March 18, 2007 in Nation/World

Scrutiny centers on four firings

Ron Hutcheson McClatchy
 
Associated Press photo

Former U.S. attorneys Carol Lam and David Iglesias prepare to testify March 6 before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
(Full-size photo)

WASHINGTON – Suspicions about political influence in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys last year focus on a handful of cases. Here’s a look at the dismissals that are drawing the most attention:

•Former U.S. Attorney H.E. “Bud” Cummins lost his job in Arkansas to make room for Tim Griffin, a Republican political operative and a protégé of Karl Rove, President Bush’s chief political adviser. E-mails indicate that Rove and then-White House counsel Harriet Miers pushed the Justice Department to give Griffin the Arkansas job.

Cummins resigned without protest, and administration officials haven’t explained why they were so intent on putting Griffin in the job.

•Former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, who was fired in New Mexico, has been outspoken in his belief that politics played a role in his ouster.

Republican officials in his state complained to the White House and to the Justice Department that he wasn’t aggressive enough in pursuing voter-fraud allegations against Democrats. Republicans were also upset that Iglesias resisted pressure to indict Democratic officials on corruption charges before the November election.

Iglesias said he felt “leaned on” when two prominent New Mexico Republicans, Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson, separately called him about the investigation. At the time, Wilson was in danger of losing her congressional seat, and Republicans were struggling to avoid a Democratic takeover in Congress.

A 2005 Justice Department evaluation concluded that Iglesias should keep his job. He didn’t appear on a list of targeted prosecutors that circulated in October 2006.

But his status seemed to have changed quickly. By Nov. 15, about a week after Republicans lost control of Congress, Justice Department officials had decided that Iglesias should go.

•Former U.S. Attorney Carol Lam was fired from her job in Southern California after overseeing the investigation that led to the corruption conviction of then-Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Calif.

In an e-mail dated May 11, 2006, Justice Department official Kyle Sampson urged the White House counsel’s office to call him regarding “the real problem we have right now with Carol Lam.”

Earlier that morning, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Cunningham investigation had expanded to include another California Republican, congressman Jerry Lewis.

Administration officials insist that the investigation had nothing to do with Lam’s dismissal and have criticized her oversight of immigration enforcement.

•Former U.S. Attorney John McKay in Western Washington was fired after Republicans complained about his handling of a hotly contested governor’s race. The Republican candidate lost by only 129 votes, and complaints about voter fraud poured in from angry Republicans.

McKay says he never found enough evidence to prosecute; Republicans wanted him to be more aggressive. When an aide to Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., called with questions about McKay’s investigation, McKay cut off the conversation with a warning against inappropriate political pressure.

The issue continued to dog McKay last summer when he was a candidate for a federal judgeship. McKay said he was asked during an interview with Miers and other officials to explain complaints that he “mishandled” the inquiry into the governor’s election.


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