March 16, 2007

Why Was Carol Lam Treated So Shamefully?

On TPMMuckraker, Paul Kiel remarks on the recent statements by Bud Cummins, the US Attorney of Arkansas that was "pushed out" to make way for Karl Rove's protege, Tim Griffin. Cummins thinks that perhaps he was on the endangered list because of his investigations into a prominent Republican in Arkansas. But as Kiel notes, Cummins was on the original list from February 2005, well before the investigation started, as was Carol Lam.

So that brings up the question about what was it about Carol Lam that put her in Rove's firing line as soon as the 2004 election was settled? It was before the Duke Cunningham investigation got started because that was set off by the investigative reporting of the San Diego Union Tribune in June 2005.

Was it the complaints of Darrell Issa that put her on Rove's hit list? He was definitely complaining about Carol Lam before the 2004 election for her office's failure to prosecute enough illegal immigration cases. One case in particular, that of a young coyote, Antonio Amparo-Lopez, who was not prosecuted by Lam's office in November 2003, is mentioned over and over again in Issa's testimony and press accounts. Darrell Issa is obsessed about illegal immigration and this colored his entire perception of the job that the DoJ was doing and what Carol Lam's office was doing. And because it showed that Carol Lam was unwilling to address the issues the Karl thought important, it put her on the list. So when she started going after corrupt Republicans, it was just another reason to take her out. From the first proposals, it took them almost 2 years to remove her from office.

Now one thing that is different about what happened with Carol Lam is she was shamefully treated when they announced her departure. When you read the emails of Kyle Sampson, one thing they didn't want to do was to create a lot of noise about this.

First, a limited number of U.S. Attorneys could be targeted for removal and replacement, mitigating the shock to the system that would result from an across-the-board firing. Second, the Department of Justice's Executive Office of the U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA) could work quietly with targeted U.S. Attorneys to encourage them to leave government service voluntarily; this would allow targeted U.S. Attorneys to make arrangements for work in the private sector and "save face" regarding the reason for leaving office, both in the Department of Justice community and in their legal communities.

And for most of the prosecutors that were fired, they were allowed to "save face." But not Carol Lam. Here's one of the news reports that has Issa being asked about her leaving and whether he was instrumental in making it happen. He again says she hadn't done enough to prosecute illegal immigration.

What's clear is because Carol Lam had been doing such an incredible job of investigating corruption, her ouster was going to be big news. But by the time they were able to take her out, she'd made herself very, very unpopular with the corrupt Bush administration. So she had to be punished. And one advantage to Rove was that he could make her an example to the rest of the US Attorneys on what would happen if they made any fuss.

Posted by Mary at March 16, 2007 11:08 AM | Corruption & Graft | Technorati links |