Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
The evidence from our Senate investigation of the unprecedented firing of eight U.S. attorneys shows an attorney general whose misjudgments are profound, and who is complicit in the greatest politicization of the U.S. Department of Justice since the Nixon administration. As a U.S. attorney, I saw up close the traditions and practices of the Justice Department that protect against political interference and give structure to the fair administration of justice. In that light, here are some of the particulars of why Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should go: Incompetence and misjudgments • His incompetence and misjudgments fail, by far, the test he set for the fired U.S. attorneys. Rules for others don’t seem to apply to the Bush administration’s politically privileged class. His argument that he still has confidence in his own leadership doesn’t cut it � I’m sure those U.S. attorneys have confidence in their own leadership. • David Iglesias, formerly the U.S. attorney for New Mexico, was fired for political reasons � because politicians called. The president told Gonzales about it. Karl Rove spoke to Gonzales about it. Gonzales’s staff took calls. White House Liaison Monica Goodling wrote his name on the “hit list.” Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty discussed a politician’s views when the firing decision was made. Evidence suggests politicians called because a corruption case was brought too slowly to influence a close election. • The attorney general does not respect his own institution. Time-honored traditions and practices of the Department of Justice, vital to the impartial administration of justice, have been gravely damaged. At least three � respect for career officials; careful policing of the boundary between the White House and the Justice Department; and selecting U.S. attorneys from the home district with full Senate confirmation � are bulwarks. The man who didn’t care about or didn’t notice their destruction is the wrong person to rebuild them. • Pettiness rules. A hallmark of incompetent leadership is excessive deference, and the tone of the Justice Department is sickening. A U.S. attorney promises he’ll be “pleasant and respectful” to get a meeting with the deputy attorney general. Another assures Justice Department officials he’s still a “company man.” One is fired for asking for reconsideration of a death penalty decision. Another is fired for “poor judgment” in organizing a letter to the deputy attorney general that was “not welcome.” It makes your skin crawl. • The standard he sets for his office is far too low. Gonzales’ stated definition of what is “improper” for him and his underlings tracks the legal standard for criminal obstruction of justice: interference with a particular case for illegitimate purposes. Any partisan influence short of that is evidently OK with him. Former Attorney General Robert H. Jackson once noted that “the prosecutor has more control over life, liberty, and reputation than any other person in America.” Any attempt to use or influence this enormous power for political purposes, no matter whether it’s intended to affect a particular case, must be fiercely resisted. White House involvement • White House political operatives were all over the U.S. attorney firing decision. The wall carefully bricked up over decades to block White House political influence within the Department of Justice has been knocked down. Based on sound experience, previous administrations narrowed the list of people at the White House and Justice Department who could talk about criminal cases to only four White House officials (including the president and vice president) and only three Justice Department officials (including the attorney general). Under Gonzales, it’s now 417 and 42, and Rove is among the 417. • This problem will linger. The “consensus” management practiced by the attorney general leaves no person responsible for any decision, perhaps deliberately. Who decided, when and why, will take extensive investigative reconstruction. It won’t go away. It may take a decade to repair the damage caused by Attorney General Gonzales, and every day that passes without his resignation is one more day before the repair is begun. But will he go? From the perspective of Bush administration officials, a wounded, grateful attorney general on a very short leash may be just what they want as they try to exit Washington without further indictments. But that’s not the attorney general America needs to maintain the best traditions of the Department of Justice and assure the fair administration of justice in our country. U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and served as U.S. attorney for Rhode Island from 1994 to 1998.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.