Sunday, March 15, 2009

Time to Go

The Washington Post has penned a totally disingenuous piece on the appointment of US Attorneys by the Obama Administration. Fusing the Bush firing scandal in 2007 with the traditional post-election replacement of US Attorneys, the Post suggests that Obama should not exercise his prerogative upon assuming office.

In How Obama Will Handle U.S. Attorney Posts Remains Unclear, Carrie Johnson implies that the appointment of a new contingent of US Attorneys, which is standard procedure upon the election of a new President, is somehow unseemly or unethical:

One of the better spoils of winning the presidency is the power to appoint nearly 100 top prosecutors across the country. But filling the plum jobs has become a test of competing priorities for President Obama. While he pledged bipartisanship during his campaign, replacing the cadre of mostly conservative U.S. attorneys would signal a new direction.

When President Bill Clinton took office, he fired all U.S. attorneys at once, provoking intense criticism in the conservative legal community and among career lawyers at the Justice Department.

President George W. Bush took a different approach, slowly releasing several of the prosecutors but keeping in place Mary Jo White, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, while she pursued terrorism cases and a politically sensitive investigation of Clinton's pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich.

Obama has not made clear how he will build his own corps of prosecutors, a group that shapes an administration's approach to law enforcement and is critical to its smooth operation.
A new direction? You've got to be kidding! On the contrary, with the subversion of the Department of Justice by the Bush Administration with partisan hacks, a clean house is needed now more than any other transition in the past.

Nor would this be anything other than the way it's always done. As Talk Left explained in 2007 during the US Attorney scandal, How U.S. Attorneys Get Appointed:
The job has always been a political plum. The U.S. Attorney is nominated by the President, based on recommendations from the Senators in the particular District. Almost without exception, the appointee is from the President’s political party. When a new President is elected, we get new U.S. Attorneys.

The Assistant U.S. Attorneys get to stay, under civil service rules. They can't be ousted because of political reasons.

* * * *

The Administration should have decided in 2004, following Bush's re-election, which U.S. Attorneys it wanted to replace. In 2005, all U.S. Attorneys were subject to replacement. In fact, all of them are expected to submit their letters of resignation and either be retained or have their resignation letters accepted.

In 2007, there should be no replacements, except for any U.S. Attorneys who proved to be unqualified. The fact that the Bush Administration is trashing the reputations of U.S. Attorneys it once endorsed for the job, in a non-election year raises considerable questions.

U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President. There is no reason to replace them in a non-election year, except for malfeasance. If it turns out that the fired U.S. Attorneys did nothing wrong, but were replaced anyway in a non-election year, then the Bush Administration has overstepped its bounds.

* * * *

Once appointed, the U.S. Attorney is not supposed to be a political hack. He or she, like every prosecutor, is supposed to make decisions to ensure that justice is done.

In her article, Johnson also neglects to point out that Bush may not have fired all of the US Attorneys immediately, as Clinton did, but he did do so within a few months. See Does The President Get To Decide Who Will Be US Attorneys?.

Merely because Obama has expressed a desire to work with the GOP does not obligate him to maintain the baggage of his predecessor. See Bush League Leftovers. Especially in this situation, as I written about many times before. It's a Crime. That is, Bush is the man who forced out a number of Republican US Attorneys that he had previously appointed, who were too considered to be too independent for refusing to target partisan political vendettas, as desired by the Bush Administration. See e.g., House on Fire. And let us not forget that parade of characters Bush put into these positions. Remember Monica Goodling? Close, but no Cigar. How about Rachel Paulose, the US Attorney from Minnesota, who caused several Assistant US Attorneys to demote themselves rather than work with her, before she eventually left when her "reign of terror" was being investigated. 7 Deadly Sins. See also, The Face of a "Loyal Bushie".

And then, of course, there's Mary Beth Buchanan, the US Attorney from Pittsburgh, who is referred to in the Post piece, who has refused to do the right thing & tender her resignation:
Mary Beth Buchanan, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, who oversaw a recent FBI raid of fundraisers close to Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), told local reporters after the November election that she did not plan to voluntarily resign.

Buchanan had held top political jobs in the Bush Justice Department, where she directed the office of violence against women and led the unit that oversees the nation's U.S. attorneys. She is a member of the conservative Federalist Society legal group and cultivated close connections to former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), an advocate for antiabortion and Christian groups.
Because of my ties to Pittsburgh, I have followed the Cyril Wecht case for some time, which has been prosecuted by Buchanan amid claims of political prosecution. The Party's Out of Step. As I noted in another essay on Buchanan's refusal to leave, Bush League Leftovers:
I've written about Mary Beth Buchanan before and her adherance to the GOP party line, The Devotee. In fact, the partisan prosecution of Cyril Wecht of Pittsburgh earned the ire of former Governor Dick Thornburgh, a Republican, who testified in Congress against conduct of Buchanan. The Party's Out of Step. And the fact that she's a crony of former Senator Santorum -- need I say more? She was, of course, in good company in a department stacked with the likes of [Alice Martin of Birmingham] and other disreputible US Attorneys. See The Face of a "Loyal Bushie".
I have only one thing to add: Fire her ass!

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