"I would never, ever make a change in a United States attorney for political reasons," Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee two months ago.
If you want to understand how a pretty minor story ⁈” the removal of eight U.S. attorneys by the Bush administration ⁈” has somehow metastasized into a major controversy, that statement by Gonzales is your Rosetta Stone. It opens the door to the three levels of scandal in this story, ranging from relatively minor to potentially grave and earthshaking.
Let's start with the relatively minor. In his statement to Congress, Gonzales acknowledges it would be wrong to remove prosecutors for political reasons. It is so wrong, he tells Congress, that he would never, ever do such a terrible thing.
And yet he did.
Since that statement, the evidence has become overwhelming that some if not most of the attorneys were ousted for political reasons, with considerable input from the White House. One of the eight, for example, was removed as U.S. attorney in Arkansas despite glowing performance reviews. Why? So an aide to White House political adviser Karl Rove could get the job.
Now, that's not a huge scandal. Such decisions, even if made on a political basis, are clearly within a president's perogative. They do bring into question the judgment of those who would treat one of the most important jobs in federal law enforcement like a mere political plum, but they do not explain why this scandal threatens the careers and reputations of some of the most powerful people in Washington.
To understand that, you have to step to the next level: By denying any political motive or involvement by the White House, Gonzales and other Bush officials lied to the U.S. Senate. That has angered politicians of both parties, leading at least two Republican senators to demand Gonzales' resignation. It's almost funny ⁈” a Congress that has allowed itself to be lied to, stonewalled, ignored and ridiculed by the administration for six years over issues fundamental to government finally gets upset at how it's treated, and it's over something like this.
The third level of this scandal is by far the most troubling and explosive, and also the least understood. It goes to how and why those eight prosecutors were selected for replacement despite the fact that most of them were Bush appointees who had conducted themselves well as U.S. attorneys.
John McKay, a well respected Republican lawyer ousted as U.S. attorney in Seattle, says he may have been tagged for removal because he fended off unethical demands from Republican leaders to pursue charges of vote fraud against Washington Democrats, even though those charges were groundless.
"There was no evidence, and I am not going to drag innocent people in front of a grand jury,'' says McKay, who suggests a special prosecutor may be needed to determine the full extent of this scandal.
David Iglesias, the equally well respected Republican ousted as U.S. attorney in New Mexico, believes that he, too, was removed because he ignored pressure from fellow Republicans to indict Democrats just before the 2006 elections. Iglesias has told Congress he felt pressured by phone calls from a U.S. senator and congresswoman; barely a week after the election, his name was added to an internal list of attorneys to be removed.
The most troubling case may be that of Carol Lam, a U.S. attorney from San Diego who put Duke Cunningham, a Republican congressman from California, in federal prison on corruption charges. On the day the Los Angeles Times reported that Lam was also investigating U.S. Rep. Jerry Lewis of California, the powerful head of the House Appropriations Committee, a top Justice Department official sent an internal e-mail to the White House, complaining about "the real problem we have right now with Carol Lam," suggesting a replacement be found quickly.
Any implication that a U.S. attorney's employment depends on his or her willingness to protect a president's political allies and persecute his enemies strikes at the heart of public confidence in the system. Here in Georgia, for example, defenders of former state Sen. Charles Walker, a top Democrat now serving a federal prison term, have long argued that he was the victim of politically motivated prosecution.
That's not the case; Walker was guilty and got what he deserved. But in some quarters this scandal will be seen as lending credence to Walker's claim, and that's unfortunate.
Justice denied: as President Clinton has time after time made a mockery of his oath of office, his attorney general has followed suit - Janet Reno
In the history of the Republic, the names of Bill Clinton and Janet Reno will be forever linked, a prospect that ought to appall Miss Reno. That is entirely due to her efforts to preserve the President from his own follies, to use a polite word. Bill Clinton headed what is probably the most corrupt Administration ever, while Miss Reno has been called the worst of all Clinton's Cabinet appointments. From his point of view, of course, she may be the best, which comes to much the same thing.
Miss Reno's only visible qualifications for the post of attorney general were two: she is a woman and she had been a prosecutor. The first characteristic was indisputable, although, in any non-feminized era, it would have been irrelevant. The second seemed heartening, but it did not prepare her for Washington. Coming from obscurity, she must have been caught off guard by the rampant corruption into which she was thrust. So varied and unceasing have been this Administration's infractions of law that Miss Reno resembles a desperate tennis player, running from side to side of the court and from net to baseline in a frantic effort to hold down the score. Unfortunately for her White House coach, she had become winded and wobbly-legged.
She was not in charge from the beginning. Upon taking office, in an unexplained departure from the practice of recent Administrations, Miss Reno suddenly fired all 93 U.S. attorneys. She said the decision had been made in conjunction with the White House. Translation: The President ordered it. Just as the best place to hide a body is on a battlefield, the best way to be rid of one potentially troublesome attorney is to fire all of them. The U.S. attorney in Little Rock was replaced by a Clinton protege. The long-running Waco emergency that culminated in the deaths of eighty Branch Davidian men, women, and children again proved that Janet Reno was not in charge in the Justice Department. Webster Hubbell, Hillary's former law partner in Little Rock and Bill's man at Justice, coordinated tactics with the White House. The President did not even talk to his attorney general throughout the crisis.
Don't have much longer to worry about this Lame Duck President. His time will be done soon, (however the sooner the better). This President tottally disillusioned me with regards to his polices, and his way of doing things. It just seems he didn't want to listen to anybody on his staff, the members of Congress, or for that matter the American People. Since he has been in office the price of gas has risen over $2.00 a gallon, (he made his money not only from a Baseball Team, but from Big Oil Business) so there is no suprise there. Maybe the new President whether it be He or She will take what has been learned from this administartion and know what has to be done.
Here's your problem, you can give me all the things that Clinton did to tarnish his reputation and that's fine because it's politics. But no matter what you say you can't deny he had a strong economy, you can't deny the world accepted him, you can't deny that he followed up on his campaign promises, etc. That makes a good leader in my opinion.
Yes we had to deal with the lewinsky scandal, but that certainly will not tarnish his presidency, fifty years from now nobody will hold that against him like Republicans still do.
What Yankeefan doesn't seem to grasp is that it's not the firings of the U.S. Attorneys that's the issue. U.S. Attorneys routinely get fired. It's the timing and the context, firing outstanding attorneys who just happened to be investigating Republican corruption.
I don't know that is hard to say but It seems to me that it is the complete opposite. He has listened to his cabinet, staff, so-called experts and that is what got him in hot water. You can't blame him for the price of gas, come on. New president will be a He forgetabout it being a she. That will never happen.
Years from now like every president their rating will go up but Clinton regardless will always be remembered for his adultery and Bush probably for this Iraq conflict. But really, who are we fooling... both party's are full of corruption. Neither one better than the other. Both party's make me sick with their political games.
And some of the U.S. Attorneys were pressured by republican US senators, and others within this administration, to indict democrats just before last years election. TOTALLY political...and VERY illegal. Let them fry for trying to screw the laws and Constitution. Their bad!
I grasp more than you think, foolery will get you nowhere. Then you should comprehend that presidents fire Prosecutors to gain advantage during their administration. If you can complete that thought then you should realize that it really doesn't matter about timing. So it didn't happen at the right moment for you, so what. The real problem is the power all presidents have had to fire prosecutors. Lets take that power away and let prosecutors finish their terms regardless of whom is in office.