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?