Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Can special prosecutor unravel political firings of U.S. Attorneys?

Does anyone feel reassured now that Attorney General Michael Mukasey has appointed a special prosecutor to consider criminal charges in the firings of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006? It's hard to generate much enthusiasm, given the lackluster performance of the Justice Department since Mukasey was brought in to clean up the mess left by Bush's good friend, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who resigned under fire in 2007. Results of an internal Justice Department investigation released this week blamed Gonzales and Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty for allowing the politically motivated firings of several of the federal prosecutors, according to the Reuters international news service. "The primary responsibility for these serious failures rests with senior department leaders -- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty -- who abdicated their responsibility to oversee the process and ensure that the reasons for removal of each U.S. attorney were ... not improper," the report concluded. There was a time -- before the horrendous investigation and impeachment of Bill Clinton -- that the appointment of a special prosecutor sent fear up the spines of many a political officeholder with reason to fear the truth. But this is now. On Monday, Mukasey appointed Nora Dannehy, a federal prosecutor in Connecticut, to investigate -- this time with subpoena power. The inspector-general's investigation did not have the power to compel testimony, and many White House officials -- including President George W. Bush's top political aide, Karl Rove, refused to cooperate. In a statement coinciding with Dannehy's appointment, Mukasey called Gonzales's firing of the U.S. Attorneys "arbitrary and unprofessional." Maybe there is reason for hope for a legitimate investigation.

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