Politics Blamed For Prosecutor Firings
Several of the United States Attorneys abruptly fired in the last two months were working on public corruption cases involving politically-connected suspects who could have influenced the Bush Administration to get rid of them.
The country’s 93 U.S. Attorneys are named by the president when he first takes office to head the Department of Justice’s regional sectors. The United States Senate then confirms them to serve four-year terms, but last year the president changed the procedure to give the Attorney General new authority to appoint interim U.S. Attorneys for indefinite terms without Senate approval.
In the last few months, eight U.S. Attorneys have been fired by the Bush Administration and most had positive work evaluations that did not justify dismissal. Perhaps coincidentally, three of the U.S. Attorneys – from New Mexico, Seattle and San Diego – were investigating public corruption cases involving politically-connected people.
In San Diego, fired U.S. Attorney Carol Lam was aggressively investigating corruption cases connected to Republican Congressman Randy Cunningham, who is in prison for accepting more than $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors. The ongoing probes have led to some Republicans in Washington and Lam’s colleagues say politics undoubtedly played a part in her firing.
The fired New Mexico U.S. Attorney, David Iglesias, said two members of Congress tried to pressure him to rush corruption indictments of local Democrats to coincide with the 2006 election season. Both Republican Albuquerque lawmakers, Representative Heather Wilson and Senator Pete Domenici, have admitted making the calls on behalf of their constituents but deny pressuring Iglesias.
Iglesias and the other fired U.S. Attorney’s testified before a Senate Committee this week and Iglesias said he felt leaned on and sickened as Domenici hung up on him in disgust last fall when told that corruption indictments against Democrats would not be issued before the fall elections.