March 07, 2008

Fired US Attorney Says Colleague Told Him Politics Was Behind His Ouster

by Marisa Taylor

WASHINGTON - A longtime protege of President Bush told former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias that he was fired for political reasons and that he shouldn’t fight his ouster, Iglesias says in a new book.0307 09

“This is political,” Iglesias recalls Texas U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton telling him shortly after he was ousted. “If I were you, I’d just go quietly.”

Iglesias, a former U.S. attorney in New Mexico, is one of nine federal prosecutors whose firings triggered a yearlong controversy at the Justice Department and led to the resignations of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and 11 other Justice Department officials.

Iglesias cites the exchange with Sutton in his upcoming book, “In Justice,” as further evidence that he was forced out because Republicans were displeased with his refusal to prosecute Democrats.

“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing: a U.S. attorney all but admitting that a colleague was being hung out to dry for reasons that had nothing to do with performance or professionalism,” he wrote in a draft of the book, which McClatchy obtained.

Sutton, who’s the top U.S. attorney in San Antonio, didn’t return phone calls Thursday seeking comment.

As a result of Iglesias’ and several other prosecutors’ accusations that they were fired in December 2006 for improper political reasons, the Justice Department turned over thousands of documents, and Congress forced top officials, including Gonzales, to testify.

No one has determined who decided which prosecutors should be fired and why. Democrats say that must mean the White House was calling the shots, while the administration has said it demonstrates that the firings were blown out of proportion.

Iglesias said he asked Sutton how he knew about his firing.

“I saw your name,” he quoted Sutton as saying.

Iglesias said in an interview that Sutton refused to elaborate, “but to have one of the most powerful U.S. attorneys tell me my firing was political was confirmation, in my view, that I was fired for the wrong reasons.”

During a congressional investigation of the firings, department e-mails revealed that Sutton was given a heads-up about the firings because he was the chairman of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys.

Justice Department officials said they couldn’t comment on Iglesias’ account because of an ongoing probe of the firings by the department’s inspector general and the Office of Professional Responsibility.

“The department is cooperating with that investigation and has no further comment,” said spokesman Peter Carr.

Sutton, whose ties to Bush date back to the president’s Texas gubernatorial campaign, has been singled out himself by Republican critics who have called for his resignation. So far, he’s weathered the political storm.

The critics have accused Sutton of leading an overzealous prosecution of Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, each sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for shooting a Mexican drug courier as he was trying to flee back to Mexico.

“The type of protection from political pressure that Johnny has gotten was the kind of protection that I thought we would get,” said Iglesias, who said he bears Sutton no ill will. “And we didn’t get it, I think largely because we didn’t have a personal relationship with the president.”

Iglesias’ book, co-authored by Davin Seay, is due out in early June.

© McClatchy Newspapers 2008

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25 Comments so far

  1. COMarc March 7th, 2008 12:12 pm

    Are we supposed to believe that this political appointee is such a naive fool that he’s shocked, shocked I tell you to learn that politics was involved?

    If I remember right, all US Attorneys are to submit their resignations when a new President takes office. Certainly when the Presidency changes parties. So, I’m guessing this guy got his job in 2001 when a Democrat appointee resigned and he was appointed in their place. That’s sounds purely like politics being involved in deciding who’s the US attorney.

    So, he didn’t bitch when he got his job because of politics, but he’s completely shocked, shocked I tell you, when politics forces him out of his job.

  2. normvincent March 7th, 2008 12:22 pm

    This guy got his job “politically” That is the game. You want to play with the big boys, you got to learn to take it on the chin. No sympathy for this one from me.

  3. melmac78 March 7th, 2008 12:38 pm

    The 2 commenters before me got it all wrong-these positions are supposed to be above the fray-you can’t have all dumb-ass cronies running eveything in the admin.

  4. sansf March 7th, 2008 12:39 pm

    What early commenters here do not know or acknowledge is that it is standard for a new administration to accept resignations and appoint new attorneys general as they choose. THAT is the political part. Once appointed it is presumed that they will be left alone to do their judicial best to be be, um, fair. They can be removed, fired, for blatant acts of misconduct. They take an oath to serve US independently. Responses here illustrate that crap repeated early and often is reported as truth. No intelligent discussion. The media drove this ‘of course it is political’ meme over and over again. Our department of justice, like every federal department, has been bled to death by these sly POLITICAL tricks. When your case goes to court, or when you are arrested and wind up in court, you may rethink the ok-ness of what has been done.

  5. satr9prodxns March 7th, 2008 12:40 pm

    Johnny Sutton
    United States Attorney
    Western District of Texas
    601 N.W. Loop 410, Suite 600
    San Antonio, Texas 78216
    Telephone (210) 384-7400

  6. my2sense March 7th, 2008 12:44 pm

    I sympathize. True, the appointments are made along political lines. That’s the rule. The rule sucks, but it is a rule, and it is applied fairly for all parties. But these guys were fired in defiance of even the sucky rules. I imagine it is because they would not toe the Chaney line, which is radically farther to the right than the regular Repub line. It’s a shame. No doubt they would have opposed Chaney’s dismantling of the constitution, so they were canned. Or their jobs were offered as payment to someone else for a favor, or a fortune. Either way, it was wrong, even by sucky rule standards, and they should protest, and help the rest of us dig up the scumbag deal that is behind it.

  7. satr9prodxns March 7th, 2008 1:09 pm

    “you can’t have all dumb-ass cronies running eveything in the admin.”


  8. stepfour March 7th, 2008 1:30 pm

    Only the president has the power to fire US Attorneys. A reasonable presumption is that the president decided which ones would have to go.

  9. josephmorton March 7th, 2008 1:34 pm

    The claim that the appointees are supposed to be, or assumed to be, free of political biases is more than a bit naive. If you do not remember the sixities, look up the very apt description of the so-called “Justice Department”. Which was: “There is a town in Mississippi called liberty, and a Department in Washington called Justice.” The entire judiciary, from the Supreme Court to the lowere courts and the U.S. Attorny offices are a morass of political corruption that exceeds that of many third world countries. It is unseemely for their to be protests by someone so corrupt to accept a hachet job from the Bush administration, and then complain about admittely shoody behavior. It is the same as the soldiers who enlist to kill Arab civilians complain when they do not get adequate treatment if they are shot or when they the psychopaths can no longer take the strain and ask to be compensated for a mental problem they surely had before they enlisted in Bush’s army. Fools such as soldiers and U.S. attorney political hacks get what they deserve.

  10. Ginger March 7th, 2008 1:51 pm

    We need to get Ramos and Compean out of prison. They have been locked up for over a year for simply doing the job they were hired to do. My understanding is that each of them have been in solitary confinement for almost the entire time. This is total injustice!!!!! Let’s all contact our Congressmen/ladies and urge them to continue pursuing the release of both of these noble border agents. Let’s be sure everyone in Congress is made aware of this new information. I know that many of us believed it was true before now, but now that new evidence is surfacing new opportunities to pursue their release may be available.

  11. marcsism March 7th, 2008 1:58 pm

    The categories of legal and illegal are poor substitutes for right and wrong. It’s perfectly legal for Iglesias’ master to fire him. In his capacity as U.S. attorney, he served at the pleasure of the chief executive.

    However, the chief complaint as I understand it, is not that the firing was illegal, but rather that it represents an abuse of power. Bush’s administration is rife with examples of such abuses.

    I used to work as a claims adjuster for an insurance company. “We will pay what we owe,” was code for “pay whatever we can get away with.” Remember ‘fair’ is a four-letter word that begins with the letter F. This ‘..whatever we can get away with,’ ethic seems to pervade the Bush administration’s actions.

    Bush’s administration tends to push the bounds of law. Bush is legally able to fire Iglesias, however, that doesn’t make his action morally questionable nor just, but it does further the case; that he is an asshole.

  12. rsliverpool March 7th, 2008 2:21 pm

    I seem to recall that the white house initially claimed that the firings had to do with poor performance and nothing else. Regardless of past practice and standard operating procedures relative to these matters, the white house lied to the people again. That to me is the issue.

  13. marcsism March 7th, 2008 2:51 pm

    I agree. Damned liars.

  14. willybill March 7th, 2008 3:31 pm

    Aha…Sutton..a protege of BuZh? Gee, what a surprise! Imagine the moral character of someone who has seen the Dark and aspires to make it darker. May this SOB be forever haunted by the family and friends of Ramos and Compean and may he never sleep another day of his life.

  15. GodOilPhacism March 7th, 2008 3:44 pm

    Sadly, no mention of New Mexico’s, Sen. Pete Domenici and his protege, Rep. Heather Wilson and their complicency in this case. The insiders report Pete is retiring rather than face investigation. Heather is poised to take his seat, but recently was accused of vote buying at the delegate nominating convention in Bernalillo County, New Mexico. Bushies to the criminal end!

  16. wdmax3 March 7th, 2008 3:55 pm

    What is really disturbing is that Bush has a protege.

    Protege - a person who is guided and supported by an older and more experienced or influential person : he was an aide and protégé of the former Tennessee senator.

  17. rumiluv March 7th, 2008 4:08 pm

    In an even partly just world this scandal would be enough to bring the Bush administration down.

  18. whatfools March 7th, 2008 5:28 pm

    The Bush/Cheney bench packing is costing Americans three cents a stamp for eternity.

  19. pleasethink March 7th, 2008 5:45 pm

    The Senate Judiciary Committee spent months and months trying to sort this out, and they were making progress in revealing the sordid links between Karl Rove’s office and Monica Goodling’s office (the White House liaison at the justice department), all of this suggesting that Rove was behind the firings of US Attorneys who were, in some cases, refusing to prosecute cases that had no credibility in order to affect elections (Rove’s piecemeal approach to carving up election districts and using micro-tactics to win each little chunk). Ultimately Harriet Myers and another White House aide were called and didn’t show up at all. They spat in the faces of Congress, claiming White House privilege. Chuck Schumer, with the help of Dianne Feinstein, had been leading the charge, but once he got Mukasey in (who isn’t sure if waterboarding is torture), he seems to have figured that everything is now “OK.” This is all BS. There has been no accountability whatsoever for what is a major scandal at the heart of the government. I blame Congress for their laissez faire attitude towards everything. All smoke and bluster and then sitting back and playing nice with this monstrous, criminal White House. The government thinks we don’t remember: we the people have a memory, damnit, and we will hold you accountable at election time!!!

  20. lizard March 7th, 2008 5:56 pm

    The point is that you can change the prosecutors when you come into office, that’s ok. BUT, thereafter you cannot because it affects their independance. It’s simple and clear,really.

  21. zazmo March 7th, 2008 6:05 pm

    impeach. duh

  22. decrepittex March 7th, 2008 6:33 pm

    “David Claudio Iglesias (born 1958) is an American attorney from Albuquerque, New Mexico.[1][2]He was appointed by President George W. Bush as the United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico in August 2001 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in October 2001.[2″

    “In October 2006 (prior to the 2006 midterm election) Senator Pete Domenici called to ask about the progress of an investigation, New Mexico U.S. Attorney Iglesias said he felt this inquiry was trying to “pressure” him to speed up indictments in a federal corruption investigation that involved at least one former Democratic state senator. When Iglesias said an indictment wouldn’t be handed down until at least December, “the line went dead.” Iglesias was fired one month after the election by the Bush Administration as part of the Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy. Also in October, Representative Heather Wilson called about the indictments in a federal corruption investigation that involved at least one former Democratic state Senator.”[12]

    Contrary to some of the above posts, he was NOT appointed by
    a Democrat. He was one of George’s own but was following the
    law instead of instructions from Cheney. Now that must make
    it a bit more questionable. Seems like the whole thing was
    because he wouldn’t speed up investigations of some Democrats so they would be indicted before the 2006 elections.

  23. ctrl-z March 7th, 2008 7:42 pm

    New oxymoron: “Republican Justice”

  24. SuperNova March 7th, 2008 8:15 pm

    I know of at least one Civil Rights Attorney from Dallas who kept his job because he did the bidding of Karl Rove, Harriet Miers and the Bush Administration. He wrote to me in 2004 saying he was dismissing our civil rights complaint based on scientific misconduct and racial discrimination by NASA-NSF funded frauds. We thought it was strange when they kept losing the 30 page complaint which coincidentally and finally turned up only after Bush was in place for the second (fraudulent) term. It was at that time that Bush trotted out and announced a trip to the Moon and “Mars” which was all for the sole purpose of bolstering the military defense establishement. It was their reward for helping put him back in office. It was beautifully executed like clock work.

    What was so funny was NASA issued filed CFR-1275, “Investigation of Research Misconduct” in October of 2003 months before Bush got re-elected just in case he didn’t make it back into office.


  25. John F. Butterfield March 7th, 2008 8:25 pm

    When fireing a U.S. attorney interferes in a case, it is illegal. Bush committed an inpeachable offense when some of the attorneys were fired, even if it was only by not stepping in to stop what was happening.

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