Leader Blues

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

EDITORIALS>>More on firings

Every emanation from the bowels of the U. S. Justice Department leaves us less satisfied than before about what happened last year to our chief federal law enforcement agency. Local developments magnify our hunger.

Murray Waas, an investigative journalist whose reporting took the lid off the Wayne Dumond scandal a few years ago, disclosed that before the firing of U.S. attorneys last year, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales signed an executive order giving a couple of young assistants who had come over from the Republican political operations pretty much carte blanche authority to relieve and appoint people to positions throughout the department. Both of those assistants have resigned in the furor of the attorney firings. One has refused to testify on grounds of self-incrimination.

Did their authority include the firing and hiring of district prosecutors like H. E. “Bud” Cummins III in the eastern judicial district of Arkansas? Both had said early on that it was not their decision. But whose was it? Yesterday, Gonzales’ chief deputy said he did not choose which prosecutors were to be fired and who were to take their places.

All the evidence — e-mails and memos — points to the White House political office run by Karl Rove, the boss of Tim Griffin, who got Cummins’ job. If true, that is not so surprising. The White House, after all, makes all political appointments, although in the case of the Justice Department, the district attorneys are supervised and are supposed to be screened by the professionals first.

So why exactly was Bud Cummins fired? He was not exactly a firebrand prosecutor when it came to public corruption cases, as we now know in our precincts. Were there complaints about either his diligence or lack of it? It could be either. He passed on the prosecution of alleged corruption with a Republican regime in Missouri last year — with good reasons for all we know — and he left wholesale corruption in Lonoke to the overworked county prosecutor. The sordid stuff that came out at the trial touched the skirts of his office.

The only way we can know is if the White House turns over all the e-mails on the attorney firings from Rove’s and the White House counsel staff, including official correspondence dispatched secretly over the Republican Party network. And they should testify in person, too. Let’s hope the president orders his men and women to tell what they know and did.