Listening live to Kyle Sampson testify to Senate Judiciary Committee…. What a stand-up guy! He apologized to the fired US Attorneys for the way it was handled. He offered his resignation, he said, because he felt he should have been able to better manage the matter, and because he felt like he had ill-served the department. (Never mind that if Gonzales had been more of a stand-up guy, he would not have been so quick to let Sampson resign and thus to look like Sampson deserved all the blame.) He correctly defended the overall goals of the process. There were no improper motives, he said, in the replacements. They were based on a combination of factors that were perfectly legitimate to consider, including management abilities and, indeed, willingness to carry out the president’s and AG’s broad policy preferences. As long as those insistences that the broad policies be followed do not devolve into interference in specific individual cases (especially for political advantage), there is NOTHING WRONG with making replacements, just as there is nothing wrong with a president asking for resignations from Cabinet members. If the president wants limited resources devoted to white collar crime, the USA should devote his attention to white collar crime. If drug crimes, then drug crimes. Etc. If a prosecutor refuses those directives, that prosecutor SHOULD be fired.
My summation: In short, the handling of this was inept from beginning to end. But I repeat, there is NO public scandal here (with the possible exception of the calls from certain congressmen to New Mexico USA David Iglesias, but even that is not clear; it looks like bad judgment but not something that rises — or falls — the the level of a direct violation of ethics or laws).
(Speaking of Iglesias, he needs to shut up. Yes, shut up. He was just on CNN again, milking this for all he is worth, and asserting in effect that USAs, once appointed, should be free agents divorced from any broader law-enforcement agenda set from above. He’s dead wrong. And his prima donna act is getting old.)
One more, VERY important note so far: Sampson made a point to mention, as I have been the ONLY ONE to highlight so far, that non-political, career-Justice-employee David Margolis was intimately involved with the whole process. That fact alone should explode the idea that nefarious political goals were at play. In fact, the fact that USA Kevin Ryan of San Francisco, the hero of the anti-steroid investigation, was added to the list of replaced prosecutors at the last minute also shows that this wasn’t Bush/Rove politics at work: Ryan was a Bush loyalist through and through and did indeed follow the broader policy objectives, but he ran afoul of Margolis’ and others because of other issues that were as much cultural as professional.
To repeat: Margolis is NOT a Bush political guy. Margolis DID participate heavily in the process. And the process did NOT snare people for improper political reasons, but instead snared people for considerations (some of them petty, including internal personality issues important to non-political people like Margolis) that had nothing to do with specific ongoing investigations.
Sampson took the fall. But why aren’t the thuggish Leahy/Schumer Dems hauling Margolis in front of their star-chamber committee? Could it be because Margolis’ involvement explodes their theory entirely? !!???
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