Almost since the scandal broke early last year, there have been clear signs that the plan to fire U.S. attorneys as a means of advancing the Bush administration's political goals was being driven by the White House. That impression has been strengthened as top current and former White House officials, including Karl Rove and Harriet Miers, have consistently stonewalled efforts to look into the matter.
The White House's active involvement in the firings, as depicted in the [OIG] report, can be divided into two broad categories: First, its role in initiating and promoting the overall plan to remove an unspecified number of U.S. attorneys -- traditionally treated as apolitical prosecutors who operate independently from the political agenda of the administration -- deemed insufficiently committed to the Bush agenda. And second, its apparent work in pushing specifically for several of the most high-profile dismissals.
Kyle Sampson, Gonzales' then chief of staff at DOJ, and the point man on the firing plan, told OIG investigators that, some time after the 2004 election, White House counsel Harriet Miers asked him whether the administration should try to get all 93 U.S. attorneys to resign, as part of a plan to replace all political appointees for the new term. Sampson said he argued against this idea.
Still, the White House seems to have kept pressing. In January 2005, Sampson received an email from a Miers deputy, which said: "Karl Rove stopped by "to ask ... 'how we planned to proceed regarding US Attorneys, whether we are going to allow all to stay, request resignations from all and accept only some of them, or selectively replace them, etc.' " [Quotation marks rendered as in the report]. A few days later, Sampson replied: "If Karl [Rove] thinks there would be political will to do it, then so do I."
The following month, Sampson told OIG, Miers followed up, asking him for a list of possible U.S. attorneys to get rid of. Sampson dutifully responded with his first list, which contained the names of four USAs who ultimately were axed, as well as ten who weren't.
The dismissal in which the White House played the greatest role was that of Bud Cummins, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Cummins, the report makes clear, was removed not because of shortcomings in his own record, either political or performance-based, but because the White House wanted to move a GOP political operative, Timothy Griffin, in to the job.
The White House's role in the firing of David Iglesias as U.S. attorney for the District of New Mexico appears to have been less direct than that of Cummins - but the report makes clear that it was involved nonetheless.
At a November 15 White House meeting, Wilson put in another complaint to Rove about Iglesias. This time, he told her: "That decision has already been made. He's gone." But as the report notes, the first list from Sampson to include Iglesias' name would not be sent to Miers until a few hours later. In other words, Rove's knowledge that Iglesias was to be fired suggests this wasn't a decision made solely by DOJ.
Read the whole thing. It paints a concise and terrifying picture of a White House determined to create an army of U.S. Attorneys slavishly loyal to them.
Law enforcement is too powerful and too essential to a civilized society to politicize. Police, attorneys and judges need to be loyal to the law, not partisian ideology. Democracy can't survive when the long arm of the law is wielded by a political party.
We need to push for the truth in this, and we need to ensure that the partisan hacks who were installed during Bush's rule are bunged out on their ears.