« Senators Bingaman, Udall, Others Announce Amendment to Speed Money for Water Quality Improvements | Main | Volunteer Now: Domestic Partnership Bill in Limbo, Not Dead »

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

TPM Says Federal Grand Jury Probe Targeting Domenici for Obstruction of Justice in Iglesias Firing

BushDomeniciNow here's a juicy tidbit. A story today on TPM Muckraker by long-time DC investigative reporter Murray Was asserts the following:

A federal grand jury probe of the firings of nine U.S. attorneys during the Bush administration is focusing on the role played by recently retired Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) and former senior Bush White House aides in the 2006 dismissal of David Iglesias as U.S. attorney for New Mexico, according to legal sources familiar with the inquiry.

The federal grand jury is investigating whether Domenici and other political figures attempted to improperly press Iglesias to bring a criminal prosecution against New Mexico Democrats just prior to the 2006 congressional midterm elections, according to legal sources close to the investigation and private attorneys representing officials who prosecutors want to question. Investigators appear to be scrutinizing Iglesias' firing in the context of whether he was fired in retaliation because Domenici and others believed that he would not manipulate the timing of prosecutions to help Republicans. [emphasis mine]

Previously, Domenici was severely criticized by two internal Justice Department watchdog offices, the Department's Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), for refusing to cooperate with their earlier probe of the firings of the U.S. attorneys. In part because of their frustration that Domenici and his chief of staff, Steve Bell, as well as several senior White House officials, would not cooperate with them, the Inspector General and OPR sought that a criminal prosecutor take over their probe. It is unclear whether Domenici will now cooperate with the criminal probe. Domenici's attorney, Lee Blalack, in an interview, declined to say what Domenici will do when he is contacted by investigators.

Now, go read the rest. Also see Emptywheel's piece on this, with a reminder that an Albuquerque Journal story from April 2007 reported Domenici had to call Bush directly to get Iglesias fired.

February 4, 2009 at 05:33 PM in Crime, Justice, U.S. Attorney Iglesias | Permalink

Comments

I am suspicious about leaks from federal grand juries. I do not foresee any one going to jail over these events that happened years ago. Many powerful people have every interest in making this go away.

Posted by: Alfredo Dominguez III | Feb 4, 2009 6:02:22 PM

If the investigations at least end up providing Iglesias and the other seven, I think? attorneys with some compensation for loss of wages, that would be a positive outcome.

Posted by: Ellen Wedum | Feb 4, 2009 10:26:53 PM

I see the Journal is reporting the Attorney for Domenici is denying that he is part of the G-J investigate. Me thinks the Journal is living up to its RW rag rep by providing below the fold space for Domenici's Attorney to spin and do damage control. We'll wait and see.

Posted by: VP | Feb 5, 2009 7:54:20 AM

Notice though that the language used by the lawyer in the Journal story is very precise:

""The suggestion in their story that there is an investigation under way that is focusing on Sen. Domenici is false," Blalack said in a telephone interview.

"But Blalack also said he was "not privy to everything the U.S. government does.""

http://www.abqjournal.com/news/state/05101460775newsstate02-05-09.htm

So there could be an investigation under way that is focusing on other parts of the story but also includes a look at Domenici's role.

I thought Domenici's response was weak:

"Domenici told the Journal late Wednesday that he was not aware of any grand jury inquiry.

""I don't believe that's right," said Domenici, the former U.S. senator from New Mexico who retired last month after 36 years in office."

Posted by: barb | Feb 5, 2009 8:59:24 AM