Sunday, March 25, 2007

Unpulled Punches


Daniel Bogden, the U.S. Attorney for Nevada until his ouster by the Bush Administration, sat down this week for an interview with the Las Vegas Sun, and doesn't pull many punches. We pick up after the December 7 phone call in which he was asked to resign:

[Bogden] started asking questions, and finally reached acting - Associate Attorney General William Mercer, the No. 3 man at Justice. . . .

"He says, 'The administration has a short two-year window of opportunity where they can get candidates out to your positions, where they can get the resume together, they can have the experience of the U.S. attorney in their background that would make them a more viable candidate for future judgeships, for political office.' " . . .

At least, that's what he was told behind the scenes.
Initially, Bogden didn't talk to the media:
Then Gonzales testified before Congress.

"He raises his right hand and he says this isn't political, this isn't political, this isn't political, and I knew damn well it was political."

Next, McNulty testified that the firings were related to "unspecified performance issues."
One of those alleged performance-related issues was Bogden's refusal to take an obscenity case being pushed by Brent Ward, the head of Justice's Obscenity Prosecution Task Force. Bogden recounts the episode:

Last year Ward and some of his team came to an adult video awards conference in Las Vegas.

"They go in there, and in their super-sleuthing work, they come up with the name of an individual who may be selling obscene videos over the Internet," Bogden said. . . .

Ward's team wanted to send a message and wanted Bogden to take it on.
He declined, citing the weakness of the case, and staff levels at his office, which had declined under the Bush administration despite Nevada's growth.

Then the e-mails emerged recently revealing Ward's harsh words about him.

"It just enraged me," Bogden said. "You see those e-mails and the things they say about me and the other attorneys, people who are very respected. And they are just demeaning and belittling and unprofessional."
A lack of professionalism within the crew running the Justice Department is not the worst of the many offenses committed in this scandal, but it is one of the reasons--perhaps the primary reason--so many people from both sides of the aisle have been so appalled by what has emerged thus far. It's not just that the department's explanations for why the USAs were dismissed don't stand up to any scrutiny or that this whole affair has all the hallmarks of a political purge. Both of those things are true. But the lack of professionalism at the highest levels of the department signals to those familiar with how things used to work at DOJ that long-held standards of conduct have been breached.

Once that breach occurs, anything can happen.

-- David Kurtz

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