Sunday, April 15, 2007

David Iglesias Removed Shortly After Phonecall Between Sen. Domenici and 'President'...

Here are two stories based on the Albuquerque Journal article Suzie posted earlier today (tonight) on Domenici's sacking of Iglesias.

The first from TPM:


Can I get your attention for a second?


Josh Marshall
TPM
(April 15, 2007 -- 01:37 PM EDT)

You're going to hear a lot about Al Gonzales on the Hill, document dumps and timelines and a lot of other stuff. But not much else you're going to see in the Purge story is going to be as important as this story that ran this morning in The Albuquerque Journal. I mentioned it below and Paul Kiel has a detailed analysis of it here.

But here's what it amounts to.

It was Sen. Domenici's (R-NM) call to David Iglesias to get him to game the November election with an election-timed indictment that got this scandal really rolling. And it's always been the key question just how and whether Domenici's failed play to get Iglesias to tamper with the November election led to his firing on December 7th.

Now, we know a much more detailed timeline about just what happened.

As we've known Domenici had been complaining about Iglesias for some time. President Bush and Karl Rove had also been complaining to Gonzales about Iglesias's record prosecuting 'voter fraud'. Domenici told Gonzales he wanted Iglesias out back in the Spring of 2006. But Gonzales said he would only fire Iglesias on the president's orders.

Now, let's fast foward to just before the November election. Iglesias didn't show up on the firing list prepared in October 2006. Then Domenici makes his call sometime a couple weeks or so before the election. He doesn't get satisfaction from Iglesias. And then shortly after the election, Domenici puts in a call to Karl Rove. He tells Rove he wants Iglesias fired. And he asks Rove to take his message directly to the president. That led to a telephone conversation between Domenici and the president himself, presumably arranged by Rove.

Do you think it's possible that Domenici didn't mention his call to Iglesias just before the election and Iglesias's alleged foot-dragging on indicting Democrats?

From the article we don't know the precise date of the Rove and Bush conversations. But we do know that Iglesias's name first shows up on the firing list on November 15th.

No one disputes that Domenici's call to Iglesias was at best inappropriate. But there's been a lack of direct evidence that Iglesias's refusal to bow to political pressure led directly to his firing. Now we have that evidence. And it's not Kyle Sampson or even Alberto Gonzales whom Domenici went to to get sign off for Iglesias's ouster. It was right to the president. And the available evidence now points strongly to the conclusion that the final decision to fire David Iglesias came from the President of the United States.

Here's BradBlog's spin on the story:

David Iglesias Removed Shortly After Phonecall Between Sen. Domenici and 'President'...


Just back in town, and catching up with much that we've been unable to keep up with. That process will likely continue for several days, even as we've got a "biggie" coming tomorrow.

In the meantime, today's "biggie" news comes out of The Albuquerque Journal indicating that the order to fire New Mexico's U.S. Attorney David Iglesias seems to have come directly from George W. Bush after Sen. Pete Domenici's (R-NM) attempts to get the prosecutor to either bring "voter fraud" cases or be removed had otherwise failed.

Domenici's attempts preceded the Nov. 2006 election between Rep. Heather Wilson (R) and NM's former Democratic Attorney General Patricia Madrid, who ended up being reported as the loser by fewer than 900 votes.

Talking Points Memo distills the Journal piece, we distill TPM's distillation...

[H]ere's what it amounts to.

It was Sen. Domenici's (R-NM) call to David Iglesias to get him to game the November election with an election-timed indictment that got this scandal really rolling. And it's always been the key question just how and whether Domenici's failed play to get Iglesias to tamper with the November election led to his firing on December 7th.

No one disputes that Domenici's call to Iglesias was at best inappropriate. But there's been a lack of direct evidence that Iglesias's refusal to bow to political pressure led directly to his firing. Now we have that evidence. And it's not Kyle Sampson or even Alberto Gonzales whom Domenici went to to get sign off for Iglesias's ouster. It was right to the president. And the available evidence now points strongly to the conclusion that the final decision to fire David Iglesias came from the President of the United States.

At 08:24 PM EDT, Josh Marshall of TPM has this to add:
This is curious. The day's big story--the Albuquerque Journal article that places President Bush at the center of the firing of New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias--did not contain any reaction from the White House or the Department of Justice. Mike Gallagher's piece this morning noted that Sen. Pete Domenici's office declined to comment, but there was no reference, one way or the other, to any effort to contact the White House or DOJ for comment. That's not necessarily a criticism of Gallagher's work, but it did leave me with questions and the expectation that there would be some serious blowback from the Administration in response to the article. But here we are on Sunday evening, and I'm still not seeing any public reaction from the Administration. McClatchy is reporting that the White House did not respond to its questions about the story out of New Mexico. You might say the silence is deafening.

Late update: The later version of the McClatchy story contains reaction from the White House and DOJ.
Meanwhile Sunday, the Albuquerque Journal reported that Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., told Gonzales in the spring of 2006 that he wanted New Mexico U.S. attorney David Iglesias dismissed, and that Gonzales refused. The newspaper said that Domenici later made the same case to White House adviser Karl Rove and spoke to President Bush about it after the November election, but before the attorney firings were announced on Dec. 7. Iglesias was among those fired.
The newspaper cited "sources familiar with the firing of Iglesias, including sources close to Domenici," but did not name them.

Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the president did not tell Gonzales to fire Iglesias. He also said that Gonzales did not recall discussing with Domenici whether or not to replace Iglesias.

A White House spokesman, Trey Bohn, pointed to comments made by President Bush and his adviser Dan Bartlett last month when asked about the conversation with Domenici.

Bush said that in speaking to Gonzales about U.S. attorneys, "I never brought up a specific case nor gave him specific instructions." Bartlett said that "there was no directive given, as far as telling him to fire anybody or anything like that."

Domenici spokesman Chris Gallegos said Domenici would have no comment.

Late Update: As this close reading TPM Reader notes ...
You can drive a Halliburton convoy through that White House denial. The President never brought up “a specific case” -- say, U.S. v. Talking Points Media -- nor “gave [Gonzales] specific instructions.” No “directive” that Gonzales should “fire anybody or anything like that.”
So a call from the President to the Attorney General in which he says, “Pete Domenici called me this morning, says we gotta do something about that U.S. Attorney in New Mexico, Iglesias. Not doing his jobs, not bringing cases fast enough – can you look into that, see what needs to be done?” That would fit within the White House denial.

Perhaps more importantly, remember this: by law , only the President can fire U.S. Attorneys. That’s the only correct way to interpret the statute. Bush got a complaint about Iglesias. Bush fired Iglesias. So how much did Domenici tell Bush? I think we need to know a lot more details…

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