Bush Administration Resorts to Extortion

Brian Zick

Marisa Taylor for McClatchy reports: WASHINGTON _ A high-ranking Justice Department official told one of the U.S. attorneys fired by the Bush administration that if any of them continued to criticize the administration for their ousters, previously undisclosed details about the reasons they were fired might be released, two of the ousted prosecutors told McClatchy Newspapers.While the U.S. attorney who got the call regarded the tone of the conversation as congenial, not intimidating, the prosecutor nonetheless passed the message on to five other fired U.S. attorneys. One of them interpreted the reported comments by Michael Elston, the chief of staff to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, as a threat. (…) Justice Department officials denied that the conversation with the U.S. attorney ever took place, and Elston said he called several of the fired U.S. attorneys but never made any such comments.“I had no conversation in which I discussed with any U.S. attorney what they should or should not say to the media regarding their removal,” Elston said. (…) According to the former U.S. attorney, Elston made a “pointed comment that indicated that somehow anyone who talked might become more embarrassed if the story continued on.”“The inference was that they were holding themselves back from saying more about why people were fired _ that it was likely the department was going to step up the defense of their actions,” the fired prosecutor said. “It could have been construed as friendly advice or a casual prediction. But I think it was expected that everyone would be told about the call.”When conveying the message to the others, the prosecutor tried to make it clear that the meaning of the conversation shouldn’t be overdramatized.But another former U.S. attorney, who wasn’t a party to the Justice Department conversation, interpreted the comments as a threat, especially since it came when congressional Democrats were contacting the attorneys about possibly testifying before Congress.“I took it to mean that negative, personal information would be released,” the prosecutor said. “That if we made public comments or if we were to testify in Congress, that the gloves would come off and the Department of Justice would make us regret that we were talking.” via Josh Marshall

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