Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Does A Refusal To Indict Mean Everything Is Alright?

The U.S. Justice Department has issued a report on the firing of New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias. To be specific, the report looked for evidence of public corruption, obstruction of justice, wire fraud and mail fraud in the firing of 9 U.S. Attorneys.

The report, submitted by Connecticut prosecutor Nora Dannehy, found that Iglesias was fired for political reasons. The head of New Mexico's Republican Party complained to the White House about Iglesias' refusal to bring voter fraud charges against the liberal group Acorn and his refusal to indict a local Democratic official. Former Senator Pete Domenici also made calls to the White House to complain about Iglesias.

Initially, Justice claimed that it had fired Iglesias for poor performance, but internal White House documents proved this not to be true. Iglesias was removed without anyone at Justice bothering to figure out if Iglesias had actually done anything wrong.

But, concludes Dannehy, that's not a crime, and it was not an effort to influence prosecutions. Apparently, there were no prosecutions to influence. Also, there was insufficient evidence to charge anyone with lying to Congress or to investigators, or evidence of any indictable wrongdoing. Which is what happens when the most frequent answer given is "I cannot recall."

This report is relevant to New Jersey today because Chris Christie was a U.S. Attorney at the time Iglesias was fired, and he was also an advisor to Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. As such, Christie had a front row seat to the politicization of the Justice Department, if not an active role. Certainly he had a role in announcing an investigation that hurt Robert Menendez in the final months of the 2006 campaign -- an investigation that remains open while never resulting in a single charge.

And as the Governor seeks to collapse all State investigative power into the executive branch, seeks to bring all county prosecutors under the control of Trenton, intimidates the Judiciary by refusing to reappoint Supreme Court Justices who won't promise to decide school funding cases in the way the Governor chooses, seeks to purge experienced school administrators from the public school system, seeks to destroy failing public schools and replace them with taxpayer supported private schools (secular and non-secular), and seizes control of one of the States premiere tourist attractions, it is important to remember that this Governor knows how to politicize what are supposed to be independent entities within the bounds of the law.

There is a difference between saying that there is no indictable crime and saying that nothing wrong happened. But our Governor does not appear to acknowledge that he did anything wrong, or saw anything wrong, in the Alberto Gonzalez Justice Department. That is evident in the way the Governor continues to use every State agency as a means to a political end.

And while that may not be criminal, that's just plain wrong.

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