Wednesday, February 07, 2007

US Attorneys Politicised

On NPR right now, my neighbour Chuck Schumer is waxing indignant about how in 20 years of oversight over the Justice Dept (he must be counting some of his time in the House, where he served from 1981 to 1999), he'd never seen anything like this.

It seems that over the past two years, more than a dozen US Attorneys were fired, because their jobs were required for other people. Gonzales says the firings weren't for "political" reasons; what I think he means by that is that "political reasons" means reasons of policy, whereas these actions were for "patronage reasons", or "partisan reasons". Whatever. US Attorneys always serve at the president's pleasure, and he is free to fire them whenever he chooses, for any reason or no reason at all, just like cabinet Secretaries, or the staff of the White House travel office. The AP article I linked above acknowledges this, and it ought to be uncontroversial.

But what floored me, and prompted this post, was Schumer claiming he'd never seen anything like this, i.e. that even though the president clearly has the power to do this it had never been done before, and shouldn't have been done now. Could he have forgotten that one of Janet Reno's first acts in office was to fire 92 of the 93 US Attorneys? That act was unprecedented, and was not repeated when Bush took over in 2001. I don't see how Schumer can possibly have forgotten it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Tue Feb 20, 03:14:00 PM 2007  
Blogger thanbo said...

Yeah, well, when Reno did it, it was on a term boundary, so it was "let's make room for our lawyer friends", even though Justice is supposed to be above partisan politics.

Here, though, as later evidence has made clear, it was a) a midterm firing, b) the lawyers were fired because they had been prosecuting the President's friends (remember they are supposed to be nonpartisan), c) under the Patriot Act, the replacements didn't need vetting by Congress (which Reno's replacements did).

So instead of "let's make room for our friends, which is sorta normal when the White House changes party, if not normal at Justice", it's "let's kick out the guys who are prosecuting our friends." Which very much politicizes the US Attorney office, since now they have to fear the White House, instead of being able to prosecute without fear of political reprisal.

I think the comparisons to Nixon's "Saturday Night Massacre" are a bit excessive, but it is marginally similar, in that the firings were politically motivated.

Hope you had a good Yom Tov and a safe/healthy trip.

Wed Apr 11, 07:03:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Isaac Wertheimer from Vos Iz Neias said...

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Wed Nov 21, 03:35:00 AM 2007  

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