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New Mexico’s former U.S. attorney accused Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) Tuesday of exerting political pressure on him about an ongoing public-corruption investigation just before Election Day last fall. David Iglesias, who was asked to resign from the Justice Department with at least six other U.S. attorneys on Dec. 7, told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that Wilson had telephoned him on Oct. 16, about three weeks before the elections, to inquire about the status of “sealed indictments” in a probe involving a Democratic state legislator. When Iglesias told Wilson that he couldn’t speak about the existence of sealed indictments, “She was not happy with that answer,” he said, and their call ended a short time later. Wilson was then in the middle of a heated re-election campaign against former New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid. Wilson won the election over Madrid by fewer than 900 votes. Justice Department guidelines strictly limit what prosecutors can say about ongoing investigations. Nonetheless, two weeks after Wilson’s call, Iglesias testified that he received an unusual call from Domenici at his home in late October, just days before the November elections. The senator also wanted to know about the prospect of charges in the public-corruption case. “Are these going to be unsealed by November?” Iglesias said Domenici told him. Iglesias says that after he told Domenici it was unlikely charges would be brought before November, Domenici told him, “I’m very sorry to hear that,” and the line went dead. “I felt sick afterwards,” Iglesias said. “I felt leaned on.” Asked why he did not immediately report the calls from Wilson and Domenici to his superiors at the Justice Department — as mandated by internal Justice rules — Iglesias said he felt torn between his loyalties to Domenici, whom he described as a mentor, and to Wilson, whom he said had been a friend. Domenici had supported Iglesias’ nomination to become U.S. attorney in 2001. Iglesias suggested that his firing, given his office’s high marks in internal Justice Department performance reviews, may have come as a result of Domenici or Wilson pressuring the White House or Justice to ask for his resignation. “I suspect they felt I was not a help to them during the campaign,” Iglesias said. After he was fired, he said, he “began to put the dots together.” In response to questions about her call with Iglesias, a spokeswoman for Wilson’s office forwarded a statement saying she had contacted Iglesias’ office after a constituent complained about the pace of ongoing corruption investigations. “I did not ask about the timing of any indictments, and I did not tell Mr. Iglesias what course of action I thought he should take or pressure him in any way,” Wilson says in the statement. “If the purpose of my call has somehow been misperceived, I am sorry for any confusion.” Domenici’s office did not return a call for this article. But earlier this week, The Washington Post reported that Domenici had complained about Iglesias to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on three occasions in 2005 and 2006, and had spoken with Gonzales’ top deputy last October. The contacts by Domenici and Wilson could prove problematic. Ethics rules prohibit members of Congress from contacting federal officials involved in ongoing investigations. This week, a left-leaning public interest group asked the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate Domenici’s contacts with Iglesias. HOUSE CALL Iglesias recounted his story during morning testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, flanked by three other of the fired U.S. attorneys. All of them said that the Justice Department had not informed them why they had been fired. During the afternoon, the same four former prosecutors, as well as two others that had been asked to resign, were called before a House Judiciary subcommittee. There, they were joined William Moschella, a top Justice Department official, who laid out the department’s case for the firings. Moschella, the Justice Department’s principal deputy associate attorney general, acknowledged the dismissals were poorly executed. “In hindsight, it could have been handled better,” Moschella said. “It would have been much better to address the relevant issues [with each U.S. attorney] upfront.” Moschella said the firings for seven of the U.S. attorneys were for reasons related to “policy, priorities, and management — what has been broadly stated as performance-related reasons.” He also called speculation that the firings were related to political pressure over various public-corruption investigations “dangerous, baseless, and irresponsible.” After the subcommittee chairwoman, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), asked the six testifying former U.S. attorneys to waive any privacy concerns over the reasons for their firings, Moschella laid out the case against each one. With respect to Carol Lam, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California, whose office had won a guilty plea from former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.) in a major public-corruption case, Moschella noted a relatively low number of gun and immigration prosecutions. “On immigration, her numbers in a border district just didn’t stack up,” Moschella said. He added that Lam’s office ranked 91 out of 93 districts in gun prosecutions. “These are high administration priorities, and we expect these priorities to be filled,” he said. John McKay, the former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington, was criticized for “policy differences.” Moschella said McKay spent a considerable amount of time pushing Justice to approve an unspecified system in his office. Moschella told the committee that Daniel Bogden, former U.S. attorney for Nevada, was simply not doing a good enough job. “There was a general sense in the department about Mr. Bogden, that given the importance of the district in Las Vegas . . . we were interested in seeing a new vigor and new energy in the office to take it to a new level,” Moschella said. Moschella essentially delivered the same pronouncement about New Mexico’s Iglesias, adding that Iglesias had delegated too much authority to his top assistant. “There was a general sense that the district was in need of greater leadership,” Moschella said. As for Paul Charlton, former U.S. attorney for Arizona, had been fired for “policy reasons.” Moschella cited Charlton’s policy of taping interviews with FBI agents and an ongoing dispute over pursuing the death penalty in a case, an issue Moschella described as “non-delegable.” Those five attorneys were all asked to resign Dec. 7, along with two other prosecutors. Despite Moschella’s criticisms, all five had received positive evaluations from the Justice Department during periodic performance reviews. H.E. “Bud” Cummins III, U.S. attorney for Arkansas, also testified at the hearing. Cummins had been asked to resign last summer, and Justice Department officials have said that Cummins’ firing was not done for performance reasons, but to clear the position for J. Timothy Griffith, a former political aide to White House adviser Karl Rove.
Jason McLure can be contacted at [email protected]. T.R. Goldman can be contacted at [email protected].

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