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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

U.S. Attorneys: the decimation

Posted by: Hammer / 11:35 AM

David Iglesias, one of about eight U.S. attorneys asked to resign by the Bush administration is holding a press conference on his way out to dispute any claim that his dismissal is performance related. Salon has a detailed discussion of Bush's attempt to replace confirmed U.S. attorneys as political favors:

Former officials, legal scholars and U.S. lawmakers from both parties have publicly questioned the administration's stated rationale for the firings and have suggested troubling theories about the real reasons for the purge, which experts say is without precedent. Some former Justice Department officials say they believe the administration's moves are a politically driven power grab -- aimed not only at a tighter grip on policy from Washington, but also at creating openings with which to reward their friends and build up a bench of conservative loyalists positioned to serve in powerful posts in future administrations.

The article goes on to note:

Incoming presidents are known to overhaul the corps of U.S. attorneys installed by prior administrations. Upon taking office, both Presidents Clinton and Bush replaced nearly all of the head prosecutors serving in the Justice Department's 94 districts nationwide. But it is rare for even one U.S. attorney to otherwise be dismissed during a president's term -- and in this case, all those dismissed by Bush were his own appointees.

How rare is it? The Congressional Research Service took a look. CRS contacted the Executive Office for United States Attorneys on Jan. 24 -- a month passed and the EOUSA had yet to respond. Without direct information on the tenure of U.S. attorneys, the CRS relied on secondary sources. In the last 25 years, the CRS found exactly 2 U.S. attorneys who were "apparently dismissed by the President".

Dismissing 1 U.S. attorney would have been a rare event. Dismissing 8 of 93 is an unique event in the modern presidency -- and nearly a literal decimation.

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