DOJ vs. DOJ: Two Views on the U.S. Attorney Firings
Almost exactly two months apart, two different Justice Department officials (one current, one former) appeared before the same House subcommittee in the same room in the Rayburn office building to talk about the same topic -- the performance of U.S. attorneys.
Yesterday, former deputy attorney general James B. Comey, whose job for more than two years included overseeing the U.S. attorneys, also appeared before the Judiciary subcommittee conducting the investigation into the firings and painted a dramatically different picture of those U.S. attorneys.
The federal prosecutors in question were the half dozen who testified before the House Judiciary's commercial and administrative law subcommittee the same day in March that Moschella appeared, becoming the fulcrum for the controversy. For junkies of this scandal, Capitol Briefing has laid out what Moschella and Comey said about those six prosecutors in their separate appearances.
Here are Moschella's explanations for the firings, followed by Comey's impressions of the prosecutors:
On DANIEL BOGDEN OF LAS VEGAS
Moschella: "The general sense in the department about Mr. Bogden is that, given the importance of the district, in Las Vegas, there was no particular deficiency. There was interest in seeing renewed energy and renewed vigor in that office, really taking it to the next level."
Comey: "He is as straight as a Nevada highway, and a fired-up guy. ... We chose places to [start a violent crime impact program] that were experiencing a spike in violent crime. But not every place that was experiencing a spike in violent crime; we wanted to put it where we had a fired-up U.S. attorney who could watch over it and make it work. ... [Six months later] he had made tremendous strides on violent crime."
PAUL CHARLTON OF PHOENIX:
Moschella: "Mr. Charlton had undertaken in his district a policy with regard to the taping of FBI interviews and set a policy in place there that had national ramifications ... and that was just completely contrary to the way policy development occurs in the Department of Justice. Furthermore, on the death penalty, we have a process. ... Mr. Charlton in a particular case, was told, and was authorized to seek [the death penalty] in a particular case. He chose instead to continue to litigate after that long and exhaustive process."
Comey: "I thought he was a very strong U.S. attorney; one of the best. ... Paul Charlton was a very experienced -- still is -- very smart, very honest and able person. And I respected him a great deal and would always listen to what he had to say. ... And, as I recall, Mr. Charlton called me [on a death-penalty case] and talked to me and said, 'I've got to get you to take another look at that, let me explain why', and made a very convincing case. And my recollection is that he turned me around on it."
BUD CUMMINS OF LITTLE ROCK:
Moschella: "Mr. Cummins's situation has been well documented. His was not for performance-based reasons."
Comey: "I knew him; knew he was a very pleasant fellow. But he and his district had not crossed my radar screen, which, from the deputy's perspective, is actually a very good thing. Bad things tend to reach the deputy, and so, if you didn't reach me, you must be doing OK."
DAVID C. IGLESIAS OF ALBUQUERQUE:
Moschella: "The district was in need of greater leadership. ... Mr. Iglesias had delegated to his first assistant the overall running of the office. And, quite frankly, U.S. attorneys are hired to run the office."
Comey: "He was, sort of, the Bogden of New Mexico: very straight, very able. ... Albuquerque experienced dramatic drop in homicides in particular and shootings. ...I've read in the paper that he was supposedly away to do service in the Navy, because he was a reservist. ... And if a U.S. attorney was away to serve his country as a Navy reservist, it's not something that I as DAG would have held against him, certainly."
CAROL C. LAM OF SAN DIEGO:
Moschella: "She only beat out Guam and the Virgin Islands in [gun prosecutions]. On immigration ... her numbers for her border district just didn't stack up. The President of the United States, this administration has made immigration reform a priority, and those in these border districts have a responsibility there and to the rest of the country to vigorously enforce those laws."
Comey: "[Numbers of gun prosecutions] tells you nothing in a vacuum. ... I thought she was a fine U.S. attorney. I never had experience with insubordination with her. My encounters were perfectly pleasant. My only substantive encounter, as I said, was in connection with our gun discussion."
JOHN MCKAY OF SEATTLE:
Moschella: "The department really had policy differences and were concerned with the manner in which he went about advocating particular policies. ... He spent quite a considerable amount of time advocating for a particular [information sharing] system, basically advocating that the Justice Department give our 'Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval' for this particular system."
Comey: "John McKay was one of my favorites. ... He cared about something I cared an awful lot about, which was information-sharing. And he and I both believed that it was absurd that our children could Google and touch billions of pieces of information, but someone chasing a serial rapist could only find out if other police departments had seen a green car by calling every police department and asking if they'd seen a green car. .. So I worked with him pretty closely. I was inspired by him, and thought he had a terrific idea and was making a real difference with this [information-sharing] program."
Capitol Briefing invites you to be the judge -- er, committee member -- and decide which of the two officials you believe. Sound off in the comments section below.
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