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Sanchez First Out of the Gate With Subpoenas

Whoever had Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) down as your pick in the office pool as the issuer of the first politically toxic subpoenas in the new Democratic majority in the 110th Congress, you're the winner!

In less than five minutes Thursday, Sanchez issued four subpoenas to federal prosecutors who've been dismissed from their jobs during a series of firings that saw eight U.S. attorneys relieved of their duties.

Those dismissed are all appointees of President Bush, so their partisan credentials aren't suspect, but there are lingering questions as to whether any of them have been dismissed because of the way they were aggressively investigating Republican corruption, or not pursuing Democratic corruption aggressively enough.

"Are these people being removed for doing their job and for doing it too well?" Sanchez asked.

It's one of the bigger upsets of the year. Linda Sanchez, a mere pup having been elected in 2002, beat a host of other full committee and subcommittee chairmen -- the so-called "Old Bulls" -- to the punch in the subpoena sweepstakes.

[Editors Note: Capitol Briefing doesn't officially condone any form of illegal wagering, and the Justice Department should not perceive these comments as any form of attempt at organizing illegal online gambling pools. No way. But Capitol Briefing would welcome any comments below as to our readers' guesses when the next big subpoenas will come down, which committee will issue them and what the issue will be.]

Sanchez has set a Tuesday hearing in which four of the eight ex-prosecutors -- David Iglesias, former U.S. attorney for New Mexico; Carol Lam, former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California, San Diego office; H.E. Cummins, III, former U.S. attorney for Arkansas; and John McKay, former U.S. attorney for the state of Washington -- appear before Sanchez's Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law.

The Justice Department denies the firings were politically motivated and claims they were instead done to bring new blood to the prosecutorial offices. In some cases, questions have been raised about job performance, particularly regarding how the attorneys' offices handled immigration cases.

"Today's hearing was political grandstanding. Every U.S. attorney serves at the pleasure of the president and they know this beforehand. Most of the U.S. attorneys in question served 4 years or longer. Republicans are
not going to provide votes for political subpoenas," said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the top Republican on the full Judiciary Committee, in a statement.

Neither Smith nor any Republican showed up for Sanchez's hearing. Once all seven Democrats on the subcommittee arrived, they had a quorum and quickly approved the subpoenas.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, WAS the odds-on favorite to issue the first batch of subpoenas. After enduring a half dozen years of Republican chairmen issuing more than 1,000 subpoenas in the Clinton administration years, the early betting among Capitol Hill insiders was that Waxman was just itching for a little payback.


With a smile on his face, Waxman confirmed to Capitol Briefing Thursday afternoon that he has yet to even issue a private subpoena.

Some other Congressional committees have issued minor subpoenas regarding investigations unrelated to the highest levels of the Bush administration, according to aides, so Sanchez gets the honor of most audacious early subpoenas of the 110th Congress.

"It's the first set," she told reporters after the brief hearing.

First may be the operative word in that sentence.

By Paul Kane  |  March 2, 2007; 8:24 AM ET
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