The House Judiciary Committee just wrapped up its two and a half year investigation into the improper firings of nine United States Attorneys. Recently released documents and an article in today’s Washington Post detail the 2006 firing of David C. Iglesias, U.S. Attorney of New Mexico. Emails and transcripts of closed-door testimony by former Bush counsel — and former Supreme Court nominee — Harriet Meirs, and political rainmaker Karl Rove detail a calculated effort to get rid of career attorneys who failed to tow the party line.
Iglesias was ousted after state GOP and Republican members of the Congressional delegation were angered when Iglesias failed to pursue cases against Democrats before the 2006 elections. E-mails detail lengthy communications between lawyers and aides within the White House over Iglesias' failure to initiate public corruption suits. Meirs told Committee investigators that she was contacted by an "agitated" Rove in September of 2006 about Iglesias' slow pace. Rove described him as a "serious problem" and said he wanted "something done" about it. GOP figures in New Mexico thought that an investigation could help then-Republican Representative Heather Wilson win re-election. Rove and Meirs deny any wrongdoing. Ultimately, Alberto Gonzales and his deputy Kyle Sampson resigned—due in part to the public uproar over the politicized firings at the Department of Justice.
What happened to these U.S. Attorneys was wrong. The Bush White House blurred the line between serving justice and playing politics. Decisions were made with an eye towards the next election, and life-long careers were taken down in its pursuit. Thankfully, President Obama has promised to restore justice to the Department of Justice. While Obama cannot undo this past injustice, he can move forward with a renewed effort to flesh out bad acts so that the public can again trust its government.
This is taking place at the same time as the new Attorney General, Eric Holder, is investigating the policy-driven legal conclusions made by lawyers within the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel. Many suspect that these lawyers drafted memos authorizing the use of torture well after the Bush White House had already approved its use. As the investigation into the U.S. Attorneys’ firing shows, without an effort to get to the truth, retrenched political interests will evade justice. And, in the case of U.S. approved torture, too much is at stake to not fully investigate the circumstances surrounding what can only amount to a full-scale breakdown of justice.