Today during a press briefing in Mexico, President Bush attempted to defend his prosecutor purge, stating that firing prosecutors “has been a customary practice by presidents. U.S. attorneys and others serve at the pleasure of the President. Past administrations have removed U.S. attorneys. It is their right to do so.” Watch it:
Mass firings are common when a president takes office. But as current and former administration officials have confirmed, Bush’s purge of well-qualified prosecutors is unprecendented.
Gonzales chief of staff Kyle Sampson (resigned two days ago), 1/9/07:
In recent memory, during the Reagan and Clinton Administrations, Presidents Reagan and Clinton did not seek to remove and replace U.S. Attorneys to serve indefinitely under the holdover provision.
Former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta, 3/8/07:
Mr. Rove’s claims [last week] that the Bush administration’s purge of qualified and capable U.S. attorneys is “normal and ordinary” is pure fiction. Replacing most U.S. attorneys when a new administration comes in — as we did in 1993 and the Bush administration did in 2001 — is not unusual. But the Clinton administration never fired federal prosecutors as pure political retribution.
Former U.S. attorney Mary Jo White, 3/5/07:
However, throughout modern history, my understanding is, you did not change the U.S. attorney during an administration, unless there was some evidence of misconduct or other really quite significant cause to do so.
REPORTER: What is his [Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s] future in your Cabinet? Do you have confidence in him? And more importantly — or just as importantly — how effective can he be in Congress going forward when he has lost a lot confidence among Democrats and does not have many defenders among Republicans?
BUSH: I do have confidence in Attorney General Al Gonzales. I talked to him this morning, and we talked about his need to go up to Capitol Hill and make it very clear to members in both political parties why the Justice Department made the decisions it made, make it very clear about the facts, and he is right, mistakes were made. And I’m frankly not happy about them because there is a lot of confusion over what really has been a customary practice by presidents. U.S. attorneys and others serve at the pleasure of the President. Past administrations have removed U.S. attorneys. It is their right to do so.