As many as eight U.S. Attorneys are leaving or being pushed out of their positions by the Bush administration. Several of these prosecutors are working on high-profile cases, such as Carol Lam, who ran the investigation into the corruption of former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA).
The San Diego Union-Tribune has noted that Lam appears to be the “victim of strong-arm political pressure from Washington, where officials apparently wanted to hand her job to a partisan operative.” U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins, who was pushed out by the Bush administration in December, was replaced with a “37-year-old protege of White House political adviser Karl Rove.”
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has denied political motivations behind the resignations, recently telling Congress, “Nothing could be further from the truth.” He added that they were a “sign of good management” by the Bush administration.
But these replacements are not the first time the administration has punished U.S. Attorneys for going after White House allies. In 2002, U.S. Attorney Frederick A. Black launched an investigation into Jack Abramoff’s “secret arrangement with Superior Court officials to lobby against a court reform bill then pending in Congress.” On Nov. 18, 2002, Black issued a grand jury subpoena to the Guam Superior Court to turn over all records involving the lobbying contract with Abramoff. The administration swiftly punished Black:
A day later, the chief prosecutor, US Attorney Frederick A. Black, who had launched the investigation, was demoted. A White House news release announced that Bush was replacing Black.
The timing caught some by surprise. Despite his officially temporary status as the acting US attorney, Black had held the assignment for more than a decade.
An internal Justice Department investigation concluded that the White House did not improperly retaliate against Black for raising allegations against Abramoff. But the probe into Abramoff’s activities in Guam died shortly after Black stepped down. Congress needs to question the White House about whether the Cunningham investigation will meet a similar fate when Lam resigns.
American Progress Senior Fellow Scott Lilly has more.