News Release

Rove and U.S. Attorneys

“Former White House political adviser Karl Rove played a central role in the ouster of a U.S. attorney in New Mexico, one of nine prosecutors fired in a scandal in 2006 over political interference with the Justice Department, according to transcripts of closed-door testimony released Tuesday.” — Associated Press, 8/11/2009

Horton is adjunct professor at the Columbia University Law School and contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine. He writes the blog “No Comment” on legal affairs issues. He said today: “These documents bring the firing of U.S. attorney David Iglesias into sharp focus. The president had the right to fire Iglesias for any reason or for no reason, but not for an improper reason — such as improperly influencing a criminal investigation. Yet these documents suggest strongly that Iglesias was fired for an improper reason.

“In the final days before the 2006 midterm election, Republican Congresswoman Heather Wilson was locked in a tight electoral fight with former New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid. Wilson’s advertising campaign argued that New Mexico state government was corrupt and Madrid did nothing about it. She wanted Iglesias to fire a round in her support by indicting Manny Aragon, the Democratic Senate Majority Leader, then tied up in a corrupt construction contract in Albuquerque. Wilson and then her mentor, Senator Pete Domenici, called Iglesias to pressure him to file his indictment of Aragon before the election. But Iglesias, adhering to the guidance of the U.S. Attorney’s Manual — which forbade filing an indictment during an election cycle if it would influence the vote — held off on the indictment until after the vote.

“The emerging documents make clear that Iglesias’ refusal to indict Aragon before the election is the reason for his dismissal. This clearly amounts to an attempt to ‘corruptly influence’ a criminal case, and the decision deeply involves Karl Rove, President Bush and a host of senior figures from the New Mexico GOP.”

Author of the book Constitutional Peril: The Life and Death Struggle for Our Constitution and Democracy, Fein was a Justice Department attorney in the Nixon administration. He said today: “Congress should enact a statute requiring timely disclosure to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees of any White House communications to the Department of Justice relating to the selection of personnel requiring Senate confirmation.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167