With all the focus on the Wall Street credit crisis, don’t overlook the report this week linking the White House to the improper firing of U.S. attorneys in 2006. The Justice Department’s inspector general issued a nearly 400-page report this week that found “significant evidence that political partisan considerations were an important factor in the removal of several of the U.S. attorneys” and that the White House was involved in “at least three of the removals.”
Shouldn’t the administration be able to remove the attorneys, who are political appointees, for whatever reason it wants, and haven’t other administrations done the same thing? No on both counts.
It is standard practice for a new administration to appoint its own U.S. attorneys. But by law, the Justice Department is supposed to be independent and above politics. And as the inspector general noted, removing U.S. attorneys for political reasons “undermines the public’s confidence that Department of Justice prosecutive decisions are based on the facts and the law and not on political considerations.”
Other administrations have understood this. But the Bush administration systematically – and, according to the inspector general, possibly criminally – made hiring and firing decisions at the Justice Department based on political purposes and ideology.
It’s a disgrace.