Both President Bush and Karl Rove have argued that the administration’s U.S. Attorney purge is a “normal and ordinary” process that was also carried out by President Clinton. ThinkProgress has spent some time debunking this claim, but the Congressional Research Service has put the nail in the coffin.
A CRS report released yesterday examines the tenure of all U.S. Attorneys who were confirmed by the Senate between the years 1981 and 2006 to determine how many had served — and, of those, how many had been forced to resign for reasons other than a change in administration.
— Of the 468 confirmations made by the Senate over the 25-year period, only 10 left office involuntarily for reasons other than a change in administration prior to the firings that took place in December.
— In virtually all of those 10 previous cases, serious issues of personal or professional conduct appeared to be the driving issue. Prior to December, for example, only two U.S. Attorneys were outright fired for improper, and in one case criminal, behavior. The CRS report identifies six other U.S. Attorneys who resigned during the 25-year period who were implicated in news reports of “questionable conduct.” For two others, the CRS was unable to determine the cause.
In other words, the Bush administration pushed out almost as many U.S. Attorneys in December as had been let go over the past 25 years.
American Progress fellow Scott Lilly writes on the CRS report:
It is clear that of the four administrations that controlled the executive branch of government during the past quarter-century, only the current administration has held the view that U.S. Attorney can or should be removed absent serious cause. In no instance is there any indication of a removal because a U.S. attorney failed to meet certain political criteria, such as prosecuting cases that were considered too sensitive to partisan issues or failing to prosecute cases that would be helpful from a partisan perspective.
The innovative philosophy of the current Bush administration with respect to the service of U.S. Attorneys is worthy of the attention it is now receiving. Those eight forced resignations threaten the very basis of our justice system — to quote the words written above the pillars on the west front of the Supreme Court, “Equal Justice Under Law.”