Domenici In Trouble; What About Wilson?
The Washington Post reports that the Senate ethics committee is investigating Sen. Pete Domenici's (R-NM) role in the alleged pressuring and subsequent firing of Attorney David Iglesias. Domenici announced that he has hired K. Lee Blalack, the former defense attorney for Randy "Duke" Cunningham, to represent him. The revelations in the committee hearings on Tuesday clearly have pushed this story further as it appears that, despite constantly changing excuses, two Members of Congress put unprecedented pressure on a U.S. Attorney to bring down indictments to help the re-election campaign of Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM).
U.S. News & World Report stated yesterday that Domenici "probably doesn't need to worry about disciplinary action." Their chief opinion columnist Michael Barone has quite a different take:
When a U.S. senator (to wit, Pete Domenici, a New Mexico Republican) feels free to call a prosecutor at home and hang up on him for resisting political pressure in the course of executing his prosecutorial duties, the line between politics and law enforcement has been so thoroughly violated that it no longer exists.
Domenici would not have made that call had either a Democrat or a law-abiding Republican been in the White House. He would not have had the temerity to throw his weight around to such an outrageous extent.
What's going on in Washington is not sufficiently removed from the routine doings of a tawdry Third World dictatorship to give any American comfort.
The Senate ethics committee will likely explore the timing of the calls placed by Sen. Domenici and whether he contacted the Justice Department and what he said to them about Iglesias' performance. The real question is whether the House ethics committee will step up to the plate and investigate Rep. Wilson, who has already stated that she has essentially done exactly what Mr. Iglesias has alleged. (She just believes that her call was not intended to put pressure on Iglesias.) Right now it looks like the House will continue to be an embarrassment of ethics as it is unable and unwilling to police its own. From the DeLay inspired purge of the ethics committee in 2005 all the way through the incomprehensible Mark Foley report from late last year (everyone screwed up but they shouldn't be punished) the ethics committee in the House has been a joke. Some congressman or woman needs to step up and refer this issue to the ethics committee before this becomes a serious problem.