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The Political Scandals Just Keep On Coming

Even after the November elections when voters rebuked the GOP

because of its scandal-ridden image and turned control of Congress over

to the Democrats, the political scandals just keep on coming.

I attended the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings this morning on

eight federal prosecutors who were fired en masse following the 2006

elections in December by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the Bush

Administration.  The Administration initially gave no reason for the

firings.  The story of political intrigue and corruption that my Public

Citizen colleague Linda Andros wrote about on TomPaine.com last week continues to unfold.

The hearing noted that all but one received exemplary performance

reviews. The common thread among many of these firings appears to be

political repercussions for prosecuting Republicans for corruption,

such as the infamous Duke Cunningham, or not prosecuting Democrats fast

enough before the elections. Never mind that all but two of the

prosecutors are Republicans; the other two are Independents.

Perhaps the most telling story was by former New Mexico prosecutor

David Iglesias, a Republican. He was pursuing corruption allegations

against a state Democratic officeholder, but his investigation was not

likely to produce an indictment before the election. Iglesias received

a call at home one night from Republican Sen. Pete Domenici. Domenici

was brief. The Senator asked whether Iglesias would produce an

indictment before November. “I don’t think so,” responded Iglesias.

“Very sorry to hear that,” said Domenici, and then abruptly hung up on

the prosecutor. Iglesias said he viewed the curt exchange as political

pressure from the Senator and felt “sick” to his stomach.

According to Iglesias, the phone call from Domenici came two weeks

after another call from Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.), who was in a

close re-election battle (largely because of all the GOP corruption

scandals), also asked about the pace of the investigation. Wilson

further inquired about “sealed” documents, which would have been a

crime for Iglesias to discuss (sort of like phoning the Pentagon and

asking for its launch codes).

Another fired prosecutor, Bud Cummins, testified that he received a

high-pressure phone call from Mike Elston of the Deputy Attorney

General’s office. According to Cummings, Elston suggested that all of

the prosecutors could face “retaliation” if they went public and tried

to defend themselves against being fired. Cummins felt that Elson

wanted him to convey the threat to the other prosecutors, which he did

via e-mail. Cummins produced the e-mail, which warns his colleagues

that the Administration would “pull their gloves off” in how it treats

the former prosecutors in the press if they did not leave quietly.

Well, it ain’t so quiet no more. Even the usually impotent Senate

ethics committee initiated an investigation into whether their

Republican colleagues may have obstructed justice.  There also is a

bill recently introduced in the Senate that would address the abuse of

presidential power in the firings. We won’t keep quiet, and neither should you.