E-mails show that the Bush administration rated the “performance” of U.S. attorneys on whether or not they were “loyal Bushies.” The White House is now justifying its prosecutor purge by arguing that since these attorneys are “political” appointees, they “serve at the pleasure of the President” and need to follow the administration’s political whims.
President Bush, 3/14/07:
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.
White House Advisor Karl Rove, 3/8/07:
Look, by law and by Constitution, these attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president and traditionally are given a four year term.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, 3/7/07:
Like me, U.S. attorneys are political appointees, and we all serve at the pleasure of the president. If U.S. attorneys are not executing their responsibilities in a manner that furthers the management and policy goals of departmental leadership, it is appropriate that they be replaced.
Similarly, yesterday on Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace claimed that it’s “the very nature of the game that these are going to be political appointees.”
But as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) pointed out yesterday on CBS Face the Nation, political means only that they are appointed by the President. “[O]nce that prosecutor takes the oath of office, that prosecutor must become independent,” she said. “That prosecutor must be objective and what I worry about most of all in this is the chilling effect this has on objectivity of the American U.S. attorney who is the main prosecutor for the federal government of big cases under federal law.” Watch it:
Ousted prosecutor David Iglesias has also stated that one of the “most important tenets of a U.S. attorney’s office” is to never “mix politics with prosecutions.” “I think Americans need to have full confidence that their federal prosecutors are above politics,” said Iglesias.
FEINSTEIN: Now, what we’ve heard a lot of is, well, this is a political appointment. Of course it’s a political appointment in the sense that the appointment is made by the President of the United States. But once that prosecutor takes the oath of office, that prosecutor must become independent. That prosecutor must be objective and what I worry about most of all in this is the chilling effect this has on objectivity of the American U.S. attorney who is the main prosecutor for the federal government of big cases under federal law.