Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Friday, February 16th, 2007.


Drooling Idiot Alert

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Bush Administration, criminal justice, U.S. Attorneys

Nothing like slapping down some drooling idiot first thing in the morning to get the juices flowing. I caught a fat one this morning in this old post about the Bush Administration firing US attorneys in mid-term without cause.

As I explain in the post, it is standard practice for an incoming president to ask for the resignations of US attorneys appointed by his predecessor. He then appoints new attorneys, who serve a four-year term. When George W. Bush became president he replaced all of Bill Clinton’s attorneys, for example.

However, back in 1993 when the Clinton Administration asked for the resignations of the Bush I US attorneys (who knew full well they’d be asked to resign), the Right-Wing propaganda machine went into overdrive ginning up a phony controversy to whip their drooling, knuckle-dragging followers into an anti-Clinton frenzy. As I wrote in the old post,

I dug an article about this episode out of the New York Times archives. On March 24, 1993, Attorney General Janet Reno demanded the resignation of all United States Attorneys. At the time, this prompted accusations from the Right that the Clinton Administration was trying to save the political career of Rep. Dan Rostenkowski. (If that was the plan, it didn’t work.)

In any event, I went to great pains to explain in the post (titled “U.S. Attorneys: It’s the Replacing, Stupid”) that presidents do have the authority to fire US attorneys whenever they like. However (1) it is highly unusual for US attorneys to be fired and replaced in mid-term except in cases of gross misconduct; and (2) the real issue is a provision in the Patriot Act that allows the White House to circumvent the constitutional requirement to have the appointee confirmed by the Senate. This is explained in detail in the post.

Lo, this morning some drooling idiot literacy challenged individual named Jim Quinn added this comment:

hmmmm. this has a familiar ring to it. let’s see, wasn’t it 1993 when the Clintons fired EVERY us attorney except one to cover for getting rid of the one (whose name escapes me) who was hot on their little whitewater trail?

I advised Mr. Quinn that he had just violated commenting rule #8 — commenting on a post without bothering to read it first. But if he wants to make a public fool of himself, who am I to get in the way?

Here’s the latest on Attorneygate — Laurie Kellman writes for the Associated Press:

Senate Republicans blocked a bill Thursday that would curb the Justice Department’s power to fire and replace federal prosecutors. Democrats had sought to give the courts a role in the appointments of U.S. attorneys, to GOP opposition.

The objection by Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., to the proposal was long anticipated. So Democrats used the occasion to complain anew about the firings of at least seven prosecutors, some without cause, under a little-known part of the Patriot Act.

Democrats say Attorney General Alberto Gonzales used the law to get around the Senate confirmation process and install Republican allies. …

… Democrats contend that prosecutors were forced to resign to make way for Republicans’ political allies and that the White House slipped the provision into the Patriot Act to permit such indefinite appointments.

As Paul Krugman wrote in the January 19 New York Times, “the Bush administration is trying to protect itself by purging independent-minded prosecutors.” Obviously.

However, ultimately the Senate must revoke that part of the Patriot Act that allows the White House to appoint “interim” attorneys who can serve indefinitely without Senate confirmation. (If they want to revoke the rest of the Patriot Act while they’re at it, I wouldn’t mind.)

A couple of days ago Marisa Taylor of McClatchy Newspapers reported that several of the US attorneys fired by Bush II had good performance reviews. And their replacements are being selected from the inner circle of the Bush Administration.

The Bush administration has said that six U.S. attorneys were fired recently in part because of “performance-related” issues.

But at least five of them received positive job evaluations before they were ordered to step down. …

… The decision to fire the U.S. attorneys came under scrutiny late last month after Senate Democrats discovered a change in the Patriot Act that allowed Gonzales to appoint interim U.S. attorneys for indefinite terms without Senate approval.

In testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, McNulty conceded that H.E. Cummins, the former U.S. attorney in Arkansas, wasn’t fired because of how he handled his job. Rather, McNulty said, administration officials wanted to make room for Timothy Griffin, a former aide of presidential adviser Karl Rove.

Cummins was involved in the federal investigation into Missouri’s license fee offices, an investigation first revealed by The Kansas City Star. His office was asked to determine if Gov. Matt Blunt’s administration had improperly awarded the sometimes lucrative offices to political supporters.

Last October, before he officially resigned but apparently after he was asked by the Justice Department to step down, Cummins issued a statement clearing the Blunt administration of wrongdoing.

Here is a list of the US attorneys known to have been asked to resign, although there could be more we don’t yet know about.

  • Carol Lam, the U.S. attorney in San Diego, who successfully prosecuted former Republican Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, now in federal prison. Her last day in office was Thursday.
  • Bud Cummins, the U.S. attorney in Little Rock, Ark., resigned Dec. 20 and was replaced by former Karl Rove assistant Timothy Griffin.
  • Paul Charlton, the U.S. attorney in Arizona, announced Dec. 19 that he was resigning at the end of January.
  • John McKay, the U.S. attorney in Seattle, said he was ordered by the Justice Department on Dec. 7 to resign.
  • Kevin Ryan, the U.S. attorney in San Francisco, announced his resignation Jan. 16. Ryan was overseeing investigations into steroids use by major league baseball players and the backdating of stock options by Apple Inc., and other firms.
  • Daniel Bogden, the U.S. attorney for Nevada, announced Jan. 18 he will resign effective Feb. 28.
  • David Iglesias, the U.S. attorney for New Mexico. An assistant announced Iglesias’ resignation Dec. 19.
  • See also:Speedy Gonzales“; “The Purge.”

    Update:
    Paul Kiel writes at TPM that former Karl Rove assistant Tim Griffin, who was appointed to replace Bud Cummins, the U.S. attorney in Little Rock, has decided he won’t go forward with the Senate confirmation process because he thinks the Senate will be mean to him. Kiel quotes the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:

    “I have made the decision not to let my name go forward to the Senate,” Griffin said Thursday evening….

    Griffin on Thursday blamed “the partisanship that has been exhibited by Sen. [Mark ] Pryor [D-Ark. ] and other senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee in the recent hearing” for his decision to bow out….

    Griffin said Thursday that if he were to go through the confirmation process, “I don’t think there is any way I could get fair treatment by Sen. Pryor or others on the judiciary committee.”

    Poor baby. Kiel continues,

    It’s been a rough couple weeks for Griffin, who was the most egregious case among the seven prosecutors purged in December. Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty admitted to the Senate last week that Griffin’s predecessor had been forced out for no other reason than to make room for Griffin. And this morning, The New York Times revealed that Griffin had been installed as per the wish of White House counsel Harriet Miers.

    There does seem to be some question, though, as to why Griffin is bowing out…

      Pryor’s spokesman, Michael Teague, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Thursday, after Griffin said he was withdrawing his name from consideration, that [Attorney General Alberto] Gonzales himself had called Pryor earlier Thursday “and told the senator he was not going to submit Tim Griffin’s name.”

    It seems clear that the threat of Senate confirmation ended Griffin’s tenure — but who it spooked more, the administration or Griffin himself, is not so clear.

    The only reason Griffin was facing Senate confirmation at all, Constitution or no Constitution, was pressure from the Senate and the press. However, Thanks to that pesky Patriot Act Griffin can still hold the job indefinitely.

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