Congressman defends calling fired US Attorney 'idiot' as 'succinct'
A Republican Congressman who has criticized the House Judiciary Committee's probe of the firing of 8 US Attorneys by the Bush administration defended calling fired New Mexico prosecutor David Iglesias an 'idiot' in an appearance on Fox News Sunday.
RAW STORY reported on the statement on Sunday.
A statement from the office of Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT), the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee's Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee, called his curt phrase a 'succinct' way of criticizing the fired federal prosecutor.
"If he had to do it again, Rep. Cannon would rather have had the time to explain why he believed David Iglesiasí firing was for just cause," said a spokesman from Cannon's office in a statement e-mailed to RAW STORY. "His comments on FoxNews Sunday represented a succinct way of saying that Mr. Iglesias demonstrated, both during his time before the committee and his subsequent riding of the talk show circuit parroting outrageous assertions, that he did not possess the temperament for the position he held."
Iglesias has been a particularly notable subject in the course of the US Attorneys investigation in the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. The former US Attorney for New Mexico was contacted by two Republican members of his state's congressional delegation - Rep. Heather Wilson and Sen. Pete Domenici - for failing to press a public corruption prosecution that state Republicans considered a priority before the November 2006 elections.
The contacts between the Congress members and Iglesias have resulted in an investigation of Domenici by the Senate's ethics watchdog after the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed complaints alleging that the contacts were in violation of House and Senate ethics rules. The House's Ethics Committee has not confirmed that it is probing Wilson's actions.
In his statement, Cannon alleged that whatever Wilson and Domenici might have done, Iglesias also violated Justice Department rules by failing to report his communications with the Congress members.
"Before the committee he admitted to violating the rules governing US Attorneys with regards to his contacts with Rep. Wilson and Sen. Domenici," his office said in the e-mailed statement.
Iglesias did admit in a March 7 hearing that he had not complied with his department's rules.
"In late February, I reported it -- not to the Justice Department, but I made -- by sort of talking to the media about being contacted by members of Congress," he told Rep. Cannon, referring to a media appearance after he had left the Justice Department.
Cannon responded by asking if that was an appropriate way to inform the Justice Department of his contacts with the Congress members. Iglesias demurred, answering, "I think that's your job, sir."
In later hearings, Cannon tried to make the case that Iglesias's failure to report his contacts with Domenici and Wilson was grounds for his firing. When Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified in May, Cannon pointed to a House Judiciary Committee interview with David Margolis, a top career official at the Justice Department.
"I was asked about David Iglesias," Margolis reportedly said. "Given everything I know today, he would have been number one on my list to go."
The investigator clarified that Margolis was referring to the phone calls with Domenici and Wilson, which Margolis affirmed.
In questioning with Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), the Ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Iglesias gave a more complete explanation as to why he failed to report his contacts with Wilson and Domenici.
"I felt terribly conflicted because Senator Domenici has been a mentor to me," he said in the appearance, which also occurred on March 7. "He had assisted me early in my career. And Heather Wilson was a friend, an ally. We campaigned together back in 1998....And I felt a conflict between my loyalty to them as friends and allies and my duty to report under DOJ guidelines."
Iglesias was referring to his 1998 campaign as a Republican to serve as New Mexico's Attorney General.
But, he told Specter, he realized he erred in his judgment.
"I started thinking, why am I protecting people that not only did me wrong but did the system of having independent U.S. attorneys wrong?" he noted. "So upon further reflection, I though the right thing to do was to go public with the fact that I had been contacted inappropriately by two members of Congress."
In the statement from his office to RAW STORY, Rep. Cannon alleged that such judgments showed that Iglesias was opportunistic and unprofessional.
"He has ridden the talk show circuit making fanciful claims and attacking the Attorney General, while at the same time seeking letters of recommendation from the Attorney General," he argued. "All of the fired US Attorneys, save Mr. Iglesias, have demonstrated professionalism and competence commensurate with their stellar reputations. Mr. Iglesias has not."
Iglesias has argued that his office was highly evaluated by the Justice Department, and that it is difficult to understand how a negative performance evaluation would have led to his dismissal.
"[T]he legal management of your office is very good and...your office is staffed with well prepared and motivated Assistant United States Attorneys and support personnel who are appropriately directing their efforts to accomplishing the goals of the Attorney General," wrote Michael Battle, Director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys in a Jan. 24, 2006 letter to Iglesias. "I want to commend you for your exemplary leadership in the Department's priority programs."
Monica Goodling, former White House Liaison to the Justice Department, stated that the basis for the firing of Iglesias remained unclear to her through March 2007, when she resigned from her position.
"I asked the question at that point -- I still don't know how Mr. Iglesias got on the list," she said of a meeting that occurred late in her tenure in the Justice Department. "And someone in the room just said, That's been addressed. And that was all they said."
As to Cannon's calling Iglesias an idiot, his staff seemed aware that it might provoke a reaction.
"After the show, Cannon and Chief of Staff Joe Hunter discussed the quote," wrote the (Utah) Daily Herald's Nathan Johnson. "Cannon said that he was trying to figure out how to make sure that the 'he was an idiot' quote didn't end up as the headline in the newspaper."
Johnson added, "'It's fine if you use it,' Cannon said, but he asked that context be used."
The website ThinkProgress also provided further details from Cannon's office on why he called Iglesias an 'idiot.