Emails Show Political Motiviation For Firing Prosecutors

The scandal over the firing of federal prosecutors on political grounds is showing the significance of the Democratic take over of Congress and the value of restoring checks and balances on the Executive branch as envisioned by the founding fathers. The current Congressional investigations would not have taken place if Congress remained under GOP control

For Richard Nixon the smoking gun was the tapes. For George Bush the smoking gun might turn out to be a more modern form of communication–email. McClatchy has posted copies of email communication between the White House and the Justice Department which show the plans for this politicization of the Justice Department:

Internal memos between the Justice Department and the White House show that administration officials were determined to bypass Congress in selecting replacements for eight U.S. attorneys who were forced to resign. The memos include a five-step plan for executing the dismissals and dealing the anticipated political firestorm.

“We’re a go for the US Atty plan,” White House aide William Kelley notified the Justice Department on Dec. 4, three days before seven of the eight U.S. attorneys were told to step down. “WH leg, political, and communications have signed off and acknowledged that we have to be committed to following through once the pressure comes.”

“WH leg” refers to the White House legislative affairs office, which works closely with members of Congress.

Members of Congress have expressed outrage over the dismissals for a variety of reasons. Some suspect that the ousted prosecutors were fired as part of an effort to exert political influence over federal investigators. Others resent the administration’s efforts to install new prosecutors without Senate confirmation hearings.

Still others accuse the Justice Department launching an unseemly smear campaign against the ousted prosecutors.

While U.S. attorneys are political appointees – all of the ousted prosecutors were appointed by Bush – they are supposed to carry out their duties without political interference. White House officials have acknowledged that Karl Rove, Bush’s chief political adviser, served as a conduit for complaints about U.S. attorneys across the country.

“The attorney general has a responsibility to put up a fire wall to keep politics out of the Department of Justice,” said former U.S. Attorney H.E. “Bud” Cummins, who was forced out to make room for a Rove protege. “There are political people in politics who are an inherent part of the process. There is no place for them at the department of justice. When things like this happen it costs the department its credibility.”

The internal administration documents, which were released by the House Judiciary Committee, show that Rove’s office also arranged for two New Mexico Republicans to deliver their complaints about former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias directly to the Justice Department in June 2006

McClatchy has more here, with more at The New York Times and The Washington Post.

While Congressional investigations may be necessary to obtain all the relevant information, it was the liberal blogosphere which kept this story alive. Jay Carney at Time attributes the blogosphere with proving he was intially wrong in underestimating the importance of this story. He wrote, “The blogosphere was the engine on this story, pulling the Hill and the MSM along. As the document dump proves, what happened was much worse than I’d first thought. I was wrong. Very nice work, and thanks for holding my feet to the fire.”

One sign of the lack of a good defense for their actions is that Republicans are falsely claiming that Clinton did this too. The Carpetbagger Report reviews this claim.

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