Morton Kondracke said that the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the Bush administration's firing of nine U.S. attorneys have "discovered nothing specifically nefarious that any of -- that these firings had anything to do with, except, maybe, the failure to prosecute voter fraud cases." In fact, two of the fired prosecutors have said that they investigated voter fraud allegations but found insufficient evidence to warrant prosecution or a grand jury investigation, while administration officials have stated that a third was fired for reasons unrelated to his performance.
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On the July 11 edition of Fox News' Special Report, discussing Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the Bush administration's controversial firing of nine U.S. attorneys, Roll Call executive editor Morton M. Kondracke said that the committee has "discovered nothing specifically nefarious that any of -- that these firings had anything to do with, except, maybe, the failure to prosecute voter fraud cases." Host Brit Hume then asked: "The firings were about the failure to --," to which Kondracke replied: "Yeah." In fact, two of the fired prosecutors have said that they investigated such allegations but found insufficient evidence to warrant prosecution or a grand jury investigation, while administration officials, including Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, have stated that a third was fired for reasons unrelated to his performance. In addition, Kondracke's description of the hearings as "partisan harangues" and his assertion that "[t]he Democrats are using their subpoena power to try to -- and their power to hold hearings to try to treat the Bush administration like a piñata" ignored support by Republican committee members authorizing Taylor's subpoena.
As Media Matters for America has documented, David C. Iglesias, former U.S. attorney for New Mexico, set up a voter-fraud task force in that state in September 2004. But as a March 19 Washington Post article explained, the task force failed to identify any significant violations, and Iglesias -- in concurrence with the "election-crimes branch of the Justice Department's public integrity section" -- decided to shut down the operation. In addition, the March 19 Post article reported that Iglesias was "one of two chief federal prosecutors invited to teach at a 'voting integrity symposium' in October 2005. The symposium was sponsored by Justice's public integrity and civil rights sections and was attended by more than 100 prosecutors from around the country." According to the Post, Iglesias said that "the agency invited him back as a trainer last summer, just months before a Justice official telephoned to fire him." Further, Iglesias has alleged that Sen. Peter Domenici (R-NM) and Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) "attempted to pressure him to speed up a probe of Democrats just before the November elections" -- both Domenici and Wilson have since acknowledged contacting Iglesias about his corruption investigations. In a March 5 article on Domenici's statement, the Post reported: "Legal experts say it violates congressional ethics rules for a senator or House member to communicate with a federal prosecutor regarding an ongoing criminal investigation."
Media Matters for America has also noted the example of John McKay, former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington, who has alleged that his dismissal may have had to do with his decision not to bring voter fraud charges stemming from the 2004 Washington state governor's race, which was won by a Democrat. McKay testified during a House hearing that he did not convene a grand jury to investigate charges of voter election because he and the chief of the Justice Department's Election Crimes branch had conducted a preliminary investigation and determined "there was no evidence of voter fraud." A March 19 Washington Post article reported that the allegations of fraud in the governor's race -- which Democrat Christine Gregoire won by a margin of 129 votes after three recounts -- originated with the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, a conservative group based in Olympia, Washington, as well as with several Republican leaders.
Further, a third fired U.S. attorney was reportedly discharged for reasons unrelated to his performance, and not for any "failure to prosecute voter fraud cases," as Media Matters has documented. On February 6, then-deputy attorney general Paul McNulty testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that former U.S. attorney H.E. "Bud" Cummins III's resignation was forced "to provide a fresh start with a new person in that position." This "new person" was J. Timothy Griffin, a former aide to White House senior adviser Karl Rove who replaced Cummins in December 2006. In a recently released December 19, 2006, email, D. Kyle Sampson, then-chief of staff to Gonzales, stated: "Getting him [Griffin] appointed was important to Harriet, Karl, etc." -- a reference to Rove and then-White House counsel Harriet Miers. As The Washington Post reported on April 20, when Gonzales was asked at an April 19 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing whether it was accurate that Cummins had no job-performance problems, Gonzales testified: "I would say that is a fair statement."
Additionally, a draft 2006 report prepared for the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) stated that "[t]here is widespread but not unanimous agreement that there is little polling place fraud, or at least much less than is claimed, including voter impersonation, 'dead' voters, noncitizen voting and felon voters." The final version of the report released by the EAC stated that there was "a great deal of debate on the pervasiveness of fraud in elections," but, according to a June 22 Washington Post report, the EAC Inspector General is investigating the process of writing the report after "activist groups" raised charges that the changed conclusion was the result of partisanship and pressure from the Justice Department.
In addition, Kondracke's assertion that the hearings were a "partisan harangue" driven by "Democrats" who "are using their subpoena power" to "treat the Bush administration like a piñata" ignored public statements of support for the authorization of the subpoenas of administration officials by at least two Republican committee members. A June 14 Washington Post article on the subpoenas reported that Sen. Arlen Specter (PA), the Senate Judiciary Committee's ranking Republican, "said that he supports the decision by [Sen. Patrick] Leahy [D-VT] and [Rep. John] Conyers [D-MI] to issue the subpoenas." Moreover, as USA Today reported, when the committee, on a voice vote, gave Leahy, the Senate committee chairman, the power to subpoena White House officials, "Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, requested that his vote be recorded as 'aye.' "
From the July 11 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
HUME: And so it went as the senators tried to find out whether there is something really terribly improper in the president's firing of those U.S. attorneys, and whether the White House political director -- that was the job that was formerly held by Sara Taylor -- may have had anything do to do with it.
And it doesn't -- they didn't get very far because she was testifying under the constraints of executive privilege, and said, by the way, that she had never attended a meeting with the president in which the issue had come up.
Some thoughts on all this now from Bill Sammon, senior White House correspondent of the Washington Examiner, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and Mort Kondracke, executive editor for Roll Call, Fox News contributors all.
There was, of course, also a hearing in the House today on the Scooter Libby sentence commutation, in which the likes of Joe Wilson, whose role in this is well-known, testified. Did either of these hearings go anywhere?
KONDRACKE: No. And, you know, the public looks at Washington and sees nothing getting done. No immigration bill, no -- none of the other problems being solved. But what it does see is more partisan harangues, and this was more partisan haranguing. The Democrats are using their subpoena power to try to -- and their power to hold hearings to try to treat the Bush administration like a piñata.
And so -- and Sara Taylor was the one who got the hits today, and she didn't reveal anything. And this is not -- they're not going to get anywhere unless the courts say that executive privilege does not apply and that these people in the White House have got to testify.
HUME: But [unintelligible] -- is there anything to be gotten?
KONDRACKE: Well, that, we don't know. I mean, they have discovered nothing specifically nefarious that any of -- that these firings had anything to do with, except, maybe, the failure to prosecute voter fraud cases. But we don't even know --
HUME: The firings were about the failure to --