Adam Cohen writes in the New York Times about possible criminal prosecutions stemming from the U.S. attorney purge. These are:
1. Misrepresentations to Congress. The relevant provision, 18 U.S.C. Â§ 1505, is very broad. It is illegal to lie to Congress, and also to â€œimpedeâ€ it in getting information. Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty indicated to Congress that the White Houseâ€™s involvement in firing the United States attorneys was minimal, something that Justice Department e-mail messages suggest to be untrue….
… 2. Calling the Prosecutors. As part of the Sarbanes-Oxley reforms, Congress passed an extremely broad obstruction of justice provision, 18 U.S.C. Â§ 1512 (c), which applies to anyone who corruptly â€œobstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so,â€ including U.S. attorney investigations.
David Iglesias, the New Mexico United States attorney, says Senator Pete Domenici, Republican of New Mexico, called him and asked whether he intended to bring indictments in a corruption case against Democrats before last Novemberâ€™s election. Mr. Iglesias said he â€œfelt pressuredâ€ by the call. If members of Congress try to get a United States attorney to indict people he wasnâ€™t certain he wanted to indict, or try to affect the timing of an indictment, they may be violating the law.
3. Witness Tampering. 18 U.S.C. Â§ 1512 (b) makes it illegal to intimidate Congressional witnesses. Michael Elston, Mr. McNultyâ€™s chief of staff, contacted one of the fired attorneys, H. E. Cummins, and suggested, according to Mr. Cummins, that if he kept speaking out, there would be retaliation. Mr. Cummins took the call as a threat, and sent an e-mail message to other fired prosecutors warning them of it. Several of them told Congress that if Mr. Elston had placed a similar call to one of their witnesses in a criminal case, they would have opened an investigation of it.
4. Firing the Attorneys. United States attorneys can be fired whenever a president wants, but not, as Â§ 1512 (c) puts it, to corruptly obstruct, influence, or impede an official proceeding.
I say this could put the peach back into impeachment, so to speak.