Department of Republican Justice

Brian Zick

Ron Hutcheson, Marisa Taylor and Margaret Talev for McClatchy report on the Bush administration's planning to install GOP hatchetmen without Senate approval: Internal memos between the Justice Department and the White House show that administration officials were determined to bypass Congress in selecting replacements for eight U.S. attorneys who were forced to resign. The memos include a five-step plan for executing the dismissals and dealing the anticipated political firestorm. The reporters say "What's still not clear is why the prosecutors were targeted," but they then proceed to spell out pretty clearly the answer to that question: At least two of the U.S. attorneys who were later forced to step down, Iglesias in New Mexico and Paul Charlton of Arizona, were on Sampson's "retain" list in February 2005. But by September of 2006 - after it became clear that Charlton had launched an investigation of Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz, - Sampson included the Arizona prosecutor on another list of U.S. attorneys "we now should consider pushing out." Other memos and e-mails suggest a variety of reasons that individual prosecutors might have fallen out of favor. In an e-mail dated May 11, 2006, Sampson urged the White House counsel's office to call him regarding "the real problem we have right now with Carol Lam," who then the U.S. attorney for southern California. Earlier that morning, the Los Angeles Times reported that Lam's corruption investigation of former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., had expanded to include another California Republican, Rep Jerry Lewis. Cunningham is currently serving an eight-year prison sentence in Arizona. Lewis has not been charged with any crime. Lam was forced to resign. In a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said he wants to know whether Lam was fired for the Cunningham case or because "she was about to investigate other people who were politically powerful." Lam declined to talk publicly about her dismissal. Josh Marshall points to a whole cavalcade of GOP corruption that Lam was investigating - the Expanded Duke Cunningham Universe of Crime - her investigation of actual misconduct (and Republican perps) being what made her a prime target for dismissal.

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