It's a U.S. attorney firing extravaganza!
26 of the nation's 93 U.S. attorneys were on the firing list at one time or another, reports The Washington Post. It's a list too long and mixed to even try to make sense of. As Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) puts it, the many lists "show how amok this process was."
Let's start with those names that make some sense, given with what we know about the firings so far, and move on to those that don't.
McClatchy reports that two of those names were Gregory Miller, the U.S. attorney for the northern district of Florida in Tallahassee, and Bill Leone, the former acting U.S. attorney for Colorado. Both are battleground states, McClatchy notes, "where allegations of voter fraud and countercharges of voter intimidation have flown in recent years" -- and both are states that preoccupy Karl Rove. Miller appears to have been on the chopping block from the beginning of the process through the end, but somehow escaped -- he's still there. Silsby's still there, too.
Neither Miller or Leone claim to have much of a clue as to what might have put them on a list of U.S. attorneys to be fired. But from both of their backgrounds -- Miller is a career federal prosecutor and Leone is a career trial lawyer who had five years prosecutorial experience when he became the U.S. attorney -- it's evident that neither comfortably fit the description of "loyal Bushies."
The same goes for Maine's Paula Silsby, who apparently made a number of appearances on the firing lists through November 2006, according to the Post. Silsby is that rare thing -- a court appointed U.S. attorney (appointed in 2001, far before the Justice Department slipped in a provision to take that power away from the courts). And although she enjoys the support of Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME), Silsby has never been nominated for the spot by President Bush. You won't be shocked to learn that Silsby's only real qualification is that she's qualified -- she's been an assistant U.S. attorney in that office for 24 years.
But now on to those U.S. attorneys on the list who don't fit the pattern. From the Post:
One memo sent to Sampson last November from Michael J. Elston, chief of staff to the deputy attorney general, suggested firing Mary Beth Buchanan, the U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh, who supervised the nation's prosecutors for a year and now heads the Office on Violence Against Women, sources said.
The same e-mail also listed prosecutor Christopher J. Christie in New Jersey, a major GOP donor who has undertaken several high-profile public-corruption probes -- including one into the real estate deals of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) -- and who announced indictments in a terrorism case last week.
Now, I just find this confusing. Buchanan is an administration favorite -- she's one of those few U.S. attorneys who've pulled double duty with a second job at main Justice and was even consulted as part of the U.S. attorney firing process. And Christie, as the Post points out, has all the right qualifications and has pursued all the right prosecutions. So what gives?
Of course, neither Buchanan or Christie actually got the ax. And with all these names flying back and forth, some of them suggested by Justice Department officials, there are still only six U.S. attorneys who are at the center of this controversy, all of whom were apparently targeted for removal by the White House for reasons that no one has explained. Those names stuck. Why?