Friday, March 30, 2007

Bud Cummins on the Prosecutor Purge

Daily Kos

Fired U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins writes at Salon, making strong case for what this administration has done to the rule of law:

In recent weeks, I have been asked continually whether I think any number of specific prosecutions and other activities by the Department of Justice around the country reveal "politicization" of the department by the Bush administration. The answer is: I have no specific information about that. But the question goes to the most important issue highlighted by the controversy over the dismissal of myself and seven other United States attorneys: the credibility of the Department of Justice.

The president had an absolute right to fire us. We served at his pleasure, and that meant we could be dismissed for any reason or for no reason. And we all accepted that fact without complaint. When challenged by Congress, the leaders of the Department of Justice could have refused to explain. Or, they could have explained the truth. But apparently the truth behind some or all of the firings was embarrassing. So, instead, they said it was because of "performance." We didn't accept that, because it wasn't the truth.

In spite of statements and representations to the contrary, there was no credible performance review process prior to the firings -- at least, not using the definition of "performance" known to most people. There is not one document to evidence such a review. The department's leaders did not consult any of the reports or the people that could have provided information relevant to the performance of the U.S. attorneys they fired. In fact, in the case of my seven colleagues, they actually fired some pretty damn good U.S. attorneys -- and knowledgeable people in those attorneys' communities back home know that to be the truth. Nobody seems to believe the department's explanations....

Put simply, the Department of Justice lives on credibility. When a federal prosecutor sends FBI agents to your brother's house with an arrest warrant, demonstrating an intention to take away years of his liberty, separate him from his family, and take away his property, you and the public at large must have absolute confidence that the sole reason for those actions is that there was substantial evidence to suggest that your brother intentionally committed a federal crime. Everyone must have confidence that the prosecutor exercised his or her vast discretion in a neutral and nonpartisan pursuit of the facts and the law....

You only get one chance to hold on to your credibility. My team, which holds temporary custody of the Department of Justice, has blown it in this case. The Department of Justice will be paying for it for some time to come. Lots of sound investigations and convictions are now going to be questioned. That is a crying shame, because most of the 110,000 employees to whom the attorney general referred in a recent news conference, are neutral, nonpartisan public servants and do incredible work. A lot of President Bush's political appointees have done a lot of great work, too. Sadly, because of the damage done by this protracted scandal, which the administration has handled poorly at every turn, none of that good work is currently being recognized. And more ominously, the credibility of the Department of Justice may no longer be, either.

The credibility of the Department of Justice was shot when John Ashcroft was named Attorney General. But it got worse. If you looked up the definition of the worst man for the job of Attorney General, you would find a picture of Alberto Gonzales. The damage done by this lackey goes far behind the investigations and convictions that most definitely will be now called into question. It extends to the complete trashing of the rule of law upon which this country was founded, all the way to the Great Writ of habeas corpus.

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