"The action I am taking is no more than a radical measure to hasten the explosion of truth and justice. I have but one passion: to enlighten those who have been kept in the dark, in the name of humanity which has suffered so much and is entitled to happiness. My fiery protest is simply the cry of my very soul. Let them dare, then, to bring me before a court of law and let the enquiry take place in broad daylight!" - Emile Zola, J'accuse! (1898) -

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Special Prosecutor Named in Attorney Firings Case |

Nora Dannehy

DOJ Statement Here:

Full PDF Report Here:

Special Prosecutor Named in Attorney Firings Case (Multi Links)


Published: September 29, 2008

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey appointed a special prosecutor on Monday to investigate whether criminal charges should be brought against former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and other officials in connection with the firings of nine of United States attorneys in 2006.

WASHINGTON — An internal Justice Department investigation concluded Monday that political pressure drove the firings of several federal prosecutors in a 2006 purge, but said that the refusal of major players at the White House and the department to cooperate in the year-long inquiry produced significant “gaps” in its understanding of the events.

At the urging of the investigators, who said they did not have enough evidence to justify recommending criminal charges in the case, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey appointed the Acting United States Attorney in Connecticut, Nora Dannehy, to continue the inquiry and determine whether anyone should be prosecuted.

The 356-page report, prepared by the department’s inspector general and its Office of Professional Responsibility, provides the fullest picture to date of an episode that opened the Bush administration up to charges of politicizing the justice system. The firings of nine federal prosecutors, and the Congressional hearings they generated, ultimately led to the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales last September.

The investigation, which uncovered White House e-mail messages not previously made public, offered a blistering critique of Mr. Gonzales’s management of the department. It called Mr. Gonzales “remarkably unengaged” in overseeing an unprecedented personnel review, and said that he “abdicated” his administrative responsibilities, leaving those duties to his chief of staff. It said that the process for deciding which prosecutors were fired was “fundamentally flawed.”

More troubling, the investigation concluded that, despite the denials of the administration at the time of the controversy, political considerations played a part in the firings of at least four of the nine prosecutors.

The most serious case, the report said, was the firing of David Iglesias, the former United States Attorney for New Mexico, who had tangled with two of his state’s leading Republican lawmakers, Senator Pete Domenici and Representative Heather A. Wilson, over what they saw as his slow response to voter fraud and political corruption accusations against Democrats in New Mexico.

“We concluded,” the inquiry said, “that complaints from New Mexico Republican politicians and party activists to the White House and the Department about Iglesias’s handling of voter fraud and public corruption cases led to his removal.”

But in looking into the Iglesias firing and others, investigators were hampered by the refusal of the White House to turn over internal documents and to make some major figures available for interviews. Investigators interviewed some 90 people, but three administration officials who played a part in crucial phases of the firing plan — Karl Rove, the former political advisor to President Bush; Harriet E. Miers, the former White House counsel; and Monica M. Goodling, former Justice Department liaison to the White House — all refused to be interviewed.

It was Ms. Miers who first proposed, after Mr. Bush’s re-election in 2004, that the administration consider firing all 93 federal prosecutors, and she helped oversee the process at the White House. The investigation found that Mr. Rove’s desire to see one of his deputies, Tim Griffin, installed as a United States Attorney led directly to the firing of Bud Cummins, the chief federal prosecutor in Arkansas.

The inquiry also focused on the efforts by Justice officials to tamp down the controversy in early 2007 through what the report concluded was a series of misleading and inaccurate statements to Congress and the press. Chief among them was the repeated claim that the prosecutors were fired for “performance” reasons after a careful review of formal evaluations. In fact, the report said, politics was the driving factor, and only two of the nine prosecutors had negative evaluations.

Mr. Mukasey, in announcing the appointment of an in-house prosecutor to continue the investigation, acknowledged that the process for firing the prosecutors was “haphazard, arbitrary and unprofessional, and that the way in which the Justice Department handled those removals and the resulting public controversy was profoundly lacking.”

The fired prosecutors, he said, “did not deserve the treatment they received.”

The new prosecutor, Ms. Dannehy, has been the acting United States Attorney in Connecticut since April. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she has been a prosecutor for 17 years and specializes in white-collar and public corruption cases. She led the prosecution of Connecticut’s former governor John Rowland, who pleaded guilty in 2004 to accepting $107,000 in gifts.

Mr. Mukasey, who succeeded Mr. Gonzales and has sought to restore a measure of credibility to the department, said the report was “an important step toward acknowledging what happened and holding the responsible officials to proper account.”

While the inquiry will continue, Mr. Gonzales described the report as the closing chapter in the episode. “My family and I are glad to have the investigation of my conduct in this matter behind us and we look forward to moving on to new challenges,” he said in a statement.

His lawyer, George J. Terwilliger III, took issue with the decision by the department to “escalate the matter” by continuing the investigation. “The report makes clear that Judge Gonzales engaged in no wrongful or improper conduct while recognizing, as he has acknowledged many times, that the process for evaluating U.S. attorney performance in this instance was flawed,” Mr. Terwilliger said.

Eric Lichtblau reported from Washington, and Sharon Otterman from New York.



The move came as the Justice Department released a report by its inspector general severely criticizing the process that led to the firings.

The inspector general has been trying since last year to determine who in the Bush administration ordered the firings, whether the dismissals were intended to thwart investigations, and whether anyone had broken the law in carrying out the firings or in testifying about them. Critics have said the firings were politically motivated.

The 392-page report released on Monday was blistering in its assessment.

“The report makes plain that, at a minimum, the process by which nine U.S. attorneys were removed in 2006 was haphazard, arbitrary and unprofessional, and the way in which the Justice Department handled those removals and the resulting public controversy was profoundly lacking,” Mr. Mukasey said in a statement. The report called for further investigation to determine whether prosecutable offenses were committed either in the firings or in subsequent testimony about them.

Nora Dannehy, acting United States Attorney in Connecticut, will lead the investigation, Mr. Mukasey said. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she has served as a prosecutor for 17 years and specializes in white-collar and public corruption cases. She led the prosecution of the former governor of Connecticut, John Rowland, who pleaded guilty in 2004 to accepting $107,000 in gifts.Mr. Gonzales, who resigned last year after coming under criticism because of the firings, has been the main focus of interest, in part because several members of Congress charged that he may have perjured himself in his testimony through his memory lapses and misstatements about the firings.

The report found that primary blame for the “serious failures” in the firing process lay with Attorney General Gonzalez and his deputy, Paul McNulty, “who abdicated their responsibility to adequately oversee the process and ensure that the reasons for removal of each U.S. Attorney were supportable and not improper.”

It also singled out for blame Mr. Gonzales’s chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, who supervised the firings. The report said he did not review formal evaluations of the attorneys’ performance, nor did he consult department officials who were most knowledgeable about their performance.

Mr. Sampson, the report states, “also bears significant responsibility for the flawed and arbitrary removal process.”

The firings were “unsystematic and arbitrary, with little oversight by the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, or any other senior Department official,” the report continues. Improperly, the nine U.S. attorneys were not given an opportunity to address concerns about their performance, nor were they given the reasons for their removal.

In addition, Mr. Gonzales, Mr. McNulty, Mr. Sampson, and other officials failed “to provide accurate and truthful statements about the removals and their role in the process,” the report states.

The report’s lead authors — Glenn A. Fine, the department’s inspector general, and H. Marshall Jarrett, the counsel for the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility — wrote that their investigation remains incomplete because of the refusal of certain key witnesses to be interviewed, including Karl Rove, the president’s former chief political adviser; Harriet E. Miers, the former White House counsel; Monica Goodling, the department’s former White House liaison; Senator Pete Domenici, Republican of New Mexico; and Mr. Domenici’s chief of staff, Steven Bell.

In addition, they wrote, “the White House would not provide us with internal documents related to the removals of the U.S. attorneys.”

The dismissal that has drawn the most scrutiny is that of David C. Iglesias, who was fired as the United States attorney for New Mexico after he clashed with Republican officials over what they saw as his slow pursuit of Democrats in a corruption investigation. Several of the other fired prosecutors were also working on sensitive public corruption cases; critics have alleged that they were dismissed because they were unwilling to faithfully carry out the White House’s political agenda.

The report states that the most serious investigation that the inspector general was not able to fully investigate relates to the removal of Mr. Iglesias. It singles out his firing as a key reason why a counsel should be appointed to “conduct further investigation, and ultimately determine whether the evidence demonstrates that any criminal offense was committed.”

The investigation reviewed several thousand electronic and hard copy documents, including documents the Justice department produced in response to Congressional investigations of the U.S. attorney removals. Investigators obtained access to and searched the e-mail accounts of numerous current and former employees in the Attorney General’s Office, the Deputy Attorney General’s Office, and other Justice departments, the report states.

While White House officials did not explicitly assert executive privilege as the reason they refused to hand over to investigators internal e-mail messages and other documents related to the firings, the White House Counsel’s Office stated they were protected from disclosure because such material would “implicate White House confidentiality interests of a very high order,” the report states.

Eric Lichtblau reported from Washington, and Sharon Otterman from New York.

House Judiciary Committee Response To The Report.