Wednesday, March 14, 2007

It Isn't Like Biting a Stripper

Following up a bit on E Dub’s earlier post on the U.S. Attorney firings... There is concern that these U.S. attorneys were fired because they refused to bend under the Bush Administration’s political pressure regarding whom to prosecute and how. One of the reasons this is such a big deal is that under normal circumstances U.S. attorneys don’t get fired unless they do something really terrible.

At any given time there are 93 U.S. Attorneys serving in an administration. According to a recent Congressional Research Service report, over the past 25 years, only 54 USAs have left prior to the completion of their four-year terms. Of these 17 left to become Article III judges (not bad), while most of the remainder left to either run for elected office or go into private practice.

According to CRS, here is what happened to the rest:

Two of Reagan’s USAs were fired. One of these disclosed confidential information regarding a pending indictment. Another was dismissed after charging the Justice Department and CIA with blocking an important prosecution – later convicted himself. A third resigned after reportedly accusing his predecessor of drug use, while admitting to using marijuana himself.

Two USAs were apparently pressured to resign under Clinton. Larry Colleton resigned shortly after he was videotaped grabbing Jacksonville television reporter Richard Rose by the throat. Kendall Coffey resigned “amid accusations that he bit a topless dancer on the arm during a visit to an adult club after losing a big drug case.”

So there it is. That is what it takes to get the axe as a U.S. Attorney. Until now.

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21 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You said this was only for USAs fired prior to the end of their 4 year term. As I understand, all the USAs fire were at or past the end of their 4 year terms. See http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/DOJ200703132.pdf

USAs can automatically continue to serve past their 4 year terms.

3/14/2007 9:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sigh.

There was nothing typical about these firings. They were pressured to look for "electoral fraud" that might benefit Democrats, to pursue corruption charges against Democrats, and stop investigating Republicans so much.

When they didn't, they were fired.

As for 9:18's comment that USAs tend to be fired after their 4 year terms- these were Bush's OWN appointees that were fired!

This is entirely unprecedented.

3/14/2007 11:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:59 again--
there's some pretty damning evidence here which is pretty shocking to look at.
Internal emails deciding whom to fire-- coincidentally (of course), the same people to be fired were the same ones investigating corruption against Republicans, etc.

http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/docs/attorney-firelist/?resultpage=1&

If you paw around on the following website you can find all sorts of other gems, confirming the general idea that people were fired for doing their jobs too well. It's pretty damning stuff.

http://www.tpmmuckraker.com/archives/cats/us_attorneys/

3/15/2007 12:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This blog and two of its comments are quoted on page 4 of today's Daily Journal. The article begins on the frontpage and discusses the new UC law school fee increases.

3/15/2007 9:12 AM  
Blogger Armen said...

9:12 or anyone else, if you can get me a pdf scan of the article, I'd really appreciate it. armenaut-at-gmail-dot-com. Thanks.

3/15/2007 10:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:59 PM
9:18 here:
I wasn't making any statement regarding whether USAs are or are not fired regularly after 4 years. I was just pointing out that Jason Richardson's evidence, about only those whose ended before the 4 years, was basically irrelevant. If you can show me some data that shows how long USAs stay after the 4 years for 2 term presidents, then you might have some support for your "unprecedented" statement. Clearly it is not "unprecedented" to fire USAs, as Janet Reno fired almost all of them when Clinton came in http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2007/03/15/bushs-us-attorney-purge-vs-president-clintons-discuss/.


Also, not all of the 8 USAs were fired for political reasons. Kevin v. Ryan (N.D.Cal.) and the W.D.Mich USA seem to have actually been fired for performance reasons. As I understand, of the 8 USAs, only Carol Lam (S.D.Cal) & Iglesias (D.NM) have good evidence of political pressuring. Maybe the D.Nev one too. Of course, the W.Va. one was pure political patronage to get Rove's guy in, but that's hardly unprecedented. There really doesn't seem to be much evidence of the rest.

3/15/2007 12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this "Clinton fired 94 US Attorneys" line. Fox News (and commenters here, apparently) will repeat it with no context. The context is that it is traditional for all US Attorneys to submit resignation letters that are then accepted when a new Prez from a different party comes in. The people who came up with this line are just plain dishonest. Those who repeat it haven't done their homework or are just plain dishonest. There is no comparison between situation of the eight US Attorneys and the situation of the 94 whose resignation letters Clinton accepted.

3/15/2007 2:48 PM  
Blogger Mad.J.D. said...

Strong post. I've occasionally wondered why this blog was lacking the D.C. Insider's perspective that Mr. Richardson brings to the table. Keep up the solid work.

3/15/2007 3:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

2:48 -
Actually, when you have people claiming it is unprecedented to fire USAs for political reasons, it's very probative that it's a "tradition" for almost all the USAs to be fired for political reasons (not being the same party of the president is a political reason).

3/15/2007 6:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

6:40, You say "when you have people claiming it is unprecedented to fire USAs for political reasons" you misquote (presumably) me.
I say "Bush's OWN appointees . . . were fired".

Now THAT is unprecedented. You can't really worm your way out of this one.

3/15/2007 6:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, these GOP hacks on the blog get an HH for effort, a sub-P for content. It is unprecedented for a President to fire his own USAs for political reasons...and then get to appoint their replacements without Senate oversight.

Honestly, bullshit spin is more appropriate for The Corner or Red State, but this blog tries to maintain a modicum of intellectual honesty. Conservatives are welcome...until they start lying through their teeth.

3/15/2007 6:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not 6:54, but here's some fuel for the fire:

Email from Sampson to Rove:
"it would be weird to ask them to leave before completing a 4 year term". (doh!)

http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/docs/sampsonrove-email/

3/15/2007 7:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, I get it that it's odd to fire US Attorneys even if everyone knows that they are partisan political plums for the victor to hand out as gifts. But what's the really bad part of the firings that should get people interested outside the Beltway? Did they fire ones who had correctly refused to intimidate Demoncrats? Did they fire the ones who had correctly prosecuted Republicans? Or is it just that we don't want to start a new precedent of firing US Attorneys mid-term (yawn)?

3/16/2007 7:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

6:46-
I hope you've learned enough in law school to realize that when you say that there is "precedent" for something, it does not mean that there was something with the same exact circumstances. Yes, in this case Bush was firing his own appointees, and in Clinton's case he was firing someone else's appointees.

My response is, so what? How does that make Bush's action bad or sufficiently distinguishable to be "unprecedented"? No one says that Bush committed a crime in firing them, so at most he violated some vague political "precedent" that is entirely normative. What justifiable norm makes it bad to fire people you hired?

6:54-

Please leave the ad hominem attacks and grading of posts to XOXOHTH. Who even lied here? Do you understand what a lie is? I'll give you a hint, it involves a knowingly false statement of fact.

On your substantive point, yes the "get to appoint their replacements without Senate oversight" is unprecedented. That is what happens when you pass a law though, the "precedent" changes. I don't see what outrage is appropriate for Bush & crew to actually do what the law allowed, considering how many valid investigations that could be propounded against them for when they did not follow the law. Yes, the law is probably a bad law, but then that is an issue for the Congress.

7:01-
Again, who was fired before the end of their 4 year term?

3/16/2007 10:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You'd think that with 8000 applicants each year from 270 spots, Boalt would be able to avoid letting in wingnuts. The people on this blog are worthy of being campus correspondents for Fox News!

3/16/2007 12:46 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

Only if Kucinic/Nader/NLG wingnuts are excluded too. I was actually going to address 10:40's points on the merits, but the hell with it. Last thing I want to do is associate myself with scum like you. Really classy. You certainly have earned your spot at Boalt. I can't think of a better person that this law school could possibly have.

3/16/2007 12:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sigh. This message is responding to 10:40.

It's really not worth it to respond, because no matter what you will just sort of change the subject and talk about something else.

The problem is that USAs were getting fired for not investigating Democrats on frivilous grounds, and for investigating Republicans on legitimate grounds. The initial response was that this was some a typical personnel move. All the evidence above has eliminated that possibility. So instead it is for "political". Which, to some extent is normal.

But it is not normal when the purpose is to interfere with the justice system, and that's what this is.

The White House-- as evidenced by communication with Karl Rove-- demanded the USAs continue legal harrassment, and derliction of duty , on political grounds, and when LAWYERS decided that they were pushing far beyond the pale of what should be expected of USAs, they were fired and replaced with slavish lackeys.

To say that this is nothing, is to say that it is nothing when Nixon fired the AG to keep him from stopping Watergate investigations.

These may be plum jobs to be given to political allies, but that downplays the fact that what USAs do is critically important to the functioning of the American legal system. As these are members of the legal profession, they are going to need to use their professional judgment. For a prosecutor to engage in vexatious, groundless harassment, is breach of his ethical duty. You're saying that it is perfectly fine, so long as a Republican is his boss.

The fact of the matter is, there is no use arguing with you. It's plain as day that the White House was manipulating the legal system to interfere with the democratic process. Similar things are done in fascist, totalitarian states. Political enemies get investigated on drummed-up corruption grounds; political allies do not get investigated when their corruption is real.

It's disturbing to me that someone who will be a lawyer, will allow a non-lawyer to make legal decisions for him. I'm concerned about you when you enter the real world. Is there any low to which you will not stoop? Is there any evil which you would not enable, as long as it was a Republican doing the evil?

You needn't bother responding, I think I know the gist of your answer.

PS It's pretty clear that AG AG broke a law by lying to Congress. Of course, you have a rationalization for that as well. How you could ever become an officer of the court is beyond me.

3/17/2007 6:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

10:40 here, responding to 6:19

I'm worried that you assume so much about a person based on a few factual statements. I never said that all the firings were "perfectly fine." I just pointed out the evidence that this thread started out with didn't really add anything to the analysis and that the story is somewhat overblown given:
(1) It does not seem that more than a couple of the attorneys had any political pressure on them regarding elections or party-related politics
(2) There are at least other reasons behind why they were fired. (Lam & Iglesias, also seem to have been fired for under-prosecution of immigration & drug related crimes, see memo about not prosecuting individuals illegally returning after being deported 12+ times, or not prosecuting drug importation less than 500 pounds).
(3) Prosecutors are inherently political in a democracy. They represent the will of the people in enforcing the law. If your democracy has political parties, which most free democracies do, you're going to have party politics in prosecution. It may not always be as explicit as a pre-election phone call from a Senator, but the motivation will always be there, even if simply from a purely cognitive perspective. It's better to acknowledge it and discuss how to regulate / deal with it rather than result to mouth-foaming extreme shock which pretends its totally unusual.
(4) There are other things that the Bush administration is doing that are far worse and it seems like a waste of Congress's time and politicians political capital to waste it on this scandal. Getting AG Gonzalez fired won't clean up the Bush administration, as he would be replaced with someone of the same ideology and willingness to blindly follow the WH's interpretation of the laws.

It really bothers me what kind of political bigots go to Boalt. They choose people in Gov.'t they do or don't like, largely in part to political differences, and then if someone at Boalt seems to say anything about those people in Gov.'t that isn't purely negative, they must be some kind of "evil" "Republican" boogieman.

Seriously, grow up. Issues are more complex than that, you should be able to realize that, accept it, and deal rather than resorting to lambasting the other side for disagreeing with you and name-calling. That's far more scary a behavior for an aspiring member of the bar, as it not only represents the type of politically motivated hack that you hypocritically wail against as a strawman, but also represents a form of gross incompetence likely prevent you from serving your clients. In sum: read, comprehend, think, respond; it work's better than stereotypes, especially from someone who doesn't even understand that evil is not synonymous with republican, nor are either of those synonymous with thinking critically about issues.

3/17/2007 9:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alright, so my response to you probably could be considered a "flame," and that was probably uncalled for. Sorry about that. It might be fair to call it frothing at the mouth.

Let's just say we disagree about the facts over whether this is an overblown personnel matter or not.

I feel that your comment is disingenuous when you at once say that we should just get this out in the open ("It's better to acknowledge it and discuss how to regulate"). I think that that's precisely what making an issue of this does. And not saying that this "overblown".

I also think that you are incorrect when you say that this is how democracies function- the United States is unique in how much of the federal bureaucracy is filled with political appointees of the President, rather than "bureaucrats." I think our system is broken--Democrats should not go and do the same thing Republicans are doing now-- but that's another matter.

Yes, there are plenty worse things the Bush administration is doing. But I find it hard to believe that you call this wasting political capital in good faith. This is earning it. If the scandal snowballs, that means Congress will be encouraged to look under every other rock and see what kind of creepy-crawlers turn up. And the media will play to Congress.

And if AG AG (love that phrase) resigns, that means bush will have to appoint someone new. That person will have to get a majority in the Senate. He will have to be right wing enough to get Republican votes. Emboldened, the Democrats will not accept someone right wing. It will be a big mess for Bush. This is a win-win situation for Democrats.

You can compare this to the Republican Congress' obsession with Terry Schiavo. That was wasting political capital.

And please don't call me a bigot. My party doesn't believe that homosexuality is immoral. It was not a keynote speaker at left-wing political convention that called Edwards an f-bomb.

3/18/2007 1:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

name-calling aside, i think this is a great scandal. by great scandal, i mean that it's the kind of scandal that makes it clear that this president's idea of Executive power goes too far, pushes too many boundaries, and must be curtailed. it's a disappointment this has happened, but in many ways we're all to blame, aren't we? for allowing the politics of fear to dominate, for reelecting bush (i didn't vote for him but the majority of my fellow americans did), for our complicity in the notion that there is One Right Way to do things, or One Right philosophy?

this scandal reminds us that what makes our country so very precious is the diversity of thought. the discretion USAs have in the execution of their jobs is valuable; the bush administration should not have the ability, and certainly not the temerity, to limit that.

3/19/2007 11:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

p.s. for a great way to pass the time and avoid your real work, check out the emails that have been posted at http://judiciary.house.gov/.

3/19/2007 11:46 PM  

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