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Justice official resigns; Top House Democrat says 'wheels coming off' Bush defense of US attorney firings
Michael Roston
Published: Monday March 5, 2007
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The sudden resignation of a top government official involved in the sacking of US attorneys has raised eyebrows in Congress. The chairperson of a congressional subcommittee investigating the situation said that the official's sudden exit from government service showed that "the wheels seem to be coming off" the administration's defense of its actions.

The Associated Press today reported the resignation of Michael A. Battle as Director of the Executive Office for US Attorneys. According to the AP report, Battle "had personally informed the ousted U.S. attorneys of their removal" but was reportedly not involved in the decision-making leading to the firings.

He had, AP reported, "notified U.S. attorneys of his decision in January and had informed the department last summer that he wished to pursue opportunities in the private sector." A DOJ spokesperson told the AP, "His departure is not connected to the U.S. attorney controversy whatsoever."

Battle's resignation raised the suspicions of Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee who are investigating the firing of US Attorneys by the Bush White House.

"The wheels seem to be coming off the Bush Administration's increasingly hollow defense of its decision to fire eight U.S. Attorneys," said Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-CA), the Chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law.

She added, "The Administration's explanation of Mr. Battle's apparent resignation is as murky as everything else they have told us about this case."

The Judiciary Committee's Chairman, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) added, "Battle's resignation raises even more questions about the growing fallout from the firing of the U.S. Attorneys."

According to the White House website, Battle has served in his current position since June 2005. Prior to the Executive Director position, he served as US Attorney for the Western District of New York from January 2002 to May 2005.

House Democrats to subpoena two more US Attorneys

The Chairwoman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law (CAL), announced on Monday morning that her subcommittee will seek to issue subpoenas to two additional former U.S. Attorneys who were fired by the Bush Administration.

"The CAL Subcommittee will meet on Tuesday, March 6 at 10:00 am in 2141 Rayburn House Office Building, to vote on issuing subpoenas to former U.S. Attorneys Daniel Bogden of Nevada and Paul K. Charlton of Arizona," a press release states. "The subpoenas would require them to testify before the subcommittee at its hearing scheduled for the same afternoon, joining four other former U.S. Attorneys who CAL subpoenaed last week."

"We intend to issue these subpoenas because Mr. Bogden and Mr. Charlton can shed additional light on the Bush Administration's apparent decision to pursue a political agenda through the selection of federal prosecutors," said Chairwoman Linda Sánchez. "Even months after the firings, we still haven't gotten straight answers from the Department of Justice, which changed its own story this weekend and admitted the firings weren't based on job performance."

The following release was sent to RAW STORY by the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law.

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Monday, March 5, 2007

JUDICIARY SUBCOMMITTEE INTENDS TO SUBPOENA TWO ADDITIONAL FORMER U.S. ATTORNEYS

Washington - Congresswoman Linda Sánchez, Chairwoman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law (CAL), announced this morning that her subcommittee will seek to issue subpoenas to two additional former U.S. Attorneys who were fired by the Bush Administration.

The CAL Subcommittee will meet on Tuesday, March 6 at 10:00 am in 2141 Rayburn House Office Building, to vote on issuing subpoenas to former U.S. Attorneys Daniel Bogden of Nevada and Paul K. Charlton of Arizona. The subpoenas would require them to testify before the subcommittee at its hearing scheduled for the same afternoon, joining four other former U.S. Attorneys who CAL subpoenaed last week.

"We intend to issue these subpoenas because Mr. Bogden and Mr. Charlton can shed additional light on the Bush Administration's apparent decision to pursue a political agenda through the selection of federal prosecutors," said Chairwoman Sánchez. "Even months after the firings, we still haven't gotten straight answers from the Department of Justice, which changed its own story this weekend and admitted the firings weren't based on job performance."

"We believe Mr. Bogden and Mr. Charlton can add valuable information to this panel of former U.S. Attorneys, and I look forward to hearing their testimony," said Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers.

The hearing, which is scheduled for Tuesday, March 6 at 2:00 pm, will consider a bill by Congressman Howard Berman that would reverse a new provision in the USA PATRIOT Act allowing the Attorney General to indefinitely appoint federal prosecutors through the end of the Bush Administration without Senate confirmation.

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Group files ethics complaint against GOP Senator

In related news today, an ethics complaint was filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) against a Republican senator to see if he violated senate rules by contacting one of the attorneys, prior to his termination.

"Today Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) asked the Senate Select Committee on Ethics to investigate whether Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-NM) violated Senate Rules by contacting the U.S. Attorney in Albuquerque, New Mexico, David C. Iglesias, and pressuring him about an ongoing corruption probe," the CREW press release states. "Sen. Domenici has acknowledged that he contacted Mr. Iglesias to inquire about an ongoing corruption probe of Democrats."

In the press release, Melanie Sloan, CREW’s executive director, states, “The Senate Ethics Committee should take advantage of the fact that Mr. Iglesias will be in Washington testifying before Congress to convene its own hearing to learn the details of Sen. Domenici’s telephone call. If, as it appears, Sen. Domenici pressured a sitting U.S. Attorney to push a criminal case to benefit a political party, the Ethics Committee should take swift and harsh action. No member of Congress can be permitted to manipulate our system of justice for political gain.”

CREW press release follows:

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Washington, DC – Today Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) asked the Senate Select Committee on Ethics to investigate whether Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-NM) violated Senate Rules by contacting the U.S. Attorney in Albuquerque, New Mexico, David C. Iglesias, and pressuring him about an ongoing corruption probe.

Sen. Domenici has acknowledged that he contacted Mr. Iglesias to inquire about an ongoing corruption probe of Democrats. Mr. Iglesias previously stated that in mid-October, he was pressured about the pace of the investigation by two New Mexico lawmakers. Initially, when asked about Mr. Iglesias’s allegations, Sen. Domenici stated, “I have no idea what he’s talking about.” Sen. Domenici has now admitted that he called Mr. Iglesias, stating, “I asked Mr. Iglesias if he could tell me what was going on in that investigation and give me an idea of what time frame we were looking at.”

In a discussion of Senate Rule 43, the Senate Ethics Manual states that “[t]he general advice of the Ethics Committee concerning pending court actions is that Senate offices should refrain from intervening in such legal actions . . . until the matter has reached a resolution in the courts.” The manual also indicates that Senators are not to communicate with an agency regarding ongoing enforcement or investigative matters.

CREW’s complaint alleges that Sen. Domenici violated Rule 43 by pressuring Mr. Iglesias to act quickly on a pending corruption investigation. Moreover, given that Sen. Domenici made the call shortly before the November elections, he appears to have violated the prohibition on contacting agencies based on political considerations.

CREW also alleges that by initially denying Mr. Iglesias’s allegation, Sen. Domenici may have violated Senate rules by engaging in “improper conduct which may reflect upon the Senate.”

Melanie Sloan, CREW’s executive director, stated, “The Senate Ethics Committee should take advantage of the fact that Mr. Iglesias will be in Washington testifying before Congress to convene its own hearing to learn the details of Sen. Domenici’s telephone call.” Sloan continued, “If, as it appears, Sen. Domenici pressured a sitting U.S. Attorney to push a criminal case to benefit a political party, the Ethics Committee should take swift and harsh action. No member of Congress can be permitted to manipulate our system of justice for political gain.”

CREW’s letter to the Senate Select Committee on Ethics and related documents are available on CREW’s website.

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Link to PDF of Domenici complaint