The Washington Post is working hard on the “scandal” over the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys, but so far has been unable to come up with evidence that any of the eight was let go for other than a legitimate reason. Thus, today the Post shifts its focus and asserts, in the title of its latest installment, that the “Statements On Firings of Prosecutor Are Key Issue.”
There’s no doubt that certain statements to Congress by Justice Department officials were incorrect. For example, the Attorney General said that the Department had no intention of avoiding Senate input on the selection of U.S. attorneys. But email traffic shows that Gonzales’ aide did contemplate limiting, if not avoiding such input. In addition, other Department officials made statements denying White House involvement in the decision-making process even though emails show that the White House actually was involved.
However, so far as appears, there is no evidence that any individual who made the incorrect or dubious statements to Congress was aware of the emails that refute their statements. And the person who was in the middle of the email traffic, Kyle Sampson, has lost his job over this matter. At this juncture, then, there’s no scandal as to anyone who remains at the Justice Department.
The Post also takes an artifically narrow view of what constitutes a “performance related” reason for removing a U.S. Attorney when it challenges Deputy Attorney General McNulty’s statement that certain phone calls pertaining to this matter were “performance-related.” The Post notes that nearly all of the fired prosecutors had “positive job reviews” and that loyalty and complaints from GOP officials were factors in certain dismissals. But a prosecutor who fails to prosecute types of crime the administration justifiably is concerned about (and thereby generates complaints) provides performance-related reasons for being removed. When such a prosecutor is removed there’s no scandal, which appears to be why the Post is focusing on the statements to Congress, not the mertis of the firings.
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