Monday, September 29, 2008
Iglesias Applauds US Justice Dept. Report on Firing
By Heather Clark
Former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias applauded Attorney General Michael Mukasey's decision Monday to appoint a prosecutor to pursue possible criminal charges against New Mexico Republicans allegedly involved in his firing.
Complaints from Republican politicians and activists from New Mexico, including Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson, about Iglesias' handling of voter fraud complaints and public corruption cases led to his firing, a U.S. Justice Department report has concluded.
The report singled out Iglesias' firing in 2006 as the most troubling among the nine U.S. attorneys who were terminated.
Iglesias told The Associated Press he thinks criminal investigations should be pursued against Domenici, Wilson and anyone else who may have broken federal criminal laws.
"I've said all along that these moves were improper and illegal and now it appears that they were criminal as well," Iglesias said. "Our complaints weren't just complaints of disgruntled former employees."
The report found that Domenici's complaints to the White House were a "primary factor" for Iglesias' name being place on a list of U.S. attorneys to be fired.
Domenici refused to be interviewed by Justice Department investigators, who declined his offer to respond to written questions through his attorney.
Domenici's attorney, K. Lee Blalack, said in a statement that the report is "replete with innuendoes that pass as findings" and said the Senate Ethics Committee already rejected allegations that the senator obstructed or interfered with an ongoing criminal investigation.
Domenici had become dissatisfied with the performance and priorities of the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Mexico by late 2005 and told the Justice Department of his concerns, well before he made the call to Iglesias in October 2006, Blalack wrote.
"There is thus no credible argument that Mr. Iglesias was asked to resign simply because he failed to file public corruption charges before the November 2006 election," the attorney wrote.
Wilson said in a statement that she did not discuss Mr. Iglesias' job performance with anyone in the Justice Department or the White House, including former White House counsel Harriet Miers.
"This is a significant mistake in the report that should be corrected," Wilson wrote to the investigators Monday. Wilson was interviewed three times for the investigation.
Domenici and Wilson are leaving Congress at the end of the year.
Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine and Office of Professional Responsibility Director Marshall Jarrett said a prosecutor was needed because "serious allegations involving potential criminal conduct have not been fully investigated or resolved."
Potential crimes described in their report include lying to investigators, obstruction of justice and wire fraud.
Investigators said they do not have the complete story of the firing of Iglesias, blaming it on the refusal of Domenici, former White House adviser Karl Rove, former Justice Department official Monica Goodling, Miers and other key witnesses to be interviewed.
As Justice Department employees were preparing for congressional hearings about the firings, Goodling wrote that Iglesias was an "underachiever in a very important district," an "absentee landlord" and that "Domenici says he doesn't move cases," the report said.
The report concluded that the Justice Department's take on Iglesias' management style was an "after-the-fact justification" for his termination and was not the reason he was fired.
Starting in the summer of 2004, New Mexico party officials and activists pressured Iglesias to prosecute suspected voter fraud cases in New Mexico.
They included: Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, a 1st District candidate for Congress; GOP Party Chairman Allen Weh; Domenici's chief of staff Steve Bell; Albuquerque attorney Pat Rogers; and Mickey Barnett, an Albuquerque attorney and former state senator from eastern New Mexico.
The report also found that after Iglesias referred a complaint from Wilson about voter fraud to the FBI, Wilson, in a handwritten comment to her chief of staff, wrote, "What a waste of time. Nobody home at US Attorney's Office."
A U.S. Attorney's Office Election Fraud Task Force received more than 100 complaints of voter fraud, but most were minor matters that were referred to local election officials. Of the more serious matters, Iglesias said the evidence did not justify a U.S. Attorney's Office prosecution. The task force was formally disbanded in 2006.
Domenici and Wilson allegedly complained to Iglesias about his failure to quickly prosecute corruption cases in New Mexico. They include a kickback scandal involving former state Treasurers Michael Vigil and Michael Montoya, both Democrats, and a courthouse corruption case involving former state Sen. Manny Aragon that is set to go to trial next month, the report said.
The report said Domenici called former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales three times to complain about "whether or not Mr. Iglesias was capable of continuing in that position" and mentioned the public corruption cases.
The report also found that Wilson provided investigators with evidence linking Rove to Iglesias' removal and raised questions of his role in the matter.
The report said Wilson told Rove that Iglesias was a "waste of breath" at a breakfast meeting on Nov. 15, 2006, to which Rove responded: "That decision has already been made. He's gone." Wilson said she was misquoted and that the phrase she used was "waste of gravity."
Rove's comment came several hours before the list containing Iglesias' name was sent to the White House, but investigators said they could not determine how Rove knew that Iglesias was slated to be replaced when he spoke to Wilson earlier that morning.
The report also found that Iglesias "was not completely blameless" in the matter.
Iglesias should have reported the telephone calls from Domenici and Wilson to the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys and he should not have answered Domenici's questions, the report said.
Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis told investigators that had Iglesias reported the calls has he should have, it would have made it more difficult for the Justice Department to remove him without first examining the complaints raised against him.
Iglesias was on tour Monday promoting his book about the firings, "In Justice: Inside the Scandal that Rocked the Bush Administration." He said he works as a paid public speaker and practices business law part-time in Albuquerque.
Iglesias was portrayed in the 1992 movie "A Few Good Men" by actor Tom Cruise.
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