Fired U.S. Attorneys Update — The Ax is Falling

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Talking Points Memo reports that in anticipation of the fired federal prosecutors testifying before Congress tomorrow, Michael Battle, the director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, has resigned. According to TPM, Battle was the one who made the calls to the prosecutors letting them know they had been fired. Of course, Battle was complicit in a larger scheme orchestrated by higher-ups in the Bush Administration. His resignation in no way means the culprit has been punished or that the scandal is over.

TPM also reports that Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has filed an ethics complaint against Republican Representative Pete Domenici of New Mexico. Domenici is one of two congresspeople that contacted fired U.S. Attorney David Iglesias before the November 2006 elections, pressuring Iglesias to speed up a probe of a Democratic lawmaker up for reelection. Mother Jones recently profiled the woman who is the heart and soul CREW — possibly the most hated woman in Washington — Melanie Sloan. Check it out.

Elsewhere, Slate has an excellent article by Dhalia Lithwick on the reasons behind the prosecutor purge.

1) Cronyism (Carol Lam was let go for hurting the GOP; her replacement is a card-carrying member of the Federalist Society.)

2) Candidate grooming (The Bush administration is grooming Republican lawyers for higher office with sweet stepping-stone jobs.)

3) Presidential politics (an opposition researcher gets a prosecutor’s gig in Arkansas right before Hillary Clinton’s run for president. Sneaky.)

4) It’s a very short hop from a U.S. attorney gig to the federal bench. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rove and Co.—who truly live to makeover the federal bench—were willing to suffer a little short-term political embarrassment in order to better situate some loyalists for future judgeships.

5) This administration really does see loyalty to the White House as inseparable from loyalty to the law. Historically, the frequent disputes between the DOJ and renegade U.S. attorneys were resolved through compromise. This president doesn’t compromise with insubordinate subordinates. He fires them.

6) The conspiracy theorist in me cannot leave unmentioned the possibility that someone at the Bush White House—let’s call him “David Addington”—does nothing all day but mark up legislation to diminish congressional and judicial oversight while increasing executive branch authority. Someone at the White House figured out that with a little Wite-Out and the distractions of the Christmas season, the president could remove both the federal judiciary and the Congress from the U.S. attorney appointments process.

7) This was merely a monumental screw-up.

I’ve rearranged the numbering, but all the words in block quotes are Lithwick’s. Check out her full article here. We’ll have coverage of the hearings tomorrow as they happen.

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