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March 04, 2007

Senator Domenici Admits Involvement in Firing of U.S. Attorney

Seattle's John McKay is one of four ousted U.S. attorneys who has been called to speak before Congress this week. David Iglesias, recently fired U.S. attorney in New Mexico, is expected to tell the committee members the real reason he thinks he was fired and to name names. That prospect has sent the White House and the Republicans into a tizzy, so in a feeble attempt to circumvent the coming storm they are engaging in some transparent "spin".

Today, New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici finally admitted, after many days of obfuscation, that he was involved in Iglesias' firing. He was unhappy that Iglesias was not prepared to indict a member of N.M.'s state legislature for his part in a kick back scheme in time for the November elections. The legislator in question was a Democrat, and Domenici (and possibly U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson) wanted a way to smear the state Dems so they and their party could reap some benefits in the upcoming election. Domenici's mistake was contacting Iglesias about the status of the investigation.

“I asked Mr. Iglesias if he could tell me what was going in that investigation and give me an idea of what time frame we were looking at,” Mr. Domenici said. “It was a very brief conversation which concluded when I was told that the courthouse investigation would be continuing for a lengthy period.”

We're sure to find out more details of that phone call, and any other contacts between Domenici and Iglesias, but even if Domenici is (cough) telling the truth about (cough) what transpired, that doesn't let him off the hook, because as John Solomon pointed out in the Washington Post on Saturday:

Any communication by a senator or House member with a federal prosecutor regarding an ongoing investigation is a violation of ethics rules.

Bummer for Pete. But Domenici is not the only public official showing questionable judgement. Soloman's article focuses on the the fact that the White House signed off on all the firings. Furthermore, the tales being told by AG Gonzales and Deputy AG Paul McNulty have veered from talking point to talking point, insinuating that the ousters were due to performance-related issues. That all fell through the trap door when McNulty finally acknowledged that at least one of the U.S. attorneys, Bud Cummins, was ousted in order to make way for a Republican party hack named Ted Griffin. Still, they are sticking to their stories on Iglesias and Carol Lam (recently fired in San Diego), by claiming those had to do with a lack of significant prosecutions on immigration and firearms violations.

Josh Marshall has a simple question:

If this whole business was about US attorneys not implementing White House policy on immigration and firearms enforcement, why all the secrecy about it?

I'm with Josh. Why all the secrecy? Unless the White House is going to try and shut us up with more excuses by conflating immigration policies with double-super-secret-classified information on Homeland Security or some such drivel. But they wouldn't dare attempt to control the masses and the MSM with more yellow-orange-red-alert fear-mongering... would they? The fact is, John McKay was implementing exactly the kind of intelligence information-sharing programs the 9/11 commission suggested and the White House rejected. Oh, and then there's the little matter of Carol Lam's successful prosecution of Republican Congressman "Duke" Cunningham for corruption. The White House didn't like that at all.

I'm getting out the popcorn for Tuesday's meeting between the U.S. attorneys and the House judicial subcommittee. I think it's going to be quite the show.

Updates: An assistant U.S. attorney writes a letter to Josh, skewering the Bush administration for "abandoning" the U.S. Attorneys office by slashing budgets and perverting the fourth amendment. The four U.S. attorneys will now be on a double bill, testifying before the House AND the Senate tomorrow. The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has filed a formal ethics complaint against Senator Pete Domenici for breaking Senate rule no. 43. And the denizens of the White House scramble to cover their butts by sacking the executive director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (the man tasked with making the December phone calls and firing the U.S. attorneys). Of course, that doesn't prevent Congress from issuing him a subpoena too. (H/T to Lotus for the links.)

Forget the popcorn. Breaking out the bubbly.

Posted by shoephone on March 4, 2007 at 05:15 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink


My cynical prediction is that these hearings will lead to brief political embarassment, but with Domenici (and whoever else is identified as agitating for the dismissals) obfuscating their motives, they will escape accountability.

Independent counsel, anyone? If these hearings don't lead to accountability, we need to start clamoring, loudly.

Posted by: op99 | Mar 4, 2007 8:44:19 PM

Sadly, your "cynical prediction" could be on target, OP. Fortunately, these hearings will begin in the House where there is real oversight going on for the first time in years.

I heart Pat Leahy for everything he's doing on the Senate Judiciary Committee, but the senate majority is nominal, so... cynical predictions aren't unwarranted.

And you're right -- it's up to us to make a ton of noise about this. Look how Bush and Gates had to tapdance on the Walter Reed fiasco.

Posted by: shoephone | Mar 4, 2007 9:40:36 PM

I think it's a good sign that the White House is surprised that this is becoming a media story. Ha! We (you, shoe, and others, nationwide) are forcing the legacy media to pay attention and it's becoming a story. Good on ya.

Posted by: Lynn | Mar 5, 2007 7:25:38 AM

Thanks for the h/t, shoe, but really, you don't gotta. By the way, Josh Marshall just added this

"Late Update: I realized when a reader brought it up that the way I led this post gave the impression that Battle had been fired. On the contrary, our strong impression is that he resigned."

(Not that you could slide a playing card between them, eh? . . . )

(op, any idea whether Katherine Battle has a brother?)

Posted by: lotus | Mar 5, 2007 11:16:11 AM

Actually, it's "Kathleen" Battle, and that would be an interesting relation to have.

Posted by: shoephone | Mar 5, 2007 11:22:53 AM

Thanks for keeping the spotlight on this, shoephone. And yes, we need to make lots of noise and not let this disappear. I saw a headline somewhere that said the WH was "surprised" by the furor over this, which just underscores how easily they've gotten away with most of the carp they've pulled.

Posted by: Leslie in CA | Mar 5, 2007 12:29:38 PM

It's being reported that Battle resigned a month ago, and that there was no connection between the resignation and the firings...yeah, okay.

Every American ought to be sitting up and paying attention to this story because of the details I believe are going to come out about just how much progress this administration has made in its quest to make the Constitution irrelevant. I think there are people working in these offices who are not just fed up with what the administration has been doing, but disheartened and even alarmed. And it's disturbing to think that no red flags have been raised, no whistles blown until now, for fear of retaliation.

I truly think this one may pry the lid off, and if people are not seriously considering impeachment after these hearings are over, I will be very surprised.

Posted by: Anne | Mar 5, 2007 1:07:02 PM

I love the coverage Shoe, but I think this vital detail is getting way too little coverage:

"Iglesias, 49 and the son of a Baptist minister, is a Navy Reserve commander whose role as a defense lawyer in a famous military hazing case was the basis for the Tom Cruise character in the movie "A Few Good Men." '


Slow cases? YOu want the truth Mr. Domenici? You can't handle the truth -


"In 2001, when Iglesias took over, the data (pdf) shows a median of 4.6 months for a criminal case in the New Mexico office to move from filing to disposition (dismissal, guilty plea, or trial). In 2005, that time had dwindled to 3.7 months.

And that's a time when Iglesias' office was increasingly snowed under by more cases. His office opened 1,548 criminal cases in 2001; in 2005, the office opened 2,915.

So Iglesias' office was opening more cases and handling them faster than his predecessor."

Posted by: Mary | Mar 5, 2007 5:56:41 PM

Dear Congress:

Although I am glad to see you rushing in to protect our wrongly fired U.S. Attorneys, I must ask you - WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? The very same political network, “good old boy clique,” that fired these attorneys, has been around for years attacking other federal government employees who dare to speak out against wrongdoing. Yet you, dear Congress, have done nothing to protect these brave souls who dare become National Security Whistleblowers.

Currently there is no real whistleblower protection for government employees on the front line of our national security (Border Patrol Agents, Customs Agents, Transportation Security Agents, etc.). Many of these government employees have endured wrongful firings, harassment, threats, and other retaliation on an enormous scale for simply doing the right thing. They have witnessed extreme instances of waste, fraud, abuse and corruption that they are required by law to report. For many of them, what they have witnessed are criminal acts by their mid-level and sometimes very high-level managers. If they don’t report these abuses, they the employees may be criminally charged with a felony (Misprision of Felony). Yet when they do the right thing, the whistleblowers are most certain to be severely retaliated against by the people benefiting from the wrongdoing.

Moreover, this has been documented and presented to Congress repeatedly by numerous organizations like The Government Accountability Project (GAP), the Project On Government Oversite (POGO), and the Patrick Henry Center. All three of these organizations list scores of National Security Whistleblowers that have testified repeatedly before Congress in different forums (e.g. the 911 Commission; the Blue Ribbon Commission; Whistleblower Counsel). Yet the Whistleblower Protection Act that was authored and sponsored by Senators Akaka and Grassley, and has passed the Senate, sits idle for months now on the House floor.

As you rush to protect these more powerful federal government employees (U.S Attorneys) who are often hand picked by their home state Senators, remember, there are others who have suffered much more because they have risks much more via the national security issues that they have reported. I doubt that these U.S. Attorneys will have to file bankruptcy because they are being “blackballed” by corrupt government officials, in the same way that National Security Whistleblowers do. I doubt that these U.S. Attorneys will fear the threats and intimidation to themselves and their families; repeated frivolous internal affairs investigations; the passing over of earned promotions, and numerous other tools that government managers have at their disposal to discredit whistleblowers and SHUT THEM UP.

Yet you, Congress, point the “Political Finger” at the folks who have fired these U.S. Attorneys, while you sit and allow much worse behavior to continue for others. Maybe someone should wave that same “Political Finger” back at themselves. Why is it that the U.S. Attorneys have been given preferential treatment over other government employees who, quite frankly, have put their necks much more on the line for this country than the U.S. Attorneys?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that the firing of these attorneys is political, morally wrong, and perhaps illegal - BUT SO WHAT! Why are you rushing to their aid over the dead bodies of National Security Whistleblowers who were also government employees - and I do mean literally dead bodies. Numerous whistleblowers have had their lives so destroyed by doing the right thing, that they have died of heart problems due to stress, and/or have committed suicide. The whistleblower cases that I have witnessed, including my own, are much more egregious and appalling than what has happened to the U.S. Attorneys. One may conclude that the answer to this question is that U.S. Attorneys are simply more powerful in their positions, and can be of more assistance to Congress in said positions - hence fostering the notion that this sudden interest for Congress to protect them is merely POLITICAL! Therefore, while you waive the “Political Finger” at this administration for firing these attorneys, please take a close look in the mirror at the other end of that very same finger - which is pointing straight back at you! I would encourage you to provide protection to ALL GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, not just the influential ones.


Darlene Fitzgerald
National Security Whistleblower & proud of it
Author: “BorderGate, the story the government doesn’t want you to read”

Posted by: Darlene Fitzgerald | Mar 14, 2007 1:10:29 PM

Dear Friends,

I need your help. My fellow whistleblower John Carman (former U.S. Customs officer) has been arrested on what I and others believe are "TRUMPED UP" charges to shut him up.
A very brave journalist, Bill Conroy, who has also been heavily retaliated against for covering our story, has mustered up the courage to cover this continuing, unbelievable story. Please go to the web site/link listed below and read. Then please help us by telling the world about this injustice. If we shine a bright enough light on
this, maybe we can help John. Please pass this e-mail along to everyone you know. For more information feel free to contact me @: (606) 310-0078. Thank you in advance for your
much needed help.

Darlene Fitzgerald
Former Special Agent
Author of "BorderGate, the story the government doesn't want
you to read"

Is former fed a kidnapper, or a whistleblower being framed?


Posted by: Darlene Fitzgerald | Apr 24, 2007 11:58:27 AM

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