Transcript

David Iglesias on U.S. Attorney Firings, Goodling Testimony

David Iglesias and other former U.S. attorneys defended their reputations on Capitol Hill in March.
David Iglesias and other former U.S. attorneys defended their reputations on Capitol Hill in March. (By Chip Somodevilla -- Getty Images)

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David Iglesias
Former U.S. Attorney for New Mexico
Wednesday, May 23, 2007; 12:30 PM

David Iglesias, one of eight U.S. Attorneys fired late last year in a move that has sparked a political firestorm for the Bush administration, was online Wednesday, May 23 at 12:30 p.m. ET to discuss the firings, his life now, and Wednesday's testimony on the Hill by Monica Goodling, the former Justice Department liaison to the White House.

The Next Best Path: Warming to Limelight, Dismissed U.S. Attorney David Iglesias Forges a New Future (Post, May 22)

The transcript follows.

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San Rafael, Calif.: Mr. Iglesias: As a retired Navy commander, and a conservative Republican, I say put into action your Tom Cruise's plea to Demi Moore: "I'm going to put Jessup on the stand." I don't agree with your statement that the entire Republican establishment views you as a "traitor." You'll have more supporters than you think if you challenge Domenici in the next primary.

David Iglesias: Commander: Thank you for your support. I've been touched by the tremendous level of support I get from people on the street, in restaurants, gyms, airports, parking lots, etc. While I respect the political process and know there are many honorable public servants in Congress, I have no intention of running for office.

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Tampa, Fla.: Mr. Iglesias, thank you so much for agreeing to appear on this forum to answer questions. I am deeply impressed by your integrity. You deserve much better than what you have gotten.

My question has to do with Monica Goodling and her immunity deal. Is her immunity a complete immunity? In other words, can she testify about anything -- including her possible role in hiring/firing nonpolitical Department of Justice employees based on party affiliation -- with immunity? Or his her immunity limited to events regarding the firing of the U.S. Attorneys only, leaving her susceptible to having her testimony used for an indictment for improper political considerations in the assistant U.S. Attorney hiring/firing process?

David Iglesias: Right, DoJ would have avoided this scandal had they treated us with professionalism and decency. They could have thanked us for our service and asked how much time we needed to find jobs. Rather, they treated us disrespectfully then lied about our performance under oath. They have no one to blame but themselves for this scandal.

Regarding the immunity deal, Ms. Goodling only may be prosecuted for perjury. Her immunity protection is complete. If you have further questions I'd recommend taking a look at the immunity agreement, which is a public document and probably is posted online.

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Anonymous: This is a comment, not a question. As a Democrat I wanted to just mention that this whole investigation has proved at least one thing to me: there are indeed principled, ethical Republicans out there. It sincerely is refreshing to be reminded that people have ethics before their political party. So, thanks.

David Iglesias: Thank you. I have lots of friends who are committed Democrats. I learned a while ago that labels are deceiving, that a person's actions are what counts.

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Pittsburgh: In The Washington Post article "The Next Best Path" (May 22,2007), you seem genuinely surprised that you might be treated well by Democrats and poorly by Republicans. "The people who stuck it to me are people who share the same values. The people who have helped me ... have value systems different than mine." Can you explain what you meant? My husband and I voted for Ronald Reagan twice and George H.W. Bush once. Since then our little military family has voted Democratic, although we consider ourselves independents. It seems to us that the Republican Party has had a great deal of success branding itself as the party of moral superiority whether that designation is deserved or not. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

David Iglesias: I've learned a lot of lessons in this scandal. Among those is that people of different beliefs, creeds and political affiliations are all capable of trying to do the right thing, of seeking the truth and of treating people decently.

The old adage of the GOP being the party of "family values" was contradicted by what happened to my colleagues and I. They did not practice kindness or compassion. My party talked a good game, but as to this experience, did not play a good game.

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Chicago: Thank you for your honest and ethical public service. Is there any chance you will be summoned for military duty in Iraq?

David Iglesias: Every Guard or Reserve military member may be mobilized into service. I knew that back in 1989 when I joined the Navy Reserve after nearly four years of active duty. If that happened I would go and do my duty, as have more than 500,000 Guard and Reserve members.

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Sewickley, Pa.: I am watching Ms. Goodling's testimony to the Judiciary Committee on C-SPAN. She has admitted that she crossed the line with respect to civil service laws when she asked nonpolitical applicants for Department of Justice positions about their political activities/affiliations. Will her limited immunity deal apply to these violations?

David Iglesias: Yes, her immunity agreement should cover that.

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Chicago: As prosecutors, you and your colleagues have had a lot of experience listening to witnesses or suspects change their stories under questioning. Let's forget, for a moment, the underlying subject of this matter. Tell me what you -- as an experienced prosecutor -- would make of any witness/material witness/suspect changing his story as much as Attorney General Gonzales has during the past few months. If he were a suspect in an embezzlement case, for example, or a bank heist, whatever the crime ... and he went back and forth on the basic facts, different people's roles, his inability to account for his "whereabouts," etc. ... would that send a signal to you that he was "guilty" (for lack of a better term)?

David Iglesias: Any witness that keeps changing his story as to basic facts is an unreliable witness. You have to decide if you want to put this person on the stand because of credibility issues. You have to have a frank discussion with them before they testify because you know you can't put a witness on the stand that you believe may be lying.

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Washington, D.C.: Why do you believe you were fired? I have heard reasons from other ranging from politics to voter fraud cases to Indian gaming connections. Why do you think you were let go?

David Iglesias: Three reasons: not filing voter fraud cases in the 2004-2006 timeframe; not indicting Manny Aragon/courthouse corruption cases before November 2006 (which would have inured to the benefit of Rep. Heather Wilson); being an "absentee landlord," which may refer to my reserve military status -- which is why I authorized OSC to investigate the matter.

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Philadelphia: One of the most troubling aspects of the management of the DOJ by Gonzales is the apparent lack of ethical standards by which any attorney, no matter their rank, would abide. Would you comment, please, on the Ashcroft hospital visit, as it relates to lawyerly conduct or lack thereof? Thank you!

David Iglesias: Not sure this is an ethics problem -- I'd have to research that. I do know that it shows an appalling lack of humanity. Where is the conservative compassion that my party talks about in this scenario?

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City with a large U.S. Attorney's Office: Mr. Iglesias, as a former assistant, I am wondering what your take is on the idea that the handling of the U.S. Attorney firings might filter down to line-level federal prosecutions. It was my experience that before juries, our credibility and the credibility of our Office was absolutely critical. But I am wondering whether you think jury pools have followed the scandal closely enough for it to have it become a factor in an ordinary federal case?

David Iglesias: I sure hope not. Federal prosecutors have to be perceived by the public and juries as "untouchables" who never factor in politics. We'll have to wait and see. I trust U.S. Attorneys include a few voir dire questions to make sure potential jurors don't have biases as a result of the scandal.

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Mauldin, S.C.: Why should we care more about a wealthy attorney being fired than a Ford autoworker? All the investigations that were in works will continue, with the U.S. Attorneys or without them. A U.S. Attorney certainly can get another position easier than the autoworker. This is pure political theater from one side of the aisle.

David Iglesias: Ford workers make a great product, but they do not administer justice. Our Constitution deals with lofty ideals that prosecutors deal with every day. We take away people's lives, liberty and property. Serious stuff. This is not political theater and I applaud Congress for looking into it.

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Rockford, Ill.: Will you be filing a civil wrongful termination suit against the DOJ?

David Iglesias: No.

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Washington, D.C.: Very cool that you are doing this chat. I am half-listening to the hearing today, and get the sense we will be no closer to the bottom of this issue. What do you think it will take to finally answer all the questions pertaining to the DOJ?

David Iglesias: Monica has dropped the dime on DAG McNulty, so that's one thing I've learned. Want to get to the bottom of this? Get Rove and company in to testify under oath.

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West Texas: I have only heard a few minutes of Ms. Goodling's testimony. She seemed to say that she did not know where the list(s) for firing came from, but she knows it did not come from the White House. Is this an official, rehearsed Department of Justice response? It sounds a lot like the responses from Gonzales. If not from the White House, where else could the names come from?

David Iglesias: If names weren't placed on the list by DoJ, the only possible place to look is the White House.

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Peaks Island, Maine: Re: the following from yesterday's Washington Post piece by Sridhar Pappu:

"Rogers has another view of the situation. He said Iglesias was unaware of both widespread complaints and news reports on public corruption. He also says that Iglesias's mismanagement allowed the statute of limitations to run out on a number of cases. "He's made a whole collection of statements that have gone unchallenged," Rogers says."

What is Rogers talking about in speaking of the statute of limitations running out on cases?

David Iglesias: I was quite aware of the public corruption coverage by the local media. I read the paper every day.

Not sure what Rogers means by the statute of limitations running out on some cases; he may be referring to my office not being able to file some counts because of the statute running out. That's not an uncommon problem in white collar cases.

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Princeton, N.J.: I'm a Hispanic and I'm very disappointed and extremely disillusioned with Alberto Gonzales, the first Hispanic to become the country's Attorney General. What effect will this scandal have on other aspiring Hispanics in the future?

David Iglesias: I hope this scandal does not have a chilling effect on other Hispanics/Latinos seeking public office.

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Philadelphia: Thank you for your military service and your service to the DOJ. I live in a city where there recently have been several public corruption cases. It has crossed my mind that because they were Democrats, that maybe Rove had something to do with bringing those prosecutions. But, I decided, "nahhhh!" On the other hand, the Democratic king-maker of this region, Vince Fumo, recently was indicted. Certainly, regional Democrats can make a case that politics entered into the indictment. Will you comment?

David Iglesias: I'd need to know a lot more about the Fumo matter before commenting. In our corruption cases, we prosecuted public officials regardless of party affiliation. In fact, a New Mexico Democrat State Auditor gave us some information we used to prosecute some of his elected colleagues.

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Pittsburgh: Does it work to the career prosecutors' advantage to have Attorney General Gonzales stick around? It seems to me the Attorney General and White House would have a very difficult time pushing or quashing investigations or prosecutions for political reasons during Mr. Gonzales' remaining tenure.

David Iglesias: Good question. Interesting perspective. At this point, I can't imagine any interference from DoJ and the WH on corruption cases.

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Washington, D.C.: Can you comment on something? Perhaps I'm making sweeping generalizations in this question, but it seems that the "pursuit of immigration cases" keeps coming up, especially with Carol Lam. But that seems a little suspect to me. We have a White House that is not aggressive towards illegal immigration (at least from Mexico). And our Attorney General is the product of such leniency. I don't know, it just seems like a convenient excuse in order to justify her dismissal.

David Iglesias: Ms. Lam should not have been forced to resign. She was doing a great job especially as to corruption cases. Every U.S. Attorney had the autonomy to set local priorities and set prosecution thresholds. Her thresholds were different than mine, which is fine because San Diego has different problems than New Mexico. I do not question her immigration performance any more than she would question my Indian Country prosecutions.

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Washington, D.C.: What is your opinion as to why there have been five different chiefs in the Public Integrity Section in Washington during the past year-and-a-half?

David Iglesias: I didn't know we had. I'd need more facts before I comment.

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Silver Spring, Md.: My understanding of the duties of a U.S. Attorney is that you are appointed through a political process, but once in office, politics takes a back seat to enforcement of the law. Would you say this is true? What do you think happened at the DOJ? Do you think it was operating in a hyper-politicized environment? I am a young attorney, and, at this point, I would not take a job at the DOJ knowing what I know now about how it's run. (Of course, I'm a Democrat and apparently wouldn't be hired anyway.) Thanks for speaking publicly about your experience. To me, this matter transcends party lines -- it's really about personal integrity and respect for the law.

David Iglesias: Right. Check out a posting that Harvard Law School did a couple of weeks ago. Prof. Fried, I think. He says U.S. Attorneys are like federal judges, we come into our jobs through the political process, but then are required to stay out of politics. Main Justice is more politicized now than it has been in the past, but be patient, that will change.

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Richmond, Va.: Were you a U.S. Attorney during John Ashcroft's tenure as Attorney General? If so, did you notice any changes in the way the department set and communicated priorities when Gonzales took over as AG?

David Iglesias: Yes, I served under Mr. Ashcroft as well. I did not notice any changes in how priorities were communicated. I did find, however, Ashcroft's staffers to be older and more professional.

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Chicago: While I feel that this matter (i.e. the firings of you and your colleagues) should be thoroughly investigated, I also am concerned about how much this might be diverting the DOJ's attention from some other serious matters. For example, I am told that even during the week of the horrible tragedy at Virginia Tech, the Attorney General kept preparing for his appearance before Congress. Isn't the AG spending far too much time defending himself? (My opinion is that this all the more reason that he should resign).

There are only so many hours in a day ... what isn't getting done? How many hours of DOJ staff time has been spent helping the AG prepare for his testimony, press conferences, hunt for memos and e-mails, etc.? I'd prefer that they were hunting for criminals or coming up with new policies to stop gun violence.

David Iglesias: Good arguments. Can't say that I disagree with them.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm on your side, but it seems clear -- as Gonzales has alleged -- that the political contacts made to you by Wilson and Domenici should have been reported. Don't you see that?

David Iglesias: Yes, I should have reported them. I volunteered this information to the media as the scandal began. Not sure it would have made a difference, as Paul Charlton did report a similar contact and there is no record of his reporting to DoJ. Also, he got fired anyway...

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Salem, Ore.: First, let me say how sorry I am that you and your colleagues have been so poorly treated. My question has to do with this administration in general. Do you have issues with their performance overall, or just in the area where it directly has affected you, i.e. only with the questionable ethics of the Justice Department?

David Iglesias: Thank you for your support. I only intelligently can comment on the performance problems of the Justice Department, as I have first hand knowledge of it.

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Pleasanton, Calif.: How much of the politicization of Justice do you attribute to the party that was in power for the last six years, and how much do you attribute to this administration?

David Iglesias: I think any party in power for six years that places too much emphasis on loyalty and which is not checked by a House or Senate would have had similar problems.

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Boston: I believe we have heard the AG and now Monica Goodling state that they did not know how the list of attorneys to be fired was developed, yet they both stated that the White House was not involved. Does this seem like a strange statement? If they do not know about the development of the list, how do they know the White House was not involved?

David Iglesias: The list did not appear magically. Someone compiled it and if DoJ didn't do it, then the White House did.

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Cheyenne, Wyo.: It was reported today that Wyoming's U.S. Attorney, Matt Mead, was on one of the first lists for consideration. This was a surprise to many of us and is hard to figure out. Have you learned what the White House originally sought to gain by carrying out these mass terminations? What political benefit did they think they would accrue by firing many of their own appointees?

David Iglesias: Matt Mead is a stand-up guy and I enjoyed serving with him. What political gain could be served by firing appointees who were doing a good job? None. It was a terrible miscalculation.

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Las Cruces, N.M.: Good afternoon, Mr. Iglesias. Will Arlen Specter ever learn how to pronounce your name?

David Iglesias: I sure hope so, it's not any harder to say than "Specter"...

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South Orange, N.J.: Do you believe the Attorney General still can lead the Department of Justice effectively?

David Iglesias: Please see my op-ed today in the L.A. Times.

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Rochester, N.Y.: Most employees are "at-will" employees and can be fired for no reason at all or any reason that is not a statutory violation, and this happens thousands of times every day. Why do you think you deserve to be treated differently than every other at-will employee?

David Iglesias: Because, as Sen. Specter and AG Gonzales have stated, there are some inappropriate reasons to force U.S. Attorneys out, such as trying to derail or interfere with ongoing cases or investigations. I believe that to be the case with Ms. Lam, Mr. Bogden, Mr. McKay and I.

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Re: Military Service: Will you be staying in the Reserves? My husband has twenty years in between the regular Army and the Reserve; he is up for a promotion he has wanted all his career but will not stay in. Will you?

David Iglesias: Yes. I love the Navy and have enjoyed my 22 years of service. I'd like to stay in the Navy Reserve until they throw me out at 30 years.

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Baltimore: My sister works with a U.S. Attorney, and he's been heard muttering that this affair has brought his integrity into such question that he's disappointed that he was not on the list to be fired. Have you run into this sentiment among your former colleagues?

David Iglesias: I have heard of this strange "reverse presumption" sentiment. Too bad, I have the highest regards for most of the current serving U.S. Attorneys.

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Murray, Ky.: I am an AP Government and Politics teacher. What constitutional lesson(s) should we take from this scandal? How would you impress upon students the importance of this exercise?

David Iglesias: The brilliance of separating our government into three co-equal branches. Our founders didn't trust one branch of government over another and now we can see the checks and balances in motion. It's a beautiful thing to watch!

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Seoul, Korea: Can you define the illegalities that may have occurred in this scandal? If a prosecutor were investigating the firings, what would be the focus of the investigation?

David Iglesias: Investigators should look into witness intimidation, perjury and obstruction of justice issues.

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Des Moines, Iowa: What should the Senate do with Sen. Domenici surrounding his conduct toward you?

David Iglesias: The Senate Ethics Committee has begun a preliminary inquiry.

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Albany, N.Y.: Mr. Iglesias, I find all the adulation thrown your way misplaced. As I understand it, pressure was put upon you by Sen. Domenici and Rep. Wilson to bring charges with respect to the construction of the Bernalillo County courthouse before the 2006 election. In that election, Heather Wilson was battling for her political life, and she undoubtedly thought these charges would help her.

Everyone now acknowledges that those phone calls were improper. Yet you failed to report them to your superiors at the Justice Department, as required, and failed to make them public. Had you done what was required of you, the improper pressure that you now complain of would have been public and the voters of New Mexico's first congressional district would have had the facts before they voted to re-elect Rep. Wilson. Some would say that you had the election in your hands, and you dropped the ethical ball. To me, you are not a hero, sir.

David Iglesias: U.S. Attorneys can't play politics, we do law enforcement. I could not do anything to affect the outcome of the election. I'm glad I eventually spoke out and the vast majority of Americans, I suspect, agree with me.

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Missoula, Mont.: Mr. Iglesias, what do you think of both the Republican and Democratic questioning today. How would you do it different?

David Iglesias: Missoula: Great town, by the way. The Committee did a fine job of questioning Ms. Goodling.

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Cleveland: Do you believe that Monica Goodling's background truly qualified her for a position as a senior counsel to the U.S. Attorney General, or was she simply a beneficiary of political patronage?

David Iglesias: I'd like to see her resume first. Washington is full of young people with little experience but who have a burning desire to serve the public. I think that's a good thing -- you just have to make sure they aren't in over their heads.

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New York: Given the James Comey testimony, and the serious senior DOJ political appointees from the first term who had left in the wake of those events, do you think former Attorney General Ashcroft ever will comment? Having read the discovery in the Fitzgerald case, I respected Mr. Ashcroft for reusing himself when he realized that there was possible perjury in the initial investigation of the Plame matter.

David Iglesias: I seriously doubt Ashcroft will be testifying.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi there. Just wondering if you are watching the Goodling testimony, and if so, what your general reaction(s) are.

David Iglesias: I learned that DAG McNulty was briefedappropriately by Goodling.

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Jerusalem (U.S. Citizen living abroad): What role do you understand the White House and specifically Karl Rove and Harriet Miers to have played in the firings? Thank you for the opportunity to ask you questions.

David Iglesias: There is circumstantial evidence pointing to Rove and Miers. Without their direct testimony under oath, we may never find out what role they placed in the scandal.

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Chicago: Mr. Iglesias, when you were nominated for the U.S. Attorney position, were you asked whom you had voted? Do you think it's appropriate for "political appointees" to be asked this question?

David Iglesias: I was not asked who I voted for. I don't have a problem with this question provided it is limited to political appointees.

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Concord, N.H.: Disregarding what Wilson and Domenici may have done in your particular case, am I correct that the president could fire you (and the other U.S. Attorneys) for any reason or no reason at any time? If that is so, then why don't they just say that and point out that any reason may include political considerations?

David Iglesias: You're not hearing the "any reason" argument anymore. Both Specter and Gonzales listed inappropriate reasons to sack U.S. Attorneys.

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Midland, Texas: Mr. Iglesias, Have you heard from your former colleagues (U.S. Attorneys) who remain in office, and have they been supportive?

David Iglesias: Yes, I have, and the support has been tremendous. Even had dinner with one a couple of weeks ago. The morale among U.S. Attorneys is rock-bottom now because of the scandal.

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Washington, D.C.: Has your view of the GOP changed in light of your treatment of late? Have employment prospects improved with this publicity?

David Iglesias: I'm a disaffected Republican. My party doesn't practice what it preaches as to compassion. That being said, this scandal has resulted in unimaginable employment possibilities. Good really can come from bad.

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Chicago: Is it the policy of the U.S. attorneys specifically to avoid filing politically sensitive indictments shortly before an election, or is the policy simply to disregard the election cycle and file indictments without taking into account the timing of elections? For example, would it also be wrong to delay an indictment until after an election specifically so the news won't break before the election?

David Iglesias: It's the official policy of DoJ to not file indictments that could affect the outcome of an election.

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Sausalito, Calif.: Please explain so nonlawyers will understand why a U.S. Attorney must not file charges -- for voter fraud or anything else -- without what he or she believes is evidence of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Also, do you think Bush is keeping Gonzales because he needs an Attorney General who is a patsy? Bush and Rove dare not risk an honest AG, and the Senate won't confirm another patsy who will follow orders. Thus, Gonzales is stuck there like a lightning rod until Bush's term is over.

David Iglesias: Sausalito: another great town. The law requires prosecutors to only file cases they can prove beyond a reasonable doubt. To not do so subjects the prosecutor to "malicious prosecution" lawsuits.

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