That CRAAAAAAAAZY conspiracy theory: the mass firings of US Attorneys

The setup: The Bush administration not long ago decided to do something rather unprecedented: fire a whole host of US attorneys all at once, mid-term, coincidentally after Democrats took over Congress. All of these people were Republicans, but most seemed to put their duties first before politics. Topping all of this off was that the firings and re-appointments were potentially going to be made easier (and quieter) by a previously obscure Patriot Act clause.

It might have ended there. Some Democratic bloggers picked up on it and made a little bit of noise over how odd this was (US attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president, but rarely are they let go en masse they generally all serve as long as the President does), and the administration finally lamely responded that the firings were based on “performance reasons.”

But, as it turns out, even loyal Republicans aren’t too crazy about people throwing them under the bus and calling them incompetent. So out came the glowing performance reviews of some of these folks, out comes letters from the DOJ telling them that they were on track, and it turns out that they were anything but incompetent.

Since then the scandal is growing: not only are their accusations that the firings were political, but specific conversations have been cited and accused showing politics in the sense of Congressional and White House Republicans wanting to game the justice system and not getting their way: conduct that would itself be liable for investigation on the grounds of obstruction of justice. We have Congressmen demanding that investigations be timed coincide with the midterm elections. We have complaints that prosecutors had prosecuted and convicted powerful Republicans (a major no no!), and now even some previously fired Republicans coming forward to say that they were threatened by Republicans politicians for opening corruption investigations. We have the quite obvious fear that now that Democrats have the investigation powers of Congress, that the only way to prevent them from going to court with what they find against powerful Republicans is to make sure the US Attorney Department is filled with people like Karl Roves former opposition research director rather than competent and ethical attorneys. People have pointed out that the Administration has slashed the budgets of US Attorney offices, leading to a large drop in the number of federal prosecutions.

So far, the administration has backpedaled from one explanation to the next, the most recent being admitting that the firings were political, but only in the sense that some other party loyalists needed to fatten their resumes. The guy ostensibly in charge of the firings has now also resigned, though claiming that his resignation has nothing to do with the incident.

This story has developed pretty far for something Bricker once tried to brush off as just another conspiracy theory. We have many of these Attorneys testifying this very week about conduct from Republican leaders that is, at the very least, quite unethical. Where is this all going to go?

Here’s the previous thread on this:
Why is the Justice Department firing so many U.S. Attorneys?

FYI, this thread on the same subject active until just a few days ago.

Isn’t the admin response “Reasons? We don’t need no stinkin reasons!”

A true believer need look no further.

Iglesias Tale:

Ethics Rules Violations?

It’s just unbelievable that Bush, Gonzales & Co. would fire them en masse despite good performance evaluations (but after a change in Federal law that permits the Attorney General to indefinitely appoint U.S. attorneys on an acting basis) and then badmouth them in the press. Come on! These folks are not wooly-headed liberal ACLU activists. Dubya appointed them all in the first place. Looks like a political hatchet-job, pure and simple. And now DoJ and the White House are scrambling to spin, but it looks like Congress isn’t buying it.

Yes, U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President. But by all accounts, these folks had done good work but were tossed over the side because (in some cases) they hadn’t made enough hay investigating Democrats. I’m following this story with great interest.

I loved the comment of one TalkingPointsMemo reader:

Thanks for the hot tip. I’m sure you’ll soon get to something substantive to say soon other than poo pooing, right? Or do we have to wait for Snopes again?

The extent of congressional interference in the legal process revealed here makes me wonder about the US attorneys who didn’t get shitcanned. How many of them got calls to speed the indictment of Democrats from their congressmen? Did any comply?
I know the Republicans were pushing back hard on that pesky ‘culture of corruption’ meme before the election, and it would have been very helpful for them to have a Democrat to point at. Did they get one? I don’t think Jefferson would count here. Did they indict anyone else?

If Bush et al. hadn’t been so doggone dumb, that would have been their initial response. US Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president, and if he’d just said, “These guys did a great job, but there are other people who deserve the opportunity,” this would have been a nonevent. Once the admin started smearing the US Attorneys, that pretty much required the former USA’s to defend themselves. And all these guys need to do is to say, here’s what I accomplished; here’s where I felt political pressure. And the Dems can take that – as they have – and run it into a story of an admin run amok.

Frankly, this story dovetails very nicely with the Scooter Libby story, and permits the media to spin a tale of an administration that feels itself above the law, which took steps to ensure that only its political enemies need obey the rules. It’s like there’s nobody left in Washington who thinks strategically. Ridiculous.

Hey, that’s what can happen when the ins have been having it all their way for too long; they stop thinking strategically, or even at all, beyond the smug expectation that the media lapdogs will go on rolling over and playing dead for the bones they toss out.

Ahhhhh… I love the smell of burning hubris in the morning… :smiley:

These personnel changes dovetail with quite a few stories.

The Bush administration fired Attorney Carol Lam, the prosecutor who sent Duke Cunningham to prison. She had just indicted a former #3 guy at the CIA before she was forced to go. Here’s part of Diane Feinstein’s tribute, from ~the week of Feb 15:

The patriots at have been following developments closely. I applaud their efforts.

This story has been getting big play here in the PNW. Initially, it was because one of the attorneys, John McKay, was based in Seattle. As the story has developed, though, it’s grown serious legs, because the inappropriate calls to McKay (and apparently the pressure for replacement) came from the office of Doc Hastings, one of our state representatives, who just happened to chair the Ethics Committee (!) from Feb '05 until the GOP lost control of Congress.

I swear, if you tried to make up this story, nobody would believe it.

Seattle Times summary-to-date

Lawyerin Up

I smell Fish.

From the TPM: the cases we so far know of are those in which the attorneys refused to play along: what about the cases in which they did?

N.J.'s now Senator Bob Menendez certainly came under investigation at a rather convenient time for his Republican opponent on charges that seemed dubious at the time, and seem to have simply evaporated post-election. This was a pretty darn major race, on which the fate of the Senate was involved, and corruption was about the only hard angle that might have had any play in NJ. Is it too much of a stretch to ask if, given the pressure put on other attorneys to bring investigations against Democrats prior to the election, that this case looks suspicious enough to delve into further? These firings are clearly political. The repubs want to control the national judiciary.

Linky no worky.

But the AG is now beating a hasty retreat. Huzzah! Sorry6. The firings are political and further destroy the separation of powers. The judicial is being taken over,

Don’t suppose that means the fired USAs can have their jobs back?

I hope that freaking, lying weasel Gonzales finally loses his job. It’d be none too soon. I’ve been screaming about that truth phobic, Coolaid drinking, sycophantic, brown-nosing suck-up for over two years now. Off with his head!