Here’s something that, curiously, didn’t get much media play this week — certainly not in proportion to the attention the accusations got. From Politico:
The Justice Department said Wednesday that it did not intend to charge former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales or any other members of the Bush administration for their role in the firings of nine U.S. attorneys.
In a letter sent to House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.), Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich said that Attorney General Eric Holder has accepted the recommendation of special counsel Nora Dannehy “that criminal prosecution is not warranted.”
The letter did note that Gonzales made “inaccurate and misleading” statements and that his chief of staff made “misleading” statements about the firings, which critics, including Conyers, charged were politically motivated — but said Justice had found “insufficient evidence” to press any charges.
Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is trying to spin the conclusion as confirmation that the firings were political, just not criminal. Something tells me that the Obama Justice Department, with its lawsuit against Arizona’s immigration law and heavily criticized kid-glove treatment of the New Black Panther Party, doesn’t want to get caught up in a debate right now about just how much political consideration in decision-making is legitimate.
But even if we are talking about politicization, the Dannehy report points out that, in the most-discussed firing, that of the U.S. attorney for New Mexico, David Iglesias:
There also was insufficient evidence that anyone in the White House or DOJ [Department of Justice] sought to influence Mr. Iglesias to bring a voter fraud or public corruption case in advance of the November 2006 election, or at anytime. Furthermore, the investigative team concluded that the evidence established that Senator [Pete] Domenici contacted DOJ and the White House to seek Mr. Iglesias’s removal, not to ask the White House or DOJ to pressure Mr. Iglesias, and Mr. Iglesias was not aware of Senator Domenici’ s complaints to the White House or DOJ. Mr. Iglesias was not asked to resign until December 7, 2006, well after the election and after any actions that he might have taken would have affected the election. Likewise, the evidence did not show that anyone sought Mr. Iglesias’s removal in order to replace him with a United States Attorney who would act in a manner aimed at influencing the due administration of justice.
Although Senator Domenici’s motive for seeking Iglesias’s removal were in part politically motivated, a public official does not violate the law by seeking the removal of a United States Attorney for his failure either to pursue a particular case the official believes is legitimate or to pursue certain types of cases the official believes should be brought, even if the public official’s motives are partisan and inconsistent with the values of DOJ.
In any case, something tells me that, like most cases in the court of public opinion, the acquittal won’t catch up to the charges here.