Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Prosecutors Were Threatened By GOP and White House

The news about the federal prosecutor purge scandal gets worse and worse. Yesterday's Congressional hearings on the matter have revealed that the White House was DIRECTLY involved:

Six fired U.S. attorneys testified on Capitol Hill yesterday that they had separately been the target of complaints, improper telephone calls and thinly veiled threats from a high-ranking Justice Department official or members of Congress, both before and after they were abruptly removed from their jobs.

In back-to-back hearings in the Senate and House, former U.S. attorney David C. Iglesias of New Mexico and five other former prosecutors recounted specific instances in which some said they felt pressured by Republicans on corruption cases and one said a Justice Department official warned him to keep quiet or face retaliation.

Iglesias's allegations of congressional interference have prompted a Senate ethics committee inquiry. Yesterday he offered new details about telephone calls he received in October from Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) and Rep. Heather A. Wilson (R-N.M.), saying he felt "leaned on" and "sickened" by the contacts seeking information about an investigation of a local Democrat.

Another former prosecutor, John McKay of Seattle, alleged for the first time that he received a call from the chief of staff to Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), asking about an inquiry into vote-fraud charges in the state's hotly contested 2004 gubernatorial election. McKay said he cut the call short.

Ed Cassidy, a former Hastings aide who now works for House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), said yesterday that the call was routine and did not violate "permissible limits" on contact with federal prosecutors. Hastings, the ranking Republican on the House ethics committee, also said that the exchange was "entirely appropriate."

In remarks after the hearings, McKay said that officials in the White House counsel's office, including then-counsel Harriet E. Miers, asked him to explain why he had "mishandled" the governor's race during an interview for a federal judgeship in September 2006. McKay was informed after his dismissal that he also was not a finalist for the federal bench.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel declined last night to respond to McKay's comments.

Yesterday's testimony featured new allegations of threatened overt retaliation against the prosecutors, as former U.S. attorney Bud Cummins of Little Rock said a senior Justice Department official warned him on Feb. 20 that the fired prosecutors should remain quiet about their dismissals. Cummins recounted in an e-mail made public yesterday that the official cautioned that administration officials would "pull their gloves off and offer public criticisms to defend their actions more fully."

"It seemed clear that they would see that as a major escalation of the conflict meriting some kind of unspecified form of retaliation," Cummins wrote in the e-mail, which he sent as a cautionary note to fellow prosecutors.

The senior official, Michael J. Elston, chief of staff to Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty, wrote in a letter to the Senate that he never intended to send a threatening message in his talks with Cummins. Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said that "a private and collegial conversation" was "being twisted into a perceived threat by former disgruntled employees grandstanding before Congress."

Can't get any more direct than that - the White House wanted their own appointed federal prosecutor in Washington to undertake a recount in the governor's race that would help out a Republican candidate, the federal prosecutor didn't do it, so he was punished by the White House and effectively had his career as both a prosecutor and a future judge on the federal killed (even though he was considered an exemplary prosecutor.)

These actions should be called what they are - political manipulation of the judicial system by the White House and retribution against federal prosecutors (all appointed by Preznut Bush) who wouldn't go along with the Rovian game of using the federal judicial system for political advantage.

Let's haul Harriet Miers' ass in for the next round of Congressional hearings, along with Attorney General Abu Gonzales, Deputy Attorney General James McNulty (the man who replaced James Comey at DOJ and helped carry out the prosecutor purge), Karl Rove (who allegedly was the brain behind the purge) and senior DOJ official Michael J. Elston (who threatened the fired prosecutors to keep their mouths shut about their firings to the press.)

In addition, Republican Representatives Doc Hastings and Heather Wilson, along with Republican Senator Pete Domenici, need to be brought before the ethics committees for some explaining of their own. In Doc Hastings' case, that means before the committee on which he is the ranking GOP member. Obviously he needs to step down from the House Ethics Committee before the ethics hearing on his own wrongdoing. Also, Hastings' former aide, Ed Cassidy, now chief of staff to Minority Leader Boehner, needs to be held accountable for his actions.

This is a big deal. This administration has apparently decided that they can use the federal justice system as a tool for political retribution against political enemies. They have also decided that they can manipulate prosecutors into ignoring the criminal misdeeds and wrongdoing of their own party members. They need to be held to account for these scandals. Heads need to roll. And if any of this activity is found to rise to the level of a crime and Bush administration officials and/or GOP members are found guilty of these crimes, they need to go to jail.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?