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February 16, 2007

White House Directly Involved in U.S. Attorney Firing

Gee, I wonder why Bush's attorney -- the "supremely" qualified Harriet Miers -- really returned to the quiet life in Texas 2 weeks ago. Could it have anything to do with the fact that she directly intervened in the firing of the U.S. Attorney from Arkansas, H.E.Cummings III? Well, as Friday's NYT reports, it's a bit more sordid than that. She was killing two birds with one stone: getting Cummings fired so the White House could free up the position for Karl Rove's deputy, and former political director for the RNC, Timothy Griffin. Blood really is thicker than water, especially when it's the blood red of Red State America.

Cummings, who was given no reason for his dismissal, is in good company. As previously noted here, Seattle's U.S. Attorney, John McKay, was also fired without reason (although lots of judges and other attorneys have surmised it's because McKay was... doing a very good job, receiving glowing reviews from the Justice Department's evaluation team, but not behaving right-wing enough). The worst dismissal may be Carol Lam's. Until yesterday, she was the U.S. Attorney in San Diego. In 2005 she exposed the many ethical weaknesses of former U.S. Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Once a powerful member of the House Appropriations Committee, Cunningham was indicted, tried and sentenced for conspiring to take bribes in exchange for securing multi-million dollar defense contracts for friends and fans. Carol Lam is credited with conducting the investigation and trying the case that led to Cunningham's fall from power and entry into prison. Last Tuesday, Lam indicted former executive director of the CIA, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo (all the criminals in this story get to have Wild West-like nicknames) for corruptions of his own, including wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering. His childhood friend, defense contractor Brent Wilkes, got nailed too. Wilkes' role in providing hookers for a Foggo/Cunningham party was just breadcrumbs for a prosecutor following the trail to high-level corruption and conspiracy. Attorney General Gonzales' office is sticking to its fishy story that Lam was replaced for not capturing enough illegals crossing the Mexican border into California.

Is it just me, or does it seem odd that U.S. Attorneys involved in investigations and indictments of Bush Administration officials (and other wily Republicans) are being "disappeared" in a manner that would make the dead-as-a-doornail Augusto Pinochet stand up and take notice? Quick answer: no, it's not just me. Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, who chairs the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, is promising hearings on this funny habit the White House and the Attorney General have of removing U.S. Attorneys without cause. Congressmen Emmanuel, Conyers and Berman have joined her in sending a letter to AG Gonzales. The letter pretty much lays it on the line:

Two days ago, Lam's investigation continued to bear fruit as a federal grand jury charged Kyle "Dusty" Foggo and Brent Wilkes with at least 11 felony counts related to their involvement with Cunningham. As Elana Schor's article in The Hill yesterday points out, "Justice Department officials have praised the Cunningham probe as the linchpin of their growing pursuit of public corruption cases, yet prosecutor Lam is nonetheless slated to step down [Thursday] after the Bush administration cited unspecified 'performance' issues in requesting her resignation late last year. Six other U.S. attorneys, several involved in ongoing corruption investigations, were dismissed at about the same time."

As you know, of those seven fired U.S. Attorneys, Lam was not the only one investigating sitting public officials before being dismissed. For example, Daniel Bogden of Nevada and Paul Charlton of Arizona were dismissed while their offices were conducting probes concerning elected officials.

Betcha ten bucks there won't be a response from Gonzales. Any takers?

Update - From the "Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer" File:

Today's Seattle Times offers a new twist on the John McKay firing. Seems there's *a rumor* floating around Republican circles that McKay is 1) insufficiently conservative and 2) a veritable traitor! Dateline 2004: McKay refuses to go postal against the Gregoire campaign and King County Elections for a better result in the gubernatorial race. Who was behind the scenes exploding like a firecracker? Why, Ol' Reliable -- the BIAW.  Exploding, and planning to exact revenge.

Update 2: From the "It's My Party and I'll Cry if I Want to" File:

Rove's guy, Tim Griffin, is out (H/T to Lotus). TPM Muckraker's Paul Kiel just scooped that Griffin is really a 6-year old crybaby in adult clothing. He's whining that he can't get a fair shake from those mean old Democrats and that, since questions have arisen regarding his appointment, appearing at a confirmation hearing before Mark Pryor's senate committee would be just like "going before the firing squad". Somebody give the boy a hanky, please! And somebody give us a glass of bubbly.

Posted by shoephone on February 16, 2007 at 12:12 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink

Comments

Good post, shoephone - these attorney firings are another egregious example of this administration's utter disrespect for the law. It's not enough for them to bend over backwards to accommodate their business cronies; they want to turn the Justice Department into a patronage system too. I hope Ms. Miers gets an invitation to testify at some of these hearings.

Posted by: Leslie in CA | Feb 16, 2007 8:09:42 AM

You hit the nail on the head, shoephone. This has to be a win-win situation from the Bush Administration's point of view. The only folks who seem to have been serious about investigating corrupt congressmen and Administration officials has been the U.S. Attorney's office. Congress and the press obviously don't give a crap, at least collectively. So, better all the way around that they should stack the place with their buddies.

Posted by: Cujo359 | Feb 16, 2007 4:58:50 PM

What a sad commentary when egregious conduct of this magnitude is just another day at the office for this viper pit of corruption.

Posted by: op99 | Feb 18, 2007 12:31:11 PM

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