Justice Department officials said Wednesday that Assistant U.S. Attorney Nora Dannehy has concluded that no criminal charges are warranted in connection with the Bush administration’s firings of U.S. Attorneys in 2006.
Attorney General Michael Mukasey appointed Dannehy, then-acting U.S. Attorney of Connecticut, in September 2008 as a special prosecutor to look into the firings, particularly that of former New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias.
Dannehy also was tasked with determining whether White House or DOJ officials made false statements to Congress or to the Justice Department’s Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility, which also investigated the dismissals.
Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legislative Affairs Ronald Weich disclosed Dannehy’s findings in a letter to House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) dated Wednesday.
“Evidence did not demonstrate that any prosecutable criminal offense was committed with regard to the removal of David Iglesias,” Weich wrote in the letter. “The investigative team also determined that the evidence did not warrant expanding the scope of the investigation beyond the removal of Iglesias.”
Justice Department officials said Wednesday that the probe is now closed. The inquiry focused on Iglesias and the findings outlined in the letter related to the investigation of his dismissal, they said. No wider investigation was determined to be necessary.
According to Weich, Dannehy and her investigative team concluded that DOJ leadership never made a determination as to whether complaints about Iglesias were legitimate.
“While the actions of DOJ leadership were contrary to DOJ principles, they were not intended to and did not influence or in any way impede voter fraud prosecutions or a particular public corruption case,” Weich said.
The investigation also found that there was insufficient evidence to establish that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Kyle Sampson, the Attorney General’s Chief of Staff, “knowingly made material false statements to OIG/OPR or Congress or corruptly endeavored to obstruct justice.”
Reached by Main Justice Wednesday, Gonzales said he had not yet reviewed the letter, but had heard the result of the investigation. He declined to comment until he had an opportunity to review the letter himself.
In an interview with Main Justice last month, Gonzales said he hoped the investigation would wrap up soon. He also said he needed to raise additional money to cover his legal bills related to the matter.
“We need to do a better effort raising additional money, and so we’re going to try to do that as soon as the last investigation [ends],” said Gonzales. “That investigation has been out there going on forever. I’m not sure what’s going on there, but we’re waiting for that to be completed. And once that’s completed — I have confidence that again [there was] no wrong-doing by me — that will again raise some interest in raising additional money.”
Conyers said in a statement that it was clear that Dannehy’s decision not to bring criminal charges “is not an exoneration of Bush officials in the U.S. Attorney matter as there is no dispute that these firings were totally improper and that misleading testimony was given to Congress in an effort to cover them up.”
He also pointed out that the probe “did not conclude that administration officials testified truthfully to Congress,” only that there was insufficient evidence to show they knowingly made false statement.
“I appreciate Attorney General Holder’s commitment to ensure that such conduct will not happen again,” Conyers said. “I am proud of the committee’s effort to bring the facts of this controversy to light, so that the American people themselves can judge the how Bush Justice Department abused our trust.”
Gonzales’ lawyer, former Deputy Attorney General George J. Terwilliger III, said the Justice Department’s conclusion was long overdue.
“Those who made unwarranted allegations to the contrary owe him an apology,” said Terwilliger, a partner with White & Case LLP. “After having spent months cooperating with inquiries that produced no evidence of his wrongdoing, Judge Gonzales is pleased to be free to resume a career marked to date by service to the public.”
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The Pentagon on Monday announced that former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, who was removed from office during the U.S. Attorney firings, will be the Defense Department’s new advocate for military commissions, the Miami Herald reported. Iglesias will be part of the prosecution team for hearings on whether American forces tortured confessions out of a Canadian teenager accused of killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan.
Iglesias served as the New Mexico U.S. Attorney from 2001 until he was forced out in the 2006 U.S. Attorney firings. Last year, he was mobilized to the war court as a U.S. Navy Reserves captain.
He now will be part of a Pentagon prosecution team headed to Guantanamo for up to two weeks of hearings about Omar Khadr. In July 2002, Khadr was captured during a firefight in which Delta Forces Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer was fatally wounded by a grenade allegedly thrown by Khadr. The hearings will determine if any of Khadr’s confessions can be presented during his trial this summer.
Khadr faces charges as an al-Qaeda foot soldier and murderer. Prosecutors are seeking life in prison instead of the death penalty because he was 15 at the time of the incident. Khadr is currently the youngest “enemy combatant” at Guantanamo Bay.
The prosecution team is being headed by Navy Capt. John F. Murphy. Iglesias on Monday briefed 35 reporters who left from Andrews Air Force Base for Guantanamo.
Kenneth J. Gonzales (University of New Mexico, University of New Mexico School of Law) is nominated to be U.S. Attorney for New Mexico. He would replace Bush holdover Gregory J. Fouratt, who was appointed by the court as interim U.S. Attorney in 2008. His appointment came after David Iglesias was forced out in the U.S. Attorney purge.
- Born in Española, N.M., in 1964.
- Has been an Assistant U.S. Attorney in New Mexico since March 1999.
- Has been a judge advocate in the Army Reserve since August 2001.
- Was senior trial counsel in the Army on active duty from November 2008 to May 2009.
- Worked as a legislative assistant for Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) in Washington, D.C., from September 1996 to March 1999.
- Was a judicial law clerk for Chief Justice Joseph F. Baca of the New Mexico Supreme Court from September 1994 to August 1996.
- Clerked in the Office of University Counsel at the University of New Mexico from February 1993 to May 1993 and January 1994 to May 1994.
- Clerked at Hinkle, Cox, Eaton, Coffield & Hensley, L.L.P. (now known as Hinkle, Hensley, Shanor & Martin LLP) in Albuquerque, N.M., during the summer of 1993.
- Clerked at Sheehan, Sheehan, & Stelzner, P.A. in Albuquerque during the summer of 1992.
- Was a financial aid counselor at the University of New Mexico from June 1989 to August 1991.
- Has tried approximately 15 cases to verdict, serving as first chair on 10 and second chair on five.
Click here for his full Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire.
UPDATE: On his Senate Judiciary financial disclosure Gonzales reported assets of $517,500, mostly from his personal residence, and liabilities of $332,700, mostly from two mortgages, for a net worth of $184,800.
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David Iglesias, the former U.S. Attorney for New Mexico who was dismissed in the U.S. attorney firings in 2006, shot back at former White House adviser Karl Rove Tuesday, calling the former Bush official’s allegations “a complete fabrication,” reported the Washington Independent.
In his memoir “Courage and Consequences” released Tuesday by Simon and Schuster, Rove said he did not put Iglesias’ name on the DOJ firing list. But Rove did cop to forwarding three complaints about Iglesias to the Justice Department. The complaints alleged that Iglesias of failed to investigate claims of voter fraud in Albuquerque after the 2004 election, “bungled” a high-profile corruption case involving state treasurers and that he declined to file an indictment against several prominent state Democrats allegedly involved in a kickback scheme until after the November 2006 election.
Iglesias took issue with Rove’s assertion that he “bungled” the corruption investigation, noting state treasurer Michael Montoya plead guilty and he won a conviction against a second treasurer, Robert Vigil.
But Iglesias saved his most harsh criticism for Rove’s description of the kickback scheme, which involved construction contracts for a courthouse in Bernalillo County.
“That’s a complete fabrication,” Iglesias told the Independent. “That indictment didn’t get filed until three weeks after I left office — in March 2007. Look, here’s where Rove’s lack of knowledge of DOJ policy hurts him factually. It’s standing policy that you can’t file an indictment right before an election if you think it will effect the outcome. But I’m sure Rove heard from local Republicans that I was intentionally keeping my powder dry.”
Iglesias also denied that he had planned to run for the Senate in 2006. Rove suggested in his memoir that the prosecutor held off on the indictment because he wanted to run for the Senate seat and needed the support of local Democrats.
Read Iglesias’ complete response at the Independent.
Former White House adviser Karl Rove’s memoir Courage and Consequences was released Tuesday. Main Justice has a copy and will be blogging any interesting bits on the Justice Department.
In the new memoir, former White House adviser Karl Rove only briefly discusses the U.S. Attorney firings controversy and denies that the White House had anything more than a peripheral involvement in the selection of which attorneys got the ax.
“Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and top aides removed the attorneys after a two-year review of all U.S. Attorneys that began after the 2004 election,” Rove wrote. “They made the decision because the attorneys were not performing well or were going to leave anyway, not because they were disloyal to the Republican Party. No one at the White House compiled a list of U.S. attorneys to be removed or ordered the Justice Department to add a name to the list.”
In 2006, the White House dismissed seven U.S. attorneys. Soon after, congressional Democrats began an investigation of the firings, alleging that some of the removals were politically motivated. Gonzales and several of his top aides at the Justice Department ultimately resigned. But Rove devotes only four pages out of the 520-page book to the scandal.
In the book, Rove acknowledges he forwarded three complaints about David Iglesias, then the U.S. Attorney for New Mexico, to the Justice Department. Rove said he heard complaints that Iglesias failed to investigate claims of voter fraud in Albuquerque after the 2004 election, that he bungled a high-profile corruption case involving state treasurers and that the attorney declined to file an indictment against several prominent state Democrats allegedly involved in a kickback scheme until after the November 2006 election.
Rove pointedly does not say who complained to him about Iglesias. (Allen Weh, the former chairman of the New Mexico Republican Party, has said publicly that he complained to Rove about the New Mexico U.S. Attorney.) But Rove does take Iglesias to task himself, alleging that the prosecutor was interested in running for the U.S. Senate and might have been looking to curry favor with local Democrats.
“I could understand not issuing a politically charged indictment a few days before the election,” Rove said. “The timing of Judge Walsh’s indictment of former Reagan Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger just days before the 1992 presidential election was egregious. But sitting on an indictment for nine to twelve months, allegedly because of political considerations, seemed inappropriate.”
Rove also defended himself for passing along the complaints about Iglesias.
“My responsibility was to pass on such complaints to appropriate officials,” Rove wrote. “Even so, the Bush White House was not like the Clinton White House, where political director Rahm Emanuel was in weekly contact with Justice. We showed deference to the Justice Department’s special position: communications flowed through the White House Counsel’s office to the designated officials at Justice. So I passed the complaints on to the counsel’s office, which decided whether to send them on to Justice and raised to Attorney General Gonzales the question of the department’s policy on prosecuting voter fraud.”
Rove also saved some fire for the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee, whom he called “hyperpartisan and ultraliberal.” While investigating the firings, the panel sought testimony from White House counsel Harriet Miers and Rove. The White House declined to make them available, citing executive privilege. In response, the committee subpoenaed Miers and Rove in 2008. In March 2009, the Obama administration brokered a deal between Rove and the committee that would allow him to testify in a closed-door session. The former adviser eventually testified in two day-long sessions in July 2009.
In the memoir, Rove took a dig at California Democrat Adam Schiff, who was the chief interrogator during the sessions, saying “he was clearly not prepared.”
“The committee staff drew up questions, many of them duplicative, and Schiff appeared to be seeing them for the first time when he sat down,” Rove wrote. “There were long pauses as he silently read the questions before repeating them to me. At times, the questioning veered close to lunacy.”
One other pointed omission in Rove’s memoir — he makes no mention of his interview last year with Acting Connecticut U.S. Attorney Nora R. Dannehy. Then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey appointed Dannehy in September 2008 to investigate the U.S. attorney firings. The results of that investigation have not been made public.
In case you missed it, five of the seven U.S. Attorneys who were fired during the Bush administration spoke at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law earlier this week. (h/t TPMMuckraker)
They reflected on their experience, the fallout of which led to the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and talked about preserving the integrity of U.S. Attorneys.
The panelists included:
- Paul Charlton, former U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, and now a shareholder with the Phoenix law firm of Gallagher & Kennedy
- Bud Cummins, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, now a consultant
- David Iglesias, former U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico, now a prosecutor for the Office of Military Commission in Washington, D.C.
- Carol Lam, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California, now senior vice president and deputy general counsel for Qualcomm Inc. in San Diego
- John McKay, former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, now a professor from practice at the Seattle University School of Law
We’re not sure the last time so many were in one place — perhaps in 2007, when they testified about their firings on Capitol Hill. See the video below.
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Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) told reporters in a telephone conference yesterday that he submitted recommendations for his state’s next U.S. Attorney to President Barack Obama.
The New Mexico senator declined to say who is on the list of candidates that he sent to the White House last year.
“We have made a list of recommendations available to the White House and we did that several months ago and the White House is trying to determine which of the individuals on that list they wish to go ahead and recommend for appointment to that position,” Bingaman said.
He added: “We have — just for reasons of privacy for the individuals — decided not to put that list out. But it’s up to the White House to choose from the group that we submitted.”
Bush holdover Gregory Fouratt currently leads the New Mexico U.S. Attorney office. He was appointed by the court after David Iglesias was forced out in the 2006 U.S. Attorney purge.
Fouratt was criticized last year by former Republican U.S. Attorneys for accusations he made about Gov. Bill Richardson after his office decided not to file charges against the governor for an alleged pay-to-play scheme.
The U.S. Attorney wrote that Richardson’s office acted corruptly in pressuring the state to select the company of a campaign donor, California-based CDR Financial Products, as an adviser on transportation bond transactions.
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A federal grand jury will decide whether to indict Maricopa County, Ariz. Sheriff Joe Arpaio next Wednesday, reports The Associated Press. Arpaio has been under investigation by both the FBI and the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department for allegations of abuse of power and discrimination, respectively.
The Phoenix Business Journal reported that the grand jury will look at the abuse of power allegations against Arpaio and the sheriff’s office. The allegations of discrimination and are part of a separate investigation, and if the Civil Rights Division decides to pursue a case, it would be filed in civil court.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Phoenix declined to comment, writes the Phoenix Business Journal.
We reported in December that the Justice Department set up a telephone tip-line as part of its probe of the sheriff. Arpaio, the self-proclaimed “America’s toughest sheriff,” has gained notoriety for ordering his deputies to descend on Latino neighborhoods to arrest illegal immigrants. His deputies have arrested thousands of undocumented aliens during these roundups.
The federal case being investigated by the FBI, however, revolved around accusations that Arpaio retaliated against anyone who criticized him or his policies on illegal immigration.
One former Arizona U.S. Attorney fired during the 2006 purge is representing one of the targets of the state’s controversial sheriff. Ex-U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton’s client, Maricopa County, Ariz., supervisor Don Stapley, a Republican, has been arrested twice by deputies of Arpaio. Stapley has been a major critic of the sheriff’s tough stance on illegal immigration. Other Arpaio opponents who he is accused of retaliating against include Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, ex-New Times staffer John Dougherty, Village Voice Media Executive Editor Michael Lacey, VVM CEO Jim Larkin, wrote the New Times blog back in October.
A local CBS news station in Arizona did a yearlong investigation of Arpaio, which can be viewed below. It features David Iglesias, another Republican former U.S. Attorney for Arizona who was fired by the Bush administration during what an Inspector General report concluded was a politically motivated campaign. Iglesias says he couldn’t believe what Arpaio is accused of doing could happen in the United States.
Andrew Ramonas contributed to this report.
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An unusual back-and-forth is going on between former New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias and a state Republican leader who helped get him fired, Talking Points Memo reports this week.
New Mexico gubernatorial candidate Allen Weh told an Albuquerque, N.M. radio station that he was “taking on [his] own party” when he urged Bush officials to fire Iglesias. At the time, Weh was the chair of the state Republican Party.
The ex-U.S. Attorney was put on the chopping block after Weh and other Republicans started complaining to then-White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove that Iglesias was not aggressively pursuing voter fraud cases, according to a Justice Department report on the U.S. Attorney purge. New Mexico Republican attorney Pat Rogers wrote in a September 2004 e-mail to Iglesias and staffers for the state’s GOP congressional delegation that voter fraud is the “single best wedge issue ever in New Mexico” for Republicans.
“This is an appointee of the president of the United States. There would have been a lot of people who would have said, ‘Well, I’m not going to say anything about that guy,’ ” Weh told KKOB.
Iglesias told TPM that Weh’s remarks are a “world class display of chutzpah.”
“After the initial bemusement wore off I became alarmed that this gubernatorial candidate may not be in touch with reality or may not even be literate,” the former U.S. Attorney said in a statement to TPM.
He added, “In another age Weh would have continued to argue the world is flat despite all evidence to the contrary.”
Read the ex-U.S. Attorney’s full statement to TPM here.
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Another Republican former U.S. Attorney has criticized New Mexico’s top federal prosecutor for his unorthodox handling of the high-profile pay-to-play investigation of Gov. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.). The twist: the latest critic is also the brother of one of the U.S. Attorneys fired by the Bush administration in 2006.
New Mexico, of course, played a starring role in allegations the Bush White House had fired U.S. Attorneys for political reasons. After then-U.S. Attorney David Iglesias got the ax, it later emerged that New Mexico’s senior senator, Pete Domenici (R), had complained to the White House that Iglesias wasn’t pursuing a voter fraud case against Democrats.
Now, Iglesias’s successor, New Mexico U.S. Attorney Gregory J. Fouratt, is under fire for writing that Richardson’s office acted corruptly in pressuring the state to select the company of a campaign donor, California-based CDR Financial Products, as an adviser on transportation bond transactions.
In a letter to defense attorneys last week announcing the government would not bring charges in the pay-to-pay investigation, Fouratt wrote that “pressure from the governor’s office resulted in the corruption of the procurement process” and said that his letter “should not be interpreted as exoneration of any party’s conduct in that matter.” Fouratt, a Bush holdover, was named interim U.S. Attorney a year after Iglesias was fired.
Joseph diGenova, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia during the Reagan administration, told The Associated Press the letter was “stupid” and the New Mexico prosecutor “should be fired.”
Now Mike McKay, brother of another fired U.S. Attorney, former Western District of Washington prosecutor John McKay, has chimed in.
Mike McKay (who also served as Western District of Washington U.S. Attorney, back in the George H.W. Bush administration), told Politico that Fouratt’s letter was “virtually unprecedented. It reflects extremely poor judgment.”
“The very existence of federal criminal investigations is not supposed to be disclosed,” McKay told Politico, referencing the possible harm to the subjects’ standing. “And certainly for the same reasons, you don’t disclose closed investigations.”
Richardson, who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination last year before dropping out of the race and endorsing Obama, was being vetted for Commerce secretary when controversy over the accuracy of his disclosures about the probe to the White House caused him to withdraw. Richardson has said he didn’t act improperly as governor.