Tuesday, March 13, 2007

U.S. Attorneys-Gate: Did Clinton in fact "do it too"? 

By now virtually all of you know that the Democrats and the liberal wing of the press are up in arms because the Bush administration has been firing U.S. Attorneys, supposedly for purely political reasons. The response from the right is that "Clinton did it too." But did he?



While I think that in the category of prosecutorial abuse this is a minor issue rather than a major one, my first reaction is that the left has the better argument on the history of replacing U.S. attorneys. I'm prepared to believe that I'm wrong, though. Have it out in the comments while I get some exercise.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Mar 13, 05:28:00 PM:

I think I recall that, independent of Firing Bush 1's USAs, Clinton also requested that they all submit resignations at sometime around the start of his second term--a more relevant comparison if true. Is my recollection wrong? KSG  

By Blogger Habu, at Tue Mar 13, 05:33:00 PM:

We should not forget that Bill Clinton’s first act as president was to fire all the U.S attorneys across the U.S. – an unprecedented act by an American president.

It's right there in all the history of the time...he fired ALL of them..of course he posted a good many first while President.
*First President to get a BJ while talking to a Congressman on the telephone about war.
*First President to soil a blue dress
*First President to parse the word "is".
Lots and lots of firsts.  

By Blogger Christopher Chambers, at Tue Mar 13, 05:48:00 PM:

I can go by what my old DOJ friends--many of them Republicans--have said. This was internecine warfare, they say.

Note: Right wing GOPers, sychophants, folks with interests (big Oil, big Pharma, insurance, etc etc, plus qite a few interests lobbying FOR more "liberal" immigration enforcement as a source of cheap labor) convincing the White House to sack moderate and thoughtful GOP footsoldiers (Gee, an oxymoron after viewing comments on this blog, or rabid radio; is it really true that FOX just apes the opinions and rants of the pundits and labels it news? Then the crap gets repeated and magnified b/c folks are too dumb or too scared to check any other outlet?)

Gonzales is a hack who needs to go. I won't even tell you what most Hispanics (other than Cubans over the age of 50) call him. Might be Spanish for Uncle Tom? And by the way, if the Evil Slick Willie did preside over mass firings and a conspiracy on that line was there any hue and cry from the right? I don't recall. Could it be b/c there was no conspiracy. Frankly Scooter Libby and Congressman "maverick" Cunningham should have feigned cancer to buy Rove time to replace all of these folks.  

By Blogger Habu, at Tue Mar 13, 05:54:00 PM:

In your best Oprinceton erudition would you care to answer the questions before you regarding blacks selling blacks inot slavery in Africa today and why black leadership in this country looks away?
What have you done. Written any articles? Gone to Africa to help?
They need good lawyers in Gabo and the Sudan to fight slavery and that's your blood folk we're talking about.
Where's Jesse,Sharpton,Mfume?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Mar 13, 06:06:00 PM:

"Bet he doesn't answer"

"Well let's wait and see"

"The guy sounds like a racist"

"Yeah he's definitely got some issues"

"Well, he won't answer, you know it"

"yeah, I know, but what could he say that would make any sense? He has said anything remotely sane all day'

"yeah well, maybe he's just tired today.

"yeah, that's it"  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Mar 13, 06:36:00 PM:

Tiger is right. The Democrats are on solid ground here.

It is standard government practice at the beginning of every new administration to replace all USA's.

Every past administration has done it and there are protocols to follow for the new political cycle.

All new USA's are then confirmed by the Senate.

In 2001, the White House followed the standard and replaced all USA's with no problems.

Now where people are getting confused is the part about USA's and what happens AFTER they start their new job as a USA.

The USA's job position is prone to unstability/abuse if people in the government, like DOJ/White House, do not understand the functional position of a USA.

The President appoints USA's, Then Senate holds hearings and confirms or not confirms USA's; BUT once confirmed, the government is NOT to interfere into any investigation the USA is doing.

Once the political process is over it's "Hands Off" on the USA while the USA does it's job. They are standard job performance reviews but no political interference.

Removing a USA after the initial political appoint/confirm cycle is rare. THIS is why the White House/DOJ is in trouble. They removed a large number of USA's in a short time period without true solid cause. At first it was because of "poor job performance". But as time is wearing on those explanations are proving false.

White House/DOJ have got their hand caught in the ole "cookie jar" and the Dem's have slammed the lid down hard.

Gonzales is in trouble because he keeps changing the reason why the purge took place. And the White House is in trouble because of the political interference it provokes.

BTW- USA's take an oath to the Constitution, Not to any political leader. A really good USA will not care one wit what the President or any member of Congress thinks. That is what the confirmation hearings are for. But once in the USA job, it's full speed ahead on investigations no matter who - including presidents and Congress members.  

By Blogger Gordon Smith, at Tue Mar 13, 07:17:00 PM:

James is right.

But I'm sure the Bush loyalists will find some way to turn this into a conversation about Bill Clinton's penis.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Mar 13, 07:30:00 PM:

"Im telling you the guys connected"

"Oh yeah"

"Yeah, he said, "I won't even tell you what most Hispnics(other than Cubans over the age of 50)call him.Might be Spanish for Uncle Tom"

"No way he said that"


"Hmmm, so this guy is peep'in and hid'in from the question the Habu dude thru up?"


"But he goes off on old Cuban men and before says he loves Hugo Chavez"

"yeah, like I said the boys got some issues. He should step up, man up ,ya dig?

"I'm down bro .. but whatcha gonna do?"

"Who me? Nuth'n boys got the backbone of a chocolate eclair, and I truth ain't com'n outta his mouth"

"Like Julio said "No seas maricón colchon"


"Viva pinga cabeza"  

By Blogger Brett, at Tue Mar 13, 08:09:00 PM:

Clinton didn't fire all of them; he kept one.

At any rate, it shouldn't be hard to compile a list of all AUSAs and figure out how often they're asked to leave in the middle of their term, and for what reasons. The fact that the WH and its defenders are claiming Clinton as a precedent is fun and ironic, but it also probably shows that they can't rely on much relevant historical precedent.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Mar 13, 08:48:00 PM:

"...USA's take an oath to the Constitution, Not to any political leader. A really good USA will not care one wit what the President or any member of Congress thinks. That is what the confirmation hearings are for. But once in the USA job, it's full speed ahead on investigations no matter who - including presidents and Congress members."

Forcefully argued, James.

However, certainly there must be standard procedures for removal and replacement of USAs. You don't mention that part at all. Do you know what those provisions might be and how they compare with recent actions by DoJ?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Mar 13, 09:37:00 PM:

The President fired US attorneys . . . for political reasons!

I am getting the vapors over this!

The fact is, US attorneys serve at the leisure of the executive, George W. Bush, who may fire them for any reason or no reason at all.

I just love how Josh Marshall says "as an added bonus we know the whole plan was hatched at the White House with the direct involvement of the president."

As if the president needs to 'hatch' a nefarious plot to do what he is entitled to do. Rather like Plame redux - the President had complete legal authority to declassify her status if he so chose, and the left thought it was grounds for impeachment!

The left has learned that all it needs to do is endlessly repeat that there is a 'scandal' somewhere, and that meme is buttressed daily in the MSM.

Well, yeah, the president is the one who ultimately decides to work for him or not, so the idea that he was in on the firings  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Mar 13, 09:40:00 PM:

. . . creates some kind of 'scandal' shows you what a very low threshold the term 'scandal' requires these days.

At least when Dems are accusing Republicans, anyway.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Mar 13, 10:10:00 PM:

Clinton is being used as an example because he was the only President ever to fire all the attorneys...thats ALL the attoneys ..one was saved by the governor's pleading for his salvation. It was also Clintons FIRST ACT AS PRESIDENT...think in hindsight Slick Willie mighta had the freights? Damn right he did..
Remember Brett, it's better to keep quiet and let people think you a fool than to write or open your mouth and prove it...you lose  

By Blogger tm, at Tue Mar 13, 10:23:00 PM:

Ken, if this were no big deal, the White House would've just admitted that AGs that wouldn't start or speed up prosecutions of democrats in time for the '06 elections were fired.

But presumably even they recognize how scummy that must look, so they started blathering about performance, despite the positive reviews received by the fired AGs.  

By Blogger Georg Felis, at Wed Mar 14, 10:25:00 AM:

Wait a second jpe, somehow I don’t think the Bush administration confessing to something that they didn’t do is going to satisfy the left. (never has so far)

Out of the 8 total US Attorney’s released, six of the eight (out of over a hundred USA’s) were experiencing sub-par performance, one of which was so bad his staff members had a party after he left. So I have no problem releasing those six, I know how one bad prosecutor can screw up hundreds of cases. That leaves two, one of which has been really quick to get on the news and proclaim “I wuz robbed!”, making me a little skeptical of him.

That leaves one with a possibly good record and no real reason to be let go. I predict the press will concentrate, not on him, but on the noisy obnoxious twit who is willing and able to give interviews and badmouth the man who appointed him in the first place. (because it’s easy)

What I really want is a history lesson of US Attorneys and their job history for the past 40 years. Perhaps a line graph showing when they started work, and when they were released. From my fragmentary knowledge of USAs, I thought they served 4 year terms, and normally were permitted to stick around a few months to a year after a new president took office to close out any outstanding cases and set things up for the incoming USA, which is why the Clinton mass immediate dismissal was so unusual. I got just a tiny glimpse when NPR this morning said that 8 USAs being released was “Almost unprecedented”. The “Almost” twigged my curiosity, I suspect there is more there with some digging.  

By Blogger Brett, at Wed Mar 14, 11:19:00 AM:


Then why haven't Presidents made a habit of firing them for no reason at all? Because there are bigger issues at stake, namely, whether we really want a fully politicized prosecutorial wing of the federal gov't, one in which the failure to indict people based on partisan complaints would mean that you should be fired.

The White House knows this, which is why the issue has more traction. There's more to it.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Mar 14, 11:30:00 AM:

US Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president, and they're like every other political appointment in the Executive Branch.

You fire them because they're not good team players, because they lack the political and personal maturity to deal straightforwardly with Congress without feeling unduly intimidated, or because they're just not getting with the president's policy program. These are all legitimate reasons to fire Deputy Assistant Secretaries of Agriculture -- and they hold equally for US Attorneys.

The only reason that wouldn't hold water, is if they were fired for refusing to abuse their offices to act as political attack dogs. So far, the evidence on this last point is vaporously thin.

Everything else is just an exercise in overblown rhetoric, and an interesting insight into the political cluelessness of Alberto Gonzales when under attack. I'm sure he's a nice guy and a loyal member of the Texas crowd, but I don't think he's cut out for a senior position in DC just yet, and I do wonder at GWB's equating loyalty with competence.  

By Blogger Brett, at Wed Mar 14, 01:31:00 PM:


The last time that a President did this kind of thing in recent memory, is when Griffin Bell (Carter's AG) fired David Marston (Republican from PA) in 1978. This created a firestorm for Carter, partly because he had promised not to use the US Attorney positions as patronage posts. Trent Lott and Don Young, fresh-faced congressmen, co-sponsored resolutions demanding that Marston be kept in office and be allowed to continue probes of Democratic politicians.

The controversy, the connection with corruption investigations, the broken campaign promise, and the candor of Bell (he admitted that politics played a role in the firing) are probably all reasons why the White House hasn't trotted this example out. It also gives the lie to the claim that this kind of thing happens all the time, since Marston was sacked almost 30 years ago, and there is no comparable case that I am aware of since.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Mar 14, 02:10:00 PM:

There's too much good, and some obnoxious, noise back and forth on this. It seems to me that, in the end, what is going to matter most is the real reason they were fired. And that may never be known.  

By Blogger Georg Felis, at Thu Mar 15, 11:34:00 PM:

Does anybody else find it baffling and ironic that a group of hyperventilating Senators and Press are attempting to have an Attorney (Gonzales) fired because they disagree with one of his decisions, which just happens to have been to fire a number of Attorneys?  

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