Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez claims that mistakes were made, he knew nothing about the actions of his chief of staff, and that he will “assess accountability” at Justice. So far this looks like really poorly orchestrated damage control. That’s the new news. Earlier today the Justice Department released the old news, a document dump of e-mails between Gonzalez’s now ex-chief of staff Kyle Sampson and White House officials including then-White House Counsel Harriet Miers. We know from the Washington Post story, and from McClatchy’s reporting over the weekend, that Sen. Pete Domenici and other New Mexico Republicans were instrumental in getting U.S. Attorney David Iglesias canned. The question is whether this was determined after Iglesias says that Domenici pressured him over indictments.
The documents provide some hints. Throughout the e-mails there is a running list of Attorneys to be terminated. The first such list begins with an evaluation of Attorneys indicated in the following ways:
“bold = Recommend retaining; strong U.S. Attorneys who have produced, managed well, and exhibited loyalty to the President and Attorney General.
strikeout = Recommend removing; weak U.S. Attorneys who have been ineffectual managers and prosecutors, chafed against Administration initiatives, etc.
nothing = No recommendation; have not distinguished themselves either positively or negatively.”
Of the eight Attorneys who were eventually fired Bud Cummins of Arkansas, Carol Lam of California, and Margaret Chiara of Michigan were “strikeouts”; Paul Charlton and Daniel Bogden received no recommendation; and David Iglesias was listed in bold, a recommendation to retain. This was in March of 2006.
In September of 2006 another list is released (with some redacted names) listing Bud Cummins as in process of being pushed out and Paul Charlton, Carol Lam, Margaret Chiara, Daniel Bogden, and John McKay as Attorneys to consider pushing out. There is still no mention of David Iglesias.
On October 17th, the same list is sent out in an e-mail. It continues to lack Iglesias as an Attorney to be terminated. Then we have an empty space. The next document comes from November 1st and the next relevant document is from November 15th. This is the first time that Iglesias pops up on the list of Attorneys to be terminated. According to Iglesias, Domenici placed a call to Iglesias’ home on or about October 25th or 26th. This call was perceived by Iglesias to have been intended to place pressure on him to bring down indictments in a local corruption case against Democrats to aid the election of Rep. Heather Wilson, the heir apparent to the aging Domenici’s Senate seat. A month later, the Attorney, who in March received a glowing review, found himself set to be terminated. This appears to show that Domenici called for Iglesias' dismissal after the potentially pressuring phone call. Had Iglesias acted differently in the corruption case would he still be employed as the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico? Sen. Domenici should answer that question himself.