Tampering with justice
The imbroglio surrounding the forced resignations of at least seven U.S. attorneys from across the country proves the U.S. Senate needs to reclaim...
The imbroglio surrounding the forced resignations of at least seven U.S. attorneys from across the country proves the U.S. Senate needs to reclaim its right to vet the president's appointments.
In a bipartisan vote Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a measure to do just that, reversing an ill-advised provision inserted last year into the Patriot Act. John McKay, the former U.S. attorney based in Seattle, was among those kicked out. He was first-rate by all accounts, including a glowing Justice Department review seven months ago. That is, except for one: Last week, U.S. Deputy Attorney Paul McNulty testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that McKay and five other U.S. attorneys were asked to resign for "performance-related" reasons.
In Seattle, disbelieving elected officials, law-enforcement leaders and judges denounced the insinuation as a load of blarney.
U.S. attorneys are appointed by the Bush administration and can be dismissed without cause. However, in the past, such appointments had to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate within 120 days. But the new Patriot Act provision permits appointees to serve indefinitely without the Senate's OK. Some speculate the administration, under siege and facing a newly empowered Democratic leadership with a chip on its shoulder, was taking advantage of the new latitude.
Then there's McNulty's admission that one U.S. attorney in Arkansas was removed solely to make room for a former aide to White House strategist Karl Rove.
Could the motives be that cynical? Disrupt crucial law-enforcement offices to give cronies a line for their résumés?
If political patronage rules this process, McKay might not have passed muster. Though he has impressive Republican and public-service credentials, McKay irked some in his party by deciding not to wade into the irregularities of the 2004 gubernatorial election that ultimately went to the Democrat. While basing such a decision on facts rather than politics might tick off partisans, the approach engenders trust in government for everybody else.
Whatever the White House's reasons for the firings, Justice Department officials need to get their stories straight and tell the truth about them.
More importantly, Congress must fix that unwise new Patriot Act provision. This episode proves the need for presidential accountability on U.S. attorney appointments.
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.