Note from Underground

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I’m emerging from my spider hole, where I’ve been hard at work on that admiring profile of Michelle Malkin, to answer the request of some Swampland readers for comment on the latest about the fired US Attorneys.

As Josh Marshall has reminded readers of TPM, back in mid-January I posted on Swampland about the firings. At the time, I felt that while some of the dismissals of USA’s looked suspicious, there weren’t enough facts to warrant accusations of a “running massacre” or a broad conspiracy to dump independent-minded federal prosecutors. At the time, the fired prosecutors for the most part were not commenting, except, in some cases, to say that they hadn’t been told why they were being removed.

While I didn’t see a conspiracy back in mid-January, neither did I excuse the firings. As I wrote in my post back then — but Marshall conveniently did not include in the excerpt he used this week — the replacement of Bud Cummins in the Eastern District of Arkansas by Tim Griffin, a Karl Rove protege, smelled to me like pure political patronage — an effort to put Griffin in position to build a resume for a future run for office in his home state. Others in the blogosphere were suggesting that Griffin had been installed so he could launch new federal probes into the Clintons’ lives in Arkansas. I wasn’t willing to go that far because it was purely speculative. Suspicions aren’t facts.

The story changed this week when one of the fired US Attorneys, David Iglesias, went public with accusations that he had been pressured by two lawmakers to speed up the investigation of a New Mexico Democrat. Those accusations have spurred the Dems on the Hill into action. The hearing Tuesday should be riveting. If Iglesias names names, and others tell similar stories, I will take my hat off to Marshall and others in the blogosphere and congratulate them for having been right in their suspicions about this story from the beginning. We’re not there yet, but Iglesias’ decision to go public is a big deal. If others do the same, this could become a giant scandal for the Bush Administration very quickly. Interference by lawmakers in federal investigations is serious business. So, too, is shutting down politically inconvenient probes by firing the prosecutors in charge. The key will be getting testimony under oath from someone at DOJ who can tell the story of why Iglesias, Cummins, Carol Lam and the others were fired.