What Fresh Hell Is This?

May 18, 2007

Mary Beth Buchanan - A Curious Plot Twist

Yesterday the Washington Post reported:
Unreleased government records obtained by the Washington Post show that the Justice Dept. listed 26 U.S. attorneys as candidates for firing, including nine who were fired in 2006. The roster of prosecutors is much longer than previously acknowledged.
Included on this list?

Our very own US Attorney, Mary Beth Buchanan.

The Post showed the evolving list of US Attorneys to be fired. On September 13, 2006 Kyle Sampson, AG Gonzales' Chief of Staff (and, ashamed as I am to note it, possible dayvoe-lookalike) Kyle D. Sampson sent a memo to the White House including nine US Attorneys recommended for firing. Incidentally, five of the nine would be dismissed. Buchanan shows up on a list compiled a couple weeks later by Michael Elston, Chief of Staff to the Deputy Attorney General "suggesting five other candidates."

The Washington Post points out elsewhere that:
The documents do not specify why removals were contemplated or why some prosecutors kept their jobs, the sources said.
And no one really knows anything about anything. From Pamela Reed Ward in today's P-G:
But Michael Elston, chief of staff to the deputy attorney general, said yesterday through his attorney that his e-mail was taken out of context.
Ok this is where it gets confusing.

The names that were included had been suggested to him by others, and Mr. Elston never thought anyone on that list should be fired.

"To the contrary, Mike's view is that the five U.S. Attorneys mentioned in the e-mail are among the Department's best," the statement said.

But a few paragraphs down:

According to attorney Robert Driscoll, Mr. Elston was asked in October 2006 by others in the Justice Department "if there were any concerns about U.S. Attorneys that senior department leadership was not aware of."

When Mr. Elston asked around, his attorney said, he was not specifically asking for names of people to be terminated, only for those who others might have a problem with.

So - these are the "Department's best" but Elston's looking for "any concerns" about them? How does that make sense? However that's a separate issue. The big problem is how (and why) these names made it, however temporarily, onto a "fire" list. From the Post:

The number of names on the lists demonstrates the breadth of the search for prosecutors to dismiss. The names also hint at a casual process in which the people who were most consistently considered for replacement were not always those ultimately told to leave.

When shown the lists of firing candidates late yesterday, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), perhaps the most outspoken critic of the way Gonzales handled the prosecutor dismissals, said they "show how amok this process was."

The whole thing was a mess. A complete mess. When it wasn't politicizing the DoJ, the administration was just simply screwing it all up anyway.

Buchanan was asked for a comment:
"Simply put, there is no logical reason that my name would appear as part of an e-mail suggesting prosecutors to be considered for replacement," she said, noting that she's had "unprecedented success" during her tenure.
And the White House as well:
Yesterday, Justice Department officials issued a brief statement on the matter, saying the department would not publicly confirm whether any U.S. attorney was on one of Mr. Sampson's lists, which were used by him in the discussion process.

"Many names on these lists which have been shared with Congress, clearly did not represent the final actions or views of the Department's leadership or the Attorney General," the statement said.

"Whether they are on any list or not, U.S. Attorneys currently serving enjoy the full confidence and support of the Attorney General and Department of Justice."

Later in the day, Mr. Gonzales sent another statement, specifically about Ms. Buchanan, saying that she has his full confidence and support.
Considering, though, the drubbing Gonzales has been taking in the Congress recently, I'm not sure that's a recommendation one would want to keep in handy.


Jonathan Potts said...

Doesn't her comment kind of blow the whole show? If there was no logical reason for her name to be on the list, then perhaps there is no logical reason for any of the names to be on there.

Anonymous said...

More telling aspect is that she so strongly and quickly asserts she should not be on the list. Hmm..she was the Executive Director for the US Attorneys, she is copied on emails relating to the development of this list, she oversaw Monica Goodling...could it be possible she created the list?

matt said...

As a side note, it is interesting that shortly after her name apparently popped up on the list, the FBI set up a tip line locally for political corruption. Not that it means anything, just a sort of odd coincidence.