Tuesday, March 13, 2007

TPM: On the real story here

Getting down to the real nub of the story. Here's a clip from McClatchy's overnight piece ...

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.

I'm going from recollection here. But I think the email they're referring to is one Paul Kiel and I were reading over together this afternoon. If it's the one I'm thinking of, the email clearly gave the sense that there was an unspoken reason for Lam's dismissal. But it was a bit too vague and meandering to really point to any one thing. The date, though, really speaks volumes.

Lam's firing has always been at the heart of this. I've had a lot of people ask me why we devoted so much virtual ink to this story so early. But the truth is that by rights Lam's dismissal should have sounded alarm bells for everyone on day one.

What people tend to overlook is that for most White House's a US attorney involved in such a politically charged and ground-breaking corruption probe would have been untouchable, even if she'd run her office like a madhouse and was offering free twinkies to every illegal who made it across the border.

Indeed, when you view the whole context you see that the idea she was fired for immigration enforcement is just laughable on its face. No decision about her tenure could be made without the main issue being that investigation. It's like hearing that Pat Fitzgerald was fired as Plamegate prosecutor for poor deportment or because he was running up too many air miles flying back and forth from Chicago.

Lam's investigation (and allied ones her probe spawned) were uncovering a) serious criminal wrongdoing by major Republican power players on Capitol Hill, b) corruption at the CIA -- which reached back to the Hill, c) and as yet still largely hidden corrupt dealings at the heart of the intelligence operations in the Rumsfeld Pentagon.

Nothing matters unless the investigation gets to the heart of what happened there.

-- Josh Marshall

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