Thursday, March 8, 2007
The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the dismissal of a group of United States Attorneys highlighted contacts with the federal prosecutors that call into question whether they may have been the target of political pressure to bring or speed up investigations of Democrats, or to not discuss the reason for their termination (a joint statement is here). The former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, John McKay, described a telephone call from the chief of staff of the senior Republican Representative from Washington during the recount of the 2004 governor's race that he called "inappropriate" and that approached "dangerous territory" before he cut it off. The U.S. Attorney's office did not pursue a vote fraud case related to the disputed election, which was won by Democrat Chris Gregoire, and McKay said that a White House official said the case was mishandled.
Former New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias confirmed that he received telephone calls from Senator Pete Domenici and Representative Heather Wilson inquiring into investigations of Democrats before the 2006 election. The description of the call from Senator Domenici included the fact that Iglesias was called at home on a weekend and, when he said that indictments would not be brought before Election Day, the Senator hung up on him. Finally, Bud Cummins, from the Eastern District of Arkansas, said that when he spoke on the telephone with a senior Department of Justice official about his comments to a reporter on the firings, the official implied that the Department might have to disclose additional negative information about the former U.S. Attorneys to respond to any criticisms.
The hearing came on the same day that the jury returned its guilty verdict on four counts in the Libby trial, which may have stolen some of the thunder from the testimony before the Senate. The statements by the four former U.S. Attorneys certainly do not put the Department of Justice in the best light. A Seattle Post-Intelligencer story (here) discusses the hearing. (ph)