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About an hour ago, we heard that Michael Battle, the Director of the Executive Office of the United States Attorney, had resigned from his post, and that the resignation had been reported on Fox News.

Since then, we've been madly trying to confirm that. I called Mr. Battle himself, who refused to confirm or deny the report, referring me on to the Department of Justice's public affairs office, whose number it took him some time to dig up.

The public affairs office, however, seems to have been caught unawares by Mr. Battle's resignation (if indeed he has resigned). I've been informed that a statement from the department is forthcoming. We'll bring it to you as soon as we have it.

Update: The AP reports:

The department also said that Michael Battle — a senior Justice official who directed the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys and who had personally informed the ousted U.S. attorneys of their removal — would leave his post March 16.

Battle, who has held his post since June 2005, notified U.S. attorneys of his decision in January and had informed the department last summer that he wished to pursue opportunities in the private sector, the department said. Battle was not involved in the actual decision-making that led to the prosecutors' ouster, the department said.

"His departure is not connected to the U.S. attorney controversy whatsoever," Roehrkasse said.

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Well, there you go.

On Friday, Naomi Seligman Steiner of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington told us that the group would file an ethics complaint against Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) if U.S. Attorney David Iglesias named him as one of the two lawmakers who contacted him last October to pressure him about his office's investigation of a state Democrat.

Since Domenici has done everyone the favor of admitting that he made the call, CREW has gone ahead and filed the complaint (pdf).

It looks like tomorrow will be something of an ousted prosecutor marathon on Capitol Hill.

Four of the fired prosecutors will be testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow morning before heading over to the House to testify in the afternoon.

(Update: In anticipation of tomorrow's hearing, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) put out the following statement: "The plot continues to thicken. No one believes anymore these U.S. Attorneys were fired for any good reason and we will start to uncover the real truth at our hearing on Tuesday.")

Last Friday, the Senate committee, following on the heels of the House's issuance of subpoenas to the four, sent out letters to six of the eight ousted prosecutors, requesting their testimony and informing them that the commmittee would consider issuing subpoenas if they did not accept. That strategy seems to have worked.

The four prosecutors who were already subpoenaed by the House (San Diego's Carol Lam, Seattle's John McKay, New Mexico's David Iglesias and Arkansas' Bud Cummins) have accepted the invitation and will be testifying at 10 AM tomorrow, according to a spokesperson for Sen. Schumer. Those same prosecutors will be testifying before the House at 2 PM.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will consider issuing subpoenas to the other two prosecutors (Nevada's Daniel Bogden and Arizona's Paul Charlton) on Thursday.

Update: Well, it looks like we'll be hearing from all six prosecutors tomorrow. The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a meeting tomorrow morning to vote on issuing subpoenas to both Bogden and Charlton. Assuming that the vote goes as it did last week, the two will testify along with the others tomorrow afternoon.

Last month, Tim Griffin, the former aide to Karl Rove who was installed as the United States Attorney for Arkansas' Eastern District in December, announced that he would not be seeking Senate confirmation for the job. Submitting his name to the Senate, he said, would " be like volunteering to stand in front of a firing squad in the middle of a three-ring circus.”

But as a number of sharp-eyed readers pointed out, Griffin doesn't need Senate confirmation to remain in his position until the end of President Bush's term -- thanks to a change in the law slipped into the PATRIOT Act reauthorization bill last year.

Nevertheless, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that Rep. John Boozman (R-AR), who's in charge of nominating Griffin's replacement, is working on it -- although it doesn't sound like there's much urgency:

Boozman’s press secretary, Ryan James, said Thursday that the congressman and his staff “are having conversations, and they’re going through names now. They’re just looking at possibilities. They haven’t come up with a list they would give to the White House, but the process is under way.” James described the discussion sessions as “a series of mini-meetings.” He said Boozman “hasn’t indicated, as such, a certain time line,” for developing an initial or final list, but noted that Boozman has a good relationship with both Pryor and Lincoln, and talks with each of them regularly.

Ashcroft Straddles Two Sides on Radio Merger Debate "Former Attorney General John Ashcroft, who sent a letter this week to his successor Alberto Gonzales blasting the proposed merger of Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc., approached XM in the days after the merger was announced offering the firm his consulting services, a spokesman for XM said Saturday. The spokesman said XM declined Mr. Ashcroft's offer to work as a lobbyist for the company. Mr. Ashcroft was subsequently hired by the National Association of Broadcasters, which is fiercely opposed to the merger." (The Wall Street Journal, sub. req.)

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Two weeks after breaking the Walter Reed scandal, The Washington Post's Anne Hull and Dana Priest report on the avalanche of correspondence they've received from vets detailing similar conditions at VA outpatient facilities across the country:

Hundreds of soldiers contacted The Washington Post through telephone calls and e-mails, many of them describing their bleak existence in Medhold.

From Fort Campbell in Kentucky: "There were yellow signs on the door stating our barracks had asbestos."

From Fort Bragg in North Carolina: "They are on my [expletive] like a diaper. . . . there are people getting chewed up everyday."

From Fort Dix in New Jersey: "Scare tactics are used against soldiers who will write sworn statement to assist fellow soldiers for their medical needs."

From Fort Irwin in California: "Most of us have had to sign waivers where we understand that the housing we were in failed to meet minimal government standards."

It's clear that this was a scandal waiting to break. And now that it's broken, lawmakers can't get enough of it -- even though the deplorable condition of the VA (a backlog of 400,000 benefit claims) was no great secret. The difference, of course, is that what was acceptable has become unacceptable:

For years, politicians have received letters from veterans complaining of bad care across the country. Last week, Walter Reed was besieged by members of Congress who toured the hospital and Building 18 to gain first-hand knowledge of the conditions. Many of them have been visiting patients in the hospital for years, but now they are issuing news releases decrying the mistreatment of the wounded.

A statement just out from Sen. Pete Domenici's (R-NM) office:

I take this opportunity to comment directly on media statements by former U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico, David Iglesias.

Since my knowledge of his remarks stems only from a variety of media accounts, I have hesitated to respond. Nevertheless, in light of substantial public interest, I have decided to comment.

I called Mr. Iglesias late last year. My call had been preceded by months of extensive media reports about acknowledged investigations into courthouse construction, including public comments from the FBI that it had completed its work months earlier, and a growing number of inquiries from constituents. I asked Mr. Iglesias if he could tell me what was going on in that investigation and give me an idea of what timeframe we were looking at. It was a very brief conversation, which concluded when I was told that the courthouse investigation would be continuing for a lengthy period.

In retrospect, I regret making that call and I apologize. However, at no time in that conversation or any other conversation with Mr. Iglesias did I ever tell him what course of action I thought he should take on any legal matter. I have never pressured him nor threatened him in any way.

I was pleased to recommend to the President of the United States in early 2001 that he nominate Mr. Iglesias as U.S. Attorney for New Mexico. I knew from many discussions with federal law enforcement and judicial officials that the caseload had become extremely heavy within our state.

During the course of the last six years, that already heavy caseload in our state has been swamped by unresolved new federal cases, especially in the areas of immigration and illegal drugs. I have asked, and my staff has asked, on many occasions whether the federal prosecutors and federal judiciary within our state had enough resources. I have been repeatedly told that we needed more resources. As a result I have introduced a variety of legislative measures, including new courthouse construction monies, to help alleviate the situation.

My conversations with Mr. Iglesias over the years have been almost exclusively about this resource problem and complaints by constituents. He consistently told me that he needed more help, as have many other New Mexicans within the legal community.

My frustration with the U.S. Attorney’s office mounted as we tried to get more resources for it, but public accounts indicated an inability within the office to move more quickly on cases. Indeed, in 2004 and 2005 my staff and I expressed my frustration with the U.S. Attorney’s office to the Justice Department and asked the Department to see if the New Mexico U.S. Attorney’s office needed more help, including perhaps an infusion of professionals from other districts.

This ongoing dialogue and experience led me, several months before my call with Mr. Iglesias, to conclude and recommend to the Department of Justice that New Mexico needed a new United States Attorney.

I won't repeat Josh's analysis of The Washington Post's story this morning, in which the administration gives a half-embarrassed, and yet totally innocent, explanation for the prosecutor purge imbroglio.

Let me just flag this little telling excerpt instead:

On the job less than a year, [deputy attorney general Paul] McNulty consulted his predecessor as deputy attorney general, James B. Comey, about some of the prosecutors before approving the list, officials said. Comey, who did not return a telephone call seeking comment yesterday, praised Iglesias earlier this week as one of the department's best prosecutors.

Comey told the Post earlier in the week, "David Iglesias was one of our finest and someone I had a lot of confidence in as deputy attorney general." I guess McNulty didn't ask Comey about him?

Note: Dahlia Lithwick at Slate has a good rundown of the possible motives behind the purge.

From Bob Novak's column today:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has indicated he is too busy to answer letters from Democratic congressional leaders about his firing seven U.S. attorneys involved in probes of public corruption, though a lower-level Justice Department official rejected their proposals.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, House Democratic Caucus chairman, had written Gonzales two letters suggesting that he name Carol Lam, fired as U.S. attorney in San Diego, as an outside counsel to continue her pursuit of the Duke Cunningham case. Asked by Melissa Charbonneau of the Christian Broadcasting Network about this column’s report that Gonzales did not respond, Gonzales said: “I think that the American people lose if I spend all my time worrying about congressional requests for information, if I spend all my time responding to subpoenas.”

Richard A. Hertling, the acting Justice Department lobbyist, responded Wednesday, 22 days after Emanuel’s letter. He contended “the Justice Department would not ever seek the resignation of a U.S. attorney if doing so would jeopardize a public corruption case” and rejected naming Lam as a special prosecutor.

On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney David Iglesias is expected to name Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) and Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) as the two lawmakers who called him in mid-October to pressure him about his office's investigation of a state Democrat.

As Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) told The Washington Post and ethics expert Stanley Brand told McClatchy, Wilson's and Domenici's calls (as described by Iglesias) likely broke House and Senate ethics rules. But the question is whether the ethics committees would actually follow through with an investigation.

Well, Naomi Seligman Steiner of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Congress told me that if Iglesias named Wilson and Domenici, then CREW would "certainly" draft an ethics complaint against Domenici in the Senate and ask the House ethics committee to investigate Wilson.

Given the inert tendencies of the ethics committees in both houses, however, only a large amount of public pressure is likely to push them to investigate (e.g. ex-Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL)).