Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will face new legal
jeopardy when the Justice Department�s inspector general issues his next report
on how the Bush administration let politics influence prosecutorial judgments,
says ex-U.S. Attorney David Iglesias.
That installment is expected to address the firings of nine
U.S. attorneys in 2006 and could set the stage for criminal charges against
Gonzales and his former deputy, Paul McNulty, according to Iglesias, the former
U.S. Attorney for New Mexico who was one of those fired in the purge.
In an interview, Iglesias said he believes Inspector General
Glenn Fine will recommend that Attorney General Michael Mukasey appoint a
special prosecutor to investigate Gonzales, McNulty and others for perjury,
obstruction of justice and possibly other crimes related to the firings.
However, given Mukasey�s unwillingness to pursue past crimes
that implicate the Bush administration, Iglesias said accountability for
Gonzales and others may have to wait until a new president takes office.
For nearly a year, Fine�s IG office has been investigating
whether the prosecutor firings were improper, what role Gonzales played in the
firings, and if he tried to influence the congressional testimony of one of his
Fine testified before Congress last Wednesday that his
investigation into the hiring practices at the Justice Department discovered
that senior officials used illegal political litmus tests in the hiring of
professional prosecutors and judges, but Fine�s report did not implicate
Iglesias said, however, that doesn�t mean Gonzales is home
free on his alleged role in a separate issue, the firing of the nine federal
prosecutors when some resisted pressure to bring politically timed prosecutions
that would undermine Democrats and help Republican in elections.
�Here�s how I think that will go down,� Iglesias said in an
interview with The Public Record. �The IG will find enough evidence to refer
the matter to a special prosecutor. There will be more than enough evidence to
make that recommendation. Mukasey will then decide whether or not to accept
that recommendation. He will have to do so in consultation with the White
House. That�s where the roadblock will be. �
Iglesias added that he also suspects that an upcoming IG
report about the Justice Department�s Civil Rights division will be highly
�I believe that when the rest of the report drops it will show
the Civil Rights section was compromised in terms of their core historic
mission, which is representing minorities,� Iglesias said. �I am hearing
preliminarily those class of cases were not prosecuted, which if true is a
remarkable turn of events.�
Law Review article
John McKay, the former U.S. Attorney for the Western
District of Washington who was another one of the fired prosecutors, argued in
a law review article earlier this year that if Fine determines federal laws
were broken a special prosecutor should be appointed.
McKay wrote that Gonzales may have obstructed justice and
that McNulty may have lied to Congress. McKay said the situation around
Iglesias�s firing could lead to �criminal charges� against Gonzales and McNulty
�for impeding justice� because of alleged political pressure placed on Iglesias
to bring criminal charges.
In congressional testimony, Iglesias said he received
telephone calls from New Mexico�s Republican Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep.
Heather Wilson before the 2006 elections inquiring about the timing of a
possible corruption indictment against a Democratic official in the state.
Iglesias told Domenici and Wilson that he could not discuss
the issue of indictments with them. A couple of weeks later, Iglesias�s name
was added to a list of U.S. attorneys selected for termination.
McKay wrote that when Gonzales testified before Congress
about Iglesias he said �he took multiple phone calls from Domenici concerning
[Iglesias], urging that he be replaced, and has admitted that [President George
W. Bush] spoke with him about the �problems� with Iglesias.�
�Gonzales has even admitted that one of the reasons that
Iglesias was fired was because Sen. Domenici had �lost confidence� in Iglesias,�
McKay wrote. �While these allegations are troubling under any analysis, a
thorough and independent investigation is necessary to determine whether
criminal laws have been violated. . . .
�Under the broad language of [the federal statute regarding
obstruction of justice], it would be hard to imagine that �corruptly influence�
would not extend to firing of the United States attorney in the middle of a
public corruption case because he �lost confidence� of a senator who sought to
manipulate the indictments for crass political advantage.�
McKay added that �McNulty also may have sought to conceal an
important phone call from Sen. Domenici regarding U.S. Attorney Iglesias,
instructing [then Justice Department liaison to the White House] Monica
Goodling to delete reference to that call from his Senate testimony.�
McKay said the firing of Carol Lam, the U.S Attorney for the
Southern District of California, is just as troubling because it took place
while Lam was �supervising the highest profile public corruption prosecution in
America,� that of Randy �Duke� Cunningham, Republican congressman from San
Cunningham pleaded guilty in March 2006 to mail and wire
fraud and conspiracy to commit bribery and is serving an eight-year federal
prison term. At the time of Cunningham�s sentencing, Lam said the investigation
was continuing �with respect to other co-conspirators.�
Those co-conspirators included Kyle �Dusty� Foggo, executive
director of the CIA who resigned in early May 2006 a few days before search
warrants were executed on his residence.
McKay suggested that Lam�s dogged pursuit of Cunningham�s
co-conspirators in the spring of 2006, a year in which Republicans faced tough
reelection campaigns, may have led to her firing.
�Lam alerted the Justice Department that FBI agents would,
at her direction, search Foggo�s home in connection with the Duke Cunningham
case, and the following day [former Gonzales Chief of Staff] Kyle Sampson
e-mailed the White House from the Attorney General�s office that �we have a
real problem with Carol Lam� and urged that she be dismissed at the conclusion
of her term,� McKay wrote.
�Given the wide publicity of the Cunningham political
corruption case . . it is reasonable to conclude that Gonzales, McNulty,
Sampson and other senior Justice Department officials were aware of the
underlying judicial proceeding being handled by Carol Lam.�
Despite the evidence, Iglesias said he believes it�s highly
unlikely the White House will let Mukasey appoint a special prosecutor to
investigate Gonzales, one of Bush�s closest allies. In his half year in office --
after replacing Gonzales -- Mukasey has proven himself to be a Bush loyalist.
Mukasey�s �got five months left,� Iglesias said. �There is
no way he is going to right this ship that�s sinking in five months.�
The only way Gonzales and McNulty will be held accountable
is if a new president decides to pursue the matter, Iglesias said, a move that
Democrat Barack Obama has indicated he might do.
In testimony before Congress last year, Sampson and Goodling
said McNulty and Gonzales did not testify forthrightly before Congress about
their prior knowledge of the U.S. attorney firings and the reasons behind the
McNulty testified in February 2006 that the firings were
�performance related� and the decision to terminate the federal prosecutors was
made solely by the Justice Department.
McNulty also said Goodling and Sampson withheld key
information from him before he spoke to investigators and testified before
But Goodling disputed McNulty�s assertions, saying he was
well aware the White House was involved in the decision to fire the U.S. attorneys.
�I believe the deputy was not fully candid,� Goodling said
in testimony before Congress in May 2007. �The allegation is false, . . . I
didn�t withhold information from the deputy.�
Goodling also told lawmakers she believed Gonzales tried to
coach her before she testified by reviewing his recollection of the events that
transpired around the time of the attorney firings.
Gonzales �proceeded to say, �Let me tell you what I can
remember,� and he laid out for me his general recollection . . . of some of the
process� of the firings, Goodling said.
When Gonzales finished, �he asked me if I had any reaction
to his iteration,� she added.
Goodling said the conversation made her feel uncomfortable
because she knew she and Gonzales would be compelled to testify about the
In April 2007, Gonzales had testified that he could not
recall certain details related to the firings and that he was steering clear of
witnesses such as Goodling, so as not to influence their testimony.
�I haven�t talked to witnesses because of the fact that I
haven�t wanted to interfere with this investigation and department
investigations,� Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Sampson also disputed a Gonzales statement at a March 13,
2007, news conference in which the attorney general attempted to explain the
firings by saying his chief of staff [Sampson] failed to brief him or his
�I was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in
any discussions about what was going on,� Gonzales said.
However, Sampson testified that Gonzales�s statement was
Documents released by the Justice Department last year
showed that Gonzales and McNulty participated in an hour-long meeting with
Sampson and three other officials on Nov. 27, 2006 -- about two weeks before
the U.S. attorneys were fired -- to review the plan to fire them.
Iglesias said he did not have confidence at first that the
joint investigation by the Justice Department IG and Office of Professional
Responsibility was going to be conducted thoroughly.
�I had to get talked into doing it,� said Iglesias, who
published a book on the firings, In-Justice:
Inside the Scandal That Rocked The Bush Administration. �I felt nothing was
going to happen. But I was told that the people who work in those offices are
professional career people. They are not politicos.�
Iglesias said the next administration should form an
internal Justice Department task force to make sure that the recommendations in
Fine�s reports -- rejecting politicization in hiring practices and legal
decisions -- are acted upon.
�They can�t ignore this,� Iglesias said. �This is not going
away with a new president. The fact that the Justice Department is the agency
that enforces individual rights and they were violating those rights is just a
really awful situation. What do you do when the watchdog isn�t watching but is
in fact violating the rights?�
Leopold is the author of �News Junkie,� a memoir. Visit
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