The Bush administration has repeatedly changed its excuses for why David Iglesias was ousted as U.S. attorney. Justice officials called him an “absentee landlord, even though his time away from the office was spent serving in the Navy Reserve. They also claimed that he didn’t pursue voter fraud investigations aggressively enough, even though he had been “heralded for his expertise in that area by the Justice Department.”
Yesterday on Fox News Sunday, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) pointed out that Iglesias, like many of the other prosecutors, exercised “independent judgment” and refused to follow the Bush administration’s political agenda. “And as a result, he was fired,” said Van Hollen. Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT) then shouted out his reason for why the Bush administration fired Iglesias: “No, no. He was fired because he’s an idiot.” Watch it:
Today, ThinkProgress spoke with Cannon spokesman Fred Piccolo, who explained Cannon’s “off-the-cuff” remark referenced the fact that when Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) contacted Iglesias and pressured him to pursue a case against Democrats:
It was more in regards to the fact that Iglesias was initially contacted by [Sen. Pete] Domenici and [Rep. Heather] Wilson. Instead of informing main Justice, he decided to inform the public and Justice…by holding several press conferences and tantalizingly releasing those names to the press, and has subsequently been the only fired us attorney to beat this drum of ‘this is a Karl-Rovian plot to obstruct justice and the prosecution of Republicans’ — after all these hearings, to any impartial observers it doesn’t play out.
Iglesias has admitted that not reporting the calls from Domenici and Wilson was a mistake. But he publicly revealed those calls only after he was fired. Similarly, he began speaking out about Rove’s role after he was fired. Therefore, Cannon’s criticisms of Iglesias’s post-firing behavior still don’t explain why he was ousted in the first place. It also doesn’t make Iglesias an “idiot.”
UPDATE: Cannon’s office tells Raw Story’s Michael Roston that “Mr. Iglesias demonstrated, both during his time before the committee and his subsequent riding of the talk show circuit parroting outrageous assertions, that he did not possess the temperament for the position he held.”
UPDATE II: The Utah Daily Herald reports, “After the show, Cannon and Chief of Staff Joe Hunter discussed the quote. Cannon said that he was trying to figure out how to make sure that the ‘he was an idiot’ quote didn’t end up as the headline in the newspaper.”
HUME: It was voter fraud. Do you think it’s not OK to go after…
VAN HOLLEN: No, of course it’s OK to go after voting fraud. But the fact of the matter is it was after phone calls by Senator Domenici. Heather Wilson called as well.
It was clearly a case of trying to push somebody who exercises his independent judgment — didn’t think the facts were there.
HUME: And did he do so? Did he exercise his independent judgment?
VAN HOLLEN: There was an effort to — yes.
HUME: I don’t understand. So did the effort succeed? VAN HOLLEN: Yes, he did exercise independent judgment. And as a result, he was fired. That’s the whole point. He exercised…
CANNON: No, no. He was fired because he’s an idiot.
HUME: Go ahead.
VAN HOLLEN: No, the whole point is he did exercise his independent judgment, and as a result of that, he was fired because he didn’t take orders from the White House.
HUME: What about it, Congressman Cannon? What do you — what about that?
CANNON: There is…
HUME: Did the guy get fired because he exercised…
CANNON: There is no evidence that that was…
HUME: … his judgment or not?
CANNON: There is no evidence that that’s the case. There is clear evidence of appropriate activity by phone calls from political people in New Mexico. That’s appropriate. Calling it inappropriate does not make it inappropriate.
This is a guy who is clearly not competent to do his job and one of the few people who were decided — it was decided that he should leave his job because of competency.