Wednesday, March 21, 2007

AP: Fired Attorneys Were Upper Tier

The administration said they fired U.S. attorneys Paul Charlton, Carol Lam, and David Iglesias because they were bad at their jobs. The Associated Press reports they "consistently placed in the upper tier of U.S. attorneys":

WASHINGTON — Three of the eight U.S. attorneys ousted by the Justice Department as poor performers rank in the top 10 of the nation's 93 federal districts for prosecutions, convictions and prison sentences during the past five years, an analysis of federal court records shows.

A constitutional dispute between the Congress and the White House escalated Wednesday when a House subcommittee authorized the use of subpoenas to force President Bush's political strategist Karl Rove and other White House aides to testify about their roles in the dismissals.

Court records show large volumes of immigration cases helped Paul Charlton of Phoenix, Carol Lam of San Diego and David Iglesias of New Mexico consistently place in the upper tier of U.S. attorneys. The analysis is based on a comparison of major criminal offenses and the population of a U.S. attorney's former district.

A fourth former prosecutor, Daniel Bogden of Nevada, ranked among the top third of all U.S. attorneys during four of the past five years, according to federal data maintained by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

The statistics raise questions about the criteria the Justice Department used to argue that the fired U.S. attorneys were dismissed over inadequate job performance. Although some of the numbers appear to support Justice contentions that specific attorneys were falling short of the administration prosecutorial priorities, the statistics also show that others were either meeting or exceeding those goals.

"What is clear to me is that performance was not on the table in any credible way when these (firing) decisions were made," said former Arkansas prosecutor Bud Cummins. Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty has said Cummins was removed to make room for a former aide to Rove.

Check out the stats in the AP article.

Maybe now we can put to bed the administration/GOP talking point that Lam, Charlton, and Iglesias were fired for "incompetence" and/or "performance-related issues"?

POSTSCRIPT: A few emails from the 18 day gap (November 15-December 4) have been found - but just very few. Here and here. Think Progress notes that these emails from the gap seem to bolster the administration's argument (since discredited by the above AP article) that the attorneys were fired for performance-related issues:

It makes sense that the administration would include this set of emails and apparently virtually nothing else from that 18-day-gap, since the emails from Ward bolster the administration’s case that the firings were based on performance-related concerns.

Strange how nothing else from that crucial time period showed up in the document dump. When asked about the gap today at the gaggle, Tony Snow responded this way:

Q Okay. You keep saying the Justice Department, the response -- that these emails, the 3,000 pages is unprecedented, is very responsive. Why, then, is there this gap from mid-November to about December 4th, right before the actual firings? Why is there a gap in the emails?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. Why don't you ask them?

Q Well, you're the White House, the Justice Department serves under --

MR. SNOW: I know, but I'm not going to be the fact witness on Justice.

Q But you're the one representing that this has been very responsive. Now when there's a gap you say go to them.

MR. SNOW: Yes, and I've been led to believe that there's a good response for it, but I'm going to let you ask them because they're going to have the answer.

I read somewhere (and I can't find the link tonight so you'll have to take my word) that the administration said one of the reasons why there are so few emails from November 15-December 4 is because it was around Thanksgiving and nothing was getting done.

Uh, huh.

I'll ask again, what are they hiding?

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