Inconvenient federal prosecutors

February 27, 2007 | By | 16 Replies More

According to a little noticed change in the Patriot Act, the Bush administration is firing (not promoting or commending) some of its star prosecutors. Why? Because they became inconvenient. Worse, the fired prosecutors have all been replaced with political hacks whose jobs will include NOT prosecuting law-breaking friends of the Administration, among other nefarious duties. This situation is disgraceful.

Here’s what’s going on, according to yesterday’s NYT Op-ed:

In many Justice Departments, her record would have won her awards, and perhaps a promotion to a top post in Washington. In the Bush Justice Department, it got her fired.

Ms. Lam is one of at least seven United States attorneys fired recently under questionable circumstances. The Justice Department is claiming that Ms. Lam and other well-regarded prosecutors like John McKay of Seattle, David Iglesias of New Mexico, Daniel Bogden of Nevada and Paul Charlton of Arizona — who all received strong job evaluations — performed inadequately.

It is hard to call what’s happening anything other than a political purge. And it’s another shameful example of how in the Bush administration, everything — from rebuilding a hurricane-ravaged city to allocating homeland security dollars to invading Iraq — is sacrificed to partisan politics and winning elections.

The net result of these firing is that our government will not be able to prosecute many of the white-collar criminals who have connections with the Administration. Much of what those prosecutions would have found will not ever be learned by the media or U.S. citizens.

This story really hits a nerve for me. It brings up disturbing thoughts and images.

I once served as an Assistance Attorney General for the state of Missouri. I had stellar job evaluations. I was fired, though, after I vigorously investigated the illegal actions of several major contributors to the Missouri Attorney General, William L. Webster. As my superiors postured to fire me, some of my co-workers who saw the same things I saw suddenly got stupid. Some of the people who had previously been cordial to me became distant, because they didn’t want to get sucked into the mess and lose their jobs too. I was thrown out on the street with no redress. I served at the pleasure of the Attorney General, just as the fired federal prosecutors serve at the whim of the Administration.

The epilogue of my story is that federal prosecutors came to the rescue and prosecuted Webster, a Republican. Webster eventually spent time in prison. Had the federal prosecutors failed to step in and investigate Webster, he would have become governor of Missouri (he was 20 points ahead in the polls when they started investigating). It is safe to assume that he would be a U.S. Senator by now.

That’s how important it is to have qualified prosecutors working for the federal government.

The NYT article about these recent firings from the Justice Department should be front page stories. Maybe they will be, thanks to Senator Charles Sdchumer, who is investigating.

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Category: Corruption, Politics

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (16)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    For more on the puzzling firing of federal prosecutors, see this article from Salon.com. Click here.

  2. Tim Hogan says:

    As I did my opposition reseach for then Democratic candidate for Missouri Attorney General Mike Wolff (now on Missouri's Supreme Court) I found many of the same issues for which former Missouri Attorney General Bill Webster was prosecuted and went to jail. Mr. Wolff and I tried to get traction on them, the media and the voters ignored the isssues and us, and re-elected Mr. Webster.

    If the US Attorney had not done what it did, Webster would've made crime pay, just like President Bush and his corporate criminal cronies have done for the last six years. I still want to know why the little Enron pickle that had a Nevada power plant shut down so he could "fuck with Nevada" isn't in jail. He's probably a Pioneer (raised more than $100K) for Bush and the GOP! The rates that went up in California that contributed, in some part, to the rise of the Guvernator and the California GOP probably are lining those clowns pockets and paying for the myriad stupidities proposed for the ballots in California, and elsewhere.

  3. Well folks, it looks like things have come to an end for me and DI.org.

    I learned a lot here, and thank you all for that. I still may read periodically, but at this point, I will not be posting anymore.

    You guys seem like you might be sick of me anyway, and my last post was "expunged" from the record by the admin. No hard feelings here, I just think there are places where I might ruffle a few less feathers. I imagine you guys will be fine without me, however, I suspect that the website may fade (back) into oblivion without my conceited/belligerent posts to stir up controversy.

    Goodbye,

    Scholar

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    Note from Admin: The topic expunged was not offensive in any way. It was simply off-topic. See our comment policy.

  5. Erich Vieth says:

    This story is really beginning to reek. The Administration's explanations are outrageous. As if these prosecutors are not assigned cases by their supervisors. As if they were all loose cannons, refusing to prosecute immigration cases. As if all of those prosecutors who were not fired were busy prosecuting immigration cases, to the exclusion of other important cases.

    What makes this especially bad is that at least several of these prosecutors were working on high-profile political corruption cases. How outrageous to suggest that those who run a prosecutor's office would take their top flight prosecutors off political corruption cases and reassign them to immigration violations.

    Heads should roll on this scandal. It looks like it's going all the way to the White House.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/arti… 

  6. Erich Vieth says:

    More on the scandal involving federal prosecutors. Recent attempts show definite nefarious attempts to politicize the U.S. Attorneys Office. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/arti

  7. Erich Vieth says:

    This story is really getting some traction, as it should. It involves ever-more corruption at the highest levels of government.  This quote is from Mark Kleiman of Huffpo:

    As Paul Krugman points out, we know about the cases where pressure failed; in how many cases did it succeed? Just why, for example, did the U.S. Attorney's office for New Jersey do so much leaking hostile to Sen. Bob Menendez just before last fall's elections, where his Republican opponent made corruption a central issue?

    For the full post, click here.

  8. Erich Vieth says:

    With regard to the political firing of the federal prosecutors, the "The Turd Blossom has hit the fan," according to Arianna Huffinton:

    Not that we should be surprised by any of this. It's just one more vile example of how Bush treats every part of the executive branch: instead of protecting the environment, the E.P.A. is used to weaken it; the V.A. screws veterans; the State Department campaigns against diplomacy; the F.D.A. undermines food safety. And now the injustice at Justice. The Bushies have a long history of playing fast and loose with the law — evading it, stretching it, getting around it, weakening it, ignoring it, nullifying it.

    For Huffington's full article, click here.

  9. grumpypilgrim says:

    Now it appears the fired U.S. attorneys might have been fired for refusing to "investigate" more Democrats in the months before the 2006 election, despite pressure from their superiors in the Bush Administration. See: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070314/ap_on_go_pr_w….

    The timing would certainly fit: the Bush Admininistration tries to dig up dirt on Democrats, a few of their employees refuse, Democrats win sweeping election victories in November, the few disloyal (to the Republican party) attorneys in the Bush Administration get fired in Dcember. Makes me wonder what the U.S. attorneys *who did not get fired* did to keep their jobs.

    Here is another good article: http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0315/p01s02-uspo.ht….

  10. Devi says:

    Bush admits that he "passed on" complaints about US attorneys to Gonzales, but didn't ask Gonzales to fire them.

    So- what would YOU do? Say you're middle management and the boss comes to you complaining about some of the people who report to you. Do you ignore the boss's complaints or do you do something, quick, like discipline or fire them before the boss fires YOU?

    It is nonsensical to think that Bush didn't intend on getting some action as a result of his "passing on" complaints.

  11. Erich Vieth says:

    The Administration is trying to figure out what it's most convenient to believe at this point. Here's a summary of recent developments from Salon's War Room:

    You could call it a slippery slope, only it's more like a cliff, and Tony Snow has just fallen off of it.

    When asked Tuesday about the notion of firing all 93 U.S. attorneys at the beginning of George W. Bush's second term, the White House press secretary said the idea had been Harriet Miers' and "her idea only."

    On Thursday, Snow was confronted with an e-mail message showing that Karl Rove had asked about firing all 93 U.S. attorneys in January 2005. Snow said again that the idea had originated with Miers and that Rove had actually been opposed to it.

    This morning, Snow was asked again about the origination of the idea. His response: a complete retreat. "It has been described as [Miers'] idea but … I don't want to try to vouch for origination. At this juncture, people have hazy memories."

    Snow didn't mention that he was the one doing the "describing" just a few days ago — or that, at the time, he didn't seem at all hesitant to "vouch for the origination." Now, he seems awfully hesitant to commit to anything at all.

    Is it possible that the president himself had a hand in suggesting that all 93 attorneys be fired? "Anything's possible," Snow said today, "but I don't think so."

    http://www.salon.com/politics/war_room/

  12. Erich Vieth says:

    Incredible BS from the White House on the investigation regarding the firing of prosecutors. After initially announcing that it would cooperate, here's what we're hearing now from the Administration's Counsel [Fred Fielding]:

    Fielding sent members of Congress a letter saying that the White House would let them talk with Karl Rove and Harriet Miers about the prosecutor purge — but that "such interviews would be private and conducted without the need for an oath, transcript, subsequent testimony, or the subsequent issuance of subpoenas."

    And when they show up, Rove and Miers can be guaranteed to be evasive, without any consequences for obstructing the investigation, pursuant to these proposed rules.

    For the full post from "The War Room," click here.

  13. grumpypilgrim says:

    The Bush Administration now admits it fired the attorneys for political reasons, but justifies the action by erasing the line between political performance and job performance:
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070329/ap_on_go_ca_s

    Apparently, the Bush Administration considers both other branches of our government (the Legislature and the Judiciary) to be nothing more than political tools of the Executive Branch serving the interests of the Republican Party, rather than co-equal branches serving the interests of the public.

  14. Ben says:

    It seems that the firings may have been IDEOLOGICALLY based (my words). Bill Moyers reports:

    "The recent controversy over the firing of federal prosecutors found Regent University graduate Monica Goodling — special counsel to US Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez and one of some 150 Regent alumni who have worked in the Bush administration since 2001 — at the center of a political firestorm over her involvement. "

    Also on the program are Nick Gillespie, editor in chief of the libertarian monthly magazine Reason, who discusses the war, the media, and the impact of the religious right in Washington today; and historian Marilyn B. Young, coeditor of Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam: Or, How Not to Learn from the Past, who talks about history's lessons for the war in Iraq. "

    The Regents Law School grads who were interviewed spoke of the absolute truth in God's word. They seemed quite motivated to bring their religious truths (beliefs) into legislation, as instructed by Pat Robertson and company. I will post the link to the transcript when it becomes available, the entire program was excellent.

    (the libertarian he interviewed later had me sold… until he said something to the effect that the religious right was not dangerous, still food for thought though!)

  15. Ben says:

    Moyers transcript May, 11:

    BILL MOYERS: He's Mitt Romney — Once upon a time, the moderate governor of Massachusetts, supporter of stem cell research, gun control, and choice for women. But over time people change.

    Now he's running for the Republican nomination for president…and he's made this pilgrimage to one of the country's most conservative evangelical schools to assure everyone here he is with them. Especially Pat Robertson.

    PAT ROBERTSON: There was never any intention that our government would be separated from God almighty. Never, never, never in the history of this land did the founders of this country or those who came after them think that was the case.

    BILL MOYERS: So what do you do when the Constitution makes no mention of God, and the Bill of Rights ensures freedom for all religions? You set out to change the laws….to have them reflect your interpretation of the Bible… on church and state, women's rights, stem-cell research, gay marriage, even when to end life support.

    For such a revolution you need lawyers and judges So as the crown jewel of his university, Pat Robertson created a law school.

     http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/05112007/transc

  16. Erich Vieth says:

    Now that the dust has settled, you can read this all-the-more unsettling account (in Harpers online) of how the Bush Administration "hacked" the Justice Department. Highly disturbing information presented in an excellent article. http://www.harpers.org/archive/2008/03/0081943

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