Leader Blues

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

EDITORIALS>>Will we know?

Before Congress is through, we may finally know why President Bush wanted to fire his own chief law enforcement agent for eastern Arkansas and install a fire-breathing partisan from the White House political staff. The fired attorney, Harry E. “Bud” Cummins, is just as interested as the rest of us.

It was obviously political all along, but the conflicting accounts of Attorney General Roberto Gonzales and his aides were not satisfying. More clues keep creeping out.

Cummins went to Missouri one year ago to investigate fraud allegations against the administration of Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican. Cummins got the task because the U. S. attorney up there was hip deep in the scandal himself and had to pass the job to someone outside the state. Family members and associates of the U.S. attorney, who was another Bush appointee, got juicy no-bid contracts for a new state program undertaken by the governor. Cummins quickly began to get pressure — telephone calls from a big Texas law firm with White House connections that was representing Gov. Blunt. The lawyer wanted Cummins to give his man a public clean bill of health. A big and close election was approaching. Cummins said he couldn’t under Justice Department rules and — surely only coincidentally — he was soon notified by Washington that he was being fired.

Now a new wrinkle. While Cummins was investigating the contracts, the Missouri U.S. attorney announced that he was quitting. The president appointed an aggressive Justice Department political operative to the interim job in Missouri. He rushed to Missouri and filed a lawsuit against Democrats before the election alleging voter fraud, flouting established Justice Department protocol in the process. After the election, a federal judge said the suit made no case whatsoever. Congressional investigators want to know if the troubled U.S. attorney who quit had another problem with the White House besides his crony relations with the governor. Was he caviling at filing the politically motivated but phony case? Cummins said he never unraveled Missouri politics. It is probably healthy for him that he didn’t. Maybe subpoenas and the required oath will finally unravel it.