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U.S. attorney scandal: political fallout on both sides of Hill

The political fallout from the firings of eight U.S. attorneys continues to ripple across Capitol Hill.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has just launched a radio ad attacking Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) for allegedly calling a U.S. attorney and asking about "sealed indictments" that might embarrass her political enemies on the eve of last November's elections. Democrats are trying to make the case that the firings were politically motivated.

And Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) continues to take heat from Republicans who say there is a major conflict between him leading the probe of the mass dismissals as a senior member of the Judiciary Committee while heading the campaign arm of Senate Democrats. One of his chief critics is Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), co-chairman of the ethics inquiry into the role of Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) in the firing of the U.S. attorney from New Mexico, David C. Iglesias.

According to the DCCC, the ad is running during the so-called morning-drive time for the next five days.
http://blog.washingtonpost.com/capitol-briefing/2007/03/gop_raps_schumer_over_dual_rol.html

The political jousting on the Hill comes as congressional Democrats and President Bush are girding for a legal showdown over the testimony of White House advisers, particularly the political aide Democrats love to hate: Karl Rove. A House Judiciary subommittee this morning authorized subpoenas for the testimony of Rove, former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and three other current and former administration aides, a move that the Senate Judiciciary Committee is expected to follow tomorrow. But Bush, in a defiant press briefing yesterday, refused to allow his aides to testify under oath, in public and with a transcript of the proceedings, vowing to take the issue to the federal courts and precipitate a constitutional showdown over executive powers if necessary.

This is unusually early in the two-year campaign cycle for the Democrats to be on the air, but it's a sign of the eagerness of congressional Democrats to try to drive home the negative images of this investigation -- and demonstrate to their political base that they are very much on the offensive.

On its web page, the DCCC has prominently displayed a "Heather Wilson Watch" regarding media stories about her role in the U.S. attorney scandal.

Two weeks ago, Iglesias testified before the House and Senate Judiciary Committees that Wilson and Domenici called him to ask about a local corruption investigation he was overseeing that targeted a Democrat, inquiring about whether indictments were forthcoming. He told the committees he felt "sick ... pressured ... leaned on" after the calls.

Less than two months after telling Wilson and Domenici that no immediate action was forthcoming in the case, Iglesias was told by the Justice Department he had to resign.

Wilson has steadfastly denied that she was pressuring him about any specific investigation and was instead relaying complaints from constituents about his case work.

In the Senate, Republicans are increasingly trying to tie Schumer to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's actions regarding Domenici, as Capitol Briefing first reported last week.

Republicans accuse Schumer of using the investigation as a cudgel against Domenici, who is up for re-election in 2008. They point to a fund-raising letter Schumer's top political aide sent out shortly after washingtontpost.com reported that Domenici had retained a high-priced defense lawyer to handle the Senate Ethics Committee's preliminary inquiry into the matter.

But the latest complaints about Schumer come from an interesting source: Cornyn, who is a prominent member of Judiciary but, more importantly, is also the top Republican on the Ethics committee handling the Domenici inquiry.

Shortly after Schumer spoke on the floor last evening about President Bush's public offer of private interviews with top aides, Cornyn took to the floor to denounce Schumer for his dual role as Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman and leader of the prosecutorial inquiry.

Accusing Schumer of having "already reached a verdict", Cornyn went on to directly cite Schumer's fund-raising letter about Domenici.

"I just think it's appropriate to point out to our colleagues that this sort of campaign by the Chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, that's using this incident to raise money on the website of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, is just inappropriate and unworthy of this institution," he said.

Schumer rejects the criticism. He has said repeatedly that his inquiry is pointed at the administration and any questions about Domenici or Wilson or other lawmakers should be the province of the ethics committees.

By Paul Kane  |  March 21, 2007; 12:10 PM ET
 
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Comments

This is where the Media establishment tries to split the middle again (One witness claims one hundred were killed, another that 1 was killed, the Media reports 50 deaths.) in it's feeble attempt at modern journalism. Here, their spinning a story of mutual destruction for political purpose, wherein one side is clearly attempting to subvert the truth (if not, then testify if it ain't a lie, Mr. Rove) where the other is trying to get to the bottom of a thorny problem: notably, the suborning of justice.

This is why so many now no longer trust the Fourth Estate. You're a discredit to your profession.

Posted by: Chad | March 21, 2007 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Everything that happens in DC is political. It's ashame that we have to watch these phonies act so phony.

In an ironic way, the libs are probably going to take Iraq off the front page - which could hamper any chance of the Shemale winning. So keep pointing the gun at your foot Ms Schumer.

Posted by: hillaryISaSHEMALE | March 21, 2007 1:48 PM | Report abuse

There is NOT political fallout on both sides. The ONLY person on the planet (other than Republican partisans) talking about the supposed Schumergate is Kane. To portray the USA firings kerfuffle as anything other than a scandal of, by and for Republicans is a total misrepresentation of the facts:

-- fact: Six of the eight fired USAs are Republican; the remaining two are Independent.
-- fact: Some of the Congressmen complaining about the firings publicly are Republican, including the Senators from Nevada and Arizona who sponsored two of the fired eight.
-- fact: The vote to repeal the Patriot Act provision that enabled the firings was 94-2. (There aren't 94 Dems in the Senate.)
-- fact: Many of the loudest voices calling for the dismissal of A.G. Gonzales are Republican, including Sen. John Sununu.
-- fact: Any judgment against Domenici and Wilson by the Ethics Committee will be bipartisan, i.e., NOT via a Democratically-controlled party line vote, because the committee is divided evenly between Repubs and Dems.

To say that there is "fallout on both sides," one must show that the political fortunes of both parties have sagged as a result of the scandal. While there is always a scent of "a pox on both their houses" in such matters, there is NO quantitative, empirical evidence that the poll numbers of Democrats have fallen because of the USA firings scandal.

I dare Kane to show me the polling to the contrary. In the meantime, we can try to figure out what Charles Schumer is supposed to do to resolve his "scandal." Apparently he is supposed to resign one of his positions because of what Republicans have done. I can't imagine that Kane or Cornyn expect him to drop his plum spot on the Judiciary Committee, so guess what Democrats: You have to find a new Senator to head the DSCC because Pete Domenici shook down the prosecutor of an ongoing federal investigation.

I mean really...how DARE Chuck Schumer try to win an election for Democrats? The nerve of the guy. He should be arrested for the new rightwing nut offense: GWD (Governing While Democratic).

Kane is right, I guess. As soon as Schumer found about Domenici's harassing of a lead prosecutor in an ongoing investigation, he should have done what any right-thinking Senator would have done:

Start campaigning for him.

Posted by: Edgar Allen Poe | March 21, 2007 1:52 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the previous post (from Chad). The so-called Fourth Estate has failed this nation miserably.

However, what bothers me most about this scandal is that Mr. Bush is determined to keep his advisors from testifying, which makes me believe they have far more to hide than previously imagined. If the administration's behavior were beyond reproach, then they should not hesitate to testify, under oath and for the record. The White House is doing a great disservice to this nation by making it seem like they are hiding something and by trying to make this a partisan battle. This stopped being partisan when the Senate voted 94 to 2 to rescind the clause in the Patriot Act that led to this unfortunate fiasco.

To the White House: Bring the truth to the table. If the actions were legal, then Rove, Miers, et al should have nothing to fear.

Posted by: Ehrich | March 21, 2007 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Neo-cons in the Whitehouse, congress, senate, and armed services should be PURGED to make room for responsible republicans.

Wilson and Dominici obviously broke the law and should be held accountable. The whitehouse must be held accountable and that means testimony UNDER OATH from those in the whitehouse who plotted the injection of politics into the judiciary process.

Posted by: Reality, USA | March 21, 2007 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Wow, they used if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear. I guess it is only for everyone else unless they have something to hide and to fear. What do you think?

Posted by: Anthony | March 21, 2007 3:29 PM | Report abuse

//Democrats are trying to make the case that the firings were politically motivated.//

?? With all due respect, it would seem that the case of abuse of power is making itself. Does anybody know of a good mainstream online news source? I am tired of *fair and balanced* to the point of ludicrous. Do we really want to live in a world where the police only investigate and arrest members of the party not in power on any given day?

Posted by: Sara B. | March 21, 2007 3:35 PM | Report abuse

What about the firing of a US attorney in Guam, who was connected to Jack Abramoff? Does Congress know about this?

Also see http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/031407L.shtml

Bush removal ended Guam investigation
US attorney's demotion halted probe of lobbyist

By Walter F. Roche Jr., Los Angeles Times | August 8, 2005

WASHINGTON -- A US grand jury in Guam opened an investigation of controversial lobbyist Jack Abramoff more than two years ago, but President Bush removed the supervising federal prosecutor, and the probe ended soon after.

Breaking News Alerts

The previously undisclosed Guam inquiry is separate from a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia that is investigating allegations that Abramoff bilked Indian tribes out of millions of dollars.

In Guam, a US territory in the Pacific, investigators were looking into Abramoff's secret arrangement with Superior Court officials to lobby against a court reform bill then pending in Congress. The legislation, since approved, gave the Guam Supreme Court authority over the Superior Court.

In 2002, Abramoff was retained by the Superior Court in what was an unusual arrangement for a public agency. The Los Angeles Times reported in May that Abramoff was paid with a series of $9,000 checks funneled through a Laguna Beach, Calif., lawyer to disguise the lobbyist's role working for the Guam court. No separate contract was authorized for Abramoff's work.

Guam court officials have never explained the contractual arrangement. At the time, Abramoff was a well-known lobbying figure in the Pacific islands because of his work for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Saipan garment manufacturers, accused of employing workers in what critics called sweatshop conditions.

Abramoff spokesman Andrew Blum said the lobbyist ''has no recollection of his being investigated in Guam in 2002. If he had been aware of an investigation, he would have cooperated fully." Blum declined to respond to detailed questions.

The transactions were the target of a grand jury subpoena issued Nov. 18, 2002, according to the subpoena. It demanded that Anthony Sanchez, administrative director of the Guam Superior Court, turn over all records involving the lobbying contract, including bills and payments.

A day later, the chief prosecutor, US Attorney Frederick A. Black, who had launched the investigation, was demoted. A White House news release announced that Bush was replacing Black.

The timing caught some by surprise. Despite his officially temporary status as the acting US attorney, Black had held the assignment for more than a decade.

The acting US attorney was a controversial official in Guam. At the time he was replaced, Black was directing a long-term investigation into allegations of public corruption in the administration of then-Governor Carl Gutierrez. The probe produced numerous indictments, including some of the governor's political associates and top aides.

Black, 56, had served as acting US attorney for Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands since 1991, when he was named to the post by the president's father, President George H. W. Bush.

The career prosecutor, who held a senior position as first assistant before accepting the acting US attorney job, was demoted to a staff post. Black's demotion came after an intensive lobbying effort by supporters of Gutierrez, who had been publicly critical of Black and his investigative efforts.

Black declined to comment for this article.

His replacement, Leonardo Rapadas, was confirmed in May 2003 without any debate. Rapadas had been recommended for the job by the Guam Republican Party. Fred Radewagen, a lobbyist who had been under contract to the Gutierrez administration, said he carried that recommendation to top Bush aide Karl Rove in early 2003.

After taking office, Rapadas recused himself from the public corruption case involving Gutierrez. The new US attorney was a cousin of ''one of the main targets," according to a confidential memo to Justice Department officials.

Rapadas declined to comment and referred questions about his recusal to Justice Department officials who did not respond to requests for comment.

see http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2005/08/08/bush_removal_ended_guam_investigation/

Posted by: Ralph F. | March 21, 2007 3:44 PM | Report abuse

once again the demos are showing their true colors - their efforts to undermine our President every single day is doing nothing but showing that they have no original ideas and negativism is the only thing they are good at. They are quickly losing any hope of electing a demo president in 2008. good for them.

Posted by: ed myers | March 21, 2007 5:37 PM | Report abuse

The president DOES have a limited right of executive privilege that applies to a handful of top aids, like Rove, as well as internal documents. The Watergate tapes case allowed only a very specific exception, in 2004 the Supreme Court ruled for the president's privilege. For those with short memories, President Clinton asserted executive privilege more than W Bush.

This case alleges nothing outright illegal was done, rather the breaking a long tradition of the home state senator sharing hire/fire power with the president. Obviously that pissed off the Senate - note how blase the House is about it.

My guess is there will quickly be a compromise, not court action.

Posted by: Tom | March 21, 2007 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Help me out here:
If Wilson was asking Inglesias about "sealed indictments" and then claimed she was only "relaying complaints from constituents" about his (Iglesias') case work, how would her constituents be in a position to know the contents of any sealed indictments?

Posted by: Charles Crevequer | March 21, 2007 6:27 PM | Report abuse

In response to "Ed Myers", what a crock. Who broke us into Red states and Blue states? Who lied about WMD in Iraq? Who lied about our energy policy? Who lied about secret wiretaps? Who lied about torture? BUSH and his enablers in the Republican party, not the Democrats. Who outed a CIA agent because her husband disagreed with them on Iraq's nuclear program? I'm sorry, when it comes to negativism in politics, the GOP is the winner hands down. Did you support President Clinton against the wave of negativism? I doubt it.

Posted by: drmondo | March 21, 2007 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Now it's "the president has no recollection"! Drag these Republican latrine rats into the sunlight of truth and watch them squirm and squeal. No oath and no transcript--what a crock!

Posted by: mikeasr | March 21, 2007 6:51 PM | Report abuse

It seems that whenever there is a Republican scandal, an article pops up in the Washington Post claiming the scandal effects both parties. Funny how that constantly happens.

Posted by: ErrinF | March 21, 2007 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Hardly surprising: another WaPo stenographer regurgitates Bushie talking points. In their febrile minds, any Republican scandal HAS to pull down the Democratic Party as a matter of course. The Bushies are beyond reproach in any nefarious matter, in the view of this blog's poster Kane. Do you ever read these comments, WaPo blog poster? Or are the comment sections just to let the rabble blow off steam to no effect? Can you accept constructive criticism and grow from it (and hopefully do a better job as the Fourth Estate and be an advocate for the public against Government Power), or do you see these reactions to your water-carrying as just the feverish ramblings of the disaffected? We demand better, and we demand answers.

Posted by: pearls before swine | March 21, 2007 8:09 PM | Report abuse

Well, if Paul Kane truly believes there is political fallout on BOTH sides, he needs to get out of the office every once in awhile. This is what this exchange sounds like in real world: Why doesn't Bush want them to testify under oath? Aren't they planning on telling the truth anyway? Why in the world would he fight that, if there going up there to talk anyway? I have heard nary a SQUEAK on the Shumer thing after Shumer himself said that the Senate ad regarding DOMENICI, not USAs, was because DOMENICI had a Senate Ethics Committee problem. I don't know about in NM but here in NH DOMINICI has the headache with THAT sort of headline.

Posted by: Jan | March 21, 2007 8:11 PM | Report abuse

Watergate litigation established there is no "executive privalege" for staff subpoenaed by Congress, or for withholding documents. This is not a partisan issue but an issue of democracy versus strong-man fascism. Let's just hope that Leahy and Conyers don't sell out -- that they do a real investigation with sworn, public, and documented testimony from Rove, Miers, and the others.

Posted by: ralphm | March 21, 2007 8:14 PM | Report abuse

Paul, Can you please commit to give space to the GOP talking points only in proportion to their lack of hypocrisy and transparent "spin"? The poster above who gave the "split the difference" analysis is exactly right.

The "journalistic" approach fails when one side nonsense is given the same space as valid charges.

It isn't necessarily false if it comes from the the mouths of GOP spokesmen, but it is 80% likely to be mostly false.

Posted by: bogus | March 21, 2007 10:12 PM | Report abuse

Nixon was done in by an 18 minute gap in the taped records recorded in his office. So far although there is an almost 18 day gap in the heavily redacted records supplied to Congress by Bush. Who is kidding who about political consequences will hurt the democrats. Get real.

Posted by: Redman | March 22, 2007 12:30 AM | Report abuse

any GOV employees reading Washington Post stationed in . . .. . . . . Japan?

Posted by: egalitaire | March 22, 2007 12:37 AM | Report abuse

MISDIRECTION!!
You are looking at the wrong thing.
DON'T worry about the ones that WERE canned, Worry about the ones that were NOT canned.

That means that many of the ones STILL ON THE JOB did respond to political pressure, at least enough to keep them off the hit list.

I have contacted my senator and congressman (I ONLY have ONE senator as the other is Allard who is a weasel) to push them to investigate all the US Attorneys who did NOT lose their jobs!

THAT is where we will find paydirt. There will be signs of Republican pressure, with phone calls that were NOT cut short curtly, but instead accepted and listened to.

Posted by: tony the rocket scientist | March 22, 2007 12:57 PM | Report abuse

The GOP hasn't realized that Sen. Schumer has a view to a kill. The white house -ucked up big time and the Dems are going to blow them out. The Senators from Ky. N.M. are all going to be damaged goods. The idiot from Oklaholma that crapped all over Gore yesterday, if his seat is up, he is out. And the beat goes on. If you had seen Schumer on C-span two weeks ago, a caller attacked him. Schumer did not flinch shot back at the caller and utterly cleaned his clock. Schumer is a political Ninja that cuts his enemies three ways. Long, deep and freakwently. Since the GOP don't know better, Schumer will show them how it's done. You are in for some show. Stick around.

Posted by: Alfred | March 22, 2007 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Fact: William Jefferson Blythe Clinton fired all 93 U.S. Attorneys when he was in office. That was his privilage. There were no subpoenas. This Democratic circus act is nothing more than to embarrass the President. Instead of wasting time playing their little games, the Politicians should get to work. They're not doing what they were elected to do. All they're doing is making a mochery out of what our Legislative Branch is responsible of doing.

Posted by: RJ in Milw | March 23, 2007 4:48 AM | Report abuse

A light bulb just went on while I was reading an article about White House emails over replacing Little Rock US Attorney Bud Cummins with Karl Rove protégé Tim Griffin. What are Karl Rove and his cronies known for? Dirty politics. Where were they looking to install the Rovian Griffin? Little Rock. Who is a very likely Democratic nominee? Hillary Clinton... from Little Rock... who survived investigation from prior US Attorneys there... which likely left lots of bits of unproscecutable dirt on the floor! Coincidence?

Has anybody else seen these connections made anywhere?

Posted by: Greg | March 23, 2007 8:42 AM | Report abuse

Robert James - Sydney.

The sacked Prosecutors have given indications of serious ethical breaches. Congress should examine the efficacy of the Prosecutors to see if they worked hard, competently and honestly or if they succumbed to requests to abuse their office.
I want to know if 'Dubya The Decider' and/or his A-G and/or their party members asked the Prosecutors to behave unethically by using the resources of the State (the judicial process) to abuse and harm its citizens. If so, then Mr Gonzales should Go Directly To Jail Without Collecting $200. Apart from 'Dubya The Decider', who wants crooked government?

Posted by: Robert James | March 23, 2007 8:44 AM | Report abuse

The documents released by Justice reveal that "Republican home-state senators" were to be kept in the loop regarding the firings. What possible justification other than political could be made for this discrimination? That's your smoking gun right there - Republican senators in cahoots with supposedly non-politically movtivated Justice Dept. personnel.

BTW - brilliant and disturbing analysis by Tony the Rocket Scientist about how we should worry more about the US attorneys who didn't get canned.

Posted by: Mike Pitt | March 24, 2007 7:03 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, because I'm a brazilian citizen (living in Rio de Janeiro) and not an american. But I think all problems of current USA politics have started in Florida/2000 and its 230(?) ballots. Al Gore really won the presidential election. But the price - thanks to a "white putsch" with the Supreme Court - went to: George W. Bush, the most ignorant, unqualified, uncultured, unprepared - AND UNLUCKY - politician who has lived in White House!

Posted by: Raul Fernandes Sobrinho | March 24, 2007 11:07 PM | Report abuse

There are probably several motives and explanations, not simply one.
1. Partisanship is present. Large-scale democracy requires political parties, whether people like them or not.
2. The plenary authority of the President to remove people should be recgnized and accepted. No changes in structure are needed.
3, Both diligent legislative oversight, and intensive, informed, journalism are indispensable--and have been lacking.
4. If the Administration has been using its authority for discreditable reasons, the penalty for that must be exercised politically.
5. The President is already paying a political price, and his AG is paying a political price essentially for ignoring and overriding a Senate prerogative.
In the end this will prove beneficial to the country by reinforcing the lesson that pushing the limits of your authority will, at some point, have a severe and unpleasant reaction.

Posted by: Matthew Holden, Jr. | March 26, 2007 11:40 PM | Report abuse

There are probably several motives and explanations, not simply one.
1. Partisanship is present. Large-scale democracy requires political parties, whether people like them or not.
2. The plenary authority of the President to remove people should be recgnized and accepted. No changes in structure are needed.
3, Both diligent legislative oversight, and intensive, informed, journalism are indispensable--and have been lacking.
4. If the Administration has been using its authority for discreditable reasons, the penalty for that must be exercised politically.
5. The President is already paying a political price, and his AG is paying a political price essentially for ignoring and overriding a Senate prerogative.
In the end this will prove beneficial to the country by reinforcing the lesson that pushing the limits of your authority will, at some point, have a severe and unpleasant reaction.

Posted by: Matthew Holden, Jr. | March 26, 2007 11:43 PM | Report abuse

There are probably several motives and explanations, not simply one.
1. Partisanship is present. Large-scale democracy requires political parties, whether people like them or not.
2. The plenary authority of the President to remove people should be recgnized and accepted. No changes in structure are needed.
3, Both diligent legislative oversight, and intensive, informed, journalism are indispensable--and have been lacking.
4. If the Administration has been using its authority for discreditable reasons, the penalty for that must be exercised politically.
5. The President is already paying a political price, and his AG is paying a political price essentially for ignoring and overriding a Senate prerogative.
In the end this will prove beneficial to the country by reinforcing the lesson that pushing the limits of your authority will, at some point, have a severe and unpleasant reaction.

Posted by: Matthew Holden, Jr. | March 26, 2007 11:52 PM | Report abuse

The so called "Scandal" has been pushed, shoved and inflated by the left wing media in support of the Democrats. There is no scandal. Nothing has been shown to be illegal and all the scandal is in the minds and suspicions of those who want nothing more than to destroy the President and our country along with it. I find it disgusting.

Mollypitcher

Posted by: Mollypitcher | March 28, 2007 12:46 AM | Report abuse

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