David Kurtz

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.

Articles by David

We hadn't heard much from Paul K. Charlton, the canned U.S. attorney in Arizona, but he sure ripped the lid off this thing in his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee a little while ago.

After Associate Deputy Attorney William E. Moschella testified that Charlton was asked to resign because of a dispute with the FBI over whether it should begin taping the confessions of criminal suspects, Charlton testified that he found it ironic that DOJ was giving that as the reason for his dismissal and then laid out the following sequence of events:

Charlton's district included Indian country, which made Charlton the top law enforcement officer for the reservations and meant he was in charge of prosecuting a host of crimes not usually prosecuted at the federal level, like child molestation cases. In those cases, taped confessions are essential, Charlton said, and his office was losing cases and pleading them down because the FBI policy is not to tape confessions.

So Charlton started requiring the FBI to tape confessions in his district. That led to complaints to Main Justice and an order from DOJ that he change his policy. At that point, Charlton himself threatened to resign unless his policy was left in place, and he explained why. In response, DOJ suggested that Charlton begin a pilot program using the taped confessions and reporting back examples of cases which would have been lost or pleaded down without the confessions. He never heard more from DOJ about the policy or the program.

So you might say Charlton got canned for being too aggressive in his prosecution of child molesters--if you believe the taping dispute was really why he was fired.

Paul has more on the responses of the other USAs to the explanations being given by Moschella for their dismissals, which they are hearing themselves for the first time today.

The top DOJ official representing the department at this afternoon's House hearing on the U.S. attorney purge just testified that none of the fired U.S. attorneys were told about their offices' supposed deficiencies before they were terminated.

Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General William E. Moschella is testifying before the House Judiciary Committee. Part of his opening statement is up here. He is running through the "performance-related" reasons for each U.S. attorneys firing right now. More in a moment.

You can watch this afternoon's House Committee hearings on the U.S. Attorney purge via the web, and Paul is providing periodic updates at TPMmuckraker.

Among the most startling testimony in this morning's Senate Judiciary Committee hearings came in response to a line of questioning from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). Video of the exchange is up at TPMm.

We have the video of the key portion of former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias' on the calls from Pete Domenici and Heather Wilson.

As I mentioned below, the then-chief of staff of Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) called U.S. Attorney John McKay, then the top federal law enforcement officer in Seattle, about whether there was an investigation ongoing into the 2004 Washington governor race, McKay testified today. We have the video up.

Libby verdict should be here any minute . . .

guilty of 4 of 5 counts, CNN says.

As I watch the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the fired U.S. Attorneys, I'm reminded of the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings. I don't think any congressional hearings have been as riveting since then, nor have any generated as much news as this one. A seminal moment.

Wow--Cummins, McKay, and Iglesias all said that they would have opened an obstruction investigation based on the phone call to Cummins from Michael Elston, the chief of staff to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty--if they were still in office, of course. The Cummins email recounting that conversation is here. Video shortly . . .

Late Update: Video here.