The round of US Attorney firings continues as USAG Alberto Gonzales punishes them for insufficient genuflection to the neocon agenda, only now, after criticism by Democrats and the press that no reasons had been given, so-far-unfired prosecutors are offering excuses, lame though they might be.
An eighth U.S. attorney announced her resignation yesterday, the latest in a wave of forced departures of federal prosecutors who have clashed with the Justice Department over the death penalty and other issues.
Margaret Chiara, the 63-year-old U.S. attorney in Grand Rapids, Mich., told her staff that she was leaving her post after more than five years, officials said. Sources familiar with the case confirmed that she was among a larger group of prosecutors who were first asked to resign Dec. 7. (emphasis added)
What “other issues”? The only reason Alberto ever gave was “performance issues”, whatever they are. That covers a lot of ground. Reporter Dan Eggan has been talking to these unnamed “prosecutors” who have been feeding him…what? Legitimate information or Gonzales talking-points? Deputy AG Paul McNulty, Alberto’s go-to PR guy, stuck to the script with one exception.
Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty told senators earlier this month that all but one of the prosecutors were fired for “performance-related” reasons. McNulty said that former U.S. attorney Bud Cummins of Little Rock was removed so the job could be given to a former aide to presidential adviser Karl Rove.
He gave them that one because he had to but they’re standing firm on the others: “performance-related”. Except:
U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell, the chief judge in Michigan’s Western District, said in an interview yesterday that Chiara has an excellent reputation in Grand Rapids.
“This is a very classy, distinguished, highly regarded public servant,” said Bell, who was appointed to the bench during the Reagan administration. “She’s one of the best United States attorneys we’ve had in this district, and all of my colleagues agree. . . . To have her suddenly disappear without warning catches us all flat-footed.”
The scuttlebutt Eggan is picking up, wherever it originated, is that Chiara’s out because she doesn’t believe in the death penalty. Uh-huh.
Chiara — who had once studied to be a nun — is personally opposed to capital punishment, but in 2002 she presided over the first death penalty case in Michigan in more than 60 years.
So she’s doing her job even in a case where the outcome is anathema to her. Yet Gonzales is firing her for supposedly poor performance. Apparently “performance” is being defined by Bush Lapdog Alberto to be synonymous with “personal belief”. It isn’t enough for the Bushies if you do what they tell you to do, you have to believe in it.
But this all smacks of red herring to me. What I suspect is actually happening is that Gonzales is demanding his US Attorneys pursue courses some of them are resisting either because the cases are bogus (Padilla comes to mind) or because the prosecutions themselves would force prosecutors to defend patently illegal activities by the Bush Administration or its Republican supporters, or to drop cases that embarrass them. The Randy Cunningham prosecution, for example, has been nicely sidelined by the firing of the US attorney who was handling it, Carol Lam.
Nearly all of the dismissed prosecutors had positive job reviews, but many had run into political trouble with Washington over immigration, capital punishment or other issues, according to prosecutors and others. At least four also were presiding over high-profile public corruption investigations when they were dismissed. (emphasis added)
Wouldn’t have been against Republican defendants by any chance, would they?
That’s what I thought.