USA Timing

I’d like to ask some questions about USA timing. Why did DOJ fire the USAs it did when it did? TPM’s newest member, Laura McGann, reports that Todd Graves was fired "11 months before" the other USAs were fired in December, putting his firing sometime in January 2006. Tom Heffelfinger was ousted (but not, according to him, fired) in February 2006. DOJ had ready replacements for both of them, Brad Schlozman and Rachel Paulose, respectively, and those replacements took over almost immediately.

In place in plenty of time for the mid-term elections.

But why pull the trigger on MO and (possibly) on MN, out of the wide collection of swing states? The short answer is that both had a close Senate race last year–or it looked to be close in January, when the USAs were ousted (though arguably, MO didn’t look like it was in play for the Democrats until much later). But that still raises the question, why not oust Margaret Chiara in January, too, to increase the chances of beating Debbie Stabenow, who was always on the list of most vulnerable Senators? Of those listed on Sampson’s January 9 list, Chiara and Cummins are the two other USAs from swing states. In AR, there was no Senate race, and besides they had to wait to fire Cummins until Griffin finished his deployment to Iraq. But for MI, Rachel Brand was presumably available in January.

  1. William Ockham says:

    I suspect ew already knows how I’m going to answer this. They didn’t get rid of McKay because they were afraid he might talk and blow the whistle before they could get rid of Lam. I suspect Chiara didn’t go because she couldn’t take a hint and Elston wasn’t an effective â€heavyâ€. They both got the axe in December to provide cover for the firing of Lam.

  2. albert fall says:

    I see two separate but related goals for Rove–gutting voting rights and obstructing justice in the Foggo/et al case.

    The 2006 election and Lam’s indictments prompted the timing, with the necessary multiple replacement of USAs to implement the voting rights scheme providing cover for removal of Lam on the obstruction of justice side.

  3. John Lopresti says:

    There is predictable interest in finding early drafts of the purge list, as counsel to local officials mired in their own corruption cases cast about for alternative exoneration pathways now saying that defendants were prototype scapegoats for the US atty politicization plan, at least that is some commentators’ reading of the DE news about a local administrator’s novel defense.

  4. bmaz says:

    John Lopresti – interesting article from Delaware. Looks to me to be a hail mary or a delay tactic though. Without a prima facie showing of some credibile evidence indicating this is a malicious prosecution related to the USA issues, I would think that, this close to trial, the motion gets dismissed.

  5. Anonymous says:


    But your explanation doesn’t explain Graves. He says he was fired, not just asked nicely. You coudl get Graves and Chiara and still have plenty of USAs leftover to give you cover on Lam.

  6. voodoo says:

    Frank Black – Northern Marianas investigation – probably would have caught up DeLay in the Abramoff scandal much earlier.

    This investigation was quashed, was it not?

  7. William Ockham says:

    I’m saying that Graves, Cummins, and Hefflinger were pushed out as part of the slow purge. The way they handled Chiara was strange in many ways. She was on the list from the very beginning and stayed on it the whole time. They took a number of actions that appear to be attempts to sabotage her in 2006. They could have pushed her out like they did with the other three (her expiration date had passed by Nov. 2005), but they waited until purge day to do her in. Unlike anybody else who got axed on purge day, she was warned a few days early. Then, they tried desperately to find her some other DOJ job and hide the fact that she was part of the purge. I think that Chiara is a special case, but I can’t figure out why that is.

  8. bmaz says:

    I am with EW; the mess is about more than just cover for Lam. For lack of a better way to characterize it, I believe that all of these tangents are part of the â€Karl Rove Maximum Everything†plot. In a nutshell, they just started looking around to see what nefarious gain they could get, and where they could get it without raising to much of a ruckus; i.e. what they could get away with. Canning Fitz was not feasible; but you know, they came damn close to sliding the stuff they chose through. Vote tampering here, Native American bilking there, investigation buggering somewhere else. The only real common thread is taking inappropriate and unethical political advantage of what should be a fair and impartial Justice Department.

  9. Anonymous says:


    Two more points about Chiara–she was apparently shocked when Elston first told her she’d be fired in October. While I agree she may be clueless, she certainly didn’t have any clue she’d be asked to leave (or alternately, she was playing clueless to force the issue). And second, Elston seems to have told her the firing was a consequence of the election.

    Don’t know what they mean, but they may be relevant.

  10. freepatriot says:

    so lets review ALL of the Voter Fraud filings by United States Attorneyis

    notify every DOJ employee who EVER worked on a Voter fraud filing, and tell those employees that they are now â€Persons of Interest†in a massive fraud and conspiricy involving PHONY VOTER FRAUD CHARGES

    that would WAKE THEER PEOPLE UP

    they can have a choice

    they can testifuy fully and truthfully for the prosecution

    or they can be DEFENDANTS in the DOCK with george bush

    how many of thjese career civil servants are willing to stake their future employment and prision possibilities on the words of george bush

    that would be one way to get most of the DOJ back on the side of AMERICA

  11. marksb says:

    freepatriot, I like this a lot, what would be the mechanism for this investigation? One of the Congressional committees? It sure ain’t the DoJ at the moment.

  12. freepatriot says:

    same arangement Patrick Fitzgerald has

    appointment of a special independant prosecutor acting with the full powers of the Attorney General’s Office

    think Archibald Cox or Leon Jawarski

  13. schmed says:


    Re: obscure importance of SD USA position–weren’t several of the fired USAs (Charlton, Bogden, McKay) on the DOJ committee tasked with policy on Native Americans–a committee that could be important in several swing states where Native American votes mattered?

  14. Anonymous says:

    The December 7th Pearl Harbor Day firings was clearly a result of the shock the White House underwent when they lost seven of eight Senate races and lost the Senate in what they (and I) thought was a real long-shot for the democrats. It was also stupid (as decisions taken when in shock often are) because by firing so many at one time they gave away the game that otherwise would have flown under the radar. But that was really a minor flaw.

    Besides the shock of the election, they had to get rid of Carol Lam and Debra Yang because of their investigations of Republican Congressmen. Yang was bribed to resign with a $1.5 million signing bonus in late November, which left Carol Lam. Lam’s action to indict Fogo and Wilkes two days before leaving her office suggests to me that she was a bit less than happy at the treatment she got from the White House, so they may have wrapped her firing in with the others to conceal what they were doing and make an obstruction of justice charge a lot harder to prove. I’m no attorney, but I’d guess that proving that she was fired to disrupt her investigations when she was just one of a pack of U.S. Attorneys fired at the same time would/will make an obstruction of justice charge nearly impossible to prove unless some idiot kept records and they are found.

    Another element that would have made getting rid of all the Pearl Harbor Day people in December was the awareness that 2008 was going to be an open election for President, and it was already clear that Primaries and Caucuses were going to be early. Having the â€bent†US Attorneys already in place well before those actions would have seemed very attractive. In fact replacing the U.S. Attorneys early would have also seemed to be protection from accusations that the replacements were put into place to sway close elections. By the time of the election the way they were put into office would have seemed to be a done deal and beyond reasonable question.

    All of these would seem to be good reasons to swap out recalcitrant U.S. Attorney as soon as possible. Since the earlier test cases had aroused no questions, there probably did not seem to be a significant risk in doing it the way they did.

    Even then it was a near thing. If Josh Marshall at TPM hadn’t keep picking at the question, the media would have ignored the issue.