Who needs an independent Department of Justice? Certainly not the United States.

Executive purges seem to evoke thoughts of Stalinist Russia or Peter Best being forced from the position as the Beatles’ drummer. However, when these purges occur in a democratic republic with the phrase “separation of powers” in its Constitution, people begin to worry. As of December ’06, the Curious Mechanism’s favorite Supreme Court failure/White House legal counsel/Golden Girl/personal friend of President Bush, Ms. Harriet Miers, is back! And this time, she’s taking the whole Justice Department down with her.

According to an article in the New York Times on March 13th, It appears that late last year, the Bush administration was making queries into firing certain attorneys in the Justice Department who were not as…thorough…in their investigations of certain topics and policies close to the White House agenda e.g. immigration, death penalty, and voter fraud. [Link] Harriet Miers approached a top staffer in the Attorney General’s office, Kyle Sampson, in early 2005 to find out some stipulations of the hiring/firing policies of the Justice Department, asking:

Whether it would be feasible to replace all United States attorneys when their four-year terms expired, according to the Justice Department. The proposal came as the administration was considering which political appointees to replace in the second term, Ms. [Dana] Perino [a White House spokeswoman] said.

Apparently, after Mier’s inquiry, Sampson (who resigned yesterday) sent her a list ranking all 93 U.S. attorneys. They were ranked based on the impartial criteria such as “loyalty” to the administration garnering a high ranking and “chafing” against the administration creating a low ranking. Mr.Thursday wishes that this last statement were not true, but if we are trust any of those big name periodicals-The New York Times, The Washington Post, US Weekly- we must accept that the independence of the Justice Department concerning personnel decisions and procedures is being threatened. This purge by the White House against the Justice Department is a historic event that challenges the norms of the U.S. institutional processes. Although the President has nominated many of the attorneys in question, this does not mean that these attorneys are required to serve every whim and desire of his administration. These men and women “serve at the pleasure of the President” not “serve to pleasure the President’s will”.

And now that this story has come to light, White House spokesmen have put their feet in their mouths multiple times, changed stories, and, it appears, simply have changed their minds as to what actually occurred.

The president did not call for the removal of any specific United States attorneys, said Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman.

However, Ms. Perino all disclosed in the New York Times article this nugget of information.

Bu Ms. Perino disclosed that White House officials had consulted with the Justice Department in preparing the list of United States attorneys who would be removed.


Last October, President Bush spoke with Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to pass along concerns by Republicans that some prosecutors were not aggressively addressing voter fraud, the White House said Monday.

It appears to the Curious Mechanism that the White House finds itself in a pickle of epic proportions at the moment. Not only this, but there has been recent news news that veterans were being mistreated and mishandled in the U.S.’s stalwart medical hospital, Walter Reed, not to mention the perjury conviction of Lewis “Scooter” Libby (Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff). This really isn’t the Bush administration’s week.

We find that a transparent and independent judicial system on all levels is an important component of effective democracy. From the Supreme Court Justice to a county clerk, from the U.S. Attorney General to Ithaca’s district attorney, all members invested in the U.S. system must allow to use their own discretion and expertise when deciding who to prosecute and who to convict. We find that the White House is skipping down a slippery slope with this latest debacle. And while we are worried that this is the kind of thing our government is doing nowadays, we’re grateful that there are reporters to, you know, tell us about all this cloak and dagger nonsense from time to time.



Filed under News, Politics

5 responses to “Who needs an independent Department of Justice? Certainly not the United States.

  1. you

    id like to agree with you, and on many levels i think you are correct. but this is the U.S. Attorneys office, they are at-will employees of the country, appointed by the President, and their employment can be terminated for no reason whatsoever, while you and i both understand this does not make it right, it does make it legal. it is a waste of resources to come up with this committee to look into the firing of 8 (just 8) U. S. Attorneys whos employment is not guaranteed.

    that being said, i love you, wanna get dinner sometime this week and watch hard rock zombies again?

  2. you

    apparently when you write the number eight with an end parenthetical it comes up with that uber smooth smiley face, so just picture that i should read “(just eight)”

  3. Our point was not that anything illegal had been done. Re-read the post. We never spoke of legalities. Our point is merely that, while US Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President, they should be weapons of the law, not of the White House. If they’re getting fired for failing to be be the latter, then that is a troubling thing.

    The initial report was that these people were fired for performance related reasons. If that turns out to be true, then no one, anywhere, will complain. If the performance issues are, however, merely political disagreements, then while the firings might not be technically illegal, the breach of the separation of powers is, again, troubling.

    We’re not rendering judgment here–just passing on information on something that, if true, is a not-so-good thing.

  4. you

    at the risk of making this a ridiculous conversation. Im-not-saying-youre-saying this was an illegal act, and i do agree with you that the U.S. attorneys office shouldnt lose good attorneys because they disagree with the policies of the administration. but if they do “serve at the pleasure of the President”, and hes no longer pleasured by them (oh man im so glad i got to work that in there), then as a nation its our responsibility to express displeasure i.e. writing blogs and spreading awareness about such things. im not disagreeing with you mr. ides of march or whatever you call yourself. im merely adding my two cents along with your 98 to create the dolla. and lets be happy that this wacked out administration didnt do more damage than they did. they only fired 8 attorneys, lots of high ranking officials [read: alberto gonzales and harriet miers] were calling for a cleansing of the entire system, i think that wouldve caused a much larger problem for the autonomy of the judicial branch. and there are checks and balances in place, if what the President does is considerd an “abuse of power” (like firing every attorney who disagrees with him and what he thinks is important), than the Supreme Court can make his life miserable.
    count it.

  5. Katie

    The reason that this is such a big deal is not simply because the White House decided to fire these guys. I hear again and again about how Clinton fired all of Bush the First’s U.S. attorneys after he got into office. That is his right, and I can see how he’d want to have attorneys with a similar world view point as him.

    On the other hand, doing it in the middle of a term simply for political reasons because the attorneys are not being as aggressive as you want for a particular political reason, now that’s just wrong.

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