Former U.S. Attorney Whitehouse Protests Firings of Federal Prosecutors
Alleges Politics Behind Unprecedented Ousters
Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a former U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island, spoke out on the Senate floor this afternoon to protest the Bush administration's unprecedented firings of several U.S. Attorneys. Whitehouse was appointed U.S. Attorney by President Bill Clinton and served in that office from 1994-1998.
"These men and women had been confirmed by the Senate, and the majority had been recognized by the Justice Department as well-qualified and performing admirably in their jobs. Several of them were involved in ongoing public corruption investigations. Yet, in an unprecedented step, this Administration showed them the door," Whitehouse said. "The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that these firings were politically motivated. We need to get to the bottom of this."
Earlier today, former New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias said he was contacted by two members of Congress in mid-October who, he felt, pressured him for a pre-election indictment in an ongoing probe of a kickback scheme involving local Democrats. Iglesias told McClatchy Newspapers: "I believe that because I didn't play ball, so to speak, I was asked to resign."
The Bush Administration has argued the prosecutors were ousted because they did not follow priorities set from the Department of Justice. Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which Whitehouse sits, that the firings were "performance-related" and attributable to ordinary staff turnover. However, the New York Times reported Sunday that in professional performance reviews, six of the eight prosecutors who were fired were rated as "‘well regarded', ‘capable' or ‘very competent.'"
Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) are leading a Senate inquiry into the spate of firings, in which Whitehouse is an active participant.
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