Talk:Bush administration U.S. attorney firings controversy

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The Bush administration U.S. attorney firings controversy article is suffering from severe overbyte, coming in at 46kb. I removed one section but more needs to be done. Artificial Intelligence 10:13, 20 June 2007 (EDT)

News citations



As there does [not] appear to be a section for quotes and commentary:

"This is about using US Attorneys to damage Democrats and protect Republicans, using the Department of Justice as a partisan cudgel in the war for national political dominance. All the secrecy and lies, the blundering and covering-up stems from this one central fact."—Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo, March 23, 2007. [1]

Information that should be included

These are links to stories that have revealing information about the controversy. Someone should look into them and add the info to the article. Please move the stories to "Incorporated or irrelevant" when finished evaluating and/or incorporating a story:--Conor Kenny 10:35, 30 March 2007 (EDT)

Incorporate or irrelevant

SW: Use "U.S. attorney" not "U.S. Attorney"

Except when preceding a name. See SourceWatch:Manual of Style#Titles (for people)--Conor Kenny 16:27, 30 March 2007 (EDT)

SW: Staging ground for reporting on Sampson testimony

We'll be moving this into the article shortly:

Sampson testifies before Congress

On March 29, 2007, Sampson testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. In contradiction to what Gonzales and other top-level officials in the Department of Justice and the White House had previously stated, Sampson testified that the planning was done in coordination with and full awareness of both. Sampson also stated that he was a recommendation-maker rather than the decision-maker that Gonzales had accused him of being. Sampson further testified that the level of adherence to the administration's political agenda was a basis for evaluating the performance of the fired attorneys. [1]

Statements made in testimony:

  • Sampson refuted Gonzales’ claims of non-involvement: “I don't think the attorney general's statement that he was not involved in any discussions about U.S. attorney removals is accurate…I remember discussing with him this process of asking certain U.S. attorneys to resign. And I believe that he was present at the meeting on November 27th.” (The November 27th meeting was where the firings were allegedly discussed formally.) He also added that “the attorney general was aware of this process from the beginning in early 2005. He and I had discussions about it during the thinking phase of the process.” [2]
  • Sampson refuted Gonzales’ claims that Sampson was the chief decision maker in the firings: “I was the chief of staff, and I made recommendations of different options that the decision-makers might pursue…I made recommendations, and some of them were adopted and some of them weren't.” Sampson named the chief decision-makers as possibly being Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and White House Counsel Harriet Miers.[3]
  • Sampson stated that the level of adherence to the administration's political agenda was a basis for evaluating the performance of the fired attorneys: “To me and to others in the process, performance-related was much broader. It included production in the office, management abilities, extracurricular U.S. attorney work on the attorney general's advisory committee or other work in developing policies of the administration. It included not engaging in policy conflicts with main Justice…that some were asked to resign because they weren't carrying out the president and the attorney general's priorities.” Sampson stated on multiple occasions that he believes “the distinction between performance-related and political is artificial.” [4]
  • Sampson said that knowledge of the plans was not limited to small number of people: “I developed and maintained a list that reflected the aggregation of views of these and other departmental officials over a period of almost two years.” He added that he compiled the list based off of certain criteria including U.S. attorneys whose four-year terms had expired, and “did that in consultation with others at the Department of Justice, including Mike Elston, who is the deputy attorney general's chief of staff, the deputy attorney general and others.” [5]
  • Sampson indicated that senior White House staff was aware of plans to replace U.S. attorneys: “The issue of U.S. attorney replacements was quite episodic, you know, in the thinking phase of this through 2005 and 2006. And it would just come up occasionally after a Judicial Selection meeting, usually between myself and Harriet Miers and Bill Kelley…in Ms. Miers' office, or, sort of, just off to the side in the Roosevelt Room” of the White House. Both Miers and Kelley were White House counsels at that time. [6]
  • Sampson said that the addition of Iglesias to the list was suggested to him by Gonzales before the 2006 elections: “I do remember learning — I believe, from the attorney general — that he had received a complaint from Karl Rove about U.S. attorneys in three jurisdictions, including New Mexico. And the substance of the complaint was that those U.S. attorneys weren't pursuing voter fraud cases aggressively enough…Sometime between October 17th and November 7th, four names were added, including David Iglesias’.” Yet, Sampson also stated that the documents do not mention Iglesias until November 7th. [7]

Background info not on new timeline

  • I'm currently in the process of reworking this page, and this large paste is just part of that process --User:Herschel Nachlis
This article is part of the SourceWatch / Congresspedia coverage of the
Bush administration
U.S. attorney firings controversy
Main article:
Related articles:

In late 2006, the Justice Department fired (or asked for the resignation of) eight U.S. attorneys all previously appointed by President Bush. Earlier in 2006, a provision included in the reauthorization of the Patriot Act allowed these positions to be filled by the administration without Senate approval. In early 2007, hearings were held on the matter in both the House and Senate Judiciary Committee on the firings. Several of the fired attorneys testified that they had been contacted by members of Congress or executive officials about pending cases shortly before their termination. Such contact by members of Congress is a violation of both House and Senate rules.

Note: H.E. "Bud" Cummins was asked to resign as early as June 2006 and other AUSAs were marked for replacement. See Tim Griffin article.

Chain of events

Bush administration U.S. attorney firings controversy
  • Mar. 30, 2006: PATRIOT Act reauthorization passes with provision allowing appointment of US attorneys without Senate confirmation.
  • Dec. 7, 2006: U.S. attorneys were fired.
  • Jan. 9, 2007: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced the Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act of 2007, which would repeal related provisions granted in the 2006 PATRIOT Act.
  • Jan. 18, 2007: Alberto Gonzales acknowledged the firings.
  • Feb. 20, 2007: Department of Justice officials allegedly contacted the fired attorneys warning them to "remain quiet about their dismissals."
  • Mar. 1, 2007: The House Judiciary Committee issued subpoenas to four of the fired prosecutors.
  • Mar. 5, 2007: Michael Battle, who had personally made the calls firing the attorneys, resigned. The House Judiciary Committee issued additional subpoenas to two other fired attorneys.
  • Mar. 6, 2007: Hearings were held in which the fired attorneys testified.
  • Mar. 12, 2007: Kyle Sampson, Gonzales' chief of staff, resigned after he acknowledged that he withheld information from Congress. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) states that he would block the passage of the Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act of 2007.
  • Mar. 14, 2007: The White House responded with additional reasons why the attorneys were fired besides being "performance related." Reasons included "lax voter-fraud investigations".
  • Mar. 15, 2007: The Senate Judiciary Committee widened the number of approved subpoenas to include several Department of Justice and White House officials. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) relented his threat to block the passage of the Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act of 2007.
  • Mar. 18, 2007: Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, stated that he was "sick and tired of getting half-truths" from the White House on this issue.
  • Mar. 19, 2007: The White House released 3,000 documents of correspondence with an eighteen-day lull between November 15 and December 4, 2006.
  • Mar. 20, 2007: The White House offered to grant members of Congress private interviews with administration officials without oaths or transcripts. Democrats rejected the offer. President Bush vowed to oppose any efforts to subpoena White House staff members. The Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act of 2007 passed the Senate.
  • Mar. 21, 2007: The House Judiciary Committee approved subpoenas for top-level White House staff members.
  • Mar. 22, 2007: The Senate Judiciary Committee approved subpoenas for top-level White House staff members.
  • Mar. 23, 2007: The Department of Justice released copies of emails regarding a November 27, 2006 meeting between Gonzales and senior aides to discuss the then planned firings of the U.S. attorneys.
  • Mar. 26, 2007: Monica Goodling, the senior counselor to Gonzales and the Department of Justice's liaison to the White House, threatened to plead the Fifth if subpoenaed to testify before Congress.
  • Mar. 28, 2007: The chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary committees urged the White House to turn over all relevant e-mails to the committees for their investigations.
  • Mar. 29, 2007: Kyle Sampson testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, refuting claims that Gonzales was unaware of the planned firings before they took place.
  • Mar. 30, 2007: The House Judiciary Committee and the Department of Justice reached an agreement to conduct private transcribed interviews with former and current DOJ employees. Monica Goodling reiterates her plans to plead the Fifth to the House Judiciary Committee.
  • April 6, 2007: Monica Goodling resigned from her position at the Department of Justice.
  • April 10, 2007: The House Judiciary Committee served Gonzales with a subpoena to release previously redacted documents.
  • April 12, 2007: The Senate Judiciary Committee authorized subpoenas for White House documents and threatened to use them pending Gonzales' testimony on April 17 (postponed).
  • April 19, 2007: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
  • April 25, 2007: The House Judiciary Committee authorized a subpoena for Monica Goodling with immunity.
  • May 1, 2007: The House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena to former Deputy Attorney General James Comey.
  • May 14, 2007: Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty submits his letter of resignation.

(Edit this timeline)

2006 reauthorization of the Patriot Act

On March 9, 2006, President Bush signed into law a reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act, a bill originally intended to provide the federal government with additional tools to deter, prevent, and combat terrorism. Included in the bill was a provision allowing the attorney general to appoint U.S. attorneys without a presidential nomination or Senate confirmation. Previously, the Attorney General could appoint interim U.S. Attorneys, but if they were not nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate within 120 days of being appointed, the federal district court would appoint a replacement. [8] Specifically, the new provision (SEC. 502 of the Act, Section 546 of title 28, United States Code) stated:

"A person appointed as United States attorney under this section may serve until the qualification of a United States Attorney for such district appointed by the President under section 541 of this title."

The provision was inserted into the bill by Michael O’Neill, chief counsel to then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) at the request of the Justice Department. Specter says he learned of the provision after the bill had passed and did not support it. [9]

Attorney General Gonzales testifies

On April 19, 2007, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. According to the Washington Post's Dana Milbank, "Gonzales uttered the phrase 'I don't recall' and its variants ('I have no recollection,' 'I have no memory') 64 times. Along the way, his answer became so routine that a Marine in the crowd put down his poster protesting the Iraq war and replaced it with a running 'I don't recall' tally.

"Take Gonzales's tally along with that of his former chief of staff, who uttered the phrase 'I don't remember' 122 times before the same committee three weeks ago, and the Justice Department might want to consider handing out Ginkgo biloba in the employee cafeteria." [10]

Blogger Gitai wrote that Gonzales "basically said, 'Well, someone said something about maybe reviewing some of the US Attorneys, and then I delegated that to a lot of people, and then they did some stuff, I don't recall what, I mean, I don't know what they did, because I didn't ask, and even if e-mails show I did ask and did know, I don't recall, and then they gave me a list and then I fired those guys. There was nothing inappropriate about that.'"

Historical background

If President Bush and Congress were unable to reach an agreement, the standoff would ultimately be settled by the courts. In such a case, Bush's likely defense would be "executive privilege," which refers to his right to withhold certain information from Congress, the courts and most anyone else, even in the face of a subpoena. The courts had been historically deferential to the privilege unless an overwhelming interest in obtaining the information could be proven. In 1974, the Supreme Court ruled against the president in Nixon v. U.S. (1974), when it determined 8-0 that President Richard Nixon could not claim “executive privilege” in refusing to turn over tapes pertaining to the cover-up of the Watergate break-in. Most constitutional standoffs between the president and Congress never make it to courts, as compromises are generally reached. [11]

Senate votes to repeal provision in PATRIOT Act permitting interim US attorneys to serve without term limit

March 20, 2007
Passed, 94-2, view details
Dem: 46-0 in favor, GOP: 46-2 in favor, Ind: 2 in favor

Chairman Conyers issues letter asking for Goodling's cooperation

House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Rep. Conyers, sent a letter to Department of Justice official Monica Goodling for an interview, requesting her cooperation in connection with the ongoing U.S. attorney scandal. The letter was delivered through Goodling's attorney, John M. Dowd. Last week, Dowd informed House and Senate leaders that Goodling would invoke her Fifth Amendment privilege in response to such invitations.

Senate Delays Gonzales Testimony on Firings

The Senate decided to delay the Gonzales testimony until Thursday, April 19, 2007, because of the shootings at Virginia Tech. [12]

Congressional statements on Alberto Gonzales

Administration Officials Involved

Name Position
Alberto R. Gonzales Attorney General and former White House Counsel
Paul J. McNulty Deputy Attorney General
Karl Rove Deputy White House Chief of Staff
Harriet Miers White House Counsel
Kyle Sampson Chief of Staff to the Attorney General
Fred Fielding White House Counsel
William K. Kelley Deputy White House Counsel
Michael Elston Chief of Staff to the Deputy Attorney General
William Moschella Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General
Michael Battle Director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys
Bradley J. Schlozman Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division
Sara Taylor Director of Political Affairs
J. Scott Jennings Associate Director of Political Affairs
Monica Goodling Justice Department's liaison to the White House

RNC emails

Voter-fraud complaints

According to a May 14, 2007, report by the Washington Post based off of newly released Department of Justice documents and interviews, nearly half of the attorneys who were slated for removal were targets of Republican complaints that they were lax on voter fraud, including efforts by presidential adviser Karl Rove to encourage more prosecutions of election. [13]

Resources and articles

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. Dan Eggen and Paul Kane, "Ex-Aide Contradicts Gonzales on Firings," Washington Post, March 30, 2007.
  2. U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and Kyle Sampson, “U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Holds a Hearing on U.S. Attorney Firings,” ‘’Washington Post’’, March 29, 2007.
  3. U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and Kyle Sampson, “U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Holds a Hearing on U.S. Attorney Firings,” ‘’Washington Post’’, March 29, 2007.
  4. U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and Kyle Sampson, “U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Holds a Hearing on U.S. Attorney Firings,” ‘’Washington Post’’, March 29, 2007.
  5. U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and Kyle Sampson, “U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Holds a Hearing on U.S. Attorney Firings,” ‘’Washington Post’’, March 29, 2007.
  6. U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and Kyle Sampson, “U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Holds a Hearing on U.S. Attorney Firings,” ‘’Washington Post’’, March 29, 2007.
  7. U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and Kyle Sampson, “U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Holds a Hearing on U.S. Attorney Firings,” ‘’Washington Post’’, March 29, 2007.
  8. Paul Kiel, "Did Specter Give WH Power to Replace Prosecutors?" TPM Muckraker, January 17, 2007.
  9. Paul Kiel, "Specter: Measure Was News To Me, Too," TPM Muckraker, February 6, 2007.
  10. Dana Milbank, "Maybe Gonzales Won't Recall His Painful Day on the Hill," Washington Post, April 20, 2007.
  11. Reynolds Holding, "The Executive Privilege Showdown," Time, March 21, 2007.
  12. Dan Eggen and Paul Kane, "Senate Delays Gonzales Testimony on Firings," Washington Post, April 17, 2007.
  13. Dan Eggen and Amy Goldstein, "Voter-Fraud Complaints by GOP Drove Dismissals," Washington Post, May 14, 2007.

External resources

External articles