Lawmakers rebut Justice report on attorney firings

Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson fight suggestions that they had a hand in the removal of David Iglesias.

New Mexico Republicans Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson are trying to clear themselves of suggestions they were involved in the 2006 firing of U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, whose case was described in detail in a Justice Department report about the 2006 removal of nine U.S. attorneys.

The report singled out Iglesias' dismissal as the most disturbing and said the probe uncovered evidence that politics was a factor in his removal after GOP complaints arose about his handling of allegations of voter fraud and public corruption. The report, written by Inspector General Glenn Fine and Office of Professional Responsibility Director H. Marshall Jarrett, suggested Domenici was unwilling to cooperate with the agency's review.

Domenici's attorney, Lee Blalack, countered that claim in a letter late Monday to the report's authors, stating that Fine rejected the senator's repeated efforts to answer questions in writing. The letter noted the Senate Ethics Committee has investigated and rejected the allegation that Domenici may have obstructed or otherwise interfered with an ongoing criminal investigation and points out that even Iglesias said the senator did not attempt to obstruct his work.

Meanwhile, Wilson said in a release late Monday that Justice had asked for her help and she obliged by providing a written statement, meeting with investigators, and answering their follow-up questions. She also released four letters she wrote to department officials to address the report's claim that her records are "incorrect or incomplete." The letters show she did not discuss Iglesias' job performance "with anyone in the administration before the decision was apparently made to replace him," she said, adding that she never spoke about Iglesias with White House counsel Harriet Miers -- contrary to third-hand references in the report.

Wilson added that a call she placed to Iglesias in the fall of 2006 "was not about any particular case or person, nor was it motivated by politics or partisanship." The House Ethics Committee informed Wilson in July that their informal review of the matter was closed and there would be no ethics investigation. Both Domenici and Wilson are leaving Congress.

The report seems to have sparked just as many questions as it provided answers. The House Judiciary Committee plans to hold a hearing on Friday despite pending adjournment. A spokesman for House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers said on Tuesday that Fine was expected to testify and would be asked what his department needs to continue its investigation. Republican participation at the hearing is uncertain.

Meanwhile, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., plans to ask Attorney General Mukasey in a forthcoming letter whether Nora Dannehy, the special prosecutor named Monday to pursue possible criminal charges against those involved in the firings, will have subpoena power to get information from administration officials who previously refused to cooperate.

Whitehouse will also ask whether her authority would be limited to an investigation of criminal conduct or "whether she can cover the whole waterfront of where the initial investigation has led," a Whitehouse spokeswoman said Tuesday. Additionally, he will ask whether she would be barred from sharing evidence she uncovers with the public or Fine and Jarrett's offices.

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