Justice Dept. won't file charges in Bush-era firings of U.S. attorneys

By Associated Press
Thursday, July 22, 2010; A05

Prosecutors have concluded their two-year investigation into the Bush administration's firing of U.S. attorneys and will file no charges, the Justice Department said Wednesday.

The lawyers probed whether the Bush administration improperly dismissed nine U.S. attorneys to influence criminal cases. The scandal contributed to mounting criticism that the White House had politicized the Justice Department, a charge that contributed to the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

The decision closes the books on one of the lingering political disputes from the Bush era, one that Democrats said was evidence of GOP politics run amok, while Republicans have always said it was a manufactured controversy.

In 2008, the Justice Department assigned Nora Dannehy, a career prosecutor from Connecticut with a history of rooting out government wrongdoing, to investigate the firings.

In particular, she looked into the dismissal of New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias and whether then-Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) or others should be prosecuted for it or for lying to Congress about it.

Domenici's push to have Iglesias fired was in part politically motivated, Dannehy determined, but did not violate the law.

"The investigative team also determined that the evidence did not warrant expanding the scope of the investigation beyond the removal of Iglesias," the Justice Department said in a letter to lawmakers Wednesday.

Iglesias was fired after the head of New Mexico's Republican Party complained to the White House that the U.S. attorney was soft on voter fraud. The GOP official asked that Iglesias be replaced so that the state could "make some real progress in cleaning up a state notorious for crooked elections." Harriet Miers, then White House counsel, told lawmakers that presidential political adviser Karl Rove was "very agitated" over Iglesias "and wanted something done about it." Rove has said that he played no role in deciding whom to dismiss, that politics played no role in the firings and that he never sought to influence prosecutions.

Dannehy faulted the Justice Department for firing Iglesias without even bothering to figure out whether such complaints were true.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company