The Icing Is Iglesias
His firing is reason alone for Congress to impeach Gonzales.
The last explanation is misleading. To the extent it suggests that the "senior leadership" of the Department of Justice initiated the idea of firing Mr. Iglesias, it appears to be false. All of the "senior leadership" to have testified so far—including Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, Acting Associate Attorney General William Mercer, and Sampson—deny proposing Iglesias for removal. What's more, the only complaints anyone in the Justice Department received about Iglesias were those voiced by Domenici and his fellow New Mexico Republicans, and echoed by Bush and Rove. And all those complaints concerned either voter fraud or public corruption. Thus, when Gonzales said to Congress, "I was not surprised that Mr. Iglesias was recommended to me, because I had heard about concerns about the performance of Mr. Iglesias," he was admitting, however grudgingly, that he knew Iglesias was being fired either for failing to bring voter fraud cases or failing to indict New Mexico Democrats before the 2006 election.
Yet Iglesias' prosecutorial judgment that there were no viable voter-fraud cases to bring has never been challenged by the White House, the attorney general, or any Justice Department official. Indeed, FBI Director Robert Mueller testified in April 2007 that he was not aware of any election-fraud case since 2001 that he thought should have resulted in an indictment, but did not.
Iglesias' firing, therefore, cannot be lumped with others characterized as dismissals for failure to carry out the priorities of the Bush administration. A U.S attorney may certainly be dismissed for failing to prosecute a class of cases the administration has made a priority, so long as there are meritorious cases in his district to prosecute. To knowingly prosecute cases that are without merit, however, would be personally unethical and a gross abuse of prosecutorial power. The punishment is disbarment. If a U.S. attorney, at the command of his political masters, prosecuted a case without merit to suppress voter participation, he would also commit the felony of voter intimidation, as laid out in these federal statutes.
Nor can Iglesias' firing properly have been based on the conduct of his New Mexico corruption investigations. What Iglesias knew in October 2006, but could not tell Wilson or Domenici, was that the long-running corruption probe was going just fine. On Feb. 18, 2007, 10 days before Iglesias left office, Ken Schultz, former mayor of Albuquerque, and architect Marc Schiff pled guilty to conspiracy and wire fraud in connection with a courthouse construction scheme. * In mid-March, two more defendants pled guilty, and at the end of that month, former New Mexico Senate President Manny Aragon and three co-defendants were charged in a 26-count indictment. Although Iglesias could not tell New Mexico's Republican politicians how close his case was to fruition in November 2006, this information was available to Alberto Gonzales or any other Justice Department manager who chose to ask.
Iglesias' sin was not a failure to conduct a successful investigation, but rather his refusal to rush the investigation to affect the outcome of an election. Gonzales' approval of his firing is inexcusable. It was for just such an extraordinary case that the Constitution's framers gave the legislature the power to remove civil officers. Congress should use it.
Frank Bowman is a law professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Photograph of David Iglesias by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.