Questions, Concerns Swirl around Politics of Prosecutor’s Forced Exit

The head of the FBI’s San Diego office and several former federal prosecutors are publicly questioning the politics behind the Bush administration’s effort to force Carole Lam to resign as U.S. Attorney for San Diego.

Lam focused her office’s efforts on public corruption, including the sprawling Duke Cunningham scandal. That investigation has touched several Republican lawmakers, leading some to speculate that Lam brought political heat down on herself with that probe, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The top FBI official for San Diego said that Lam’s dismissal would jeopardize several ongoing investigations. “I guarantee politics is involved,” special agent in charge Dan Dzwilewski told the paper. He did not speculate further.

“It will be a huge loss from my perspective,” Dzwilewski said.

Peter Nunez, who held Lam’s post from 1982 to 1988, told the North County (Calif.) Times he was “in a state of shock” from hearing the news of Lam’s forced ouster. “It’s just like nothing I’ve ever seen before in 35-plus years. To be asked to resign and to be publicly humiliated by leaking this to the press is beyond any bounds of decency and behavior. It shocks me. It really is outrageous.”

The question he had, according to the paper, was: “Why?”

Another former San Diego U.S. attorney expressed disbelief at the move. “In my years with the department, I never saw anything like this,” Chris La Bella told the Times. La Bella served in Lam’s post for a period in 1998. He said he didn’t know whether Lam’s focus on corruption was a factor, but he didn’t rule it out. “The only people who know are in Washington,” La Bella told the paper.