Fired U.S. Attorney for New Mexico says politics to blame

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The news is not good for Replubicans:

The U.S. attorney from New Mexico who was recently fired by the Bush administration said Wednesday that he believes he was forced out because he refused to rush an indictment in an ongoing probe of local Democrats a month before November’s Congressional elections.

David Iglesias said two members of Congress separately called in mid October to inquire about the timing of an ongoing probe of a kickback scheme and appeared eager for an indictment to be issued on the eve of the elections in order to benefit the Republicans. He refused to name the members of Congress because he said he feared retaliation.

Two months later, on Dec. 7, Iglesias became one of six U.S. attorneys ordered to step down for what administration officials have termed “performance-related issues.” Two other U.S. attorneys also have been asked to resign.
(emphasis mine)

Via Talking Points Memo, whose Muckrackers are already at work trying to identify the two Congressional Republicans (Rep. Steve Pearce already said “It wasn’t me!”).

I’ve blogged about this before.

Fired U.S. Attorney for New Mexico had positive peformance review

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The whole story of the seven fired U.S. attorneys is a tangled web of explanations and speculations. I’ve blogged a bit before on this issue, when it was suggested by an “administration official” that the firings happened because somebody somewhere wanted to “make things happen” in the affected areas.

Via Think Progress, we found out that some of the attorneys were never told why they were fired asked to resign:

Earlier this week, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty admitted that the U.S. attorney in Arkansas, Bud Cummins, was pushed out to make way for a “37-year-old protege” of Karl Rove. Initially, the Justice Department tried to claim that Cummins left on his own. Cummins said the matter was “handled poorly” and he was given no explanation for his forced resignation.

According to McNulty’s Senate testimony, the other six were fired for “performance-related” issues. But of those six, two have now spoken out, rebutting McNulty’s empty excuses. They state that the Justice Department never cited poor performance — or gave any explanation at all — as a reason for being pushed out.

Now, whether or not they were told why they were fired, the basic claim of “performance issues” has stuck. However, McClatchy today has a story refuting those claims. Sure enough, David Iglesias, the U.S. Attorney for New Mexico, was given a good performance review last year:

David Iglesias, the U.S. attorney in New Mexico, also received a positive evaluation last year, according to another Justice Department official.

Both officials asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized by the Justice Department to release the information.

The other U.S. attorneys who received good reviews were John McKay, the former U.S. attorney in Seattle; Paul Charlton, the former U.S. attorney in Arizona; and Carol Lam, the current U.S. attorney in San Diego.

Carol Lam, of course, was the prosecutor who dug deep into the Duke Cunningham scandal.

I don’t have much to add to all this. It seems clear that the attorneys were fired to make way for those more sympathetic to the administration (and, in the case of Lam, Republicans in general) but there is so much anonymous sourcing that everything is speculation at this point.

Thanks to Kevin for the McClatchy linkage this morning.

On the US Attorney replacements

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From the Washington Post (hat tip to Headwaters News):

But there is also evidence that broader political forces are at work. One administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in discussing personnel issues, said the spate of firings was the result of “pressure from people who make personnel decisions outside of Justice who wanted to make some things happen in these places.”

Several of those fired have already left, and the rest will be gone by the end of the month.

David Iglesias, U.S. Attorney for New Mexico, was one of those asked to resign. McClatchy (via TPM Muckraker) had more about recent appointments to similar positions last week:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is transforming the ranks of the nation’s top federal prosecutors by firing some and appointing conservative loyalists from the Bush administration’s inner circle who critics say are unlikely to buck Washington.

The newly appointed U.S. attorneys all have impressive legal credentials, but most of them have few, if any, ties to the communities they’ve been appointed to serve, and some have had little experience as prosecutors.

The nine recent appointees identified by McClatchy Newspapers held high-level White House or Justice Department jobs, and most of them were handpicked by Gonzales under a little-noticed provision of the Patriot Act that became law in March.

With Congress now controlled by the Democrats, critics fear that in some cases Gonzales is trying to skirt the need for Senate confirmation by giving new U.S. attorneys interim appointments for indefinite terms.
(emphasis mine)