A Retraction On The United States Attorneys Storyby Doug Mataconis
Last week, I wrote this post attempting to argue why the story surrounding the firing of eight United States Attorneys was something that needed to be looked into.
Well, I completely blew that one.
I’ve followed this story as best I can, including today’s story that subpoenas will be issued to top White House aides, and this much has become clear:
1.Â Â Â United States Attorneys have always served at the pleasure of the President. Traditionally, when a new President takes office, each sitting U.S. Attorney hands in their resignation and the incoming Administration makes the hiring decision regarding their replacement. It happens every 4-8 years like clockwork. Sometimes, a particular U.S. Attorney may stay on, especially if there wasn’t a change in the President’s political party during the preceding election, but that has always been the choice of the President and Attorney General.
2. Â Â Â When Congress passed the PATRIOT Act, which I personally consider ill-advised but it is still the law of the land, it included provisions that expanded the ability of the President and Attorney General to remove a sitting U.S. Attorney and replace him on an expedited basis. It was under this statutory provision, as I understand it, that the eight firings were made.
3. There is no evidence that any of the dismissed prosecutors were removed because they were pursuing something that the Administration wanted covered up. For the most part, they were removed because they were not pursuing investigations that the Administration, or Republican Congressional leaders, wanted to see pursued. This may be improper in some sense of legal ethics, and maybe we should change the law so that prosecutors are immune from these political considerations, but it is not illegal.
Given all of this, it’s pretty clear that there really isn’t a scandal here, although the media has already started using that word. Before long, I’m sure we will start calling this whole thing “Attorney-gate” or something like that.
If it’s not a scandal, then what is it ?
Politics, pure and simple. The Democrats in Congress are behaving toward the Bush Administration precisely the same way that the Republicans did toward Bill Clinton, holding hearings to investigate every little story coming out of the White House.
It may well be that there are things that this President has done that deserve to be investigated. I’d like someone to look into what the heck went wrong with intelligence in the months before the Iraq War. And the whole issue of domestic surveillance without a warrant is something not even the Democrats are touching with a ten foot pole.
But don’t waste our time with this non-scandal.