Wednesday, April 04, 2007

It keeps getting worse at DOJ

Paul Kiel says that the cover story for the inappropriate firings are perhaps worse that what they covering for.

It's almost too perfect.

When Justice Department official William Moschella was asked why the Department had fired U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, he told Congress that “Iglesias had delegated to his first assistant the overall running of the office. And, quite frankly, U.S. attorneys are hired to run the office.” Internal documents from the time show officials planning to accuse Iglesias of being an "absentee landlord" to justify his firing.

Iglesias did, in fact, leave the office for 45 days each year. But that's because he's a a captain in the Navy Reserve -- something that was no secret to his superiors.

So now the Office of Special Counsel is investigating whether Iglesias was wrongfully terminated due to his reserve duty, Newsweek reports. It is against the law for employers to discriminate against members of the U.S. military.

Now, as Kyle Sampson admitted last week, there was no real performance reason to fire Iglesias. And in fact, it's indisputable at this point that Iglesias was actually fired because he didn't indict enough Democrats.* So the "absentee landlord" line was just a cover story -- but one that seems to have gotten them into some trouble now.

It's not the first time that one of the phony justifications has backfired for the Justice Department. When Karl Rove's former aide Tim Griffin replaced Bud Cummins as the U.S. attorney in eastern Arkansas, a Justice Department spokesman told the press and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) that Griffin had been installed as the U.S. attorney instead of Cummins' first assistant because she was on maternity leave at the time.

Of course, Justice Department officials had been scheming for almost six months to install Griffin when he was finally appointed last December, so the maternity excuse was a lie. But as Pryor later pointed out, it's against the law for employers to discriminate against women on the basis of a pregnancy -- something well known at the Justice Department, of course.

*Update: To answer the reader question below as to whether this claim goes too far.... The only reason Kyle Sampson could offer in his testimony last week for Iglesias' firing was a complaint from Karl Rove about Iglesias' performance on voter fraud cases. Since Iglesias was lauded by the department for his voter fraud task force, there can be no doubt that his office vigorously investigated the issue. What his office didn't do, however, was indict Democrats -- much to the chagrin of several prominent New Mexico Republicans, who subsequently complained to the White House about Iglesias' failure to deliver.

Now, prominent Republicans (like Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM)) were also upset about Iglesias' failure to indict a state Democrat on corruption charges. But whether that was the reason for Iglesias' firing or it was the voter fraud issue, or both -- it all amounts to the same thing: he was fired for not indicting Democrats.

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