U.S. attorney timeline/January-March 11, 2007

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U.S. attorney timeline/January-March 11, 2007

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U.S. attorney timeline/April 10-June 11, 2007

U.S. attorney timeline/June 12, 2007-present


Contents

Summary of events from January-March 11, 2007

In January, 2007, news of the firings spread from local sources like the San Diego Union-Tribune to blogs like TalkingPointsMemo, and finally to the national media. On January 4, 2007, White House Counsel Harriet Miers resigned. About a month later, in February, 2007, Michael Battle, who made the calls firing the Attorneys, announced his resignation as well.

Congress began acting on the issue in January, 2007, with Senator Dianne Feinstein introducing legislation to repeal the revisions to the PATRIOT ACT that took away Congressional power regarding U.S. Attorney appointments by reinstating limited interim terms and Senate approval.

Following the firings public officials who allegedly and illegally contacted U.S Attorneys came under pressure. Senator Domenici initially denied contacting Iglesias, but soon recanted his denial, and said that he did in fact contact Iglesias and regrets doing so. Domenici also hired an attorney. Representative Heather Wilson admitted to calling Iglesias, but denied placing any pressure on him.

The Senate also zeroed in on the case of Tim Griffin, the former Rove aid appointed to succeed Bud Cummins. Following Senate pressure, Griffin said he would not seek Senate confirmation and instead allow his temporary appointment to expire.

In February, 2007, evidence that many of the fired Attorneys had actually received positive reviews prior to their firings came to light. Sampson himself had positively reviewed Iglesias in 2004, and recommended retaining Iglesias. McKay’s office had received positive reviews as well, as had four other fired Attorneys’ offices. Daniel Bogden pushed back as well, explaining that no “performance-related” issued had ever been identified regarding his office. Around the time of Bogden’s pushback it was revealed that prior to his firing he had initiated an investigation into Nevada’s newly-elected Republican Governor, Jim Gibbons, for accepting bribes. Similar to Bogden, Carol Lam expanded her investigation immediately prior to her resignation, issuing three subpoenas the day before she resigned.

In early 2007 Congress heard testimony from a number of White House and DOJ officials involved in the firings. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales acknowledged the firings but said that all were performance-related, not political. McNulty testified as well, similarly describing the firings as “performance-related.” In a March, 2007, editorial in USA Today, Gonzales called the entire issue an “overblown personnel matter” and said that the attorneys had “simply lost my confidence.”

In addition to hearing from Administration officials, Congress also heard testimony from the fired prosecutors themselves, after they were subpoenaed. During the hearings, Cummins said that DOJ officials had “warned him on Feb. 20 that the fired prosecutors should remain quiet about their dismissals.” Several of the Attorneys described the threats they received as “obstruction of justice.” McKay detailed pressure he had received to conduct investigations directly related to upcoming elections, and that he was “concerned and dismayed” by such contact. The fired prosecutors also explained that when they were fired, they were never informed of any evidence of poor performance related to their firing. Cummins also testified that DOJ official Michael Elston called him on February 20th to say that if the fired prosecutors continued speaking out, the DOJ would have to release negative information about them. Finally, Charlton and Bogden both testified that they were told by DOJ official Bill Mercer that they were being fired to make room for other Republicans to build their resumes.

Following this testimony, in early March, 2007, McNulty met with the Committees and told them that he had “limited knowledge” of the firing process. On March 11, 2007, the White House acknowledged that Karl Rove had passed complaints about some U.S. Attorneys from the White House to the Department of Justice.

Timeline

January 4, 2007: Harriet Miers resigns

Harriet Miers resigns as White House Counsel, effective January 31, 2007.[1]

January 9, 2007: Legislation to preserve U.S. Attorney independence introduced

On January 9, 2007, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced the Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act of 2007 (S.214) [2]. The Act would repeal the provisions granted to the executive branch in March 2006 allowing the appointment of U.S. Attorneys without term limit. All interim U.S. attorneys are appointed by the Attorney General, without the need for Senate confirmation. The bill would re-instate a 120-day term limit for interim U.S. attorneys, and subsequent appointment authority of the district court to appoint a U.S. Attorney after the 120-day term expired, if no presidential appointee had been confirmed by then.[3]

January 10, 2007: Iglesias asks to use Gonzales as a reference

David Iglesias wrote to Kyle Sampson to ask if he could use the Attorney General as a job reference, to which Sampson responded, "You can list the [Attorney General] as a reference- not a problem. Good luck."[4]

January 11, 2007: Legislation introduced to ensure Senate participation in Attorney selection

"Senators Feinstein, Leahy and Mark Pryor (D-AR) introduced legislation to prevent the Attorney General's office from appointing U.S. Attorneys without seeking confirmation by the Senate. This marked the first public notice of concern with the recent change to the law governing the appointment of U.S. attorneys. The Senators wrote, "It has come to our attention that the Bush Administration is pushing out U.S. Attorneys from across the country under the cloak of secrecy and then appointing indefinite replacements without Senate confirmation."[5]

January 18, 2007: Gonzales testifies, acknowledges firings

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales acknowledged the firings during a January 18, 2007 Senate hearing, but insisted all were for performance reasons, and were in no way inspired by political motives. He stated “What we're trying to do is ensure that for the people in each of these respective districts, we have the very best possible representative for the Department of Justice…I would never, ever make a change in a United States attorney for political reasons or if it would in any way jeopardize an ongoing serious investigation. I just would not do it.” [6] "Alberto Gonzales testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

  • In response to questioning by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Gonzales does not deny that his office has asked U.S. Attorneys to resign in the last year. He testifies: 'But that happens in every administration, during different periods for different reasons... Some people should view that as a sign of good management.'
  • He also testifies: 'I would never, ever make a change in a United States attorney for political reasons or if it would in any way jeopardize an ongoing serious investigation. I just would not do it.'
  • And: 'I am fully committed, as the administration's fully committed, to ensure that, with respect to every United States attorney position in this country, we will have a presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed United States attorney.'"[7]

Early February, 2007: Battle, who made firing calls, resigned

The Justice Department official who made the calls firing all prosecutors, Michael Battle, the Justice Department official who made the calls to actually fire the prosecutors, resigned.[8]

February 6, 2007: McNulty tells Judiciary committee that firings were "performance related"

The Senate Judiciary Committee met with the Justice Department about the firings, and Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty to the Committee that that other than Bud Cummins, the firings were "performance-related."[9]

February 8, 2007: Senate zeros in on Tim Griffin

Note: includes some extensive Griffin bio, but there's even more on his page

On March 28, 2007, Mary Lu Carnevale wrote in the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: "Today’s email release from the Justice Department shows that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid along with Sens. Charles Schumer, Dick Durbin and Patty Murray zeroed in on the Griffin case in a Feb. 8 [2007] letter to embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales ... Among the questions: 'Why was Bud Cummins (bio) told to resign in June of 2006, when the other dismissed officials were told in December of 2006? Was the reason to give the replacement, Tim Griffin, a chance to become ensconced at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arkansas before making the appointment?'," Carnevale wrote.

The answer comes from the preceding: Although Griffin was still on active duty, serving in Iraq, he was already in play for the Arkansas post. This is clearly indicated by both the June 14, 2006, email cited above and the anonymously posted August 30, 2006, speculative blog entry at The Truth In Arkansas Politics.

June and July 2006 emails between Griffin and Goodling clearly show how Griffin's pre-nomination process was fast-tracked—or, as Griffin put it in a July 5, 2006, email (page 10) to Goodling, "movement on my front."

Griffin also wrote (page 10) "i havent said a thing to Bud Cummins." Goodling's response (page 11) was to tell Griffin "WHCO also asked me to remind you to continue to keep this close hold." "WHCO" was the White House Counsel's Office, which at the time was Harriet E. Miers.

Goodling emailed (page 18) Kyle Sampson on August 8, 2006, regarding a U.S. Senate confirmation problem and where to put Griffin before "we install him in Arkansas."

On August 24, 2006, Sean Murphy sent an email to Goodling and others which included the text (page 20) of an Arkansas Times article about Cummins' departure "in the next few 'weeks or months', but almost certainly by the end of the year" and which speculated on Cummins' successor. Griffin's name was discussed by the Times, citing "informed sources".

The article states that Griffin's "political work would likely get more attention - and Democratic opposition - in the Senate confirmation process" and that he would "have to endure some questioning about his role in massive Republican projects in Florida and elsewhere by which Republicans challenged tens of thousands of absentee votes. Coincidentally, many of those challenged votes were concentrated in black precincts."

On August 30, 2006, Goodling emailed (page 40) Scott Jennings et al. to inform them that the plan was to "bring Tim over to DOJ around Sept. 25, when he finishes at the Army ..." The plan (page 42) to appoint Griffin was well-timed, as he would complete active duty on September 25th, work a day at the White House, and then be appointed to the Justice Department on the 27th.

This was confirmed on September 8, 2006, when Sherry Mahoney, Justice Management Division, sent Goodling an email (page 43) stating that Griffin would "Work at WH on tues 26th and start at doj on wed 27th." Goodling responded (page 44) "Yes, one day here is enough."

On September 13, 2006, Goodling received an email (page 47) informing her that Griffin had been cleared by security for permanent status as "Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General DJES" with a salary of $142,900.

Apparently there was a question as to what Griffin's title "DJES" meant, as Goodling sent an email (page 48) September 13, 2006, in which she wrote "I have no idea what it stands for, but he's Counselor to the CRIM AAG technically, but will be detailed to the USAO in Arkansas after EOD'ing."

On September 13, 2006, Kyle Sampson emailed (page 53) Goodling a list he planned to send to Harriet Miers regarding the U.S. attorneys. Under section IV entitled "USA in the Process of Being Pushed Out" was "E.D. Ark. (Bud Cummins)."

Sampson also wrote (page 53) "I strongly recommend that, as a matter of policy, we utilize the new statutory provisions that authorize the AG to make USA appointments. ... By not going the PAS route, we can give far less deference to home-State Senators and thereby get (1) our preferred person appointed and (2) do it far faster and more efficiently, at less cost to the White House."

On September 27, 2006, Mahoney emailed (page 59) Goodling that Griffin was completing his paperwork "and advised us that he will be detailed immediately to a position in Arkansas."

On December 16, 2006, Aaron Sadler of the Arkansas News Bureau wrote that Griffin, a "former Republican political operative and top aide to President Bush was named late Friday [December 15, 2006] as interim U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas", while Congress was on recess. Cummins was to resign the following Wednesday, December 20, 2006.

February 8, 2007: Fired Attorney says there were no previous "performance-related" issues with his office

U.S. Attorney for Nevada Daniel Bogden said that "To this date, no one from the department has previously identified any issues with my performance or the performance of my office."[10]

February 9, 2007: Fired Attorney said his office had received positive reviews

U.S. Attorney for Seattle John McKay said that his office received positive reviews and that the Justice Department's argument citing "performance related" reasons for his dismissal is "unfair."[11]

February 13, 2007: At least five fired Attorneys had received positive reviews

McClatchy Newspapers reported that at least five of the fired prosecutors "received positive job evaluations before they were ordered to step down."[12]

February 14, 2007: Lam brings indictments the day before she resigns

The day before Lam left her position she brought multiple indictments on felony charges against Foggo and Wilkes. The investigation into Jerry Lewis is ongoing. The FBI was investigating potential criminal wrongdoing on the part of Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA) at the time of Lam's departure.[13] Lam would have been in charge of leading the investigation at the Attorney's office had she not been fired.

February 15, 2007: Bogden investigates Rep. Gibbons

On February 15, 2007, the Wall Street Journal reported that Daniel Bogden was investigating the newly elected Governor of Nevada, former-Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-NV), for allegedly accepting unreported gifts and/or payments from a campaign contributor and earmark recipient, Warren Trepp. The investigation examined the relationship between the former congressman and Trepp between the years 1997-2007). The Journal did not report when the investigation was opened. Bogden was since removed from his position as U.S. Attorney.[14][15]

February 16, 2007: Griffin says he won't seek Senate confirmation

Timothy Griffin announced that he would not attempt to garner Senate confirmation: "To submit my name to the Senate would be like volunteering to stand in front of a firing squad in the middle of a three-ring circus."[16]

February 20, 2007: Elston explains Deparment's media strategy

"Michael Elston contacts U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins (AR). Cummins describes the conversation in an email to the other fired U.S. attorneys about an hour after the call: The essence of his message was that they feel like they are taking unnecessary flak to avoid trashing each of us specifically or further, but if they feel like any of us intend to continue to offer quotes to the press, or organize behind the scenes congressional pressure, then they would feel forced to somehow pull their gloves off and offer public criticisms to defend their actions more fully."[17]

March 1 and March 5, 2007: Subpoenas issued to fired prosecutors

On March 1, 2007, the House Judiciary Committee issued subpoenas to four of the fired prosecutors (California’s Southern District’s Carol Lam, New Mexico’s David Iglesias, Arkansas’ Eastern District’s H.E. “Bud” Cummins, and Washington’s Western District’s John McKay). On March 5, additional subpoenas were issued to Daniel Bogden of Nevada and Paul Charlton of Arizona to testify before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law. That week, the original four voluntarily chose to also testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. [18]

March 1, 2007: Domenici denies contacting Iglesias

Senator Domenici, when asked to respond to recent statements made by David Iglesias regarding pressure from unnamed members of Congress, responded "I have no idea what he's talking about."[19]

March 4, 2007: Domenici acknowledges, regrets, calling Iglesias

Senator Domenici released a statement acknowledging that he called Iglesias, and saying that he regrets doing so.[20]

March 5, 2007: Justice employee who made firing calls resigns

On March 5, 2007, Michael Battle, the executive director of the Executive Office for United States attorneys, resigned. Battle had personally made the calls firing several of the attorneys on December 7, 2006. [21]

March 5, 2007: House subpoenas additional fired attorneys

The House Judiciary Committee issued additional subpoenas to two other fired attorneys. [22]

March 5, 2007: Rep. Wilson acknowledges calling Iglesias, denies pressure

Representative Heather Wilson acknowledged that she called Iglesias, but denied pressuring him to speed up his investigations.[23]

March 6, 2007: Hearings held, fired Attorneys testify

Hearings were held in which the fired attorneys testified. During the March 6 testimony, former Arkansas attorney Bud Cummins testified to Congress (both the House and Senate) that he received threats from a senior Justice Department official that “warned him on Feb. 20 that the fired prosecutors should remain quiet about their dismissals.” [24] Cummins described the threats in an email to the other US Attorneys involved [25]. According to several of the fired U.S. Attorneys, this action amounts to “obstruction of justice.” [26]

During the March 6 testimony, fired Washington attorney John McKay said that Rep. Doc Hastings’ (R-Wash) senior staffer, Ed Cassidy, called him to inquire about whether or not any investigations were underway regarding voter fraud in the hotly-contested Washington gubernatorial race in 2004 (won by Democrat Christine Gregoire). [27]

During the call, McKay reminded Cassidy that calling to recommend a federal investigation would be improper. According to McKay, Cassidy "agreed it would be improper" and ended the call. McKay immediately told his staff about the call and agreed with them that "I had stopped Mr. Cassidy from doing anything improper." He continued, however, that he "was concerned and dismayed by the call." [28]

Also during his testimony, McKay said that when he made a bid to be a federal judge in 2006, he was asked by former White House counsel Harriet Miers and deputy counsel William Kelley to explain "criticism that (he) mishandled the 2004 governor's election." [29]

Additional hearing recap

"The New York Times reports that the former federal prosecutor in Maryland, Thomas M. DiBiagio, says that he was forced out in early 2005 because of political pressure stemming from public corruption investigations involving associates of the state's Republican governor.

  • Representative Doc Hastings releases a statement saying, 'Neither I nor any member of my staff - past or present - ever contacted anyone at the White House or the Department of Justice about whether John McKay should be removed as U.S. attorney or whether he was qualified to be a federal judge.'
  • U.S. Attorneys Daniel Bodgen (NV), Paul Charlton (AZ), Bud Cummins (AR), David Iglesias (NM), Carol Lam (CA), John McKay (WA), and Justice Department official William Moschella testify before Congress. All the fired prosecutors testify that they were never told they were being asked to step down because they performed poorly. Moschella admits that none of the prosecutors were told or warned about the supposed deficiencies in their performances before they were asked to step down.
  • Iglesias testifies that Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) called to question him about his office's corruption investigation of a prominent state Democrat shortly before the 2006 election.
  • McKay testifies that Rep. Doc Hastings' (R-WA) chief of staff called him after the 2004 election to ask whether his office was investigating allegations of Democratic voter fraud.
  • Cummins testifes that DoJ official Michael Elston called him on February 20th to say that if the fired prosecutors continued speaking out, the DoJ would have to release negative information about them.
  • Charlton and Bogden both testify that they were told by DoJ official Bill Mercer that they were being fired to make room for another Republican to build his/her resume."[30]

March 7, 2007: Domenici hires attorney

On March 7, 2007, Domenici hired Lee Blalack, formerly an attorney for former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.), as his legal counsel. [31]

March 7, 2007: Gonzales calls matter an "overblown personnel matter"

Alberto Gonzales called the scandal over the firings an "overblown personnel matter" in a USA Today editorial. Gonzales explains of the prosecutors that "they simply lost my confidence."[32]

March 7, 2007: McNulty meets privately with Committees, denies knowledge of firing process

Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty met privately with members of the House and Senate Judiciary committees, and claimed that he had only “limited knowledge” of the firing process.[33]

March 8, 2007: Gonzales does not oppose limiting interim prosecutors' tenure, Senate confirmation

In the midst of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, speaking for the administration, agreed on March 8, 2007 to not oppose legislation limiting the term of interim prosecutors.[34] Gonzales also explained that the Bush administration would not oppose requiring all U.S. Attorneys to be confirmed by the Senate.

March 11, 2007: White House acknowledges Rove role in passing complaints to DOJ

The White House acknowledged that Karl Rove had passed complaints about some U.S. Attorneys from the White House to the Department of Justice.[35]

Articles and resources

See also

References

  1. Will Thomas, "U.S. Attorney Purge Timeline," Talking Points Memo, May 14, 2007.
  2. Thomas page on S.214
  3. Carl Hulse, "Congress: On Prosecutors and the War," The Caucus, March 19, 2007.
  4. Will Thomas, "U.S. Attorney Purge Timeline," Talking Points Memo, May 14, 2007.
  5. Will Thomas, "U.S. Attorney Purge Timeline," Talking Points Memo, May 14, 2007.
  6. Dan Eggen, "Prosecutor Firings Not Political, Gonzales Says," Washington Post, January 18, 2007.
  7. Will Thomas, "U.S. Attorney Purge Timeline," Talking Points Memo, May 14, 2007.
  8. Will Thomas, "U.S. Attorney Purge Timeline," Talking Points Memo, May 14, 2007.
  9. Will Thomas, "U.S. Attorney Purge Timeline," Talking Points Memo, May 14, 2007.
  10. Will Thomas, "U.S. Attorney Purge Timeline," Talking Points Memo, May 14, 2007.
  11. Will Thomas, "U.S. Attorney Purge Timeline," Talking Points Memo, May 14, 2007.
  12. Will Thomas, "U.S. Attorney Purge Timeline," Talking Points Memo, May 14, 2007.
  13. Kiel, Paul. "FBI Investigating CA GOPer," TPm Muckraker, January 30, 2007.
  14. Rood, Justin. "WSJ: Gibbons Does the Donor-Favor Two-Step," TPM Muckraker, November 1, 2006.
  15. Kiel, Paul. "WSJ: Nev Gov under Investigation," TPm Muckraker, February 15, 2007.
  16. Will Thomas, "U.S. Attorney Purge Timeline," Talking Points Memo, May 14, 2007.
  17. Will Thomas, "U.S. Attorney Purge Timeline," Talking Points Memo, May 14, 2007.
  18. Paul Kiel, "BREAKING: House Committee to Subpoena Ousted Prosecutors," TPM Muckraker, March 1, 2007.
  19. Will Thomas, "U.S. Attorney Purge Timeline," Talking Points Memo, May 14, 2007.
  20. Will Thomas, "U.S. Attorney Purge Timeline," Talking Points Memo, May 14, 2007.
  21. Josh Marshall, "No title," Talking Points Memo, March 5, 2007.
  22. Josh Marshall, "No title," Talking Points Memo, March 5, 2007.
  23. Will Thomas, "U.S. Attorney Purge Timeline," Talking Points Memo, May 14, 2007.
  24. Email From Cummins to Attorneys
  25. Email From Cummins to Attorneys
  26. Susan Crabtree, "Senior aide implicated," The Hill, March 7, 2007.
  27. Laurie Kellman, "Fired Attorneys Allude to Justice Threat," The Guardian, March 7, 2007.
  28. "McKay: Hastings' office called about probing Gregoire's election," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 6, 2007.
  29. Paul Kiel, "Washington Republicans Chased Ousted Prosecutor," TPM Muckraker, March 7, 2007.
  30. Will Thomas, "U.S. Attorney Purge Timeline," Talking Points Memo, May 14, 2007.
  31. Paul Kiel, "Domenici Lawyers Up," TPM Muckraker, March 7, 2007.
  32. Will Thomas, "U.S. Attorney Purge Timeline," Talking Points Memo, May 14, 2007.
  33. Will Thomas, "U.S. Attorney Purge Timeline," Talking Points Memo, May 14, 2007.
  34. "Gonzales Yields On Hiring Interim U.S. Attorneys," Washington Post, March 9, 2007.
  35. Will Thomas, "U.S. Attorney Purge Timeline," Talking Points Memo, May 14, 2007.

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