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New Justice Department documents show White House involvement in Attorneys firings

By Michael Roston, Raw Story

The Justice Department on Tuesday released a new set of e-mails turned over in the pursuit of the investigation of the firing of 8 US Attorneys earlier in the year. The 46 page file showed extensive White House involvement in the process of the firings, and appeared to show a Justice Department staffer contemplating post-government work for one former US Attorney, David Iglesias of New Mexico.

The documents prompted an angry reaction from Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"These documents, which should have been released by the Department long ago, provide further evidence that White House officials like former Political Director Sara Taylor were deeply involved in the mass firings of well-performing prosecutors," he said in a statement e-mailed to RAW STORY. "The Department of Justice should not be reduced to a political arm of the White House. We need an end to the White House’s stonewalling of our investigations so we can learn the truth."

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee which released the documents Tuesday night, offered similar sentiments.

"These documents show that the White House played an integral role in the firings and their aftermath. This only underscores the need for White House cooperation with this investigation," he said.

Conyers and Leahy today announced their intentions to issue subpoenas for two of the former White House officials who figured prominently in the latest e-mails.

Extensive White House involvement shown in e-mails
A number of e-mails in the Tuesday file showed White House staff to be extensively involved in the selection and firing of the US Attorneys, particularly Tim Griffin, who recently stepped down as the interim US Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas.

A Feb. 16 e-mail showed that a White House official, Sara Taylor, was upset with the Justice Department for their installation of Griffin, who like Taylor was a former White House aide to Karl Rove.

"Tim was put in a horrible position; hung out to dry w/ no heads up. You forced him to do what he did; this is not good for his long term career," she wrote to D. Kyle Sampson, former chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

She also complained that Paul McNulty, Deputy Attorney General, was unwilling to call Bud Cummins, the US Attorney Griffin replaced, "lazy - which is why we got rid of him in the first place."

As Cummins began to talk to the media about his removal from office, Taylor also showed herself to be ready to go on the offensive politically.

"I normally don't like attacking friends, but since Bud Cummins is talking to everyone - why don't we tell the deal on him?" she asked Sampson in a Feb. 7 e-mail.

Notably, Taylor used a e-mail address, one of the domain names managed by the Republican National Committee, and not archived under standard White House document preservation procedures.

Taylor also objected to an earlier letter that the Justice Department planned to send to Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) about Griffin's installation.

"I'm concerned we imply that we'll pull down Griffin's nomination should Pryor object," she wrote on Jan. 25 to Sampson and William Kelley in the office of White House Counsel Harriet Miers.

But the White House wasn't only involved in Griffin's installation. A Dec. 12 e-mail shows Kenneth Lee, who works in the White House Counsel's office, contacting Sampson about the firing of Carol Lam, the former US Attorney for the Southern District of California.

"Can you give me a brief update on Carol Lam...I believe she was one of the USAs under the replacement plan," he wrote. "Do you know what the basis was for her replacement....Harriet [Miers] may be asked about it tomorrow, and I wanted to give her background information just in case."

E-mails in January also showed Harriet Miers, still the White House Counsel at that time, getting complaints from Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) about the appearance that the Justice Department was trying to circumvent the established 'Parsky Commission' process for selecting and confirming US Attorneys from California.

"I received another call from Gerry Parsky who had received a call from Senator Feinstein. Her assertion was that we were circumventing the Commission process re the USAs in San Diego and San Francisco by using the AG appointment authority," she wrote to Sampson, who then clarified a number of legal questions in the Jan. 7 exchange.

Sampson also offered a prescient warning to Miers on using the authority given to the Attorney General under the PATRIOT Act to appoint interim US Attorneys on an indefinite basis.

"In no case (including E.D. Ark.) am I in favor of using the AG's appointment authority unilaterally to jam Senators - that will only result in the Congress taking that authority away from us," he wrote to Miers in that exchange.

And, Miers was depicted around Jan. 16 as trying to carry out damage control after Senator Feinstein complained on the Senate floor about the firings.

"The US Attorneys themselves haven't fired any shots. Harriet feels very strongly that we shouldn't respond to the merits, even though we are convinced that they have disloyally stirred up the Senators," William Kelley, an official in the White House Counsel's office, wrote to Sampson on Jan. 16.

Sampson discussed work for New Mexico Attorney Iglesias
Sampson also appeared in another e-mail on Jan. 10 to be contemplating finding work for David Iglesias, the US Attorney for New Mexico who was one of the group of eight fired by the Justice Department.

A sender whose name has been redacted by the Justice Department asked Sampson about Iglesias.

"What do you think of Iglesias? Would you hire him?" the sender asks.

Sampson responded, "I like David - I think I would. We should discuss by phone."

The context of the exchange cannot be determined. Iglesias appears to have been targeted for removal from office by a pair of New Mexico Republican lawyers who were chastened by his unwillingness to indict a New Mexico Democrat prior to the 2006 office. These two lawyers were known to have sought to have discussions with White House adviser Karl Rove.


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