We are the 99%
Showing posts with label USAttorney Firings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label USAttorney Firings. Show all posts

August 13, 2008

When is a crime not a crime? When Bush's AG says so!

From The Carpetbagger Report:
It’s been about two weeks since the Justice Department’s inspector general released a report on the unprecedented politicization of employment practices at the Justice Department. The IG report concluded that disgraced officials such as Monica Goodling and former chief of staff D. Kyle Sampson “routinely broke the law” by applying political litmus tests, even when hiring prosecutors and immigration judges.
And, what does Attorney General Michael Mukasey have to say about this?


"But not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime.”

Wait, not every violation of the law is a crime? Isn’t that the definition of a “crime”?

I realize that prosecutors may consider extenuating circumstances and prefer leniency, but this laissez faire attitude on the corruption of the Department of Justice is more than a little discouraging, especially from an attorney general. An entire team of people broke the law, violated the public trust, and got caught. The evidence is unambiguous.

But not every violation of the law is a crime. Here’s hoping someone puts that on a bumper sticker and sells it at the Republican National Convention — it seems to be a slogan that summarizes the GOP attitude on law-breaking.

Remember, kiddies: IOKIYAR (It's OK if you are Republican)

July 29, 2008

Department of Injustice Scandal Roundup

Here's my list:

  • US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales denies that there's a right to writ of habeas corpus in the U.S. Constitution.

  • The DOJ approves the unlawful detainment of terrorist suspects and argues for the legality of extraordinary rendition.

  • The DOJ authorized the CIA to torture prisoners in its custody.

  • The DOJ's investigation into eavesdropping on U.S. citizens without proper warrants was shut down to protect AG Gonzales.

  • The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division has ruled in every case on the side of Republicans as "part of a partisan strategy to suppress the votes of poor and minority citizens."

  • The DOJ's selective prosecution of Democratic political figures.

  • DOJ job applicants were made to pass a political test ("What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?").

  • Even if a DOJ job applicant was a Republican, one could be rejected merely because they were married to a Democrat.

  • Of course even a rumor that you might possibly be gay could cost you your job at the DOJ.

  • And, even if you were a good Republican who was able to secure a job at the DOJ as a US Attorney, you would be fired if it was deemed you weren't acting sufficiently Republican enough.

  • All of which led to DOJ lawyers talking in code because they were afraid of being wiretapped by their own government and fired.
  • I'm sure I must have missed some -- hell, there's been nearly eight years of this shit.

    Help me out!

    What is your favorite Department of Injustice scandal?


    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.

    April 23, 2007

    Mary Beth Buchanan Turns up AGAIN

    Pamela Reed Ward reports today that:

    The relationship between at least some of the eight fired U.S. attorneys and officials at the Department of Justice continued to be cordial almost to the day those attorneys received a phone call dismissing them.

    Two of the terminated prosecutors said they had received positive feedback from their superiors as well as from Mary Beth Buchanan, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania and the former director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, which helps put together teams that review U.S. attorneys.

    We know already that she was consulted about which US Attorneys were to be fired. Now we know she gave positive feedback to at least two of the fired attorneys.

    Ward has some details on how one attorney was canned:

    "I was told the administration only had a short, two-year window of opportunity to put someone [new] in there. They wanted to take advantage of it," he said. The message, delivered by Michael Battle, who replaced Ms. Buchanan as director of the Executive Office, was: " 'You serve at the pleasure of the president. Your time is up, and you need to resign.' "

    When he asked if his job performance had anything to do with his termination, Mr. Bogden said he was told that it never even entered into the equation.

    When Mr. Cummins got the phone call from Mr. Battle notifying him of his termination, "I asked him if I did something wrong, and he said I hadn't."

    That's why, when Justice Department officials started releasing information to the media that the firings were performance related, Mr. Cummins and Mr. Bogden were shocked and disappointed.

    Lies. It all began with lies. You'd think these Republicans would at least be honest with their own appointees.

    Over at the Trib, Jason Cato describes the rise of Buchanan's career. He points to her prosecutions of Tommy Chong (for selling bongs) and Extreme Associates (on obscenity charges). Both times, he adds, critics complained about wasted government resources and "government fiddling with constitutinal freedoms." At that point, Cato writes:
    The Justice Department and Ashcroft praised both cases. Buchanan was rewarded with a string of lofty posts, one of which -- director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys -- has landed her at the forefront of a congressional investigation into a group firing of fellow Republican prosecutors.
    Interesting how prosecuting bongs and porn curried favor with the Bush Administration. This dovetails nicely with something Ward's got. H. E. Cummings was one of the fired US Attorneys.

    During her tenure as a U.S. attorney, she has been appointed to national positions three times and is currently serving as the acting director of the Office on Violence Against Women.

    To get into those administrative roles, Mr. Cummins said, a person either had to be from a prominent district or put a lot of effort into being asked.

    "There was definitely an inner circle of U.S. attorneys," Mr. Cummins said. "I don't think I ever was in it. Some people are more active in seeking out those opportunities."

    So after snagging the EOUSA, the ever-loyal, "inner circle" Mary Beth Buchanan gives positive feedback to at least two US Attorneys while being consulted on their politically motivated dismissals. Nice.

    But she's also pissed of a couple of "blindsided" Alaskan Senators. This from the Anchorage Daily News:
    The state’s chief federal prosecutor, Pittsburgh native Nelson Cohen, owes his job to the U.S. attorney in his hometown, who succeeded in getting him the Anchorage post over Alaskans nominated by Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Ted Stevens.
    The way things normally go, when a US Attorney position opens up in a given state, the Senators from that state submit names to the Justice Department for consideration. This time? Uh-uh, nope. Wasn't handled that way. Cohen's one of the people whose "interim" job as a US Attorney was extended by that provision of the USPatriot Act. And while he says he wasn't aware of all the political forces that got him the gig,
    ...knew his boss, Buchanan, was well-connected, and it was she who told him about the opening in Alaska.

    And it looks like her pulling some strings annoyed some people up there:

    Stevens, himself a former federal prosecutor in Alaska, was enraged. “I am just
    furious at the way the attorney general handled this,” he said at the time.
    However the Anchorage Daily News is careful to add:
    There are no claims that Cohen got his job here to help or hinder political prosecutions in Alaska, as is alleged in New Mexico, San Diego and other areas where U.S. attorneys were replaced. Pittsburgh Democrats who worked with him and defended clients against him described Cohen, a registered Republican, as a skilled career prosecutor who distanced himself from the Bush administration’s agenda.
    Looks like it's the same MO for those loyal bushies. Little respect for honesty, Little respect for decency, and little respect even for Senators from their own party.

    UPDATE: An astute reader puts things this way:
    [Mary Beth Buchanan] is trapped in this situation: either she defends the competence of the fired USAttys, thereby undermining the Attorney General’s position, or she contradicts what she wrote as EOUSA director, or she concedes they were competent but politically incorrect.
    Wise words.

    April 19, 2007

    The Trib's Got Dubya's Back

    The Trib's got an editorial out today that hits all the Republican talking points regarding AG Alberto Gonzales. Well two of them, actually.

    As the day progresses and some non-Virginia Tech news slips into the national coverage, listen for these two points:
    • But the bottom line remains that these federal prosecutors serve solely at the pleasure of the administration. (Paragraph 4, sentence 1 of the editorial)
    • There's absolutely no evidence of any illegalities in the firings. (Paragraph 6, sentence 1 of the editorial)
    Of course each is beside the point. Heck, that first point's been debunked on the pages of the Trib itself.

    "U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president," [Texas Republican Lamar]Smith responded in a written statement. "Every president has the right to be served by people who support their policies."

    The debate over the firings has eclipsed that rhetoric, said Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor. Now at issue is whether the firings were politically motivated, he said
    And notice the weasel words in the Trib's other point: There's absolutely no evidence of any illegalities in the firings. Of course not. The way the US Attorneys were fired - someone picked up a phone and dialed a number and delivered the bad news - is again, not the point.

    Let me reiterate. The issue is whether there was pressure put on some (if not all) US Attorneys to go easy on Republicans and go hard on Democrats (especially prior to the last election) and when they didn't, a little more than half-dozen were fired and replaced with "loyal Bushies."

    The attempt to politicize the supposedly apolitical DoJ alone is enough for hearings, isn't it?

    Then there are contradicting the sworn statements of AG Gonzales. I thought Republicans hated perjury. I mean they impeached a sitting President because of perjury. So if a guy contradicts himself in testifying more than once to Congress, as long as what he's lying about isn't illegal, the perjury's OK?

    Then there's the e-mails stored on RNC servers in an obvious attempt to side step Congressional oversight. I thought Republicans were in favor of the rule of law.

    Don't they read the Constitution over there?

    April 18, 2007

    More on Mary Beth Buchanan

    Again from Pamela Reed Ward at the P-G.

    On top of all the good stuff from yesterday, Ward's added this:

    According to the Justice Department Web site, the major functions of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys include "evaluating the performance of the Offices of U.S. Attorneys, making appropriate reports and taking corrective action where necessary" and "providing support to Deputy Attorney Generals regarding U.S. attorney appointments."

    But former federal prosecutors said that is rarely the role of the executive office.

    "EOUSA is an administrative office that is designed to serve as a conduit between main Justice and the field," said former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman. "It doesn't supervise U.S. attorneys, and it would never be their call to remove a U.S. attorney."

    I'd wondered about that. I wouldn't be surprised, however, if this administration decided to shift the job description. According to the Boston Globe, they were putting inexperienced Regent Law School grads in very important positions, why not turn the EOUSA into another political tool?

    But here's the bigger question. Did any of the other US Attorneys know that the EOUSA was being used to supervise them? Were any of the other US Attorneys under the impression that the EOUSA was just an "administrative office" while Mary Beth Buchanan was being consulted by the administration about removing some of them?

    Ward has more:

    Ms. Buchanan also has earned favor within the administration by following the path of many Bush insiders as a member of the Federalist Society.

    That was among the criteria in a set of Justice Department documents, released last week to the Judiciary Committee, listing the qualifications of U.S. attorneys.

    The categories include political experience, either local, state or federal; prosecution experience, both state and federal; and membership in the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, a group of 35,000, founded by conservative law students.

    For Ms. Buchanan, it lists her federal prosecutorial career from 1988 to 2001, and that she is a member of the Federalist Society.

    This was a minor news story of the past few days - how the administration was tracking the political activities of the US Attorneys.

    Jason Corto Cato at the Trib has this:

    U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan might have played a role in determining which of her colleagues got the ax, and the House Judiciary Committee wants her to provide details of what she knew and when she knew it.

    Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, told Senate investigators that he consulted with Buchanan about which U.S. attorneys should be asked to step down, according to a Senate Judiciary Committee aide who read a transcript of Sunday's interview to The Associated Press.

    The good stuff comes a few paragraphs later.

    A Justice Department official said Sampson consulted Buchanan while she was director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, which provides administrative support for U.S. attorneys offices across the country. Buchanan held that job from June 2004 to June 2005. During that time, a Justice Department chart rating U.S. attorneys was sent to the White House.

    Working for Buchanan at that time was Monica Goodling. The former counsel to Gonzales and liaison to the White House has refused to cooperate with congressional investigators about her role in orchestrating the firings.[emphasis added]

    Just to tie everything in a nice bow, Monica Goodling was one of those inexperienced Regent Law graduates installed in important positions in the Department of Justice.

    It's so nice when everything comes full circle, doesn't it?

    April 14, 2007

    A Wisconsin Update

    Remember this? It was an editorial from an alternative weekly about one example of dubya's Justice Department targeting US Attorneys who weren't loyal enough.

    It's made it into the McClatchy papers.
    A U.S. attorney in Wisconsin who prosecuted a state Democratic official on corruption charges during last year's heated governor's race was once targeted for firing by the Department of Justice, but given a reprieve for reasons that remain unclear. A federal appeals court last week threw out the conviction of Wisconsin state worker Georgia Thompson, saying the evidence was "beyond thin."

    It wasn't clear when Biskupic was added to a Justice Department hit list of prosecutors, or when he was taken off, or whether those developments were connected to the just-overturned corruption case.

    Nevertheless, the disclosure aroused investigators' suspicion that Biskupic might have been retained in his job because he agreed to prosecute Democrats, though the evidence was slight. Such politicization of the administration of justice is at the heart of congressional Democrats' concerns over the Bush administration's firings of the U.S. attorneys.

    H/T to Talking Points Memo.

    April 13, 2007

    A Justice Department Snapshot

    Via Talkingpointsmemo, I found a very interesting op-ed from the Sheperd Express, an "alternative" weekly newspaper in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

    You just gotta love those alternative weeklies. I used to write for one, by the way. It was called The Front and I think it had a circulation roughly the size of this city's Cleveland Brown fan base. My understanding is that it just couldn't compete with such big-time fat-cat establishment mainstream media outlets like Chris Potter's City Paper.

    Anyway, the Sheperd Express offers up an interesting snapshot into how Justice, dubya-style, works in America these days. The story is all about the political skewing of what should be a politics-neutral governmental department.
    Thursday’s ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, which immediately freed former state worker Georgia Thompson, was a stunner. Not only did the three federal judges immediately give Thompson her freedom, but they also delivered a smack-down to the Milwaukee office of U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic, calling the evidence in the case “beyond thin.”
    Some background on the case:
    Last June, just as the race for governor was heating up, Georgia Thompson was convicted of improperly steering a state contract to the Adelman Travel Group, which is run by a politically involved family that has a history of favoring Democrats.
    And it turns out that even though Thompson got her job during the previous Republican administration, didn't profit from the contract in question, (which, as truth be told, did go to the lowest bidder), didn't live in the district where the charges were filed, and wasn't charged by any local authories, federal charges were filed anyway. Who cares about jurisdiction? Who cares about the rule of law?

    Why would a US Attorney do such a thing?

    But now, after weeks of news about Alberto Gonzales’ Justice Department, we may have an answer to our questions. Feeling the political pressure, Biskupic first tried to find the massive voter fraud that the Republican Party and the Journal Sentinel, along with their talk-radio friends, screamed was rampant in the city of Milwaukee. They even provided hundreds of names of “illegal voters” that Biskupic attempted to track down. After spending tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars, he found that there was no rampant voter fraud.

    So Biskupic, in an attempt to satisfy his bosses, then went after Georgia Thompson. To destroy an innocent woman’s life was no problem for Biskupic if it could be used to help defeat Gov. Doyle. Once Georgia Thompson was charged, the Republican Party, the Journal Sentinel and the right-wing talk-show hosts used this indictment to try to make Doyle look corrupt.

    But the point here has less to do with the original trial than it has with the bigger picture. It was never about Thompson. It was about how the Bush administration was using a US Attorney's office to commit political damage to a Democratic candidate prior to an election. When allegations of voter fraud turned out to be bogus (as they almost always do), the next target is a politically motivated show trail on evidence that's "beyond thin."

    Whether the trial ends in a prosecution is of little value - as long as the damage is done to a Republican's Democratic opponent.

    By the way, Doyle was re-elected and this case is being investigated by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    Ah, oversight. It's such a bee-you-tiful word!

    April 10, 2007

    Another USAttorney Wrinkle (with a local connection)

    Here's an interesting wrinkle to the USAttorney story. It's in the Washington Post.

    You remember the story, right? There was a buncha USAttorneys who were effectively fired for not being loyal enough to the Bush Administration's political policies. They were replaced by less qualified, more loyal Bushies and because of a little known prevision quietly slipped into the USAPatriot Act, the replacements did not need to be OKed by the Senate.

    Well one of those replaced, David C. Iglesias USAttorney of New Mexico, was reportedly replaced for not being at his office enough. From the Post:
    One of them, David C. Iglesias of New Mexico, was publicly accused by the Justice Department of being an "absentee landlord" who was away from his job too much.
    Iglesias himself has protested this. You know why
    Iglesias filed a complaint with federal investigators last week, alleging that his dismissal amounted to discrimination based on his status as an officer in the Navy Reserve, which took him away from the job for 40 to 45 days a year. Alleged absenteeism has been the Justice Department's main public criticism of Iglesias, although officials have more recently added concerns about his handling of voter fraud and immigration cases to their arguments about him.
    Ok, so that's the set-up. The point of the Post article is that there've been a number of USAttorneys (including our own Mary Beth Buchanan) who have been given double appointments:
    A half-dozen sitting U.S. attorneys also serve as aides to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales or are assigned other Washington postings, performing tasks that take them away from regular duties in their districts for months or even years at a time, according to officials and department records.
    And a few paragraphs down:
    The number of U.S. attorneys pulling double duty in Washington is the focus of growing concern from other prosecutors and from members of the federal bench, according to legal experts and government officials.
    Our own Mary Beth Buchanan is pulling double duty as well, serving as the acting director of the Office of Violence Against Women.

    So they toss the merely loyal USAttorney for spending too much time in the Naval Reserve, while keeping other more "loyal Bushies" in their positions.

    Can they get any more disgusting?

    March 28, 2007

    The Heat Is On

    AG Gonzales is beginning to feel the heat.

    Check this out. He's at a press conference to discuss a policy to protect children from internet predators - a press conference sheduled to last 15 minutes.

    He described the policy initiative for about one minute and then took some questions. After three questions on the US Attorney firings, he walked off.

    There's a video attached to the news piece.

    Andrew Sullivan on the US Attorney Scandal

    Trying to sail out again into National News...

    Here's what Andrew Sullivan has to say about the ever-expanding US Attorney scandal:
    The central question is whether the Bush administration has used the U.S. Attorneys as a systematic weapon in targeting the opposition party, rather than rooting out corruption and malfeasance wherever it appears. The natural inference from the evidence so far - and the conflicting stories from the administration - is that the eight fired attorneys were not being partisan enough.
    He links to that statistical showing the evidence of unbalanced prosecutions, but adds that the inbalance occurs at the local level, below the radar of the national press. Calls it "classic Rove."

    March 26, 2007

    The Big Lie Surfaces

    I normally don't comment on Letters to the Editor, but when one comes from the Vice Chairman of the Republican Committee of Allegheny County, attention, as they say, must be paid.

    In a somewhat overheated defense of USAttorney Mary Beth Buchanan, Dave Majernik (the above named Vice Chairman) offered up this:
    The PG conveniently omitted that when Bill Clinton took office in 1993, he, in an unprecedented move, fired all 93 U.S. attorneys at once to appoint his own. And, I bet, at that time, the PG was not concerned about any political motives in the Clinton Justice Department.
    Ah, the all-purpose defense of from the Right:
    But When Clinton did it, the press was silent.
    Turns out, of course, that Mr Majernik is straight up, 180 degrees wrong. From the McClatchy from 3/13/07) two weeks ago:
    Mass firings of U.S. attorneys are fairly common when a new president takes office, but not in a second-term administration.
    And from the Wall Street Journal a day later (3/14/07), it looks like what's "unprecendented" is the firing of so many US Attorneys midterm:
    Although Bush and President Bill Clinton each dismissed nearly all U.S. attorneys upon taking office, legal experts and former prosecutors say the firing of a large number of prosecutors in the middle of a term appears to be unprecedented and threatens the independence of prosecutors.
    And would you look at the opening of that paragraph?
    "Although Bush and President Clinton each dismissed nearly all U.S. Attorneys..."
    Mr Majernik seems to have made a convenient ommision of his own. I checked out the blurb on him at the RCAC. Seems to be out of date:
    For the past six years, Dave has served as the Chair of the Plum Borough Republican Committee which has consistently delivered winning votes for Republican candidates despite almost a two to one Democrat (sic) registration advantage.
    Isn't Plum Borough a part of the Pennsylvania 4th Congressional District? Wasn't that Melissa Hart's district? Didn't the Republicans lose that district in Novemner 2007?

    Good work, Dave.

    March 18, 2007

    At the pleasure of the President

    The best comment that I've heard regarding the firing by the Bush Gang of the eight US Attorneys was this by Kate O'Beirne on Hardball:
    Now, they have every right, as you know, Mike, to replace eight presidential appointees. They can do so for no reason or any good reason. They can‘t do it for a bad reason, which would be, you know, politically interfering with an investigation or prosecution. [emphasis added]
    Now, of course, Kate, being a conservative went on to say, "I don‘t think there‘s not much evidence of that yet, although the situation in New Mexico raises those questions. But it was handled so ineptly on this one, they can‘t even count on their typical allies on Capitol Hill defending them," so she did try to find some wiggle room for this administration but even she had to admit that it wasn't smelling too good in Gonzalesland.

    I will add that you also can't lie to Congress about how and why you fired them.

    March 9, 2007

    Good Summary

    I know I haven't written much about the administrations firings of the US Attorneys - it's too complicated, it's too legalese filled, etc.

    Josh Marshall has a good summary at The Hill:

    It now seems clear that the U.S. attorney firing story has blossomed into a full-blown scandal. Two of the eight fired attorneys have alleged specific instances in which members of Congress or their staffs tried to goad them into dropping indictments against Democrats. One of the longest-serving members of the Senate, Pete Domenici (R) of New Mexico, has just hired a lawyer to defend his apparent role in trying to get former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias to indict a New Mexico state Democrat to help his protégé Rep. Heather Wilson (R) hold on to her seat in last November’s election.

    There will be plenty of time to speculate about the administration’s motives in this affair and scope out new paths for the expanding investigation. But the real story behind the quickening pace of revelations over the last six weeks is something that is easy to miss: old-fashioned congressional oversight.

    So much of what the Bush administration has been able to get away with over the last six years has been possible only because — with only a brief exception — Congress has not only been in the hands of the president’s party but ruled by a leadership focused almost entirely on covering up presidential wrongdoing rather than exercising meaningful oversight of the executive branch.

    Just love that word: oversight.