Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Critics surge on attorney purge

Libby Spencer
[Updated below]

As the kalidescopic array of justifications continue to issue from White House over the attorney purge, they are only becoming further enmeshed in the vast web of their own deceits. Every new excuse only raises greater scrutiny and more questions and it appears the major media have finally decided to do their job and take this story seriously.

The Iglesias firing has become particularly troublesome for the spin doctors at 1600 Penn Ave. After their weak contentions that Iglesias failed to prosecute voter fraud cases ultimately revealed inappropriate interference with his autonomy and illegal political interference in his case load, the new justification became Iglesias didn't spend enough time in the office.

Oops. Somebody should have researched that charge a little better. Iglesias, as it turned out was absent in order to fulfil his duties to the Naval Reserve - hardly grounds for criticism. However, as The Washington Post reveals today, at least six other US Attorney's have been absent from their offices for far greater periods of time in order to do double duty at Justice and other postings in DC.
Acting Associate Attorney General William W. Mercer, for example, has been effectively absent from his job as U.S. attorney in Montana for nearly two years -- prompting the chief federal judge in Billings to demand his removal and call Mercer's office "a mess."
Mercer is currently number three man at Justice while the others all also hold high level positions, including "U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg of Alexandria, who was named last month as the new chief of staff to the attorney general." So who is minding their offices at home?

You know this is not going well when even long time White House cheerleader Fred Hiatt jumps off the bandwagon. As Glenn Greenwald points out, only two weeks ago Fred was still shooing the crowds of inquistors along with a hearty, move along folks - nothing to see here but a silly unncessary coverup of a ordinary personnel matter. But in today's editorial Hiatt has significantly changed his tune.
Mr. Sampson's testimony showed that Mr. Iglesias was added to the list after Mr. Rove also complained to the attorney general about Mr. Iglesias's supposedly poor performance on voter fraud. This revelation not only adds to the evidence undercutting the attorney general's professions of ignorance about the whole episode; it deepens the sense that the judgment about whom to fire was influenced, if not dictated, by political considerations.

What prompted Mr. Rove's complaint? Did he speak with Mr. Domenici or Ms. Wilson? Was there in fact a problem with Mr. Iglesias's record on voter fraud? Was he dismissed for failing to bring voter fraud cases that he did not believe were justified by the evidence? Was voter fraud the real reason for his dismissal, or his alleged absenteeism because of military service? Or was it because he failed to produce in time an indictment that could have been helpful to Ms. Wilson's endangered reelection bid?
Good questions and long overdue in the asking. As Glenn said, "Whatever it is that caused Fred Hiatt to make arguments today that are the exact opposite of what he said only two weeks ago, let's hope there is more of it."

Update: TPM reveals yet another little troublesome provision slipped into the Patriot Act renewal that allows residency requirements for these appointees to be waived. Probably not illegal but it does illustrate the whole scheme of centralizing the AG's operations to make politicalization of the office a little simpler.

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