Wednesday, January 17, 2007

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers"

Shakespeare's recipe for tyranny.

So what is this?

Former Arkansas USA Bud Cummins told the Wall Street Journal that "a top Justice official asked for his resignation in June, saying the White House wanted to give another person the opportunity to serve." Cummins was finally forced out in December, replaced with Timothy Griffin, formerly the research director of the Republican National Committee.
And this?

Ending days of speculation, San Diego-area U.S. Attorney Carol Lam announced Tuesday afternoon in a news release that she will step down from the job on Feb. 15.

News stories first surfaced last week that she had been asked to resign, but no government source was willing to go on the record with the information.

The release did not provide a reason for Lam's resignation nor did it say if she had been asked to resign. Reached by phone late Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the 47-year-old Lam said that there would be no other comment.

In a Tuesday phone interview from his Washington office, U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, said Lam was asked to step down.

Issa declined to name the source of the information, but said "it was a high-ranking administration official involved in the decision process."

U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president.
As TPM says, 7 US Attorneys asked to step down in such rapid succession is unprecedented. Sure looks like pay-back for November, though.

Isn't anyone else curious about this?

And already I find, yes, apparently they are:

U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan announced his resignation Tuesday as chief federal prosecutor for coastal Northern California, ending a 4 1/2-year tenure marked by high-profile cases on stock options fraud and steroids in sports and some high-level criticism of his management.


It's not clear what effect Ryan's departure will have on his office's investigation of Bay Area companies for allegedly concealing their backdating of stock options granted to top executives. Ryan appointed a task force last summer to look into the practice and has obtained two criminal indictments and a flurry of executive resignations.

His resignation came amid accusations by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and other Democrats that Bush was pushing U.S. attorneys out of office so he could appoint their replacements without Senate confirmation under a little-noticed provision of the USA Patriot Act passed by Congress in 2001.

Citing a Wall Street Journal article Tuesday that listed Ryan among seven prosecutors around the nation who reportedly were being forced out, Feinstein said she was co-sponsoring legislation that would reinstate a 120-day limit on the president's power to name an interim U.S. attorney without Senate approval. After 120 days, federal judges would make the interim appointments, as they did before the Patriot Act.

Carol Lam, the U.S. attorney in San Diego who brought corruption charges against Republican Rep. Randy "Duke'' Cunningham, also announced her resignation Tuesday. The San Diego Union-Tribune quoted an unnamed law enforcement official last week as saying the Bush administration had asked her to leave.

U.S. Attorney Debra Wong Yang of Los Angeles quit last month for apparently unrelated reasons. Of California's top federal prosecutors, only McGregor Scott, the U.S. attorney in Sacramento, is staying at his job.
The article goes on to mention evidence for Ryan's administrative 'problems,' though it's sketchy, at best. What's really interesting, though, is that every US attorney in California, except one, is out. Is Bush just that excited at the prospect of replacing people without Congressional oversight? Or is he that determined to give the corporations and the politicians their pound of flesh?

Either way, the answers are not comforting. Wonder what signing statement he'll append to Sen. Feinstein's amendment to the PATRIOT ACT?

Further update: I think it may be simply Bush's way of poking federal judges in the eye, too, since they are now out of the loop on replacing US Attorneys:

The text of the speech, scheduled for delivery at the American Enterprise Institute, was obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. It outlines, in part, what qualities the Bush administration looks for when selecting candidates for the federal bench.

“We want to determine whether he understands the inherent limits that make an unelected judiciary inferior to Congress or the president in making policy judgments,” Gonzales says in the prepared speech. “That, for example, a judge will never be in the best position to know what is in the national security interests of our country.”
Perhaps national security is one example; perhaps another is US Attorneys.

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