Domenici talked over Iglesias firing with Bush?

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That’s according to the Albuquerque Journal (subs. required):

At some point after the election last Nov. 6, Domenici called Bush’s senior political adviser, Karl Rove, and told him he wanted Iglesias out and asked Rove to take his request directly to the president.

Domenici and Bush subsequently had a telephone conversation about the issue.

The conversation between Bush and Domenici occurred sometime after the election but before the firings of Iglesias and six other U.S. attorneys were announced on Dec. 7.

Iglesias’ name first showed up on a Nov. 15 list of federal prosecutors who would be asked to resign. It was not on a similar list prepared in October.

Talking Points Memo some analysis:

Out of all the issues raised in today’s Albuquerque Journal story on the Iglesias firing and any potential sourcing questions, the central fact asserted is that after Sen. Domenici’s pressure call to Iglesias and before Iglesias’s name appeared on the firing list, Sen. Domenici had a conversation about firing Iglesias with President Bush himself.

That places the president at the center of the story and marks him as the likely ‘decider’, shall we say, in Iglesias’s ouster.

There’s also more from McClatchy:

Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the president did not tell Gonzales to fire Iglesias. He also said that Gonzales did not recall discussing with Domenici whether or not to replace Iglesias.

A White House spokesman, Trey Bohn, pointed to comments made by President Bush and his adviser Dan Bartlett last month when asked about the conversation with Domenici.

Bush said that in speaking to Gonzales about U.S. attorneys, “I never brought up a specific case nor gave him specific instructions.” Bartlett said that “there was no directive given, as far as telling him to fire anybody or anything like that.”

Domenici spokesman Chris Gallegos said Domenici would have no comment.

Looks like New Mexico FBIHOP had this first, and there’s definitely some good reading over there:

Mad at Iglesias for not helping out Wilson before the election, and angry at Gonzales for not agreeing to fire Iglesias, Domenici went straight to the top. Iglesias was added to the list of US Attorneys to be fired (or “asked to resign”, technically) after the phone call. It would be interesting to hear what Bush said to Domenici on the phone.

The article says Domenici “tried at various times to get more white-collar crime help for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.” This is code for the public corruption cases which Domenici wanted to be dropped before the November elections. They were not, and Domenici retaliated.

UPDATE — 1/16/07 7:20 am: LP makes the case in comments that the Journal article may not be accurate (be sure to check his latest post for more on that argument). I’m still reserving judgement. We know that a lot of the back-and-forth leading up to the USAs being fired took place through deputies and others like Karl Rove. The White House denial (see McClatchy piece above) that Bush never spoke to Gonzales about any specific cases does not cover whether or not Bush spoke to Domenici about a specific case. Nor does it mean that Bush had no role in getting Iglesias canned.

In addition, Domenici’s refusal to comment is eerily familiar to his behavior when Igelsias broke the news that Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson had called him. Until we hear Domenici’s office, or the White House, straight up denying that a call took place, I’m inclined to think it did.

UPDATE — 1/16/07 8:45 am: I’ve been thinking of this all morning, but NewMexiKen puts it nicely:

Here’s the rub. As far as I can determine the sole indication of how Gallagher and The Journal determined what happened is this line:

“The Journal confirmed the sequence of events through a variety of sources familiar with the firing of Iglesias, including sources close to Domenici.”

“A variety of sources . . . including sources close to Domenici.” No one is identified, even in the most general terms.

Five years ago, or with any other administration, I might be willing to dismiss the Journal story out of hand. But Bush & Co. have never been upfront or straight forward with the American people, so I’m not ready to give them the benefit of the doubt on this one.

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