Maybe somebody should ask Bush about the alleged Domenici conversation

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Via Carpetbagger Report comes this at TPM Muckraker, concerning yesterday’s ABQ Journal article which said Sen. Pete Domenici spoke with Bush about David Iglesias, prior to Iglesias getting the axe from Justice.

Says Paul Kiel:

White House spokesperson Dana Perino said today that she hadn’t asked Bush whether there had been such a conversation. “I haven’t asked him,” she said, but continued to say that she didn’t “think” such a conversation had occurred, because she’d never heard anything about it. When pressed again, she said, “I’m not going to rule it out.”

Won’t somebody ask Bush if the conversation occurred? And why haven’t we heard from Domenici yet?

Also, Heath is back from vacation, so definitely check out his latest on the story.

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.

Domenici’s name comes up again in Iglesias firing scandal

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Via TPM comes this post over at Muckraker:

Here’s another new document from the ones released today. And it’s a good one.
They are two pages of handwritten notes, apparently taken by Monica Goodling — the now former Justice Department official who’s pled the Fifth. The notes appear to have emerged from a brainstorming session on justifications for firing the U.S. attorneys in early February of this year.

At the top of the first page, for instance, is a one word question: “Reasons?”

So, where does Sen. Pete Domenici enter the picture?

Under the reasons for firing David Iglesias, Goodling writes: “Domenici says he doesn’t move cases.”

That would be Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM). Now, as has been demonstrated, there was a particular variety of case that Domenici wanted Iglesias to move faster on — corruption investigations into Democrats. Domenici called Iglesias shortly before the election last November to ask if Iglesias was going to bring an indictment on such a case sometime soon.

More over at TPM Muckraker, so check it out.

Second DCCC radio ad targeting Wilson hits NM airwaves

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From Election Central:

The DCCC is going up on the air with a second radio ad targeting New Mexico GOP Rep. Heather Wilson for her role in the Attorney Purge. You can listen to it here.

Transcript:

In Washington Alberto Gonzales, the Attorney General of the United States, is testifying under oath about his role in the firing of U.S. Attorneys.

But here in New Mexico, no one is getting the truth about Heather Wilson’s involvement in the scandal.

Wilson said a constituent’s complaint led her to call Republican U.S. Attorney David Iglesias about an ongoing federal corruption investigation.

But Heather Wilson won’t identify the constituent … she still refuses to release her phone records … and many important questions remain unanswered.

In Washington Attorney General Gonzales is being asked to tell the truth …

Isn’t it time we asked Heather Wilson to tell the truth in New Mexico?

Check the facts at www dot Heather Wilson watch dot com.

Follow the link for some additional analysis on the ad.

WaPo editorial board reverses course, starts questioning Bush Co. involvement in Iglesias firing

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In a post that reminded me of my recent rant on “Old Media” vs. bloggers and other “amateurs,” Glenn Greenwald shows the incredible turnaround of the Washington Post editorial board:

Even more than most national journalists, The Washington Post‘s Fred Hiatt has been a stalwart defender of the Bush administration with regard to the U.S. attorneys scandal. On March 26, 2007 — just two weeks ago — Hiatt wrote:

Mr. Gonzales finds himself in this mess because he and others in his shop appear to have tried to cover up something that, as far as we yet know, didn’t need covering. U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president — with the advice and consent of the Senate. The president was entitled to replace any he chose, as long as he wasn’t intending to short-circuit ongoing investigations.

While the Editorial acknowledged that there appears to have been what Hiatt politely called “shifting explanations for the eventual dismissals of eight federal prosecutors,” he argued that there was no evidence of any underlying impropriety with regard to the firings themselves.

As Greenwald notes, today is another story all together. Suddenly, David Iglesiasfiring is worthy of further investigation. Says the WaPo:

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.

Of course, had you been reading this blog, or any number of blogs over the last two months, you would have already come to that conclusion. Greenwald:

Everything Hiatt argued here has been known for many, many weeks — really for months. Yet until today, Hiatt and his comrades in the national press were insisting that there was absolutely no underlying impropriety here — and that there was no reason other than petty political games which could possibly motivate anyone to want to question poor, beleaguered Karl Rove under oath.

But the whole time, all of the evidence Hiatt just cited was publicly known. And it has been exactly that evidence which bloggers and then Democratic Senators were pointing to in order to insist that there was substantial evidence to suggest very serious wrongdoing with regard to the reason these prosecutors were fired.

All arguments regarding old vs. new media aside, the WaPo editorial board is finally seeing the light. If that’s the case, that’s just more traction for a story that is already “distracting” for some of those involved.