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Report Suggests Laws Broken in Attorney Firings

Posted by nytexan on July 25, 2007

I think there’s a good chance Miers is going to jail.

House Democrats, preparing for a vote today on contempt citations against President Bush’s chief of staff and former counsel, produced a report yesterday that for the first time alleges specific ways that several administration officials may have broken the law during the multiple firings of U.S. attorneys.

The report says that Congress’s seven-month investigation into the firings raises “serious concerns” that senior White House and Justice Department aides involved in the removal of nine U.S. attorneys last year may have obstructed justice and violated federal statutes that protect civil service employees, prohibit political retaliation against government officials and cover presidential records.

The investigation “has uncovered serious evidence of wrongdoing by the department and White House staff,” Conyers says.

The memorandum says the probe has turned up evidence that some of the U.S. attorneys were improperly selected for firing because of their handling of vote fraud allegations, public corruption cases or other cases that could affect close elections. It also says that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and senior Justice aides “appear to have made false or misleading statements to Congress, many of which sought to minimize the role of White House personnel.”

In addition, the memorandum asserts repeatedly that the president’s top political adviser, Karl Rove, was the first administration official to broach the idea of firing U.S. attorneys shortly after the 2004 election — an assertion the White House has said is not true.

In one of more than 300 footnotes, the Democrats point to a Jan. 6, 2005, e-mail from an assistant White House counsel that says that Rove “stopped by to ask . . . how we planned to proceed regarding U.S. attorneys, whether we were going to allow them to stay, request resignations from all and accept only some of them, or selectively replace them, etc.”

Last week, White House officials vowed that if the full House holds the two officials in contempt, they would block lawmakers’ ability to bring the charges before a federal judge by preventing any U.S. attorney from pursuing such a case. The administration cited a 1984 Justice Department legal opinion, never adjudicated in the courts, that said that a federal prosecutor cannot be compelled to bring a case seeking to override a president’s executive privilege claim.

In the memorandum, the Democrats provide the first legal justification for countering the White House’s view, saying that the 1984 legal opinion “does not apply here.” For one thing, the Democrats contend, Bush has not invoked the privilege properly because he has not furnished a signed statement or “privilege logs” specifying the documents being withheld. In addition, the memo says, “there is not the slightest indication” the 1984 opinion would apply to a former executive branch official, such as Miers.

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One Response to “Report Suggests Laws Broken in Attorney Firings”

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