Key House Democrat: For the Bush administration, politics comes before justice
A key Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives is blasting the White House for putting politics before justice, according to a press release.
Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), House Democratic Caucus chair, says, "For the Bush Administration, politics comes before justice. Talented prosecutors investigating public corruption cases are fired for no reason, while a top Justice official has been vacationing with a lobbyist from the industry she is supposed to regulate."
Emanuel is referring to a report in today's Washington Post about a recently resigned senior assistant attorney general, Sue Ellen Woolridge, who "bought a nearly $2 million vacation home with a lobbyist for ConocoPhillips months before approving consent decrees that would give the oil company more time to pay millions of dollars in fines" while meeting refinery cleanup rules at some of its sites, according to the Post article.
Meanwhile, several U.S. Attorneys actively investigating cases of public corruption have been terminated in recent weeks, some purportedly without cause. Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-CA), chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, has announced hearings to probe the recent firings.
"Apparently in this Justice Department," Emanuel says in his statement, "doing your job will get you fired, but protecting the special interests will get you a vacation home."
"The American people expect the Justice Department to be above politics," he continues. "The new Democratic Congress will not allow the Bush Justice Department to continue its pattern of coddling the special interests and protecting political allies at the expense of the public good."
In related news, Emanuel, Sánchez and Reps. John Conyers (D-MI) and Howard Berman (D-CA) have publicly released a letter they sent to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales asking for details on the dismissal of U.S. Attorney Carole Lam. Text of the letter follows...
Last week, Congressman Emanuel sent you a letter requesting that former U.S. Attorney in San Diego Carol Lam be appointed as outside counsel to finish her work on the Duke Cunningham Case. Unfortunately, your office has not yet responded to that letter.
Two days ago, Lam's investigation continued to bear fruit as a federal grand jury charged Kyle "Dusty" Foggo and Brent Wilkes with at least 11 felony counts related to their involvement with Cunningham. As Elana Schor's article in The Hill yesterday points out, "Justice Department officials have praised the Cunningham probe as the linchpin of their growing pursuit of public corruption cases, yet prosecutor Lam is nonetheless slated to step down [Thursday] after the Bush administration cited unspecified 'performance' issues in requesting her resignation late last year. Six other U.S. attorneys, several involved in ongoing corruption investigations, were dismissed at about the same time."
As you know, of those seven fired U.S. Attorneys, Lam was not the only one investigating sitting public officials before being dismissed. For example, Daniel Bogden of Nevada and Paul Charlton of Arizona were dismissed while their offices were conducting probes concerning elected officials.
Schor's article also notes that Deputy U.S. Attorney General Paul McNulty was scheduled to brief members of the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday with information on the decisions to dismiss the U.S. Attorneys. During last week's public Senate hearing, Deputy U.S. Attorney General McNulty confirmed that Bud Cummins III, the former U.S. attorney for Eastern Arkansas, was dismissed without cause to install Timothy Griffin, a former aide to White House adviser Karl Rove.
Carol Lam's indictments of Foggo and Wilkes underscore the importance of last week's request and the need for an explanation of why these diligent public servants were dismissed. It is vital that U.S. Attorneys be able to prosecute wrongdoing free from political pressure. We are pleased that the Department of Justice has also agreed to brief members of the House Judiciary Committee on the dismissals of Carol Lam and other U.S. Attorneys. We look forward to further details regarding the date for that briefing and your response regarding the request to appoint Carol Lam as an outside counsel to finish the Cunningham and related investigations.