the surprising thing about McKay is not that he was ultimately let go, but that he wasn’t fired about a week after complaining about his budget to the media. It should have happened a lot sooner, and probably would of were his office about 3,000 miles closer to D.C. Few inside the beltway would question such a firing, and it would make Al Kamen’s WaPo column with some wry snark. The more information that is coming out about the attorneys who were fired/non-renewed, the more I’m pissed at Justice and the Administration for (1) hiring people for political positions, who were capable of such poor judgment; (2) not firing them *a lot* faster.
The more of the emails I read the more I’m convinced we’re heading down a disastrous path where the Executive Branch is going to lose the power to fire political appointees for anything other than what would be considered “good cause” under a labor or employment contract.Al Maviva (89d0b6) — 3/22/2007 @ 4:01 am
——AF (f0c94f) — 3/22/2007 @ 5:53 am
And here’s a new one:
The SMELL A TIMES ppeeeuuuwww the stench is over poweringkrazy kagu (6a69d6) — 3/22/2007 @ 6:52 am
“Remember that, before he left in August of 2005, then-Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty generated his own list of U.S. attorneys to be fired.”
“Paul McNulty” in the above should read “James Comey”AF (f0c94f) — 3/22/2007 @ 8:56 am
Am I to understand that Kevin Ryan was the US attorney of San Francisco?papertiger (f08c5d) — 3/22/2007 @ 12:18 pm
This is the guy who let Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats have a free hand batting around Tom Delay and every other Republican in a leadership role. This is the scumbag who lets Babs Boxer and Lady Di use the US senate as their own personal piggie bank?
Screw him sidewayz. The MFer should have been fired the first day of Bush’s administration.
Firing is too good for him.
Dirty SOB should be given a boat ride out toward alcatraz then made to swim back to find out his key doesn’t work anymore