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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)).

Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-PA) wrote to six of the firied U.S. attorneys this afternoon, requesting their testimony before the committee Tuesday morning.

"If you refuse to appear and insist upon receiving a subpoena," the letters read, "the Committee will proceed to authorize its issuance."

The committee has scheduled a hearing on the U.S attorney firings for 10 AM Tuesday; it's unclear, however, whether the four U.S. attorneys already subpoenaed by the House Judiciary Committee to testify Tuesday afternoon would accept the Senate committee's request. If they did not, the committee would vote Thursday on whether to issue the subpoenas.

In addition to the four former U.S. attorneys subpoenaed by the House (San Diego's Carol Lam, Seattle's John McKay, New Mexico's David Iglesias and Arkansas' Bud Cummins), the Senate also sent letters to Nevada's Daniel Bogden and Arizona's Paul Charlton. All six attorneys reportedly received positive performance reviews from the Justice Department sometime before being fired.

From the AP:

Jurors asked for the definition of "reasonable doubt" Friday after completing a shortened, eighth day of deliberations Friday in the perjury trial of ex-White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

"We would like clarification of the term 'reasonable doubt,'" jurors wrote. "Specifically, is it necessary for the government to present evidence that it is not humanly possible for someone not to recall an event in order to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."

I think the short answer to that (much to the chagrin of Scooter Libby's lawyers) is "no."

From The San Diego Union-Tribune:

Prosecutors in the corruption case against Poway defense contractor Brent Wilkes and former CIA official Kyle “Dusty” Foggo asked a judge yesterday to limit dissemination of intelligence secrets that, if made public at trial, could damage national security...

Prosecutors noted that they were concerned about “the specter of gray mail,” a defendant's practice of trying to derail his prosecution by threatening to disclose classified information in court.

To keep that from happening, Congress enacted the Classified Information Procedures Act in 1980. Under CIPA, the two sides argue before a judge in secret on whether the information is needed for a full defense. If a judge, in this case U.S. District Judge Larry Burns, decides that the defendant is entitled to the information, the government has to decide whether to risk disclosure and proceed, or drop the prosecution....

In the Foggo case, after a joint request by the prosecution and defense, Burns appointed court security officers as custodians of classified information.

Laura Rozen raises a good point. Three of California's four United States attorneys resigned in two months. Two of them we know were actually asked to step down on December 7th: San Diego's Carol Lam and San Francisco's Kevin Ryan.

But the other, Los Angeles' Debra Wong Yang, stepped down November 10th, just after the election. On January 1st, she left for the heavy-hitting law firm that just happened to be representing Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), who is being investigated by her office.

As Laura notes, "it's no secret that the decision to retire and a decision informed by knowledge one is going to be dismissed are sometimes the same thing.... Will Congress want to hear from her as well?"

Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons (R) has nabbed Abbe Lowell, best known as Jack Abramoff's lawyer, The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that there was a federal investigation of Gibbons' relationship with scandal veteran and software executive Warren Trepp. Our rundown of the muck is here.

Justice Department Pushes for More Internet Data Retention “The Bush administration has accelerated its Internet surveillance push by proposing that Web sites must keep records of who uploads photographs or videos in case police determine the content is illegal and choose to investigate, CNET has learned.

"That proposal surfaced Wednesday in a private meeting during which U.S. Department of Justice officials, including Assistant Attorney General Rachel Brand, tried to convince industry representatives such as AOL and Comcast that data retention would be valuable in investigating terrorism, child pornography and other crimes. . . Industry representatives respond by saying major Internet providers have a strong track record of responding to subpoenas from law enforcement.” (CNET News)

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