Six of Eight Fired U.S. Attorneys Were Top Performers
The A.P. is reporting that six of the U.S. Attorneys whose firings have resulted in investigations into the Justice Department were, in fact, top performers, calling into question the idea that they were fired for “performance reasons.”
Six of the eight U.S. attorneys fired by the Justice Department ranked in the top third among their peers for the number of prosecutions filed last year, according to an analysis of federal records.
In addition, five of the eight were among the government’s top performers in winning convictions.
The analysis undercuts Justice Department claims that the prosecutors were dismissed because of lackluster job performance.
Several of the attorneys who were told last Dec. 7 to resign complained their reputations were sullied when the Justice Department linked the firings to underwhelming results in each of the eight districts — in Arizona, Little Rock, Ark., Grand Rapids, Mich., Nevada, New Mexico, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle.
“I respectfully request that you reconsider the rationale of poor performance as the basis for my dismissal,” Margaret Chiara, the former prosecutor in Grand Rapids, Mich., complained in an e-mail. The description, in part, she said, “is proving to be a formidable obstacle to securing employment.”
This incident is just getting worse and worse for Attorney General Gonzales. While it appears that two of the firings may have actually been related to performance reasons, Kevin Drum notes that even these firings might have been made simply to provide some political cover for the rest.
Clearly, U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President. But that service should be as independent as possible, given the nature of the job. Firing U.S. Attorneys for insufficiently pursuing the objectives of the President’s political body is pretty outrageous, but is arguably legally permissible. To smear the reputations of those attorneys by claiming that they were incompetent is vile–and possibly slanderous. To willfully mislead the factual record, either through outright deception or withholding of evidence about the same while under oath is not only reprehensible, it’s perjury, and should be treated accordingly.
That said, while firing U.S. Attorneys for political reasons is pretty awful, and it’s clear that, at the very least, mistakes were made in DOJ testimony before Congress, I do think there’s a very good chance that there wasn’t any real malicious intent in the nature of the DOJ’s testimony. Claiming that the Attorneys were fired for “performance reasons” when those reasons could be so easily checked up on sounds a lot more like run-of-the mill political spin than any real intent to create a cover-up.
However, if the investigation into this matter demonstrates that DOJ officials willfully misled Congress in order to cover up the political nature of these firings, anyone who takes the rule of law seriously should demand, at the very least, the resignation of all DOJ officials who were involved in the deception of Congress–up to and including the Attorney General.
(link via Andrew Sullivan)