Domenici Says He Contacted Prosecutor
Monday, March 5, 2007
Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) acknowledged yesterday that he contacted the U.S. attorney in Albuquerque last year to ask about an ongoing corruption probe of Democrats, but said he "never pressured him nor threatened him in any way."
Domenici also said in a statement that he told the Justice Department it should replace U.S. Attorney David C. Iglesias, one of eight federal prosecutors fired in December. But Domenici said the recommendation came before his call to Iglesias about the criminal investigation.
"In retrospect, I regret making that call and I apologize," Domenici said of talking to Iglesias. "However, at no time in that conversation or any other conversation with Mr. Iglesias did I ever tell him what course of action I thought he should take on any legal matter. I have never pressured him nor threatened him in any way."
Legal experts say it violates congressional ethics rules for a senator or House member to communicate with a federal prosecutor regarding an ongoing criminal investigation.
Domenici's remarks came four days after Iglesias alleged that two New Mexico lawmakers called him in mid-October and pressured him about the pace of the investigation. Iglesias said he believes the calls were at the root of his dismissal.
When asked last week about Iglesias's allegations, Domenici said: "I have no idea what he's talking about."
Rep. Heather A. Wilson (R-N.M.) has yet to comment; the rest of the New Mexico congressional delegation has denied placing any calls to Iglesias.
Two sources with knowledge of the calls have said Wilson made the first contact, followed by Domenici about a week later. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be named discussing the matter before a congressional hearing tomorrow.
The Justice Department said last night that Domenici called Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty during the first week of October to discuss Iglesias.
This followed three calls to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales in September 2005, January 2006 and April 2006 during which, Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said, Domenici "expressed general concerns about the performance of U.S. Attorney Iglesias and questioned whether he was up to the job . . .
"At no time in those calls did the senator mention this corruption case," nor did he specifically ask for Iglesias's ouster, Roehrkasse said.
The spokesman said he is not aware of any similar calls or complaints to the Justice Department from Wilson.