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The Bush Administration’s recent purge of eight U.S. attorneys demonstrates a dangerous and unwise intrusion of politics into the U.S. Department of Justice. Last week, two of the U.S. attorneys who testified before Congress said that they had felt undue pressure from members of Congress about ongoing cases they handled. [See story, Page 4.] And former U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins of Little Rock, Ark., said that a high-ranking Justice Department official told him last month that he and the fired prosecutors should keep quiet about their dismissals or the administration would “pull their gloves off and offer public criticisms to defend their actions more fully.” A Justice Department spokesman said there was no threat and the ex-prosecutors were “grandstanding.” Yet they testified involuntarily, under subpoena before the House and under threat of subpoena before the Senate. Former New Mexico U.S. Attorney David C. Iglesias said he felt “sickened” by contacts from two members of Congress from his home state about an investigation of a local Democrat. John Kay of Seattle said he got a call from a congressman’s chief of staff about the progress of a vote-fraud investigation in the state gubernatorial election. The Bush administration at first said the firings were performance related, then that the fired prosecutors did not carry out administration priorities. Now there are more questions as to whether the members of Congress acted unethically-or worse-in contacting the prosecutors about ongoing cases, and as to whether Justice Department officials attempted to discourage the ex-prosecutors from testifying before Congress about their firings. These, too, should be fully investigated to help restore confidence in our U.S. attorney’s offices.

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