"I don't think the attorney general's statement that he was not involved in any discussions of U.S. attorney removals was accurate. I remember discussing with him this process of asking certain U.S. attorneys to resign."
Sampson will not be the fall guy. He stated in no uncertain terms that Gone-zales fibbed when he claimed ignorance of the firings of US attorneys. If Gone-zales is being truthful, then he is irrelevant to the Justice Department. If Sampson is being truthful, then Gone-zales is lying. Either way, Gone-zales is, well, gone.
In a further moment of unprecedented candor, Sampson gave some insight into the Executive Branch's view of the independence of the activities of US attorneys:
“Thus, the distinction between 'political' and 'performance-related' reasons for removing a United States attorney is, in my view, largely artificial. A U.S. attorney who is unsuccessful from a political perspective, either because he or she has alienated the leadership of the department in Washington or cannot work constructively with law enforcement or other governmental constituencies in the district important to effective leadership of the office, is unsuccessful."
Maybe I'm naïve, but my sensibilities dictate that federal prosecutors remain above the petty political peccadilloes and they should be more concerned with enforcement of laws than appealing to some George Costanza look-a-like in Washington.
Sharon Eubanks (at right), a 22-year veteran attorney of the Justice Department, claims that the Bush White House interfered with her prosecution of a tobacco case. She said, "The political people were pushing the buttons and ordering us to say what we said," Eubanks said. "And because of that, we failed to zealously represent the interests of the American public."
She charges the political operatives with writing her closing arguments for the prosecution and demanding that she ask for a lesser settlement after she had won a landmark case against tobacco profiteers.
A 35-year veteran attorney in the civil rights division of the Justice Department, Joseph Rich has written an op-ed stating that the Bush administration has attempted to influence elections by subverting the independence of the Justice Department.
He says, “Before leaving in 2005, I worked for attorneys general with dramatically different political philosophies — from John Mitchell to Ed Meese to Janet Reno. Regardless of the administration, the political appointees had respect for the experience and judgment of longtime civil servants.
Under the Bush administration, however, all that changed. Over the last six years, this Justice Department has ignored the advice of its staff and skewed aspects of law enforcement in ways that clearly were intended to influence the outcome of elections.”
Rich goes on to enumerate specific examples of Bush politicos targeting prosecutors who did not adequately play ball with the administration's partisan agenda. Bush's cronies used the Department of Justice as a barracks for their patronage army, rewarding poorly qualified lackeys with plum jobs and strong-arming or firing reputable veterans.
While one could discount these items as isolated cases of disgruntled government employees simply piling on to a White House in turmoil, the more likely scenario is that of a pattern of unchecked power being spewed by an Executive Branch drunk with hubris.
We need more subpoenas, and quickly.
*with apologies to Milton