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May 09, 2007

US Attorneys Rock the House at Seattle University

Wednesday's continuing legal education (CLE) seminar at Seattle University was a total success. Four hours is a little long to be stuck inside on a warm, sunny afternoon, but this was well worth the time and money. John McKay, David Iglesias and Paul Charlton were on hand to directly address the issue of their firings and the impacts this debacle has had on the Justice Department, the remaining US attorneys "in the field", and the American public now questioning the integrity and competency of Attorney General Gonzales. Just to give you an idea of how far these Republican appointees have come since being dumped and repeatedly lied to by the Bush administration, here's an excerpt from David Bowermaster's article in the Seattle Times:

John McKay, the former U.S. attorney for Western Washington, and David Iglesias, the former U.S. attorney for New Mexico, also said they believe White House political operative Karl Rove and his aides instigated the dismissals and ultimately decided who among the nation's 93 U.S. attorneys should be fired. But the White House on Wednesday flatly denied the firings were instigated by the White House.

During questions from a rapt audience, the USAs added that they believe the appointment of a Special Counsel is necessary to ferret out the truth about what happened to them, and who was responsible. They told similar tales of receiving pink slip phone calls from former Justice Department official Michael Battle, but no explanation of why they were being dismissed, and no warning in previous months that there was any problem with their performance.

Paul Charlton, former US attorney in Arizona, heard after the fact that his firing had something to do with his pushing for taped confessions in child molestation cases, a policy the FBI was adamantly against. (This is the same FBI that refused to listen to agent Colleen Rowley, who pleaded with her superiors to pay attention to the fact that Zaccarias Mussaoui was learning to fly an airplane, but not how to land one. The *genius* of your FBI at work.) Later, Charlton heard that his reticence to apply the death penalty in a murder case was the real reason. For the record, this case involved a meth dealer who killed his supplier and, unfortunately, there was no forensic evidence available. Charlton wanted a sentence of life in prison without parole. The DOJ ordered him to seek the death penalty. Well, to be clear, there was one piece of forensic evidence: the body. But they didn't have access to it. Charlton and his prosecutors knew where it was buried but they needed permission -- and funds -- from the DOJ to excavate it for use as evidence. The excavation could have proven the undeniable guilt leading to the death penalty sentence Gonzales was lusting for, but it would have cost over $500,000 to do it. The DOJ, only interested in the death penalty until it meant opening up the checkbook, flatly refused to pay for the excavation. Brilliant. The result: no body, no undeniable evidence, and no justification for a death penalty. And, oh yeah, Charlton had the audacity to personally request a discussion with Gonzales about it, but that was somehow against the rules. So they fired him. Very pretty. How many lies has the DOJ told about Charlton in the meantime?

Iglesias and McKay had similar experiences, receiving the termination call on December 7th, not being given any reasons, and subequently hearing a pack of lies being told about their performance. And then there were those threatening phone calls McKay and Bud Cummins got from the DOJ's Michael Elston, warning them to keep their traps shut or else. Laurie Levinson, former USA and current professor of law at Loyola (Los Angeles) was the moderator. She asked if they don't find it strange that no one in the Bush administration seems to know exactly who made the decision to fire them. All the USAs believe it originated from within the White House. And as Pennsylvania State University political science professor James Eisenstein noted, the U.S. Constitution provides for the authority: it is vested in the president. He is, as Eisenstein said, "the decider" in the hirings and firings. Not Gonzales, not the deputy AG's, but the president. However, the recent news that Gal Friday Goodling and Sampson the Aggregator were signed into service as "deciders" elicited only derision from the US attorneys. Much mention was made by Iglesias and McKay of the fact that "32-year olds, who have never tried a case in their lives, have been given the power to hire and fire" people resonsible for huge, complicated federal prosecutions. They lamented the lack of qualifications and expertise of those serving directly under Gonzales. If the Justice Department Zoo seems like it's being run by the animals, that's because it is.

More importantly, they spoke about the chilling effect that the firings have had on their colleagues. Iglesias said the US attorneys still remaining in their jobs are "sickened" by what's happened. Morale is terrible and "some are actively looking for work". There was also unanimity among the prosecutors that public corruption cases and alleged election fraud were obvious links between all the firings. As for the now infamous policy of the DOJ to place "loyal Bushies" in the prosecutor positions,  McKay was disturbed by seeing what he called "the ascendancy of personal loyalty tests to the president", rather than loyalty to the law and justice. Every panelist, including Eisenstein and associate law professor Christian Halliburton (Seattle University) said Gonzales has to resign because he is no longer effective. The question however, is who would replace him, and how effective would that person be in serving the law, and not the White House?

And just in case there was ever any dispute about how zealous the Bush Justice Department has been about going after Democrats at a much higher rate than they go after Republicans, the numbers don't lie. A booklet supplied by Seattle University Law School to all seminar attendees includes a study, with charts, by communications professors Donald Shields (University of Missouri) and John Cragen (Illinois State University) showing the incidence of Justice Department investigations into national, state and local political candidates and office holders from both parties, plus independents. From 2001 - 2006 these are the results:

Democrats investigated:

298

Republicans investigated:

67

Independents investigated:

10

Thursday morning, McKay and Iglesias will be appearing on KUOW's Weekday. Call early in the hour if you want to ask them a question. Hey, that reminds me: I wonder if Rick White will be calling in to the show. I had my eyes peeled but I didn't spot him anywhere at the CLE seminar, so I guess he's really not interested in practicing law again, after all.

Posted by shoephone on May 9, 2007 at 11:29 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink

Comments

Facts seem to indicate that not only was Rove responsible for firing John McKay, but he also may have had Dave Reichert recommend a replacement, Rick White.

Rick White, who was recommended by Republican Congressman Dave Reichert, was replaced in his previous job {CEO of TechNet} by Karl Rove's aide, Lezlee Westine, who then became the new CEO of TechNet as reported in e-week.com. "The newest face of the IT industry here, Westine is leaving her job as director of public liaison and deputy assistant to Bush to become CEO of TechNet, a political network of CEOs."

In order for Rick White to be recommended as US Attorney, he had to step down from job as CEO of TechNet. Rove, being thorough, had Rick White replaced as CEO of TechNet with his own personal aide, Lezlee Westine.

In addition, political support for the firing of John McKay apppears to have been channelled through an assistant of Karl Rove, Glynda Becker. Prior to working for Karl Rove, Glynda Becker was an assistant to Rick White.

This information has been provided to the Chairmen of both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, as well as other media for their consideration and further investigation.

I hope this background information will be useful in further the investigation of the firing of John McKay. While this background information does not necessarily relate to the primary cause for firing, it reveals that there was considerable depth to Karl Rove's operation, and by all appearances, Rove did not just decide out of the blue one day to have to have McKay fired.

Interestingly enough, it now appears that Dave Reichert is now offering "no comment" responses to questions about the McKay firing. That's probably a good thing for Reichert to do right now, as his recommended replacement for John McKay seems hopelessly tied to Karl Rove.

Posted by: CoolAqua | May 10, 2007 7:44:56 AM

Thank you so much for this synopsis - it was the next best thing to being there myself!

I am glad to hear that there seems to be the same kind of concern about whether Bush was really in the loop on this, given that the authority rests solely in him. I cannot help but be suspicious that a lot of this kabuki theater is because Bush was only told about it all after the fact.

Now, what I would really like is for these Congressional committee members to study up on some of the fine writing and reporting being done here and on sites like TPM - there is a trove of good, insightful questions that not only need to be asked, but need to be asked until there are answers other than, "I don't recall knowing that."

Thanks again, shoe!

Posted by: Anne | May 10, 2007 8:58:03 AM

Great summary Shoey. Thanks also to CoolAqua for more of the back-story. Pass the wasabi, please.

Posted by: OhEss | May 10, 2007 9:20:55 AM

It's interesting that the only mention I could find of the Shields/Cragen study was in comments to a Karen Tumulty editorial online:

http://time-blog.com/swampland/2007/03/the_us_attorney_story_by_the_numbers.html

You'll have to scroll most of the way down. Paul Krugman apparently found the study and commented, but he's safely behind the firewall at the NY Times. That was six weeks ago. Clearly, it hasn't been news to many people inside the beltway. Tumulty seemed to think that the public was bored with it all, so I guess it shouldn't be too surprising.

OTOH, I have to wonder why I can't find this study, or at least a press release about it, on the Internet. Is there some reason they haven't published there?

Posted by: Cujo359 | May 10, 2007 9:58:20 AM

It's spelled "Cragan". They've published on the Internet after all:

http://www.epluribusmedia.org/columns/2007/20070212_political_profiling.html

I'm clearly having a bad morning. Later.

Oh, and thanks shoephone and CoolAqua. Lots to think and be upset about in all this.

Posted by: Cujo359 | May 10, 2007 10:06:44 AM

Cool Aqua - here's from my post on April 1st (about White, Becker, et al.)

http://www.evergreenpolitics.com/ep/2007/04/what_happened_t.html

It contains the info I've already shared with you, so unfortunately, I don't have much new to report. But, yes, I've thought all along that Rove was behind it, and Becker was his go-to gal.

It's somehow comforting (maybe that's the wrong word..) to know that the USAs are also convinced of Rove's major role in all this.

Posted by: shoephone | May 10, 2007 10:40:06 AM

I was disappointed to not be able to attend this - so thanks for the great summary.

This is telling: "There was also unanimity among the prosecutors that public corruption cases and alleged election fraud were obvious links between all the firings." It seems to me we are witnessing a methodical and strategic series of moves made by this administration to edge out law and order and the democratic process, to vitiate every check and balance, every mechanisms that, in the past, has stood in the way of the ascendancy of the lawbreakers, of the people who simply want to plunder the public good for their own power and gain. So creepy...

Posted by: Noemie Maxwell | May 10, 2007 2:11:45 PM

YO PEOPLE!
IS THERE A PROBLEM HERE?
GONZALES IS AT LEAST AS GOOD AS THAT OTHER GREAT APPOINTEE BROWNIE AND BROWNIE DIDN'T HAVE ANY MAJOR TROUBLE TO SPEAK OF.
BOTH WERE SELECTED BY "THE DECIDER" AND WE ELECTED HIM TWICE ??? OR DID WE ???
I CAN'T IMAGINE ANYONE WILL CLAIM THAT THE ELECTION THAT LEAD TO THE SELECTIONS CREATED ANY MAJOR TROUBLE TO SPEAK OF.
SO WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?
JACK

Posted by: Jack Smith | May 10, 2007 2:20:29 PM

Great stuff shoephone.

****
He is, as Eisenstein said, "the decider" in the hirings and firings. Not Gonzales, not the deputy AG's, but the president****

This is the thing I've been saying. For USAs, it pretty much has to be the President. Yet all his initial responses were that he had nothing to do with it; then he went to talking about USAs serving at his pleasure but still basically denying that he is the guy who fired them. Why so shy?

Then you have the Secret Gonzales Order - on the delegation of authority and the OLC memo. That memo talks about delegations from the President and from heads of branches together, and pretty much says that OLC thinks there needs to be a list provided for approval, approval actually given, then the firings be done "in the name of" the person entitled to do the firings. Also, the order picks up that the delegees cannot make a subsequent delegation.


So where is the "Secret President's Order" where he makes the same kind of delegation? How did anyone in DOJ know that they had the authority to fire the USAs?

NOthing said by any of the USAs or in the email scripts indicated that they were told they were being fired in the name of the President. I wonder if the the President was mentioned in the phone calls by any of them?

I've also wondered, for the two firings that Comey says he and Margolis handled, what was done or said with the WH first? Did Comey call up a USA to demand a resignation without ever getting Presidential approval? The fact that he got the President to send a letter to one of the guys firing him, and that we haven't heard any "stars and garters" from the WH that they didn't know anything about the Comey-initiated firings, makes you pretty much think that the Comey firings had Presidential approval.

No one asked him that (or a lot of other stuff).

In any event - the bigger question even than "who put the names on the list" is "how did you know you could fire?" imo.

These were Senate Confirmations that Battle and Sampson and Goodling were firing and the statute only allows the President to fire. I know they weren't a legal brain trust, but at least one of them had to have said, at some point, do we have the President's ok for this?

Keep going shoe.

Posted by: Mary | May 10, 2007 6:36:23 PM

Mary - your clear analysis never fails to impress and enlighten me. (That's why you are the brilliant lawyer and I am... a blogger.) If you have not yet written to either of the judicary committee chairs with the thoughts you just expressed here, I really hope you will. You always seem to be able to clear away the clutter and get to the crux of the issue.

The only other thing I remember from that part of the seminar was that when Iglesias related the details of the "you're fired" phone call he got from Battle, he asked "why?" and Battle replied something to the effect of: "I don't know and I don't want to know". Iglesias then asked who was ordering his dismissal and Battle said "All I know is, this comes from on high".

Posted by: shoephone | May 10, 2007 7:14:46 PM

[schoolmarm]
"exhume", not "excavate"
"exhumation", not "excavation"
[/schoolmarm]

And how in the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster can it cost half a million bucks to exhume a body and do the lab tests on it?

Posted by: N in Seattle | May 11, 2007 12:12:35 PM

N - you're probably right on the word choice. However, my explanation of what happened in the Charlton case was taken directly from his mouth. His words. His explanation. Who am I to challenge Paul Charlton on his version of events?

Posted by: shoephone | May 11, 2007 6:12:32 PM

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