On CNN last night, host Campbell Brown asked former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales how he let nine U.S. attorneys get fired “for political reasons” while he was running the Justice Depatment. “I disagree with that,” replied Gonzales, claiming that a report by the Justice Department’s inspector general on the 2006 firings had concluded that the attorneys were not “fired for partisan political reasons.”
Gonzales claimed that the report found that “most of these U.S. attorneys” were fired for “perfomance related reasons” and that it didn’t “draw definite conclusions” about the other firings:
BROWN: Your office fired nine U.S. attorneys for political reasons. There has been no disagreement about that. I mean, how could you let that happen?
GONZALES: Campbell, Campbell, Campbell. I disagree with that. You said that nine U.S. attorneys were fired for partisan political reasons. That’s not what the report said. Quite the opposite. The report clearly found that there were performance related reasons for the removal of most of these U.S. attorneys and with respect to the remainder, they didn’t have enough information to draw definite conclusions.
Gonzales’ assertion that the report vindicated his office of any political motives for the dismissals, however, is false. The report did draw “definite conclusions” about the firing of New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias
The evidence we uncovered in our investigation demonstrated that the real reason for Iglesias’s removal were the complaints from New Mexico Republican politicians and party activists about how Iglesias handled voter fraud and public corruption cases in the state.
As detailed above, many Republicans in New Mexico believed that fraudulent registrations by Democratic Party voters was a widespread problem in New Mexico, an evenly divided state politically that has had very close national elections. Beginning in the summer of 2004, New Mexico Republican Party activists talked to Iglesias about the “party’s . . . efforts” on the voter fraud issue, and sought to involve him in those efforts.
Iglesias refused to prosecute voter fraud cases sought by GOP activists and the report concluded that then-Sen. Pete Domenici’s (R-NM) complaints to the White House were a “primary factor” in Iglesias’ being placed on the firing list.
TPMmuckraker’s Murray Waas reports tonight that a federal grand jury probe is looking into the role that Domenici and former senior Bush White House aides played in Iglesias’ firing. The probe “is investigating whether Domenici and other political figures attempted to improperly press Iglesias to bring a criminal prosecution against New Mexico Democrats just prior to the 2006 congressional midterm elections.”