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Fired U.S. Attorney Says Lawmakers Pressured Him
In addition to Iglesias's probe of Democrats, fired prosecutors in Arizona, Nevada and California were conducting corruption probes involving Republicans at the time of their dismissals.
"These are extremely serious and very troubling allegations coming from a man of great integrity," said Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who has been leading a Senate Judiciary Committee inquiry into the firings. "They call into question every other firing. We will continue to pursue this until we get to the bottom of what happened and pass legislation to prevent it from ever happening again."
The dismissals have angered Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill, in part because they followed a little-noticed change in federal law that lets Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales appoint interim prosecutors indefinitely. Legislation has been introduced in both houses to repeal the provision.
Justice officials have acknowledged that they did not fire Bud Cummins from his Little Rock post for cause but have said the others were ousted for "performance-related" reasons. Records show, however, that at least six of the prosecutors, including Iglesias and Cummins, received mostly positive job evaluations before they were forced out.
In an interview Tuesday, Iglesias said the two lawmakers called him about a well-known criminal investigation involving a Democratic legislator. He declined to provide their party affiliation, but his comments indicated the callers were Republicans.
New Mexico media outlets reported last year that the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office in Albuquerque had opened a probe into allegations involving former Democratic state senator Manny Aragon and government construction projects in Bernalillo County. No charges have been filed in the case.
Iglesias said the lawmakers who called him seemed focused on whether charges would be filed before the November elections. He said the calls made him feel "pressured to hurry the subsequent cases and prosecutions" but said he did not receive similar contacts from anyone in the executive branch. He acknowledged he made a mistake by not reporting the calls to the Justice Department.
Referring to the calls, Iglesias said: "I suspect that was the reason I was asked to step down, but I don't know that I'll ever know."
Iglesias said other criticisms of his performance by the Justice Department "are demonstrably untrue statements." He added: "We all have a right to defend our honor. I felt like my honor and the honor of my office was attacked."
Iglesias produced statistics showing that his office's immigration prosecutions had risen more than 78 percent during his tenure and said the office prosecuted record numbers of narcotics and firearms cases as well.
Iglesias cited a January 2006 letter from Michael A. Battle -- the Justice official who fired him -- commending him for "exemplary leadership in the department's priority programs." A November 2005 evaluation obtained by The Washington Post also said Iglesias was "experienced in legal, management and community relations work and was respected by the judiciary, agencies and staff."
Former deputy attorney general James B. Comey, now general counsel for Lockheed Martin, this week praised Iglesias as "one of our finest and someone I had a lot of confidence in as deputy attorney general."
But Roehrkasse said Justice "had a lengthy record from which to evaluate his performance as a manager, and we made our decision not to further extend his service based on performance-related concerns."